Best children’s books

Robert Byrd

Best in children’s literature

Benjamin Franklin, an unlikely couple of misfits, and a family building a house are the subjects of the 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards winners. The announcement, along with the naming of six honor books, presents a ready-made summer reading list.

“Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin” (Dial), written and illustrated by Robert Byrd; “Eleanor & Park” (St. Martin’s) by Rainbow Rowell; and “Building Our House” (Macmillan), written and illustrated by Jonathan Bean, topped the nonfiction, fiction, and picture book categories, respectively.

The awards, established in 1967 and administered by The Horn Book, a Boston-based journal about children’s literature, are judged by a panel of three. School librarians are usually well-represented among the judges, and this year was no exception.


Karen Kosko said her 18 years as an elementary school librarian in Cambridge, six years working for the Cambridge Public Library, and a stint as a high school teacher were excellent preparation for the task of assessing the more than 600 books nominated this year.

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“I felt very much in touch with what a ‘best book’ is,” she said. The two illustrated winners, in particular, warrant more than one reading because they are so layered with information, she said.

Jamaica Plain school librarian Pamela Yosca and Horn Book reviewer and author Sarah Ellis rounded out the panel.

Byrd’s “Electric Ben” shows Franklin’s many sides without undue attention on any one aspect of the early-American celebrity. The title characters in “Eleanor & Park,” set in 1980s Omaha, are the bullied new girl in town and a half-Korean townie who find common ground in their love of comics and music. Bean drew on his own childhood to chronicle the joys and frustrations of a family that builds its own house.

This year’s honor books are:

 Nonfiction: “Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building,” written and illustrated by Christy Hale (Lee & Low), pairs children’s creations with images of iconic buildings. “Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America” by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney (Disney), ranges from Benjamin Banneker to Barack Obama.


 Fiction: “Seraphina” (Random House) by Rachel Hartman opens with a murder during a celebration of four decades of peace with dragonkind. “A Corner of White” (Scholastic) by Jaclyn Moriarty moves between Cambridge, England, and the Kingdom of Cello where Colors are living organisms that can kill people.

 Picture: In “Open This Little Book” (Chronicle) by Jesse Klausmeier and illustrated by Suzy Lee, the “books” get smaller and the animals grow larger. In “Black Dog” (Candlewick), written and illustrated by Levi Pinfold, the task of soothing a fierce dog falls to the youngest family member.

Award winners and honorees will talk about their books during a colloquium on children’s literature Oct. 4-5 at Simmons College.

Coming out

 “Alexander Wilson: The Scot Who Founded American Ornithology”by Edward H. Burtt Jr. and William E. Davis Jr. (Harvard University)

 “Second Honeymoon”by James Patterson and Howard Roughan (Little, Brown)


 “Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving”by Kevin West (Knopf)

Pick of the Week

Jean-Paul Adriaansen of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, N.H., recommends “The Square of Revenge” by Pieter Aspe, translated from the Dutch by Brian Doyle (Pegasus): “Aspe, my favorite Belgian crime writer, has finally made it to the States. Quirky detective Pieter Van In’s investigation into a rather unusual jewelry store burglary takes him into every nook and cranny of the beautiful historic town of Bruges.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at