Finding Great Summer Reads

The purpose of Emblazon is to celebrate tween literature. In fact, to encourage kids to make reading part of their summer activities, we’re sponsoring a summer reading contest. (There’s still plenty of time to enter!) But choosing that next book can sometimes be challenging. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by so many titles. Or perhaps you’re tired of the same small selection at your local library. Today I’ll share some resources for locating exceptional titles to dive into over the summer months.

Every year, many awards are given out for excellence in children’s literature. Here are some of the most prestigious:

John Newbery Medal

national book award medal 2The granddaddy of them all is the Newbery Medal. Who hasn’t heard of this one? Books that win this coveted prize are considered the best contribution to American children’s literature in the previous calendar year. Many local libraries have online lists of Newbery winners connected to their catalog. I frequent ours often. But here’s a database on the Newbery website with all past winners, including honor books. How many have you read? I’m at 38, not counting honor books.

Michael Printz Award

PrintzThe Michael Printz Award was started in 2000. According to the official website, it is “an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a Topeka, Kansas school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association.  The award is sponsored by Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association.” Here’s a list of past winners and honorable mentions.

National Book Award

national book award This award is administered each year by the National Book Foundation which, according to their website, seeks to “celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America.” Here’s a handy linked cover image list of past winners dating back to the 1950’s.

Coretta Scott King Award

coretta-king-seal-229528_185x185This is the granddaddy of African American teen literature. “The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.” This list includes all past recipients.

Golden Kite Awards

golden kiteThis prize is awarded by SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). It is “given annually to recognize excellence in children’s literatures in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Book Text, and Picture Book Illustration.” I couldn’t find a comprehensive list on the official webpage. Thank goodness for Wikipedia.

Notable Children’s Books


Many books are included in this distinguished list each year, as chosen by the American Library Association. “According to the Notables Criteria, ‘notable’ is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children’s books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children’s interests in exemplary ways.” You can view all past lists here.

Cybils Award

cybilsThis last award happens to be my favorite. It’s administered by book bloggers—regular people who happen to be avid readers. Maybe I like it so much because one of my books was actually nominated out of the blue last year by one of these regular readers. (It’s permafree on Amazon.) I didn’t win, but I was thrilled to be counted among some of my favorite authors. Here’s a list of past winners.

Of course, just because a book won an award doesn’t mean you’ll like it. And there are thousands of titles that never receive the accolades they deserve. So, keep your eyes peeled. If you find any exceptional titles, please…LET ME KNOW! Drop me a note on Facebook. Really. I’m always on the lookout for my next great read.

Oh yeah…one final way to locate great titles is to search the ones written by our Emblazon authors. 🙂 Even better, check out our selection of freebies and award winners.

Happy summer reading!!



Michelle Isenhoff is the author of nine children’s novels. She has a background in elementary education and blogs about children’s literature and self publishing at

About Michelle Isenhoff

MICHELLE ISENHOFF has been reader-nominated for a Cybils Award, the Great Michigan Read, and the Maine Student Book Award. She's also placed as a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review Book Awards and been named a finalist in the kid-judged Wishing Shelf Book Awards. A former teacher and current homeschooler, Michelle has been lauded by the education community for the literary quality of her work, which is regularly purchased for classroom use.

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