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Drum roll, please! The 2019 award-winning books for children have been announced.

This is always an exciting time for those of us in library youth services, when the American Library Association announces the best of the best of youth books. Which they did at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 28. Excitement reigns in the youth book-lovers’ world.

These books win awards for a reason – they are fabulous. Sometimes they’re just great entertainment, and sometimes reading them can be a life-altering experience. It’s not just kids who read them — adults: I’m guaranteeing that these books will nourish your reading soul. They’re that good.

This year’s time-honored Newbery Award, given for the children’s literature since 1922, went to books that transport readers to other times and cultures. The top award went to “Merci Suarez Changes Gears” by Meg Medina. Merci’s Cuban American family works hard to send her to a private school. She struggles socially, worries about hiding her wandering eye, and is upset about her beloved grandfather’s struggle with dementia.

The sparkling illustrations of “Hello Lighthouse,” by Sophie Blackall won the Caldecott Award, with a story told from the lighthouse’s point of view.

There are more exciting awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award for African American books, the Printz Award for young adult literature, the Schneider Family Book Award for books highlighting the disability experience, the Batchelder Award for translated books, the Sibert award for informational book, the Stonewall Award for books relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience, and the Geisel Award for beginning readers, and more.

I was delighted when “Darius the Great Is Not Okay” by Adib Khorram, won the Morris Award for new authors and the Asian/Pacific American Award. Sometimes, you find a book, and it’s just… you know? So what would I, an old librarian, have to do with teen-age Darius, from a Persian-American family? Well, he enjoys the art of making tea. (Yes! I actually have a room in my house that I call… ahem, the “Tea Room.”) He calls the tea-boiler at his job “Smaug,” because he is a Tolkien fan. (OK, in hobbit heaven, here.) And — here it gets really good – he is a Trekkie, watching an episode every night with his dad. (Who would do that? Are you looking at me?) Also, as a person who loves to travel the world, but who likely will never make it to Iran, I loved having this window into Persian family life.

What this book is really about is bullied Darius being uncomfortable with his Persian heritage, traveling to Iran to meet his dying grandfather, and meeting a Ba’hai boy who teaches him about real friendship. It made me both laugh and cry. (Lots of laughing, which is important. If a book can make me laugh out loud, it’s worth its weight in gold.)

All of these winners and more can be found on display at the La Crosse County Libraries in Bangor, Campbell, Holmen, Onalaska and West Salem. Or check us out at www.lacrossecountylibrary.org.

Speaking of boldly going where no one has gone before (sorry, the Star Trek thing again), that’s what I’m doing now. Well, at least I’m going where I, personally, have never gone before: I am retiring.

By the time you read this I’ve already embarked on that journey. I am more than a little sad to leave the excitement of being the Youth Services Coordinator for La Crosse County Library for the past 29 years. I’ll miss my awesome coworkers and my beautiful library children and their families. I have watched those little children grow up, and then bring children of their own to my story times about dragons, and tiger pancakes, and three little pigs in life-size pig houses.

I try to remember the words of a character in a book by Ray Bradbury. In “Death Is a Lonely Business,” a character says there is only one way we can try to win out over Death. We can only live one life, he says, so to cheat Death, he lives multiple lives. Don’t just do one thing. Do many things. Multiple lives.

So here comes another one of those multiple lives for me. Good-bye! And…I miss you already.

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Karen Kroll is youth services coordinator for the La Crosse County Library.

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