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Reviews of the 2017 Batchelder Award winners


ringtved_cry heart but never breakCry, Heart, but Never Break
by Glenn Ringtved; illus. by 
Charlotte Pardi; trans. from the 
Danish by Robert Moulthrop
Primary    Enchanted Lion    32 pp.
3/16    978-1-59270-187-2    $16.95

Four children encounter Death, who has arrived at their country house to claim their beloved grandmother (leaving his scythe outside the door, so as not to frighten them). The children ply him with coffee, hoping to busy him until dawn, when he’ll have to leave empty-handed. As the hours pass, Death tells them a story of two brothers, Sorrow and Grief, betrothed to two sisters, Joy and Delight, whose lives together are perfect complements: “Each couldn’t live without the other.” He compares the pairs to Life and Death, asking, “What would life be worth if there were no death? Who would enjoy the sun if it never rained? Who would yearn for day if there were no night?” At last Death ushers the grandmother’s spirit away, comforting the children with the titular commandment to mourn and to remember, but to go on living. The story’s theme is the yin-yang balance of darkness and light, and both the text and the imagery share such a balance, with the poetry of the language softening the directness of its message and the somber palette of grays and blues tempering the almost cartoony nature of the figure work. This book approaches the taboo subject of the end of life with tenderness and candor, introducing it as the natural, unavoidable conclusion that it is. THOM BARTHELMESS


Honor Books:

gomi_over the oceanOver the Ocean
by Taro Gomi; illus. by the author; trans. from the Japanese by Taylor Norman
Preschool     Chronicle     40 pp.
5/16     978-1-4521-4515-0     $16.99

“What is over the ocean?” A child on the beach, his or her back to the reader, has many guesses (e.g., “Are there fairs over the ocean? / Are there fun rides?”); each guess is handsomely depicted off in the distance. (Across the Ocean would have been a more accurate title.) Readers who embrace open-endedness should find the book wondrous. NELL BERAM

From the Fall 2016 issue of The Horn Book Guide.


sanabria_as-time-went-byAs Time Went By
by José Sanabria; illus. by the author; trans. from the Spanish by 
Audrey Hall and Cecelia Molinari
Primary    NorthSouth    48 pp.
5/16    978-0-7358-4248-9    $18.95

“Once upon a time there was a ship that sailed beside the sun with very important people on board,” begins this spare, affecting picture book. “As time [goes] by,” the luxury liner is downgraded to a merchant freighter, then sold as a fishing boat, and eventually abandoned. A wealthy family — once passengers on the ship, the illustrations reveal — suffers a similar reversal of fortune. The family ends up in an impoverished village, which is then cleared by the landowner. Jewel tones in the expressionistic, textured mixed-media illustrations become muted as circumstances grow ever more difficult. Happily, the villagers make a new home for themselves. They repair the abandoned ship and fill its deck with bright tents, bringing vivid color (and hope) back into their lives. Textual and visual echoes throughout lend a sense that it’s meant to be, as does the subtle narrative of the rich family’s little boy (who grows up to be crucial to the ship’s renaissance). The last line of the book is a refrain of its first, as a whole new group of “very important people” sail in the sunshine. An excellent reminder of the value of friendship, home, and belonging — especially when it seems all is lost. KATIE BIRCHER

From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Svingen_BalladThe Ballad of a Broken Nose
by Arne Svingen; trans. from 
the Norwegian by Kari Dickson
Intermediate, Middle School    McElderry    214 pp.
6/16    978-1-4814-1542-2    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-1544-6    $10.99

Narrator-protagonist Bart is basically a generous, open-hearted sort, but he has secrets. Bart doesn’t want any of his schoolmates to know he lives in a rundown tenement with his equally rundown mother; even more, he doesn’t want them to know of the secret passion he indulges only in the privacy of the bathroom. His singing. And not pop, either — Bart’s favorite genre is opera, and his favorite singer is real-life Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel (who makes a gratifying cameo here). Bart has a sweet spirit you don’t much find in books for and about American kids, boys especially, and the contrast between his gentle nature and his fairly dismal circumstances will quickly get readers on his side. In his first novel published in English, Svingen avoids sentimentality, balancing Bart’s essential optimism with real challenges: the neighborhood is truly rough, Bart’s mother is very sick, the school bullying is acute. But he really can sing. ROGER SUTTON

From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

For more, click on the tag ALA Midwinter 2017.



  1. Sam Juliano says:

    I am so thrilled that CRY HEART, BUT NEVER BREAK won this award. What a truly profound and deeply moving book. One of my three outside USA picture books of the year with THE WHITE CAT AND THE MONK and THE JOURNEY.

  2. Thank you for this coverage. I am curious, AS TIME WENT BY is listed here as having been translated from Spanish, but the ALSC awards page lists it as coming from German. ALSC also does not list Cecelia Molinari as co-translator:

    I wonder if there is some way these discrepancies can be rectified.

    Also, both The Horn Book and the ALSC credit Taylor Norman for translating OVER THE OCEAN, but my sense is she was the editor. I would be eager to know who worked from the Japanese, whether this was a co-translator or someone who translated a sample before Chronicle Books acquired the rights.

    Kudos to Enchanted Lion, Chronicle, NorthSouth, and Margaret K. McElderry Books for bringing out these translations.

  3. Shoshana Flax Shoshana Flax says:

    Hi Avery, here’s what the editor of As Time Went By had to say about the translation when we inquired before publishing the review:

    “For our English edition, it was translated from Spanish manuscript to English. Audrey Hall translated Jose Sanabria’s original story from Spanish to English. I was told it was a ‘rough translation” and so I hired Cecelia Molinari to compare Audrey’s version with Jose Sanabria’s original version.

    That said-it wasn’t published in Spanish first-the book was first published in German, by NordSud.

    It is complicated!”

  4. Hi Shoshana, Thank you for this. I also received a tweet from NorthSouth today saying it was the German edition they bought and translated, so the listing on the ALSC page is correct. Challenging to piece together! I’m grateful to have learned through this of José Sanabria, who is Colombian, based in Argentina.

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