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Discover These Award-Winning Books for Young Readers

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Librarian Abby Johnson - COURTESY
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  • Librarian Abby Johnson

March is cabin-fever month. While your family might be itching to be outside, the weather often doesn't cooperate.

Although many libraries offer curbside pickup or are open by appointment or for short visits, these systems don't always work when you're looking to choose picture books. Requesting books from the Red Clover Book Award lists is a simple way for parents and caregivers to obtain award-winning titles for younger readers.

Founded in 1995 by the nonprofit literacy organization Windham County Reads, the Red Clover program was conceived by children's author Eileen Christelow and named by children's author Jessie Haas. The program is designed to encourage appreciation of picture books by young children.

Every year, a committee of school and town librarians selects 10 picture books for children in kindergarten through fourth grade. Nominees must have been published in the previous year, both the author and illustrator must be living at the time of the selection, and both fiction and nonfiction books are eligible. In the spring, thousands of Vermont kids read the books and submit votes for their favorite through schools or the state Department of Libraries.

While the 2021-22 list has been delayed due to the pandemic, parents can access lists from previous years at the Department of Libraries' website. Many libraries have these books in their children's sections.

This month, Abby Johnson, youth services librarian at the Cobleigh Public Library in Lyndonville, shared a few of her favorites on the 2020-21 list.

Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival by Lindsay Moore
  • Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival by Lindsay Moore

Told from a polar bear's perspective, Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival by Lindsay Moore is about a polar bear in search of food and a place to wait out the warm summer. Moore's watercolor illustrations evoke the sea, ice and sky. "The quiet yet strong voice of the polar bear leaves readers with hope, even as we feel the effect that climate change has on her environment," says Johnson.

Andrea Tsurumi wrote and illustrated her debut, cartoon-style picture book Crab Cake: Turning the Tide Together. Young readers meet a colorful community of sea creatures who are brought together by Crab's tasty cake after a human-made catastrophe impacts their lives. The creatures use teamwork to solve a pollution problem. Beneath the book's engaging quirkiness, Johnson says, is the message is that humans need to take responsibility to help clean up the planet.

Crab Cake: Turning the Tide Together by Andrea Tsurumi
  • Crab Cake: Turning the Tide Together by Andrea Tsurumi

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, stars a modern Native American family and the stories, history and food that bind them together. The story begins in the family kitchen and travels through centuries of traditions. The book whets readers' appetites with a recipe at the end and encourages them to consider what foods and traditions nourish their own families.

For more fun, check out short videos of each author from the 2020-21 list on the Red Clover section of the Department of Libraries' website.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard
  • Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard

My favorite is from author and illustrator Sydney Smith, who shares his magical book Small in the City — the story of living in a large city, told from a child's viewpoint.

Previous Red Clover winners include Mo Willems, who clinched the award in 2005 and 2006 for Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale.

My daughter's favorite was Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin, released in 2000. Neither one of us ever tired of this book — the true mark of a classic childhood read.

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