by Jenna Galley, youth services librarian at SCLSNJ’s Peapack & Gladstone Library branch, and Antonette D’Orazio, youth services department supervisor at SCLSNJ’s Warren Township Library branch

This fall, children across the state of New Jersey will have the opportunity to cast votes for the 2018 Garden State Children’s Book Awards. Children may vote for their favorite book in four categories: Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction Series, and Nonfiction.

The Garden State Children’s Book Award (GSCBA) is sponsored by the New Jersey Library Association, Children’s Services Section.  The GSCBA is currently celebrating its 40th year and there’s no better time for more schools, more libraries, and more children to join in the process. The world of children’s books offers many awards, the most well-known are the Newbery for distinguished writing, the Caldecott for extraordinary illustrations, and the Sibert for outstanding nonfiction. However, winners are selected by a panel of librarians and other educators. Very few awards take children’s preferences into account.

In participating schools and libraries, children from grades 2-5 are invited to vote for bookspublished during a specific year. Ballots are created by a committee of youth services librarians from various regions across the state. After culling through hundreds of titles and verifying qualifying criteria, the preliminary lists are pared down, and reading assignments are delegated by the committee Chair. Each librarian reads, evaluates, and reviews the assigned titles for quality and appeal. At the final meeting of the year, committee members debate, discuss, and sometimes even argue over which titles should appear on the final ballot. Despite the work and time it takes to create the final ballot, the librarians on the GSCBA committee find it to be a rewarding process.

The completed ballot is then distributed across the state and votes are collected and tallied. Each January, winners are announced and authors and illustrators are honored at the annual New Jersey Library Association Conference held in the spring.

2018 GSCBA nominees, along with ballots, annotations, book talks, and lesson plans for each title can be found on the Garden State Children’s Book Award website. If your child’s school or local public library is not participating in the voting, we invite your child to cast his or her vote online by visiting the website.

The 2017 Award Winners in each category:

Early Reader Category: “My New Friend is So Fun!” by Mo Willems
Poor Gerald and Snake. At first, they are happy that their best friends, Piggie and Brian Bat, (respectively) are playing together. Since Piggie and Brian Bat are both nice, they must be having so much fun. But what if they are having TOO much fun and no longer need Gerald and Snake? Gerald and Snake decide they have to “tell them to stop having fun!” When they confront the new friends, Gerald and Snake make an amazing and wonderful discovery.

Fiction Category: “Sisters” by Raina Telgemeier
Raina doesn’t always get along with Amara, her younger sister. In fact, sometimes it seems like all they do is argue and drive each other crazy. However, during an incredible road trip from California to Colorado to see their extended family, Raina and Amara learn not only to tolerate each other, but to rely on each other through tough times.

Fiction Series Category: “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” by Jeff Kinney
A family road trip is supposed to be a lot of fun … unless, of course, you’re the Heffleys. The journey starts off full of promise, then quickly takes several wrong turns. Gas station bathrooms, crazed seagulls, a fender bender, and a runaway pig—not exactly Greg Heffley’s idea of a good time. But even the worst road trip can turn into an adventure—and this is one the Heffleys won’t soon forget.

Nonfiction Category: “Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents” by David Stabler & illustrated by Doogie Horner
Have you ever wondered if you can grow-up to become President of the United States? David Stabler takes a humorous glance at first jobs, friendships and families through the childhood memories of some U.S. Presidents. Athletes, bullies, pranksters, and class clowns have all taken a turn as Commander in Chief. Maybe you have what it takes to be President.