On top of the Nebraska State Capitol stands a 19,000 pound, bronze statue known as the sower. He stands barefoot and without a hat sowing seeds in the most primitive manner. He is symbolic of the state of Nebraska as a major agricultural state. He is the symbol of sowing seeds of agriculture, life, hope and prosperity. The Sower sculpted by Lee Lawrie was chosen as the symbol of the Nebraska children’s choice literary award for several reasons. The award's sponsors, the Nebraska Library Association, hope the program will sow seeds which; stimulate children’s thinking, introduce different types of literature, encourage independent reading, increase library skills, and foster an appreciation for excellence in writing and illustrating.
First presented in 1981, the award was given in only one category – the intermediate for grades 4 - 6. At that time 4,185 Nebraska school children voted and the Golden Sower Award winner was “Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery” by Deborah and James Howe. A picture book category was added in 1983 allowing children in grades K – 3 to participate. That year 9,960 children voted and “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” by Judy and Ron Barrett was the first picture book winner. A young adult category with books nominated appropriate for grades 6 – 9 was added in 1992 and the first YA category winner was “Whispers From the Dead” by Joan Lowery Nixon. A total of 59,688 Nebraska school children voted that year.
This year a record breaking number of children voted – 73,128 to select the Golden Sower Award winners. I haven’t been very good in the past in predicting the winners, and the books I just loved and thought would win for sure have not been the ones the children selected.
I feel really good about this year’s winners. I had an overwhelming favorite among the books nominated. It was “Nubs, the True Story of a Mutt, a Marine and a Miracle” by Brian Dennis, Kirby Larsen, and Mary Nethery and am so pleased that it won in the K – 3 category by an overwhelming majority, one of the largest ever. It is the story of a medium sized homeless Iraqi dog whose ears had been cut off. Nubs, in spite of his small size, was the leader of a pack of wild dogs living off the land and barely surviving. His life changed when American marines visited his area and Nubbs bonded with Marine Major Brian Dennis. Marines are not allowed to have pets, but when Nubs walked 70 miles over snow covered desert fighting his way through territories fiercely protected by wolves and wild dogs in order to reunite himself with his American friends, they just couldn’t turn their backs on him. They raised $2,000 to evacuate Nubs to the major’s home in San Diego. Nubs had a joyful reunion with his master a few months later and he now lives the good life of a canine celebrity. I’ve read this book aloud numerous times to dog lovers of all ages, and you can’t read it without a few tears. It is illustrated with many heart- warming photographs of Nubs and his American rescuers.
The winner in the intermediate category for students in grades 4 – 6 was “Because of Mr. Terupt” by Rod Buyea. In this book seven fifth graders at Snow Hill School in Connecticut relate how their lives are changed for the better because of “rookie teacher” Mr. Terupt. I read this book aloud to my husband. We both enjoyed it very much, and not just because once- upon- a- time we were rookie teachers. As one fifth grade reader pointed out. “It’s sad but it’s also powerful and amazing.” I’m very happy to report that Rod Buyea has written a sequel to “Because of Mr. Terupt.” It is “Mr. Terupt Falls Again.” In the sequel the seven students who were particularly affected by Mr. Terupt are back, and they’ve been granted the rare opportunity to spend one more year with their beloved teacher before they graduate from elementary school
This year’s young adult category winner was “The Running Dream” by Wendelin Van Draanen. It tells the story of 16 year old Jessica whose track team finds a wonderful way to rekindle her dream of running again after she returns to school as an amputee with a prosthetic limb following a school bus accident.
I thought that this year’s winners were some of the best Golden Sower Award Winner’s ever. All three books are heart grabbers with powerful and amazing stories about the power of courage, perseverance, and friendship. All three are too good to miss.