The 2007 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards announcement

h1 June 7th, 2007 by Eisha and Jules

As you probably know, the 2007 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature were announced this week. We were pleased to see the list of winners and honor recipients and were in happy agreement.

Fiction and Poetry Winners:

* The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party (Candlewick) by M. T. Anderson — co-reviewed here at 7-Imp (followed by our recent-ish interview with Anderson)

Picture Book Winners:

Fiction — * Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories (Porter/Roaring Brook) written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger — reviewed here by Jules

Nonfiction — * The Strongest Man in the World: Louis Cyr (Groundwood) written and illustrated by Nicolas Debon

Jules: Now, as for that nonfiction winner, it just so happens that I was planning on reviewing it this week. Two of my best book sources — Fuse #8 and David at The Excelsior File — covered it here and here, respectively, greatly piquing my interest in this title by French author/illustrator Nicolas Debon.

This picture book biography of Canadian strongman and circus founder/owner Louis Cyr is written in a graphic novel format. When the book opens, it is November 1900 in Quebec, and a doctor is telling the nearly-360-pound strongman Cyr, “if you don’t start taking care of yourself, you won’t live to see the new year. Good night, Mr. Cyr!” His daughter has overheard and runs to him, and Cyr explains to her his condition: heart trouble, chronic nephritis, asthma, and more. With a look of utter shock, he tells her, “I must RETIRE!” As his upcoming performance is being announced in the circus tent, Cyr begins reminiscing about his life, starting with his memories of his strict grandfather, ordering him to “‘eat, mon Louis! Eat! The more you eat, the stronger you’ll be . . .’ Grandpa believed that I had exceptional strength, and he made me work hard to develop my talent.” Cyr continues his looking-back, providing much detail, such as the time he lifted a draft horse in a weightlifting contest in a local country fair, thus becoming the “new champion of America!”; how he met Melina, his wife, in Massachusetts; how another strongman named Michaud — also in love with the woman who became Cyr’s wife — challenged him to a boulder-lifting contest (and how Cyr defeated Michaud — “I didn’t want to disappoint {Melina}”); how he agreed to tour the country as a strongman yet bailed on the job once he was not paid what he was promised; how he worked as a policeman in Montreal until his daughter was born; and how he joined a new tour, followed by his purchase of a tavern where he and his family spent happy times. Finally, he tells his daughter of the founding and running of his own circus after a trip to Europe and after being declared “The Strongest Man in the World” by a newspaper magnate. After showing us in detailed panels Cyr’s final circus performance, he says goodbye to his strongman status: ” . . . maybe the strongest of all is the man who knows how to leave what he has loved with no regret . . .” The book closes with an afterword about Cyr’s life, including a few photographs, and a brief explanation of “freak” shows that featured extraordinary humans (and don’t miss the “strongman” endpapers, which feature some of the performers in the Louis Cyr Circus).

Dubon uses mostly browns and greys to bring Cyr’s story to life in small, detailed panels. Particularly effective is the gentle side we’re shown as his daughter asks him the questions that drive the story, which are then juxtaposed with the images of his impressive strength (“back lift of eighteen men, estimated weight 4,300 pounds,” picking up a 450-pound boulder, resisting the pull of four horses weighing 1,200 pounds each, lifting a 314-pound barrel of cement), created with many angular lines. And many fun facts are included in the narrative, the types of details that anyone interested in such subjects would be happy to read (the story behind the myth of carrying six bandits off to jail at one time, keeping a scale on the stage to settle disputes from the crowds, the fact that his mother was over six feet tall, and more). Like Fuse and David commented, at the close of the book, I wanted a bit more information and perhaps a timeline (how exactly did he die — and when? I wondered as I finished it, looking at the rather moving final panel, an illustration of him walking off in the snow with his daughter). But, all in all, it’s an engaging biography of a famous sports figure from our neighbor to the north.

Okay, now for the Honor Books chosen:

Fiction and Poetry:

* Clementine (Hyperion) written by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee

* Rex Zero and the End of the World (Kroupa/Farrar) by Tim Wynne-Jones

Picture Book:

* 365 Penguins (Abrams) written by Jean-Luc Fromental, illustrated by Joelle Jolivet — Jules read and loved, but the math portion of her brain simply does not exist, so she avoided a review.

* Wolves (Simon & Schuster) written and illustrated by Emily Gravett — WOO-FREAKIN’-HOO! (How’s that for some professional-sounding review-speak?). We here at 7-Imp are in love with this book. We might just marry it. Here is our co-review of it, and here is a recent Ode to Emily Gravett that Jules wrote.

Nonfiction:

* Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (Houghton Mifflin) by Loree Griffin Burns

*Escape!: The Story of the Great Houdini (Greenwillow) by Sid Fleischman

Yes, you’ll see there are quite a few of these we have left to read, but that’s the list. Too bad Eisha won’t be around in the Boston area for the awards ceremony this October so that she can tell Gravett and company that they ROCK, but we’ll always have last year’s memories . . .

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3 comments to “The 2007 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards announcement”

  1. I admit it. At first I thought: why are they re-posting the BGHB awards? But THEN I started following the links and realized how much I had missed:

    Like eisha’s hilarious account of last year’s award ceremony. For the record, I think YOU ROCK is a perfectly appropriate response to meeting an author. So is YOU SOOO ROCK and YOU ROCK ME LIKE A ROCK, OH, BABY… And jules, I’m running for our Gillian Welch CD’s right after this to see if your WOO-HOO’s are on there.

    Also, I knew about your fabulously link-filled M.T. Anderson interview, but somehow, I hadn’t clicked back to your co-review of Octavian Nothing. eisha: spot on with your comment about feces and standardized testing. I will never be able to hear the words SOL or EOC again without imagining a little brass scale. jules: the quote you chose to pull from the book gave me chills. Because that was the exact moment–the exact set of sentences—in the book when I realized what a genius Anderson is. Even now, months later, I clearly remember how I felt reading them. To me, that one paragraph shows so profoundly his gift for describing the horror of human nature without sensationalizing it one tiny bit. What others may call “detached” or “cool” I find enables me to truly SEE and not look away.

    OK, that’s enough for now. Off to click on more of your links and see what else I’ve been missing.


  2. Sara, we’re psychic brain twins for liking the exact same, little excerpt. Also, as for the Gillian Welch “woo hoo — yeah!”, that was when my friend and I saw her perform in Knoxville (was it The Bijou or The Tennessee Theatre? Can’t remember), and they announced the concert would be recorded for a DVD. I’ve got that live-in-concert DVD, and I can’t hear our valiant “woo hoo — yeah”s. Bummer.

    Thanks for commenting . . .


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