This past year I served on the Nutmeg Committee for Connecticut’s State Book Award. Public and school librarians form a committee each year to choose ten nominees. Ultimately the youth of the state choose the winner each winter. There are two categories in the award: one for students in grades 4-6, and one for students in grades 7-8.
The process was definitely a learning experience! I was put in a room with a bunch of strangers and we had to decide throughout the year which ten books will make it to the finish line. It was like a librarian’s version of Survivor!
Names were less important to learn than reading tastes. Alliances quickly formed, uniting the soft-spoken with the assertive, the rural with the city, the public librarian with the school librarian. Four battles took place throughout the year. Fatigue grew strong in the final meeting, whittling down a list of eighty starred reviewed fiction titles to ten, keeping a variety of genres, level of difficulty, and interest levels in mind. Ultimately the best of the best were chosen as nominees to encourage reading for pleasure for students in seventh and eighth grades. The youth of the state chooses the award-winning title every winter.
The Nutmeg Nominee list is a perfect companion to your summer reading. If you’re game, read along. See if you can guess which one will be crowned king. Here’s the list that made it to the final round of the Survivor contest:
James, Rhondell, Sharice, and Marcel attend the same inner-city school. Their teacher Mr. Collins challenges these diverse students to build the world’s biggest Sierpinski tetrahedron in an after-school club. Based on a true story.
Alphabet of Dreams by Susan Fletcher
Mitra and her little brother, Babak, are beggars in the city of Rhagae, but they are not what they seem. They are of royal blood, exiled in poverty. Babak’s prophetic visions attract the attention of Melchior the wizard who kidnaps the boy so Babak can dream exclusively for him. Can Mitra save her little brother as they cross the Persian desert?
Isabel and her sister Ruth were supposed to be granted freedom upon the death of their master. Instead they become the property of a powerful Loyalist family in New York City at the beginning of the American Revolution. A fellow slave encourages Isabel to spy on her master in exchange for her freedom. But who has her best interests at heart?
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Spunky boarding school sophomore Frances “Frankie” Landau-Banks is tired of being underestimated by the men in her life, including her boyfriend Matthew and his wittier-than-thou friends. She discovers Matthew’s secret male club, and, unbeknownst to them, begins orchestrating their elaborate pranks.
Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
Kek has traveled from his family home in Africa to a new life in the U.S. As Kek awaits word of his mother’s fate, he weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country – America.
The Last Dragon by Silvana de Mari
Imagine being sent into the unknown where magic, elves, dragons, trolls, and humans co-exist. Imagine if you were the last of your kind. Imagine if your name was Yorshkrunsquarklijolnerstrink. Get ready for hardships, unlikely friendships, humor, and love as Yorsh the elf tries to find the last dragon.
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
When his cousin Salim rides the London Eye observation wheel and disappears, a perplexed Ted partners with his crabby teenage sister, Kat, to investigate the mystery. With his uniquely brilliant mind, can Ted convince his parents and aunt Gloria that he can find Salim before it is too late?
In this futuristic novel, set after the Second Civil War three teens are trying to escape the Harvest Camp in which teens can be “unwound” and used for transplants and plastic surgery upgrades.
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor
Addie wants a normal life. But living in a trailer while her mom disappears for days at a time is anything but normal. as a disaster alters her future, Addie dreams of living with her half sisters.
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Holling Hoodhood is sure his 7th grade teacher, Mrs. Baker, hates him. After all, she is forced to supervise him while his Catholic and Jewish classmates attend religious education. Worse yet, she makes him read Shakespeare’s plays. Holling realistically and sensitively depicts the confusion of adolescence during the turbulent 1960s.
Nutmeg Nominees for students in grades 4-6 can be found here. To learn more about the Nutmeg’s visit the site: nutmegaward.org.
Lisa Shaia is the children’s librarian who wishes she went to high school with Frankie Landau-Banks.