Best Books of Indiana - 2011 Children/YA

Winner: Sources of Light by Margaret McMullan

Sources of Light by Margaret McMullanStruggling with her own personal challenges, including the recent death of her soldier father in Vietnam and a new home and school as she and her mother, a college art history professor, have just moved to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1962.…fourteen year old Sam is initially unaware of the racial tensions around her.  As she begins to experience first-hand, however, the escalating emotions of the civil rights movement in Montgomery, Sam is torn between the desire to “live her life staying out of the way” and fulfilling the wishes of her father whose mantra to her was to “always do the right thing.” Clarity begins to come to her in the person of Perry Walker, her mother’s new photographer boyfriend, through his words, actions, and a gift of a camera.  Sam captures in “snapshots” lunch counter sit-ins, voter registrations, divisive confrontations, and the various facial expressions of those around her. As she watches and listens to her mother, Perry, other adults, and her peers, Sam begins to discern right from wrong, darkness from light.  These themes and the symbolism of the camera ring true through McMullan’s powerful and oftentimes lyrical storytelling. The voices of the characters, both major and minor, resonate in their thoughts, opinions, doubts, and convictions of 50 years ago through the pages of this book. Strong social studies curriculum connections can be made from Sources of Light; pair with National Book Award winner and Newbery Honor Book Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Hoose), or other historical fiction novels, My Mother the Cheerleader (Sharenow), The Watsons Go to Birmingham (Curtis), or A Thousand Never Evers (Bang).

Finalist: Nature’s Storyteller: The Life of Gene Stratton-Porter by Barbara Olenyik Morrow

Gene Stratton-Porter’s love of birds, moths, flowers and stories is packaged neatly in this biography by Barbara Olenyik Morrow.  Stratton-Porter’s unconventional rise to famous Hoosier is documented through her own photos and correspondence.   Morrow captures Stratton-Porter’s dedication to nature and leads readers down the path of Stratton-Porter’s life through both her fiction works and her nature titles.  Nature's Storyteller also highlights much of Stratton-Porter’s conservation work and how it has impacted the Indiana we know today.  Charming tribute to a fascinating Hoosier.


Finalist: Summer Sanctuary by Laurie Gray

Summer SanctuaryA small act of kindness to one, can mean the world to another.  Gray tells a story of two very different teens trying to find where they fit as they both try to make it through the summer.  The primary characters within Summer Sanctuary learn what it means to trust in others while still attempting to make their own way.    A safe place to sleep and a friend to help pass the time make moving through this bummer summer an enjoyable adventure.