Kansas kids pick favorite books

"Swindle" by Gordon Korman and "The Boy Who Dared" by Susan Campbell Bartoletti are the 2011 recipients of the William Allen White Children's Book Awards, which were announced last week.

About 40,000 Kansas third- through eighth-graders participated in choosing the two winners: one for third- through fifth-graders, and one for sixth- through eighth-graders.

The awards will be formally presented at a ceremony in September in Emporia as part of a two-day children's book event.

The hero of "Swindle" (Scholastic, 256 pages, $6.99 paper), the third- through fifth-grade winner, is middle-schooler Griffin Bing, who gets conned out of a Babe Ruth baseball card and assembles a group of misfits to get it back. They brave dogs, outsmart the best security systems and work around their inability to drive in their quest to retrieve the card.

Korman has written dozens of books for children and teens.

"The Boy Who Dared: A Novel Based on the True Story of Hitler Youth" (Scholastic, 192 pages, $16.99) came out of Bartoletti's earlier nonfiction work, "Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow."

Her novel, the sixth- through eighth-grade winner, follows the story of Helmuth Hubener, who is initially enthralled with the Hitler Youth but soon realizes that reality is not as they have been led to believe. Helmuth starts an underground newsletter to disseminate the truth about the Holocaust to the German people, but is caught and ultimately executed for his actions.

The book includes photos of the real Helmuth and a note from the author detailing the facts and the fiction.

"I am thrilled by this great honor," Bartoletti said in a news release.

"I taught eighth grade for 18 years and used William Allen White's editorial on the death of his daughter, Mary, as a writing model with my students. His tribute inspired and moved my students.

"Based on White's description of his daughter, Mary — a girl who 'hungered and thirsted for righteousness' — I'd wager that she'd approve of this recognition for 'The Boy Who Dared.' "

The White Awards program is directed by Emporia State University and supported by the Trusler Foundation. Its goal is to encourage schoolchildren to read and enjoy good books.