We held a Mock Sibert Award in fourth grade for the end of the year. The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal is awarded annually to the author/illustrator of the most distinguished informational book (aka nonfiction). I thought it would be fun to read the actual winner for this year along with some of the honors and one non-Sibert contender and see how the results compared. First, we read Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy. Students loved this book. Both classes voted to keep it on the finalist list. Next we read Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh. Classes were split on this book. One class overwhelmingly voted to keep it in the finals because they felt the subject matter was so important. The other class felt that even though it was important, it was too long for most kids to enjoy. The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, the real Sibert winner for this year was next. Both classes voted to drop it. I had one student who really wanted to keep it because she thought it was interesting, but other than that, it was unanimous to remove it from our finalist list. Finally, we read Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth's Strangest Animals by Michael Hearst. This was my wild card. I picked a nonfiction book that had an interesting cover and that was not a narrative. It was not a winner or honor book for the actual Sibert Award for any year. Surprisingly, both classes chose this not only as a finalist but as the winner. Students liked how the book featured unusual animals. They liked the author's humor. They also liked illustrations and the shortish descriptions for each animal. I can see how Unusual Creatures is appealing in that it can be read from cover to cover or as a browsing book. Personally, I loved all four books. I would have a tough time deciding between any of these.
-Suzanne Jordan, K-5 library teacher