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I was so honored to be on the 2020 Schneider Family Book Award jury!

The Schneider Award is given to books that embody “an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.”

Today I wanted to share our choices for the 2020 awards because I recommend them all with all of my heart!

Schneider Award for Young Readers Honor

A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey, Illustrated by Mika Song

Summary: In Classroom Six, second left down the hall, Henry has been on the lookout for a friend. A friend who shares. A friend who listens. Maybe even a friend who likes things to stay the same and all in order, as Henry does. But on a day full of too close and too loud, when nothing seems to go right, will Henry ever find a friend—or will a friend find him? A story from the perspective of a boy on the autism spectrum.

Schneider Award for Young Readers Winner

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, Illustrated by Rafael López

Summary: Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful.

In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges—and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages readers to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us but we’re not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask.

Schneider Award for Middle Grades Honor

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya

Summary: Emilia Torres has a wandering mind. It’s hard for her to follow along at school, and sometimes she forgets to do what her mom or abuela asks. But she remembers what matters: a time when her family was whole and home made sense. When Dad returns from deployment, Emilia expects that her life will get back to normal. Instead, it unravels.

Dad shuts himself in the back stall of their family’s auto shop to work on an old car. Emilia peeks in on him daily, mesmerized by the sparks flying from his welder. One day, Dad calls Emilia over to take a closer look. Then, he teaches her how to weld. And over time, flickers of her old dad reappear.

But as Emilia finds a way to repair the relationship with her father at home, her community ruptures with some of her classmates, like her best friend Gus, at the center of the conflict.

Schneider Award for Middle Grades Winner

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Summary: The story of a deaf girl’s connection to a whale whose song can’t be heard by his species, and the journey she takes to help him.

From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she’s the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she’s not very smart. If you’ve ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.

When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to “sing” to him! But he’s three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?

Schneider Award for Young Adults Honor

The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais

Summary: Deaf teen Maya moves across the country and must attend a hearing school for the first time. As if that wasn’t hard enough, she also has to adjust to the hearing culture, which she finds frustrating—and also surprising when some classmates, including Beau Watson, take time to learn ASL. As Maya looks past graduation and focuses on her future dreams, nothing, not even an unexpected romance, will derail her pursuits. But when people in her life—deaf and hearing alike—ask her to question parts of her deaf identity, Maya stands proudly, never giving in to the idea that her deafness is a disadvantage.

Schneider Award for Young Adults Winner

Cursed by Karol Ruth Silverstein

Summary: 14 year old Erica “Ricky” Bloom, is newly diagnosed with a painful chronic illness and pretty pissed off about it. Her body hurts constantly, her family’s a mess and the boy she’s crushing on seems completely clueless. The best coping mechanisms she can come up with are cursing and cutting school. But when her truancy is discovered she must struggle to catch up in school to avoid a far worse horror: repeating ninth grade.

Congratulations to all of the honorees! (P.S. It was amazing calling them all!)

To see the other other books awarded at the American Library Association Youth Media Awards, visit http://ala.unikron.com/about2020.php.

Now onto 2021 where I’m lucky to be co-chair of the jury!

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