Creech awarded for kids' book

The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA The top honors in children's literature were awarded Monday for the story of an American Indian girl's search for her mother and for pictures illustrating a child's perspective of the Los Angeles riots.

The American Library Association gave the 1995 Newbery Medal for literature to Sharon Creech, whose book Walk Two Moons was chosen among thousands of children's books published last year.

''I'm stunned and numb and amazingly honored,'' Creech said.

The award for best illustrated work, the Randolph Caldecott Medal, went to David Diaz, who created impressionistic paintings that tell the story of Smoky Night.

The medals, considered the most prestigious awards in children's literature, honor distinguished writing and illustration of children's books published in the United States.

It was a coincidence that both winners addressed multicultural issues, said Virginia McKee of the library association, who announced the awards during the organization's conference here.

Creech's book, published by Harper Collins, tells the story of a 13-year-old girl of American Indian origins who sets out with her grandparents to find her mother, who has not returned from a trip.

Creech, 49, said her love of nature and childhood memories of a cross-country road trip inspired her to write about 13-year-old Salamanca. While not Indian herself, she said she feels a bond with American Indian heritage.

Diaz, 36, used acrylic paintings on collage backgrounds to portray a night of urban rioting from a child's point of view. Diaz used no flesh tones and little detail in drawing facial features, in order to leave room for interpretation.

''In the book, there's no one that's ever called African-American and Latino,'' he said in a telephone interview from his home in Rancho La Costa, Calif.

The book was based on a story by Eve Bunting and published by Harcourt Brace & Co.

Creech, a U.S. citizen, said the congratulatory telephone call to her part-time home in Surrey, England, couldn't have come at a better time.

''I was finishing the last chapter of my next book today and having a terrible time with it, sort of the hair-tearing stage,'' Creech said in a telephone interview. ''I went into the back yard to scream, the phone rang and I had this amazing news and I thought, 'Lord, there is hope. That's the way writing is.'''

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