Librarians around the country are hotly debating the merits of various contenders for the Newbery and Caldecott medals, the most coveted awards in children's literature.
Some libraries even hold "mock" elections for the Caldecott Medal, given to the best-illustrated children's book, and the Newbery Medal, given for the best-written children's book. The actual winners, chosen behind closed doors, will be announced Monday at the American Library Association's mid-winter conference.
Until then, here's a closer look at some major contenders. This list is drawn from various "mock" elections (including librarian Elizabeth Bird's compilation of the elections on her blog, Fuse 8) as well as recommendations from various children's literature experts: Kathleen Horning, Amy Kellman, Leonard Marcus, Maria Salvadore and Anita Silvey.
"Wave" (Chronicle Books, $15.99, ages 2-6) -- Author-illustrator Suzy Lee details a young girl's encounter with the ocean in spare, stunning artwork.
"We Are the Ship" (Hyperion, $18.99, ages 8 up) -- Author-illustrator Kadir Nelson's magnificent artwork pays homage to Negro League Baseball.
"Wabi Sabi" (Little Brown, $16.99, ages 4 up) -- Caldecott Medalist Ed Young's collage illustrations embody the spiritual concepts spotlighted by author Mark Reibstein.
"One Boy" (Roaring Brook, $14.95, ages 3-6) -- Author-illustrator Laura Vaccaro Seeger uses die-cut artwork to play with readers' perceptions in this unusual counting book.
(Houghton Mifflin, $17, ages 3-6) -- Illustrator Beth Krommes' scratchboard artwork perfectly conveys the soothing theme of author Susan Swanson's text.
"The Little Yellow Leaf" (Greenwillow, $17.99, ages 3-6), written and illustrated by Carin Berger.
"Big Bad Bunny" (Simon & Schuster, $16.99, ages 2-5), written by Franny Billingsley and illustrated by G. Brian Karas.
"A Couple of Boys Have the Best Day Ever" (Harcourt, $16, ages 4-7), written and illustrated by Marla Frazee.
"Old Bear" (Greenwillow, $17.99, ages 3-6), written and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes.
"Zen Ties" (Scholastic, $17.99, ages 4-8), written and illustrated by Jon Muth.
"Baseball Hour" (Marshall Cavendish, $16.99, ages 4-7), written by Carol Nevius and illustrated by Bill Thomson.
"Boys of Steel" (Knopf, $16.99, ages 7-10), written by Marc Nobleman and illustrated by Ross MacDonald.
"Dinosaur vs. Bedtime" (Hyperion, $15.99, ages 3-6), written and illustrated by Bob Shea.
"Madam President" (Hyperion, $16.99, ages 4-7), written and illustrated by Lane Smith.
"How I Learned Geography" (FSG, $16.95, ages 4-8), written and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Uri Shulevitz.
"Chains" (Simon & Schuster, $16.99, ages 10-14) -- A slave's efforts to win her freedom during the Revolutionary War are vividly detailed by Laurie Halse Anderson.
"The Underneath" (Atheneum, $16.99, ages 10-14) -- Kathi Appelt uses lyrical language to tell a multilayered, at-times-grim tale of a dog who befriends three cats.
"Waiting for Normal" (HarperCollins, $16.99, ages 10-14) -- Leslie Connor uses humor and drama to tell of a young girl's desperate efforts to find normality in her topsy-turvy life.
"The Porcupine Year" (HarperCollins, $15.99, ages 8-12) -- Louise Erdrich continues the saga of Omakayas, a 19th-century Ojibwe girl.
"The Trouble Begins at 8" (Greenwillow, $18.99, ages 10-14) -- Newbery Medalist Sid Fleischman gives readers an engaging look at humorist Mark Twain's early years.
"Diamond Willow" (FSG, $16, ages 10-14) -- A girl on the cusp of adolescence discovers some family secrets in Helen Frost's lovely verse novel.
"Bird Lake Moon" (Greenwillow, $15.99, ages 8-12) -- Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes writes of the bumpy friendship that springs up between two boys.
"My One Hundred Adventures" (Schwartz & Wade, $16.99, ages 8-12) -- Polly Horvath details how a 12-year-old girl has some unexpected adventures.
"Savvy" (Dial, $16.99, ages 10-14) -- A young girl turns 13 and discovers her "savvy," but it's not what she expects, in Ingrid Law's entertaining novel.
"Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things" (Schwartz & Wade, $15.99, ages 6-10) -- Lenore Look provides a humorous glance at a memorable child.
"Masterpiece" (Henry Holt, $14.95, ages 8-12), written by Elise Broach.
"The Hunger Games" (Scholastic, $17.99, ages 12 up), written by Suzanne Collins.
"The Graveyard Book" (HarperCollins, $17.99, ages 10-14), written by Neil Gaiman.
"Brooklyn Bridge" (Feiwel and Friends, $17.95, ages 10-14), written by Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse.
"Toy Dance Party" (Schwartz & Wade, $16.99, ages 6-10), written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Paul Zelinsky.
"The Willoughbys" (Houghton Mifflin, $16, ages 8-12), written by Newbery Medalist Lois Lowry.
"Keeping Score" (Clarion, $16, ages 8-12), written by Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park.
"Gully's Travels" (Scholastic, $16.95, ages 8-12), written by Tor Seidler.
"Little Audrey" (FSG, $16, ages 10-14), written by Ruth White.
Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com .