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2003 Caldecott, Newbery Book Medals Announced

Cover for <i>Crispin: Cross of Lead</i> (Hyperion Press -- ISBN: 0786808284)
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Cover for <i>Crispin: Cross of Lead</i> (Hyperion Press -- ISBN: 0786808284)
Cover of <i>My Friend Rabbit</i> (Millbrook Press -- ISBN: 0761315357)
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Cover of <i>My Friend Rabbit</i> (Millbrook Press -- ISBN: 0761315357)

In top awards given annually to children's book writers and illustrators, Crispin: The Cross of Lead, by Avi, received the Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. And My Friend Rabbit, illustrated and written by Eric Rohmann, received the Caldecott Medal, for the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead, published by Hyperion Books for Children, is a saga set in 14th-century England. The book's 13-year-old title character finds himself suddenly orphaned and homeless, accused of murder and wanted dead or alive. The book follows Crispin and Bear, a juggler who befriends him.

In announcing the award, the Newbery judges commend author Avi for creating "a plot that sustains tension and suspense from beginning to end, while seamlessly weaving in details of daily medieval life."

Rohmann's picture book My Friend Rabbit is published by Roaring Brook Press/ Millbrook Press. When the character Mouse shares a new toy airplane with his friend Rabbit and the toy lands in a tree, Rabbit mounts a rescue attempt that the Caldecott judges call "disastrous, but hilarious."

The Caldecott panel praises the book as "a lighthearted celebration of a friendship that will last," and singles out the book's illustrations as a "dramatic visual romp (in which) the characters tumble and spill from the page and back on again."

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