The Hidden Life of a Toad, written and illustrated with photographs by Doug Wechsler, and published by Charlesbridge, is the winner of the 2018 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. 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.
“We’re big fans of nonfiction for transitional reading, and Wechsler’s beautiful book exemplifies that genre’s advantages,” said Stevenson. “This outstanding early reader follows the lives of toads all the way from the embryonic state to their adult life with accessibility and enthusiasm. The text varies in length and vocabulary difficulty from page to page, giving new readers a chance to stretch their skills while offering places to hone what they have already mastered; stunning close-up photos of toads and their milieu support the text and encourage kids to correlate image elements with words.”
Three Gryphon Honors also were named:
Dog on a Frog? (Scholastic), written by Kes and Claire Gray and illustrated by Jim Field. When the basset hound decides to park his rear on the frog, the annoyed amphibian presents a series of increasingly silly seating arrangements, giving every creature a rhyming object (or another animal) to perch upon: bears will sit on stairs, cheetahs on fajitas, and gnus on canoes. Rhyme, repetition, and absurd comedy will have readers giggling as they gain essential literacy skills.
King Flashypants and the Evil Emperor (Holt), written and illustrated by Andy Riley.
Sure to please fans of the Captain Underpants and Lunch Lady graphic novels, this goofy royal romp features nine-year-old Edwin, a.k.a King Flashypants, whose kingdom is threatened by villainous Emperor Nurbison and his fearsome dragon (well, his cow with wings and other accoutrements).
Sam the Man & the Rutabaga Plan (Dlouhy/Atheneum), written by Frances O’Roark Dowell and illus. by Amy June Bates.
Sam gets stuck with the seemingly boring rutabaga for a science class project but bonds fiercely with the vegetable after his sister draws a smiley face on it; kid logic, kid humor, and a sympathetic if strange friendship make this a standout among chapter books.
The Gryphon Award was established in 2004 as a way to focus attention on transitional reading. “Kids who’ve mastered decoding words and letters are at a crucial ‘What’s next?’ stage, and the Gryphon Award answers that question,” Stevenson said. “It’s our mission and our pleasure to draw attention to the amazing books in a variety of genres that serve readers who are starting to stretch their reading muscles and find books to learn from and love.”
This year’s award committee consists of Deborah Stevenson, director of the Center for Children’s Books and editor of the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books; Kate Quealy-Gainer, assistant editor of the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books; and Elizabeth Bush, reviewer at the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, adjunct faculty at the School of Information Sciences, and longtime school librarian.
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.