Gryphon Award

Battle Bunny, written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Mac Barnett, and published by Simon & Schuster, is the winner of the 2014 Gryphon Award for Children’s Literature.

The Gryphon Award, which includes a $1,000 prize, is given annually by the Center for Children’s Books at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Illinois. This year’s committee was chaired by Deborah Stevenson, director of the Center for Children’s Books, and Kate Quealy-Gainer, assistant editor of the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

The prize is awarded to the author of an outstanding English language work of fiction or non-fiction for which the primary audience is children in kindergarten through fourth grade, and which best exemplifies those qualities that successfully bridge the gap in difficulty between books for reading aloud to children and books for practiced readers. With a core of regular committee members, the award has become a way to contribute to an ongoing conversation about literature for inexperienced readers and to draw attention to the literature that offers, in many different ways, originality, accessibility, and high quality for that audience.

“Battle Bunny is both a sendup of saccharine period picture books and a tribute to kid invention,” said Stevenson. “The story follows young Alex’s savage textual and illustrative transformation of a treacly bunny tale into a saga of a thwarted attempt at world rabbit domination.”

“As funny and subversive as it is, the book is also an exercise in the technical skills in reading and writing,” said Quealy-Gainer. “When Alex changes ‘birthday’ into ‘battle’ and revises the various commas and exclamation marks, readers find themselves practicing literacy skills even as they giggle over Battle Bunny’s antics.”

Three Gryphon Honors also were named:

Year of the Jungle (Scholastic), written by Suzanne Collins and illustrated by James Proimos, includes cartoonish illustrations that lend both accessibility and emotional heft to this subtle but poignant tale of a young girl’s difficulty dealing with her father’s absence in the Vietnam War.

Lulu and the Dog From the Sea (Whitman), written by Hilary McKay and illustrated by Priscilla Lamont, hits all the right notes from its high-spirited heroine to its breezy sentence structure to its kid-friendly plot, making this tale of pet rescue one to recommend.

Like Bug Juice on a Burger (Amulet/Abrams), written by Julie Sternberg and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, is a compassionate, pragmatic look at young Eleanor’s struggle to adjust at summer camp, and Sternberg’s ragged right prose perfectly captures the girl’s tentative but heartfelt voice.

The Gryphon Award was established in 2004 as a way to focus attention on transitional reading, “which includes a variety of wonderful books that meet children where they are and encourage them to stretch a little farther at a key stage in their development as readers,” Stevenson said.

The award committee consists of members drawn from the youth services faculty of GSLIS, the editorial staff of the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, public and school librarians, and the library and education community at large.

The award is sponsored by the Center for Children’s Books and funded by the Center for Children’s Books Gryphon Fund. Income from the fund supports the annual Gryphon Lecture as well as the Gryphon Award for children’s literature.

Gifts may be made to the fund by contacting Diana Stroud in the GSLIS Office of Advancement at 217-244-9577.

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