winner of the
The Children's Book Guild
2022 Nonfiction Award
“Kids Require More Critical Thinking Skills Than Ever”
As a child, Gail Jarrow loved mysteries but her love of reading disappeared in middle school when teachers and librarians gave her adult books that simply didn’t hold her interest. Later she became determined to write books “that will make kids want to turn the page” – especially those middle grade and young adult readers. Jarrow’s ability to do just that earned her the Children’s Book Guild 2022 Nonfiction Award, celebrated on May 19 at Busboys and Poets Restaurant in Washington, D.C. The celebration was the Guild’s first in-person luncheon since the pandemic.
Jarrow’s books often delve into medical mysteries with a focus on people who bucked conventional wisdom. “Medical facts can take a long time to be recognized,” says the writer who majored in zoology. In Ambushed, Jarrow tells the story of President James Garfield’s assassination and the fact that he was killed not by a bullet but by faulty diagnoses and outdated treatments. With tragic irony, Jarrow paraphrased Garfield’s inaugural address, in which he said that “if next generation is blinded by ignorance, the fall of the republic will be certain.” *
In Poison Eaters, Jarrow tells the story of chemist Harvey Washington Wiley’s campaign to remove harmful chemicals from foods in cans and jars, ultimately leading to the creation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). American Murderer, coming in September 2022, will be the newest title in her Medical Fiascoes series. It examines the parasite hookworm and how it sickened workers in the American South during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a topic she researched during the COVID pandemic.
Gail Jarrow Speaking
Jarrow explained that she uses fiction techniques to tell nonfiction stories, but the most important part of her work is research. She wants young readers to learn not only how to locate information but evaluate it – especially as the Internet increasingly exposes readers to unreliable information. She wants “kids to be critical thinkers like the scientists in my book,” adding that “kids require more critical thinking skills than ever.”
Jarrow’s editor at Calkins Creek called her a “great collaborator, a great researcher and a better and better writer.” Abby Nolan, chairing the Guild’s Nonfiction Award committee, said Jarrow writes “nonfiction with narrative verve, fascinating facts, relevant information and wisdom.”
Abby Nolan (Chair, Nonfiction Award Committee), Erica Perl (Guild President), Gail Jarrow
The Guild Award honors an author or author-illustrator “whose total work has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children.” The Nonfiction Award committee was chaired by Abby Nolan with members Yukari Matsuyama, Catherine Reef and Liane Rosenblatt.
Carolyn Johnson (Librarian, St Francis International School, Silver Spring) with Gail Jarrow