Thursday, September 22, 2016

Explore the State You're In: by Mary Louise Sanchez

Every state probably has at least one yearly list of the best current children's books. But  it is sometimes difficult to find a book by a state author or about the state on these lists.

Here are the common procedures for a book to receive a state award. The books are either nominated by the state's children, or by a committee, following the criteria set by the reading committee. In most cases,  a list of the nominated books is circulated, children read the books or are read to, and eventually children throughout the state vote on their favorites. The lists are often broken down into primary, middle, and upper grades.

It's interesting to read the names of the awards which often hearken back to what is unique about that state. For instance, Kentucky Bluegrass Award; Mississippi: The Magnolia Book Award; Michigan: The Mitten Award. ( I never knew the significance of the mitten to Michigan until our daughter-in-law showed us various places in Michigan by holding her hand up and pointing to them. The state does resemble the shape of a mitten!)
Missouri: Show Me Readers Award; New Jersey: The Garden State Award; Texas Bluebonnet Award; Utah: Beehive Award.

Wyoming has three awards divided by grade levels. Buckaroo Award, K-3; Indian Paintbrush Award 4-6; Soaring Eagle 7-12.
New Mexico's Award is called the Land of Enchantment Award.
My idea for state award committees to consider is to share lists of  children's books about that state, even if they are not current. These books wouldn't necessarily be voted on, but the teachers and students would at least have a list of the books which could enhance the study of their particular state.

Carol Hurst, from the Children's Literature site, has a list of good children's books for each state.
She also shared an idea where children could add additional titles about states and list information they have learned about the them. Her other ideas along this theme of location are: " Would any of those facts be true of the entire state or just one part of it? How does it differ from your own location in the state? Also, while some of these stories are set in the present day, others represent a historic view. Putting the location titles in their proper place in history can present another challenge to readers."
Here is a blog that posted book covers representing YA books from various states.

Since I'm passionate about New Mexico (ancestors from both sides colonized it when it was called New Spain), and I own over 250  books about New Mexico, I want to share some personal favorite children's books. Besides middle grade historical fiction, I'm adding a few picture books, folklore, and YA. All the book images were taken from Goodreadss.  
I recommend the Josefina books from the American Girl series. They give a good picture of the Mexican period in New Mexican history.

Does your class participate in your state's award book program? What books about your state do you think should be included?


  1. Mary Louise, thank you for this informative and thoughtful post. Great idea for us to know books about our state. And by the way, it was so nice to see you last weekend.

  2. These are attractive book covers and I like your ideas.

  3. Super book covers, and thanks for the mini-history lesson on the various states and awards. In Colorado some years ago I saw a picture book on Christmas in New Mexico. The cover illustration was of votive lights lining either side of the drive up to the house. As we were on our way to Albuquerque, I left it 'to be picked up on the homeward trip'. Of course, to my regret, it was gone.

  4. I'm so impressed how many New Mexico/New Spain books you have! And thanks for the recommendations! I've only read The Green Glass Sea, but I found it fascinating. The names of the state awards are clever! In S. Dakota, our awards are Prairie Bud (PreK-1st grade), Prairie Bloom (2nd-3rd), and Prairie Pasque (4th-5th). The prairie pasque is a very pretty, small pink flower. I like that the state awards are, at least partially, chosen by the children. It's interesting to see which books children actually like reading compared to books that are given awards by adults.

    Deb Watley