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Thursday, April 5, 2012

BOOKS & AUTHORS: FOCUSING ON THE SOUTH CAROLINA CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARD


ONE BOOK AT A TIME

I was just talking about the power of state book awards with Rich, and how once your novel gets on a list, people start seeing the book differently. They take notice. And it feels good to be noticed, doesn't it?

 I mean, I’ve been noticing the nominees on South Carolina’s Children’s Book Award list since Little Joe became a finalist. I want to read them all. 

Many of the titles I’d heard of, but most of them I’d hadn’t. And that’s a shame

So, since it’ll be 11 months until we find out who the winner is (the kids choose), I’ve decided to read as many as I can and let you know about them. First up: Because of Terupt by Rob Buyea. (For a full list of the nominees, read here.)

Mr. Terupt’s the kind of person every teacher aspires to be and any fifth grader would want mentoring them in class. I never had a Mr. Terupt, though I did have teachers enthusiastic enough about their subjects for me to glean insight on work ethic and passion--not to mention my penchant for shoes. (My first grade teacher wore a different pair of patent leather pumps each day to match the color of her dress, and I’ve been wearing shiny shoes ever since.)

But Mr. Terupt is different—he’s concerned with drawing out the most from his students and having them build a community within class walls where it’s safe, nurturing and fun—in other words, an environment that fosters learning.
  
We find all this all out not from Mr. Terupt, but through 7 very different student narratives. As an author, I admire Rob (who's taught 3rd and 4th graders) for attempting and keeping so many voices going consistently—imagine writing about 7 main characters, and in first person! (Lots of continuity checking and revisions, I’m sure.) Mr. Terupt becomes the catalyst for their words, feelings and changing perceptions, and I really like that idea in a book. Tension builds as each narrator hints about the fateful day when a snowball changes everything and Mr. Terupt becomes the focus, bringing them all even closer.

Rob’s already written the much anticipated sequel to Because of Terupt, so we’ll find out more about the mysterious background behind the inspirational teacher.

Though Sidney Poitier in To Sir, With Love will always be my favorite fictitious teacher of all time, I have a soft spot for Because of Terupt. Rob’s book came out the same year Little Joe did and we were both featured in Random House’s It’s a First spotlight, along with Clare Vanderpool’s Moon Over Manifest. Sound familiar? Clare’s first novel won the Newbery!

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