In the world of children’s literature, there are countless awards and honors that recognize exceptional authors and their contributions to the genre. One such prestigious accolade is the Maud Hart Lovelace Award, named after the beloved American author Maud Hart Lovelace. This award has been a cornerstone of children’s literature recognition for decades, celebrating outstanding works of fiction that captivate the hearts and minds of young readers. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the history and significance of the Maud Hart Lovelace Award and reveal the nominees for the 2024 edition.

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The Maud Hart Lovelace Award: A Brief Overview

The Maud Hart Lovelace Award was established in 1980 by a group of Minnesota educators and librarians who sought to honor Maud Hart Lovelace’s contribution to children’s literature. Lovelace, best known for her beloved Betsy-Tacy series, captured the imaginations of generations of readers with her timeless stories of friendship, adventure, and growth. To commemorate her literary legacy, the award was created to recognize authors who continue to inspire and entertain young readers with their remarkable storytelling.

The award is unique in that it is entirely student-driven. Each year, thousands of students in Minnesota schools participate in the selection process. Readers in grades 3 through 8 are invited to read a selection of nominated titles and then cast their votes for their favorite book. This democratic approach ensures that the books selected resonate with the very audience they are meant to serve.

The Maud Hart Lovelace Award has two divisions: Division I, which includes books for readers in grades 3-5, and Division II, which is for readers in grades 6-8. Nominees for each division are carefully chosen by a committee of educators and librarians based on their literary merit, age-appropriate content, and overall appeal to young readers.

The Significance of the Award

The Maud Hart Lovelace Award holds immense significance in the world of children’s literature for several reasons:

  1. Empowering Young Readers: By involving students in the book selection process, the award encourages a sense of agency and ownership over their reading choices. It fosters a lifelong love of reading and allows children to actively engage with literature.
  2. Quality Assurance: The rigorous selection process ensures that only the finest works of children’s literature make it to the nomination list. These books are not only entertaining but also provide valuable insights and life lessons.
  3. Celebrating Authors: The award recognizes and celebrates talented authors who create stories that resonate with young readers. It provides a platform for these authors to gain well-deserved recognition.

The Nominees for 2024 – (Division I – Suggested for Grades 3-5)

Without further ado, here are the nominees for the 2024 Maud Hart Lovelace Award:

1. Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year by Nina Hamza

An Indian Muslim #ownvoices debut about an underachiever who must start over in a new state with the help of three classic books.

Ahmed Aziz is having an epic year—epically bad. His family moved from Hawaii to Minnesota because his dad got sick, and even though Minnesota is where his dad grew up, Ahmed can’t imagine a worse place to live—not that anyone asked him.

Being the new kid is tough, especially because Ahmed is the only brown-skinned student in a sea of white. But over the course of the school year, Ahmed—who never lives up to his potential—surprises himself by actually reading the three assigned books for his English class: HolesBridge to Terabithia, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Even more surprising, he doesn’t hate the books. At the same time, Ahmed is learning about the uncle he never knew—his dad’s brother, who died young, and who Ahmed takes after. Investigating his family history offers Ahmed comfort as his dad’s health hangs in the balance. Could Ahmed be warming to Minnesota?


2. The Great Pet Heist by Emily Ecton

Ocean’s Eleven meets The Secret Life of Pets in this hilarious and delightfully illustrated novel following a ragtag group of pets who will do whatever it takes to avoid being sent to the pound.

Butterbean knew she wasn’t always a good dog. Still, she’d never considered herself a BAD dog—until the morning that her owner, Mrs. Food, fell in the hallway. Admittedly the tile was slipperier than usual, mostly because Butterbean had just thrown up on it.

Now Butterbean and her fellow pets have to come up with a grand plan to support themselves in case Mrs. Food is unable to keep taking care of them. When they discover a mysterious man in their building who seems to have lots of loot, they plan a heist. Oscar the mynah bird is the brains of the operation. Walt the cat has the necessary slyness and slink. Marco and Polo are the reconnaissance rats. And Butterbean…well, no one would ever suspect a cute little wiener dog, right? Can these animal friends can pull off the heist of the century?


3. J.D. and the Great Barber Battle by J. Dillard

Eight-year-old J.D. turns a tragic home haircut into a thriving barber business in this hilarious new illustrated chapter book series

J.D. has a big problem–it’s the night before the start of third grade and his mom has just given him his first and worst home haircut. When the steady stream of insults from the entire student body of Douglass Elementary becomes too much for J.D., he takes matters into his own hands and discovers that, unlike his mom, he’s a genius with the clippers. His work makes him the talk of the town and brings him enough hair business to open a barbershop from his bedroom. But when Henry Jr., the owner of the only official local barbershop, realizes he’s losing clients to J.D., he tries to shut him down for good. How do you find out who’s the best barber in all of Meridian, Mississippi? With a GREAT BARBER BATTLE!

From the hilarious and creative mind of J. Dillard, an entrepreneur, public speaker, and personal barber, comes a new chapter book series with characters that are easy to fall for and nearly impossible to forget. Akeem S. Roberts’ lively illustrations make this series a must-buy for reluctant readers.


4. Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee

Welcome to The Golden Palace!

Maizy has never been to Last Chance, Minnesota. . . until now. Her Mom’s plan is just to stay for a couple weeks, until her grandfather gets better. But plans change, and as Maizy spends more time in Last Chance (where she and her family are the only Asian-Americans) and at The Golden Palace—the restaurant that’s been in her family for generations—she makes some discoveries. For instance:
• You can tell a LOT about someone by the way they order food.
• And people can surprise you. Sometimes in good ways, sometimes in disappointing ways.
• And the Golden Palace has Secrets.

But the more Maizy discovers, the more questions she has. Like, why are her mom and her grandmother always fighting? Who are the people in the photographs on the office wall? And when she discovers that a beloved family treasure has gone missing—and someone has left a racist note—Maizy decides it’s time find the answers.


5. A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus

Set against the backdrop of World War II, Anna, Edmund, and William are evacuated from London to live in the countryside, bouncing from home to home in search of a permanent family.

It is 1940 and Anna, 9, Edmund, 11, and William, 12, have just lost their grandmother. Unfortunately, she left no provision for their guardianship in her will. Her solicitor comes up with a preposterous plan: he will arrange for the children to join a group of schoolchildren who are being evacuated to a village in the country, where they will live with families for the duration of the war. He also hopes that whoever takes the children on might end up willing to adopt them and become their new family–providing, of course, that the children can agree on the choice.

Moving from one family to another, the children suffer the cruel trickery of foster brothers, the cold realities of outdoor toilets, and the hollowness of empty tummies. They seek comfort in the village lending library, whose kind librarian, Nora Muller, seems an excellent candidate–except that she has a German husband whose whereabouts are currently unknown. Nevertheless, Nora’s cottage is a place of bedtime stories and fireplaces, of vegetable gardens and hot, milky tea. Most important, it’s a place where someone thinks they all three hung the moon. Which is really all you need in a mom, if you think about it.

Fans of The War That Saved My Life and other World War II fiction will find an instant classic in A Place to Hang the Moon.


6. The Smartest Kid in the Universe by Chris Grabenstein

“For centuries, humans have consumed information through their eyes and our ears,” said Dr. Backbridge. “Here is my prediction. In the not-too-distant future, we are going to ingest information. You won’t need to read a book or attend lectures. The chemicals in these pills will do your learning for you.”

12 year old Jake’s middle school is about to be shut down. Jake and his friends know their school’s worth saving-if they could only figure out how! When Jake spies a bowl of jellybeans at the hotel where his mom works, he eats them. But uh-oh-those weren’t just jellybeans, one of the scientists at his mom’s conference is in the process of developing the first ingestible information pills. And THAT’S what Jake ate.

Before long, Jake is the smartest kid in the universe. But the pills haven’t been tested yet. And when word gets out about this new genius, people want him. The government. The mega corporations. Not all of them are good people! Can Jake navigate all the ins and outs of his newfound geniusdom (not to mention the ins and outs of middle school!) AND use his smarts to figure out how to save his school? (Hint-it will take someone smart enough to decipher an almost forgotten pirate legend!) It turns out, sometimes even the smartest kid has a lot to learn!


7. Twins by Varian Johnson

Coretta Scott King Honor author Varian Johnson teams up with rising cartoonist Shannon Wright for a delightful middle-grade graphic novel!

Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends. They participate in the same clubs, enjoy the same foods, and are partners on all their school projects. But just before the girls start sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran — a girl who wants to join the chorus, run for class president, and dress in fashionable outfits that set her apart from Maureen. A girl who seems happy to share only two classes with her sister!

Maureen and Francine are growing apart and there’s nothing Maureen can do to stop it. Are sisters really forever? Or will middle school change things for good?


8. When Life Gives You Lemons Make Peace Pie by Erin Downing

Mix together a used food truck, a road trip that doesn’t exactly go as planned, and a lot of pie, and you have the recipe for this sweet middle grade series starter brimming with humor, heart, and a family you’ll fall in love with. Perfect for readers who gobbled down The Penderwicks and The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street.

Sweet summer has taken a rotten turn . . .

After a tough year, Lucy, Freddy, and Herb Peach are ready for vacation. Lucy wants to read all of the books on the summer reading list. Freddy wants to work on his art projects (when he isn’t stuck in summer school). Herb wants to swim every day.

Then their dad makes a big announcement: one of the inventions their mom came up with before she passed away has sold, and now they’re millionaires!

But Dad has bigger plans than blowing the cash on fun stuff or investing it. He’s bought a used food truck. The Peaches are going to spend the summer traveling the country selling pies. It will be the Great Peach Experiment–a summer of bonding while living out one of Mom’s dreams. Summer plans, sunk. And there’s one more issue Dad’s neglected: none of them knows how to bake. . . .

A perfect blend of humor, heart, and family antics, When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie is a delectable treat to be gobbled down or savored slowly. (Slice of pie on the side, optional, but highly recommended.)


Crossovers – (Suggested for Grades 3-8)

1. Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros

Efrén Nava’s Amá is his Superwoman—or Soperwoman, named after the delicious Mexican sopes his mother often prepares. Both Amá and Apá work hard all day to provide for the family, making sure Efrén and his younger siblings Max and Mía feel safe and loved.

But Efrén worries about his parents; although he’s American-born, his parents are undocumented. His worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn’t return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, México.

Now more than ever, Efrén must channel his inner Soperboy to help take care of and try to reunite his family.


2. Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter

When 11-year-old April joins a group of kids living at Winterborne Home she doesn’t expect to be there for very long. But she soon learns that this home isn’t like any of the others – especially when she unearths the secret of the missing-and-presumed-dead billionaire, Gabriel Winterborne, who is neither missing nor dead but is actually living in a basement lair, sharpening his swords and looking for vengeance.

Now that April knows Gabriel Winterborne is alive, she must turn to the other orphans to keep him that way. As a looming new danger threatens to take Gabriel down once and for all, they must use their individual talents to find a way to make sure this home for misfits isn’t lost to them for ever.

Because at the Winterborne Home, nothing is what it seems, no one is who they say they are and nowhere is safe. And now a ragtag group of orphans must unravel the riddle of a missing heir, a supposed phantom and a secret key, all without alerting the adults of Winterborne House that trouble is afoot.


Division II – (Suggested for Grades 6-8)

1. Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson’s novel-in-verse explores how a family moves forward when their glory days have passed and the cost of professional sports on Black bodies.

For as long as ZJ can remember, his dad has been everyone’s hero. As a charming, talented pro football star, he’s as beloved to the neighborhood kids he plays with as he is to his millions of adoring sports fans. But lately life at ZJ’s house is anything but charming. His dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ’s mom explains it’s because of all the head injuries his dad sustained during his career. ZJ can understand that–but it doesn’t make the sting any less real when his own father forgets his name. As ZJ contemplates his new reality, he has to figure out how to hold on tight to family traditions and recollections of the glory days, all the while wondering what their past amounts to if his father can’t remember it. And most importantly, can those happy feelings ever be reclaimed when they are all so busy aching for the past?


2. The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman

On a spring morning in 1986, neighbors Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko wake up to an angry red sky. A reactor at the nuclear power plant where their fathers work–Chernobyl–has exploded. Before they know it, the two girls, who’ve always been enemies, find themselves on a train bound for Leningrad to stay with Valentina’s estranged grandmother, Rita Grigorievna.

In 1941 Rifka must flee Kiev before the Germans arrive. Her journey is harrowing and fraught with danger because Germans and Russians alike will revile her for her Jewish blood.

In both time periods, the girls must learn who to trust and how to have hope in the midst of horrible events.


3. Glitch by Laura Martin

A whirlwind adventure about a pair of kids who must break all the rules of time travel.

Regan Fitz and Elliot Mason have been enemies since they started training to become Glitchers—people who travel through time to preserve important historical events. But everything changes when they find a letter from Regan’s future self, warning them about an impending disaster that threatens them and everyone they know.

Will they be able to set aside their past in order to save the future?


4. Linked by Gordon Korman

Link, Michael, and Dana live in a quiet town. But it’s woken up very quickly when someone sneaks into school and vandalizes it with a swastika. Nobody can believe it. How could such a symbol of hate end up in the middle of their school? Who would do such a thing?

Because Michael was the first person to see it, he’s the first suspect. Because Link is one of the most popular guys in school, everyone’s looking to him to figure it out. And because Dana’s the only Jewish girl in the whole town, everyone’s treating her more like an outsider than ever.

The mystery deepens as more swastikas begin to appear. Some students decide to fight back and start a project to bring people together instead of dividing them further. The closer Link, Michael, and Dana get to the truth, the more there is to face-not just the crimes of the present, but the crimes of the past.


5. Long Lost by Jacqueline West

Eleven-year-old Fiona has just read a book that doesn’t exist.

When Fiona’s family moves to be closer to her older sister’s figure skating club—and far from Fiona’s close-knit group of friends—nobody seems to notice Fiona’s unhappiness. Alone and out of place, Fiona ventures to the town’s library, a rambling mansion donated to the town by the long-dead heiress. And there she finds a gripping mystery novel about a small town, family secrets, and a tragic disappearance.

Soon Fiona begins to notice strange similarities that blur the lines between the novel and her new town. And when she looks for the book again, it’s gone. Almost like it never existed. With stubbornness and a little help from a few odd Lost Lake locals, Fiona uncovers the book’s strange history. It’s not a novel, but the true story of an unsolved century-old crime filled with clues to the mystery. Lost Lake is a town of restless spirits, and Fiona will learn that both help and danger come from unexpected places—maybe even the sister she thinks doesn’t care about her anymore.


6. Starfish by Lisa Fipps

Ellie is tired of being fat-shamed and does something about it in this debut novel-in-verse.

Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules–like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space–her swimming pool–where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life–by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.


7. Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas

Bree can’t wait for her first day at her new middle school, Enith Brigitha, home to the Mighty Manatees–until she’s stuck with the only elective that fits her schedule, the dreaded Swim 101. The thought of swimming makes Bree more than a little queasy, yet she’s forced to dive headfirst into one of her greatest fears. Lucky for her, Etta, an elderly occupant of her apartment building and former swim team captain, is willing to help.

With Etta’s training and a lot of hard work, Bree suddenly finds her swim-crazed community counting on her to turn the school’s failing team around. But that’s easier said than done, especially when their rival, the prestigious Holyoke Prep, has everything they need to leave the Mighty Manatees in their wake.

Can Bree defy the odds and guide her team to a state championship, or have the Manatees swum their last lap–for good?


8. A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

A boy on the run. A girl determined to find him.

All light in Chattana is created by one man — the Governor, who appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city. For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights represent freedom, and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them. But when Pong escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb light, while the poor toil away in darkness. Worst of all, Pong’s prison tattoo marks him as a fugitive who can never be truly free.

Nok, the prison warden’s perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family’s good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear. Set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, and inspired by Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.


Conclusion

The Maud Hart Lovelace Award continues to be a shining beacon in the world of children’s literature, promoting the joy of reading while recognizing exceptional authors and their contributions. As we eagerly await the announcement of the winners for the 2024 edition, we can be sure that each nominated book has already made a significant impact on the lives of young readers in Minnesota and beyond. Whether you’re a student, a parent, or an avid reader, these nominees offer a wealth of literary treasures waiting to be explored. So, grab a copy, dive into these captivating stories, and join the celebration of outstanding children’s literature.

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