Heaven Elpy

Another awards season is underway!  The 2024 Golden Globes and Grammys are in the books, as are the American Library Association Youth Media Awards, which shine the spotlight on so many great children’s and teen authors and illustrators each year.  We’ve listed winners and runners up in print, and on our digital reading platform, Libby.  I like to show a little LPL love every year to great books which may not have won a Caldecott or Newbery, but are medal-worthy in categories that don’t exist.  So without further ado, lets raise the curtain on the 2024 Elpies.    

Best Book with a Picture of an Echo (and a Bunch of Other Stuff You Can’t See)

Invisible Things, by Andy J. Pizza and Sophie Miller

“There is more to life than meets the eye.”  

I never tire of this proposition.  Pizza (the pen name of designer and creativity guru Andy J. Miller) fills this guidebook with doodles of sounds, smells, tastes, textures, and feelings, all characterized with a goofy, colorful vibe in the spirit of the “Cloud Guy” from the Trolls movies, or Roger Hargreaves’ classic Little Miss and Mr. Men series.  Some invisible things make us feel good, some bad, and some we’re not sure about, but taken all together they make life “wonder-full” when one knows what they are and where to find them.

Invisible Things

Best Book about Hats

Very Good Hats, by Emma Straub

This is an amazing book, all about hats, and why shouldn’t that be category enough?  When you think about it, there is a long history of children’s classics on just this subject, beginning with Esphyr Slobodkina’s Caps for Sale, continuing with the Berenstain’s Old Hat, New Hat, Joan Nodset’s Who Took the Farmer’s Hat?, and Jon Klassen’s modern-day classic, I Want My Hat Back.  Add this one to the list.  Any book with a picture of someone trying to use a full bowl of soup as a hat deserves an award.

Very Good Hats

Caps for Sale

Old Hat, New Hat

Who Took the Farmer's [hat]?

I Want My Hat Back

Best New Book that Feels Old

Evergreen, by Matthew Cordell

Matthew Cordell won a Caldecott a few years back for Wolf in the Snow, but this one is even better.  Calling to mind Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad books and the well-spoken woodland creatures of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, Cordell introduces us to a young squirrel named Evergreen, who must deliver an acornful of soup to an ailing “granny.”  Who that granny turns out to be, and the fearsome creatures Evergreen encounters along the way, bring her to a Bilbo Baggins-esque conclusion that future adventures need not be feared.         


Wolf in the Snow

Days With Frog and Toad

The Wind in the Willows

The Hobbit, Or, There and Back Again

Best Old Book that Feels New

The Truth about Max, by Alice and Martin Provensen

Husband and wife picture book creators Martin and Alice Provensen are best known for books about their farm in Dutchess County, New York, Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm (1974) and The Year at Maple Hill Farm (1978).  Max was one of the cats introduced in the former, and this “new” book, a previously unpublished manuscript by the Provensens, is all about him.  An afterward by the Provensons daughter, Karen, is all about them, and sums up the magic of their work:

“My father once said that the more you relate to animals and the more you are around them, the more you develop a love for them.  He and my mother believed that animals were guides to the unknown.  A long time ago, Albert Einstein said that the mysterious is the most wonderful thing a human being can know.  My parents believed everything that makes life enchanting grows out of this quality of mystery.”

The Truth About Max

Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm

The Year at Maple Hill Farm

Best Book for Tweens Making a Big Choice

Doodles from the Boogiedown, by Stephanie Rodriquez

The more specific the issue, the more difficult it can be to find a good book about it.  Here is a graphic novel about a certain type of decision facing many Lawrence families as Liberty Memorial Central Middle School transitions to a new STEAM curriculum, with plans to accept transfers from other district middle schools.  In a confessional style reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier’s works, Rodriguez recounts the trials and tribulations of Steph, an artistic eighth grader living in the Bronx in the early 2000’s who wants to attend a public arts-themed high school in Manhattan.  Along the way readers meet Steph’s mother, a Dominican émigré who is suspicious of the American public school system, and Steph’s best friends, who often don’t understand her artistic ambitions.  It’s rare to see a book that so well captures the spirit of a 13-year old trying to figure things out (or, for that matter, one that has the cool, alternative kid wearing a Weezer t-shirt).   

Doodles From the Boogie Down   

Best Book about Hideous Creatures That Are Actually Cute

The Deep: Wild Life at Ocean’s Darkest Depths, by Lindsey Leigh

This book is full of fun facts about fish like the black swallower, which can eat so much that fish begin to rot in its belly, resulting in a gas buildup that floats it to the surface, where it dies.  Somehow, Lindsey Leigh makes this cute.  Well, maybe “cute” is a bit too strong, but she does  somehow make creepy subjects charming, as with germs in Sick! The Twists and Turns Behind Animal Germs, and caves in The Dark! Wild Life in the Mysterious World of Caves.

Swallowers, lanternfish, and other critters of the deep described by Leigh also fill one of my favorite books for grown-ups from last year, Brad Fox’s The Bathysphere Book, a non-fiction account of William Beebe and Otis Barton’s adventures in the spherical submersible they invented in 1930 (a great children’s book about this same invention, Otis and Will Discover the Deep, was published in 2018). 

After years spent gazing out the tiny bathysphere portholes at an alien landscape, William Beebe came to believe in the wonders to be found right outside the windows of our own homes.  As Fox writes:

“This impetus was dear to Beebe: reveal the wondrous unknowns of our everyday surroundings. Having travelled the world from the depths of the sea to the highest mountains, tramped through jungles and flown across continents, Beebe was more and more adamant that wonder was not produced by swashbuckling adventures--it was a way of seeing, an attitude toward experience that was always available. At every turn, the world’s marvels were right before our eyes.”

Beebe was the first to observe a fish known as the bristlemouth in its natural habitat, reporting its great abundance several thousand feet below the surface of the ocean.  Humans hadn’t even known about it until the nineteenth century, but scientists now think it is the most populous vertebrate on earth, numbering in the hundreds of trillions, supplanting the animal previously thought to have held that honor, the chicken.  

The Deep!

Otis and Will Discover the Deep

The Bathysphere Book



Best Book about a Chicken Circumnavigating the Globe

Sabrina Sue Loves the Moon, by Priscilla Burris

Speaking of chickens, my favorite category is back after a dearth of chicken books last year. Sabrina Sue, star of Priscilla Burris’s easy reader series about a hen who cannot be contained, circumnavigates the Earth and orbits the moon in her most recent adventure.  Now that’s a chicken with some spine.  

Sadly, like all big awards shows, the Elpies now have their own farewell segment.  (Cue the sappy music.  Or maybe just “The Chicken Dance.”)  If you haven’t already heard, the original globe-trotting chicken, Monique, the chronicle of whose maritime adventures, The Hen Who Sailed around the World, was the first winner in this category five years ago, died in 2023 at the age of 9. 

Bon voyage, Monique.  You were good people.  Wherever you've gone, I know you're circumnavigating the place.  

Sabrina Sue Loves the Moon

The Hen Who Sailed Around the World

—Dan Coleman is a Senior Collection Development Librarian at Lawrence Public Library.