Grades 3-5: A Dog's Life; The Autobiography of a Stray, Ann M Martin, Scholastic Press

Grades 6-8: Airball; My Life in Briefs, L.D. Harkrader, Roaring Brook Press

Past Winners

Kansas students select 2008 William Allen White Children’s Book Award winners


EMPORIA, KANSAS—“A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray,” by Ann M. Martin and “Airball: My Life in Briefs,” by L. D. Harkrader are this year’s winners of the William Allen White Children’s Book Awards.

The awards will be presented at the 56 th annual William Allen White Children’s Book Awards ceremony Saturday, Oct. 4 at William Lindsay White Auditorium in Emporia. The event caps two days of activities ranging from author autographs to story telling, attracting school children from across Kansas.

This year, more than 50,000 third- through eighth-graders in Kansas schools participated in naming the two White Award-winning books. “A Dog’s Life” was the choice of third through fifth graders; “Airball” won the sixth through eighth grade award.

Ann M. Martin’s “A Dog’s Life” is the story of a stray puppy named Squirrel as she makes her way in the world, facing busy highways, changing seasons, and humans both gentle and brutal. Martin lives in Hudson Valley, N. Y., and is the author of the popular “The Baby-sitters Club” series of children’s books.

“Airball: My Life in Briefs” is Kansas author L. D. Harkrader’s story of an uncoordinated Kansas seventh-grader who braves his coach’s ire and becomes captain of the basketball team in order to help him prove that NBA star Brett McGrew is the father he has never known.

Martin and Harkrader are first-time William Allen White Children’s Book Award winners. They will be invited to participate in the October awards presentation.

The White Awards program is the nation’s first statewide reader’s choice award. It is directed by Emporia State University and is supported by the Trusler Foundation.

Since its inception in 1952, more than 3.7-million votes have been cast by Kansas schoolchildren to select the annual winners of the White Book Awards. The program was founded by Ruth Carver Gagliardo, a specialist in children’s literature, to honor the memory of one of the state’s most distinguished citizens by encouraging the boys and girls of Kansas to read and enjoy good books. Gagliardo guided the White Award Program from 1952 until her death in 1980.



Martin, Ann M. A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray. New York, Scholastic Press, 2005

Harkrader, L. D. Airball: My Life in Briefs. New Milford, CT, Roaring Brook Press, 2005


For more information contact:, 620-341-5208

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A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray

A Dog’s Life. Martin, Ann M.; New York, Scholastic, 2005.

Grade Level: 3-5

Hardback ISBN: 0-439-71559-8 ISBN-13: 978-0439715591

Cost Paperback: January 1, 2007 $5.99

Other formats: Audio CD, Cassette, Ebook


Synopsis: Squirrel, a stray dog, tells her life story, from starting life with her mother and brother, living alone in the forest, experiencing mean, unkind humans, to life with a kind, loving owner when she is old.

General Review: This book would make a wonderful introduction for a unit on pets, animals, and animal shelters. It is a serious, thought provoking account of the life of a stray dog from the dog’s point of view. As Squirrel, a stray dog, confronts humans and other animals, she learns many lessons. Just like humans, what she has learned affects her decisions from then on.

Themes: Dogs, Homeless animals, Animal shelters, Animal rescues, Orphaned animals

Author Information:


Discussion Questions:

1. Discuss the difference in Bone and Squirrel’s life from the farm to the house in the city.

2. How was life different for Squirrel after the female Moon came to live with her in the forest by the mall?

3. What happened when Moon and Squirrel crossed the highway and were hurt?

4. After wondering for many years, what was life like with Susan?

Activity suggestions:

1. Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast our pets with a stray animal. Standard 3, Benchmark 1

2. Interview your local veterinarian about pet care and the number of unclaimed animals in your area. Standard 7, Benchmark 1

3. Arrange to have someone from the animal shelter or police department speak to the children about stray animals. Standard 7, Benchmark 1

4. Visit an animal shelter. Standard 3, Benchmark 2

5. After reading the story, write a creative narrative from a pet’s point of view. What would their pet think about its life with them? Standard 9, Benchmark 4

6. Select a significant event from the book and draw an illustration. Be sure to include the page number(s) where the event takes place and write an original caption for the illustration. Standard 5, Benchmark 3

7. Using Internet and book research, have students make a list of Top Ten Facts about the Homeless Animals or write a report on the problem of homeless animals. Standard 1, Benchmark 5


Similar Books for Further Reading:

  • The Good Dog by Avi
  • Sarah Clark Jordan's The BossQueen, Little BigBark and the Sentinel Pup
  • Sheila Burnford's The Incredible Journey

Airball: My Life in Briefs

Airball: My Life in Briefs. L. D. Harkrader; Roaring Brook Press, 2005.

Grade Level: 6-8

Hardcover ISBN: 1596430605 $16.95

Paperback ISBN: no date set at this time



Kirby Nickel, an uncoordinated seventh-grader from Kansas, joins the school’s basketball team in hopes of meeting NBA star Brett McGrew, whom he thinks is his father he has never known.

General Review:

An untalented group of seventh-grade boys get a chance to meet its small Kansas town’s basketball hero when his jersey is retired at a University of Kansas game. The school board refuses to let the team go unless the win games. Next comes the coach’s unique way of motivating the players (hint: The Emperor’s New Clothes). Told from a first-person narrative, the reader will laugh at times but also feel the Kirby’s pain while trying to figure out if the home town basketball hero is the father he has never known. Experience life in a small town that revolves around youth or college sports. Fun book that would make a good read aloud during the middle school basketball season.

Awards: Junior Library Guild Selection; Kansas Notable Books; Thorp Menn Award Finalist; Friends of American Writers Juvenile Literary Award

Themes: Basketball – Fiction; Fathers – Fiction; Coaches (Athletics) – Fiction; Kansas – Fiction.

Author Information:

Discussion Questions: Standard 3, Benchmark 3

  • In the book, Kirby assume that Brett McGrew was his father because of circumstantial evidence. Have you ever assume something was true because of something you have heard or seen?
  • In the book, the coach had a unique way of motivating his players. What are some ways in which your parents, teachers and coaches motivate you?
  • Are there any connections between this book and your own life?
  • Out of the twelve players on the team which player would you like to have your family meet? Why?
  • What are your favorite lines or quotes? Why?


  • Write a team song for Kirby’s team. Pick a tune that is familiar then write the lyrics that include details that would encourage the team. Perform the song for class. (Standard 3, Benchmark 4)
  • Compare Airball to one of the following movies: Like Mike,Angel in the Outfield or Mighty Ducks. After watching the movie, make a Venn diagram showing similarities and differences. (Standard 2, Benchmark 2; Standard 3, Benchmark 1)
  • Research Kansas University Basketball. Find out if there were any players that played for Kansas University born in Kansas that made it to the NBA. A site you might use is: (Standard 1, Benchmark 5)