‘Swindle,’ ‘The Boy Who Dared’ selected for White book awards
EMPORIA, KAN. - Two books about young boys making extraordinary decisions have been judged the best by Kansas schoolchildren.
“Swindle” by Gordon Korman and “The Boy Who Dared: A Novel Based on the True Story of Hitler Youth” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti are the recipients of the 2011 William Allen White Children’s Book Awards. Both titles are published by Scholastic Books.
The William Allen White Children’s Book Award program was founded in 1952 by Ruth Garver Gagliardo, a specialist in children’s literature for Emporia State University. One of the few literary awards that asks young readers to choose the winners, the program is directed by Emporia State University and supported in part by the Trusler Foundation.
Both authors have been invited to the awards celebration, set for Saturday, Sept. 24, in Emporia.
“Swindle,” selected by voters in Grades 3 through 5, is the story of sixth-grader Griffin Bing, who puts together a band of misfits to get justice after an unscrupulous collector swindles Griffin out of a valuable Babe Ruth baseball card.
“It’s a story of kids taking matters into their own hands,” Korman says.
Korman, a native Canadian who now lives in Long Island, N.Y., published his first book, “This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall,” with Scholastic when he was a high school freshman. He had written it for a seventh-grade English assignment. By the time he entered college, Korman had decided to make writing his career.
“Swindle” is the first of three titles in the Swindle series. Korman also has written titles in the “39 Clues” series as well as expanded his Macdonald Hall books. In his writings, Korman is drawn to characters in their middle school years.
“I think there’s something special about the books that you read at that middle grade age group,” he said in a 2007 interview, “because it’s really when you become kind of in charge of your own opinion.”
“The Boy Who Dared,” chosen by readers in Grades 6 through 8, builds on Bartoletti’s earlier nonfiction book, “Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow.” In “The Boy Who Dared,” Bartoletti takes one episode from “Hitler Youth” and creates a thought-provoking novel based on the true story of Helmuth Hübener, who as a teenager dared to stand up against the Nazi regime.
Although best-known for her nonfiction work, Bartoletti has written poetry, shorts stories, picture books and novels. Long drawn to artistic endeavors, Bartoletti, who lives in Scranton, Pa., began writing in college, then accepted a position teaching eighth-grade English. Throughout her teaching career, she continued to be pulled toward writing, She did both for nearly 10 years before taking the leap to writing full-time.
Winning an award memorializing Pulitzer Prize-winning editor William Allen White has special meaning for Bartoletti.
"I am thrilled by this great honor,” she said. “I taught eighth grade for 18 years and used William Allen White's editorial on the death of his daughter, Mary, as a writing model with my students. His tribute inspired and moved my students.
“Based on White's description of his daughter, Mary, - a girl who ‘hungered and thirsted for righteousness’ - I'd wager that she'd approve of this recognition for ‘The Boy Who Dared.’”
During the September awards celebration, schoolchildren from across the state of Kansas travel to Emporia for special events including lock-ins, author readings and book signings along with a parade through downtown Emporia to the awards ceremony itself. Many teachers use travel to the book awards as incentives in their school reading programs.
● William Allen White Children’s Book Awards
● Scholastic Books
● Gordon Korman
● Susan Campbell Bartoletti