Read Up! - 3 Award-Winning Books, Different Literary Forms, Countless Life Lessons

Books are treasures - we all know it. As a sequel to our Newbery Medalist book recommendations, we have compiled another list of book recommendations to make the newly developed reading habit of your children sustainable. These books are not only fun, but also have high educational value. A good book makes learning life lessons more effective - children are seldom receptive to didactic messages. When children read, they sympathize with the characters and go on a virtual adventure with them too. Reading gives children an important opportunity to understand and internalize the importance of the values the author intends to convey.

The following books are either Newbery Medal winners or honor books from 2015 to 2017.  It is worth mentioning that the following books are presented in literary forms that are less common in children’s literature - They are namely poems, graphic fiction and verse fiction. The books introduced below are among the best books in their respective categories and are considered a good start to broadening the breadth of a child’s reading repertoire.


1. Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

Slavery might be a distant idea to modern-day Hong Kong kids, since slavery is already history in many parts of the world, and there is no visible evidence of large scale slavery exploitation in Hong Kong.  However slavery is constantly a subject of children’s education programs in the United States - part of attempts to rectify the institutionalized and legal slavery that claimed millions of African lives in the past, and unfortunately is still the source of racial discrimination and many other social injustices today.

Freedom Over Me delivers a compelling narrative through poetry by reconstructing the identities of slaves on a plantation based on real historical slave trade documents.  However, the trade documents contain only their names, ages and prices. The author elaborated on the trade documents and created colourful stories for each slave, just like the life stories any ordinary person has, accompanied with striking portraits of the slaves.


Freedom Over Me shines a light on the humanity of slaves. The poetry is compelling because the poems show that slaves had their own dreams, their roots, and their own stories to tell, just like their owners.  The reason why slaves were seen as merely the property of their owners and stripped of their rights is because they were not seen as humans. The concept that humans are born equal may be a complex one to teach, but Freedom Over Me offers a good start. As children develop an international outlook in an age of globalization, it is crucial for them to learn about global social issues that can help them sympathise with the wide range of people in our diverse society.


2. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Roller skating is currently receiving a lot of attention thanks to our Hong Kong representative qualifying to compete in the finals of the 2017 Summer Universiade. The fictional Roller Girl centers around a roller derby. Roller derby is a sport in which teammates will help the scorer of the team surpass the opposing team. Compared to other roller sports, teamwork is essential in mastering the sport. If your kids are interested in thrill-seeker sports, let them experience the sport virtually through this graphic fiction and be inspired by the accompanying great lessons on teamwork and sportsmanship! (Source:

The story starts with the girl protagonist Astrid deciding to join a roller derby camp without her best friend Nicole, whom she has always done everything with, but who has instead joined a ballet camp with another friend. Astrid was not only plunged into doubts about the friendship, she faced great challenges in competing with already skilled players of the physically demanding sport. Astrid overcame the adversities and acquired valuable insights on friendship, teamwork and the value of conscientiousness. The vivid illustrations in this award-winning graphic fiction are ideal for kids who are unable to focus on purely text just yet, without compromising any literary value.


3. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover borrows basketball as an analogy of life. The story centres around the twin brothers Jordan and Josh who share a passion for basketball with their father, a former professional basketball player. Ostensibly a tight-knit and worry-free family, the story unfolds as dilemmas and conflicts arise from the seemingly ideal family.  On the one hand, Jordan becomes increasingly interested in romantic relationships and is less willing to spend time with Josh.  On the other hand, their father battles a health problem that casts a gloominess on the family.  As the story progresses, the disoriented Josh learns to resolves conflicts with his brother and to accept some natural courses of life.  

The story is presented in verse. Verse fiction is a budding format of storytelling in children's literature.  A well written verse fiction integrates the best of both worlds - combining the poetic beauty of meticulously selected words following an aesthetic format, with the coherence in prose fiction that is conducive in engaging readers.  Since fiction is still the most common literary form for children, poems with a storyline will be a good and easy start to get children appreciating the beauty of poems and verses.  

Since poems present ideas in a shorter and more succinct manner, the verses display a splendid dynamic that matches the exuberant ambiance of basketball games in the book. The book is also packed with the emotions of the teenage protagonists - emotions stimulated by brotherhood, passion for sports and family bonding.  The emotions of the boys conveyed in the poems are simply lyrical.  The youthful energy and intense emotions accompanied with poetic beauty makes The Crossover an anthem for youth, and even more so for basketball fans.


Look for these books at Whizpa-listed bookstores such as Metrobooks, Swindon Book Co. Ltd. and Bookazine

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