As the co-director of the Indiana Center for the Book (with the esteemed Christy Franzman of the Indiana Young Readers Center as the other co-director), I delight every January in working with other members of the Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Committee to finalize the ballot for the Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award. In its third year, the Firefly Award strives to present a balanced ballot of high quality picture books that appeal to our youngest book enthusiasts; children ages 0-5.
This year, I’m particularly excited that two books by Indiana authors are included: “Race Car Count” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and “Best in Snow” by April Pulley Sayre. Both these books are quintessentially Indiana in two very different ways. Dotlich’s counting concept book covers the exciting Indy-centric topic of motor sports, while never directly stating anything specific to the Indy 500. A fun addition is the back matter, where she introduces the reader to her cast of characters, a remarkably diverse cast, considering they are race cars. Sayre’s book, the only nonfiction book on the list, is illustrated by crisp photographs of Indiana wildlife and landscapes draped, frosted and dusted with snow. “Best in Snow” continues Sayre’s work of introducing science and nature concepts to young children in rhyming chant.
Along with the two Indiana books, the 2017 Firefly ballot is rounded out by animals, music and interactivity. “Grumpy Pants” by Claire Messer shows children that even if they wake up feeling grumpy, they can be the boss of their own emotions and take actions to turn their feelings around. “Don’t Wake Up Tiger!” by Britta Teckentrup is an invitation to interactive play, as children are invited to pet, stroke and sooth Tiger to keep her asleep. “Music Class Today!” by David Weinstone is the most diverse book on the list, picturing a mustachioed male guitar player leading a group of racially-diverse children and their care-givers in a rousing session of music class complete with rhythm and repetition.
I want to encourage libraries in Indiana to collect these five books, present them to children ages 0-5, and their caregivers, and give the children a chance to vote on their favorite. Voting information can be found here and can be done in a variety of ways. Some libraries create little voting booths for this program and others just have the children vote by a show of hands.
All library systems in Indiana will receive 15 copies of the ballot courtesy of TeachingBooks.net and are welcome to make more copies as needed or to print off additional copies of the ballot from the Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award website. TeachingBooks.net has also partnered with us to collect some resources for each book to assist in programming and sharing.
It’s an exciting time for the Firefly Award! Now begins the long wait through spring to see which book will win.
Submitted by Suzanne Walker, supervisor of the Professional Development Office at the Indiana State Library and co-director of the Indiana Center for the Book.