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Alaskan Children: The New Literary Critics
By Stefan Marti

Every child loves to express his or her opinion, whether it's about the best double cheeseburger, a new rock band, or a favorite sports team. Now these youthful critics are also becoming literary critics.

Young Reader's Choice Award (YRCA), established by Seattle bookseller Harry Hartman in 1938 to promote reading for enjoyment, gives young people the opportunity to select their favorite books published three years previously. Last spring they chose their favorite book of 1996.

Nominations are taken from children, teachers, parents, and librarians from the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. These titles are sent to the YRCA Chair who creates a final ballot of 15 books in the youth division (grade 4-8) and five books in the senior division (grade 9-12). These ballots are then sent back to the schools and libraries for a final vote. In 1999, 56,000 young readers voted.

The winning selections in 2000 were:


First Place: A Mouse Called Wolf, by Dick King-Smith (Crown, 1997)
Second Place: Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine (HarperCollins, 1997)
Third Place: Wringer, by Jerry Spinelli (HarperCollins, 1997)


First Place: The Taking of Room 114, by Mel Glenn (Lodestar, 1997)
Second Place: Painting the Black, by Carl Deuker (Houghton Mifflin, 1997)
Third Place: Shade's Children by Garth Nix (HarperCollins, 1997)

The winning selections in 1999 were:


First place: Frindle by Andrew Clements
Second place: Brian's Winter by Gary Paulsen
Third place: Crash by Jerry Spinelli


First place: SOS Titanic by Eve Bunting
Second place: Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
Third place: Danger Zone by David Klass

Not only is YRCA empowering our youth to be critical judges and to express their points of view, but the event also allows young readers to see what their fellow students are reading and enjoying. It builds a sense of community between students, libraries and schools and reminds us that reading is fun.

You can see the favorites of the young literary critics by asking a librarian or checking the Web site.

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