Character Building Counts Book Award Winners 2012

What does a young boy with a facial disfigurement have in common with the true story of a young girl who was gunned down in Tucson, Arizona? Both youngsters are featured in award-winning books that deliver character-building messages. Character Building Counts (CBC) Book Awards is proud to announce the winners of its 2012 Character Building Counts Book Awards contest.

Gold Seal Winners:

Wonder, R.J. Palacio (Grand Prize Overall Winner) (Young Adult)

This novel about a boy with a facial deformity has been called “a meditation on kindness.” Indeed, every reader will come away with great appreciation for the simple courage of friendship.

As Good as She Imagined, Roxanna Green (Spirituality)

Christina-Taylor Green was beautiful, precocious, and beloved. Born on September 11, 2001, she harbored aspirations of becoming a politician. She died at the event where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was also shot.

They Stood Alone, Sandra McLeod Humphrey (Juvenile Nonfiction)

Refusing to conform to societal beliefs and expectations, these twenty-five men and women stepped out and away from the crowd and changed their worlds … and ours.

Muted Grey, Dianna L. Young (Literary Fiction)

The author utilizes fiction to elicit enlightenment on an issue that spans generations and has claimed countless lives around the globe. This book was created in order to save lives and change hearts.

Ghost Hands, T.A. Barron (Children’s)

A powerful story of courage and transformation that illuminates the strength of each individual and the difference one person can make.

Pretty Dolls, Kimberly Dana (Children’s)

Gracie, a purple-eyed, one-armed, spikey-haired doll teaches the “pretty dolls” in Tasha’s bedroom that beauty comes from within—through kindness and generosity.

Of Thee I Sing, Barack Obama (Children’s)

In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation.


Silver Seal Winners:

One Day I Went Rambling, Kelly Bennett (Children’s)

This book teaches us to open our minds to the possibilities of finding the extraordinary in the everyday, to use our imaginations, and encourage others to come rambling.

Crazy Brave, Joy Harjo (Memoir)

In this transcendent memoir, the author’s tale of a hardscrabble youth—and her transformation into an award-winning poet and musician—is haunting, unique, and visionary.

I Get It! I Get It!, Loraine Alderman, Psy.D., and Yvonne Capitelli (Children’s)

This book fills a void as it reaches out to children with auditory learning disabilities and the people who care about them. The story helps affected children understand what they are experiencing and realize that they are not alone.

Noah Zarc, D. Robert Pease (Juvenile Fiction)

A boy from the future must overcome his disability as he tries to rescue his parents and save Earth’s animals from extinction.

Outcasts United, A Refugee Soccer Team that Changed a Town, Warren St. John (Juvenile Fiction)

This young people’s version of the adult bestseller is a complex and inspirational story about the Fugees, a youth soccer team made up of refugees from around the world, and their formidable female coach. The author explores how the community changed with the influx of refugees and how a single individual made a difference in the lives of so many.

Liar & Spy, Rebecca Stead (Juvenile Fiction)

This book is an inspired, often-funny story about destiny, goofy brilliance, and courage. Like Stead’s Newberry Medal-winning When You Reach Me, it will keep readers guessing until the end.

And the Whippoorwill Sang, Micki Peluso (Family)

A funny, poignant, and sad family memoir of love, loss, and survival. Happy times, a sunny day, driving drunk, eight lives forever changed.


Bronze Seal Winners:

Daria Rose and the Day She Chose, Yvonne Capitelli (Children’s)

Life is all about choices. It is up to you to make the right ones. We all have the power within to create happy days and a happy life.

How to Write Heartfelt Letters to Treasure, Lynette M. Smith (Nonfiction, Self-Help)

This book was written to help millions of people worldwide write letters of appreciation; to establish, improve, or rebuild their relationships; and change their worlds.

Destiny, Charles Reap (Children’s)

Perseverance through adversity can bring triumph, as told through Charles Reap’s story of trees in a forest.


Congratulations to our Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners. Character Building Counts Book Awards has been honored to host this 2012 contest. Every participant deserves praise for writing and sharing their significant messages.




The Bullied Deserve Our Support

My friend was noticeably troubled when she told me how her grandson had been bullied on his junior high school campus. The tormentor had slammed a locker door into her grandson’s head—for the fun of it. The victim’s mother was not notified by the school or by a teacher. Why? It is against the school district’s rules to notify parents after a child is targeted. Some sort of privacy policy, I assume. The mother of the bullied boy only found out because her son was open enough to tell her. If he had not shared this frightening episode with his mom, she would never have known or been able to help him.

Something sure feels wrong here. The deep ache of childhood intimidation can prove to be unbearable. How many times do we have to hear of suicides or murders being committed by kids who have “suddenly” flown into a rage after years of bullying? Don’t certain discrete elements of society have a duty to address this distressing situation? Certainly, the solution must start within individual family units: building character, honor, and integrity in our children; teaching them confidence through self-defense—both verbal and physical; providing them a reporting plan so that they never feel they are treading water alone; and more.

But shouldn’t our family units be working with and enjoying the support of our school districts, teachers, and school counselors, as well? The most alarming aspect of bullying is the overwhelming effect it has on our children. But bullies will benefit if they learn from all of us that they will suffer consequences for their aggressive actions. And the bullied will benefit if they learn from all of us that justice is alive and well in their young world and that there is assistance available when a crisis develops that is bigger than they can handle by themselves.

I remember days when parents, teachers, and schools were on the same side, supporting each other in influencing the character of a budding generation. Those are comforting memories. I hope that the ideas of instilling decency and protecting innocent victims eventually pierce through our modern mindset and once again enjoy the warmth of myriad sunbeams on their skin.

Nesta Aharoni, CBC Book Awards, Character Building Counts,, deadline for 2012 contest is 10/31/12.

Barack Obama’s Children’s Book Joins Awards

Character Building Counts Book Awards (CBC Awards) celebrates honor, integrity, honesty, and decency in all genres of books. We pay tribute to authors who weave a character-building message into their work. Four new enrollees are worth hearing about and celebrating. Best of luck to the following four young adult books.

Barack Obama’s book, Of Three I Sing, a Letter to My Daughters, (illustrated by Loren Long) is a tender, beautiful letter written by President Obama to his daughters. In it, he offers a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans who have shaped our nation, and to the ideals that made them worthy of our praise. This book is about the potential within each of us to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths. It celebrates the characteristics that unite all Americans, from our nation’s founders to the generations to come.

Warren St. John’s Outcasts United, the Story of a Refugee Soccer Team that Changed a Town is a young reader’s version of the adult bestseller. It is a complex and inspirational story about the Fugees, a youth soccer team made up of refugees from around the world, and their formidable female coach. The author explores how the community changed with the influx of refugees and how a single individual made a difference in the lives of so many. Warren St. John is a celebrated author who has worked as a reporter for The New York Times and has written for many magazines.

Rebecca Stead’s Liar & Spy is an inspired, often-funny story about destiny, goofy brilliance, and courage. Like Stead’s Newberry Medal-winning When You Reach Me, it will keep readers guessing until the end. As Publishers Weekly, Starred, wrote, this book is “Chock-full of fascinating characters and intelligent questions. This is as close to perfect as middle-grade novels come.” Kirkus Reviews, Starred, agreed by calling it “original and winning.” Stead introduces us to a conflicted seventh grader who becomes a spy recruit for a friend. But it will leave you wondering … how far is too far to go for your only friend?

R.J. Palacio’s debut novel, Wonder, is “a meditation on kindness.” Every reader will come away from this book with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie Pullman was born with a facial deformity. Now that he is transferring to a mainstream school for the first time, he struggles to convince his new classmates that he’s just like them … despite his appearance. All Auggie wants is to be ordinary. Palacio has crafted an uplifting novel full of wonderfully realistic family interactions, lively school scenes, and writing that shines with emotional power.

Writing well as you deliver an inspiring and motivating message can yield cherished rewards. Enjoy the above books, and if you are an author, don’t miss the opportunity to become a recognized, celebrated CBC Award winner. Deadline for 2012 contest is October 31.

CBC Book Awards, Character Building Counts,

Honor Ascending

Angle of decent … ill-prepared phase … blinded by Greed, to disregard … creeds of Honor sleep.

Irreverence breeds separation and speeds castration of Empathy.

Results daily can be seen … of failure to see the necessity of mutual consideration.

Oneness ignored … too few deplore … the malignancies of our worsening situation.

The paradox of having too much … and hoarding generosity … will one day teach a hard lesson in humility and appreciation … two aspects of our Humaness … that wise we learn respectively.

Empathy precipitates the path to understanding.

Foresight to avoid the harshness of eventual consternation … is by far a more equitable handling.

With narrowness of vision and reluctance to see any situation objectively … many only say … “What’s in it for me?”

They only take now … but one day will pay.

To learn is good from yesterday … but wise is to project … tomorrow from today! Wouldn’t you say?

Look far … think hard … we are one!

The truth beyond resistence. The ultimate realization … in comprehending our Humaness … and embracing our Divinity … fulling our existence.

A poem by Bill Jones from his up coming book Overview, to be released late 2012 by Eloquent Books (all rights reserved). – Character Building Counts Book Awards


Who Do You Honor?

When you think of someone to Honor, what is the first image that jumps into your mind? Is it a veteran who merits special mention for helping a wounded comrade from the battlefield? Or perhaps a man in a wheelchair who lost his limbs in war? Or, other than military members, do you think of the Biblical admonition to “Honor thy mother and father”?

These images are good ones, but when we think about the true meaning of “honor,” we must give esteem to the value within each of us? In other words, “I Honor you for who you are.”

Here is an example of someone to be Honored. A young mother pushing a stroller walks into a grocery store with $25.75 in her wallet. Her grocery list reads “milk, diapers, bread, eggs, chicken.” Milk costs at least $5, diapers $15, bread $4, eggs $4, and chicken $10. The total amount with tax totals over $40. Clearly, this young mother does not have enough money to pay for everything on her list. She looks down at her child, and without a second thought decides to buy just the diapers and milk. Her baby comes first. She leaves the store with a handful of change, her milk, her diapers, and her baby.

When the young mother arrives home, she feeds her baby a bottle, changes his bottom, and gets ready for work. She holds down two jobs so she can support her family. Her waitress job pays for the bills; her Laundromat job pays for the babysitter. She has a small amount of money left over.

After the babysitter arrives, the young mother walks to the bus stop, where she encounters an elderly man and his dog sitting outside a store on a cardboard box. The man is holding a sign that reads “Please help feed my dog.” The man looks rough. His face is gnarled from age. An outhouse odor permeates the air around him. A big yellow dog that looks as old as his master is curled up on the man’s lap. The mother considers this man for a moment, and without hesitation makes a decision to empty the last of her change into his cup.

“Thank you, ma’am,” responds the man wearing a well-worn army jacket.

“No. I thank you!” the smiling mother responds, as she pats the dog on its head and continues on to bus stop.

This mother, who has very little in the world, placed her bus fair into the cup of a down-and-out Vietnam vet whom everyone else was walking past because she knew that even such a small amount of change would make a difference in the life of that man and his dog.

So who deserves to be Honored in this scenario? Both the vet and the mother must be Honored: the vet for his service to our country, and the mother for giving to someone in need. Even a small amount of giving can make a big difference in the eyes of the receiver.

“It’s an Honor to know you, soldier.”

“It’s an Honor to know you, young mother.

–Lucia Mann, author of Rented Silence, is a CBC Book Award Winner and s passionate anti-slavery advocate.

Character Building Counts Book Awards at


Crime Drama on Recovering from Tragic Loss

From CBC Book Awards interview with David W. Huffstetler, author of Blood on the Pen:

1. Describe your book’s character-building message.

Jack Harden is a modern-day Texas Ranger who lost his wife to a drunk driver a year ago. He struggles with his desire to kill the man who cost him his beloved Jenny and the temptation to kill himself. The only things that keep him going are his job and his hunger to find a psychopathic killer … until Elsie Rodriguez enters his life. Their relationship is complicated and sometimes stormy, but she finds a way to pull him from the edge and salvage his tortured soul.

2. What inspired you to share that message with your readers?

The message of recovering from a tragic loss was inspired by the loss of one of my nieces, also to a drunk driver. Unfortunately, I had the sad occasion to see how that tragedy affected my family and the family of the young man who was driving the car that killed her.

3. Describe your target audience?

Anyone who likes a story of redemption, a story of how the human spirit can survive, and a story with a lot of action. It’s interesting that the group that seems to have embraced this book most are young women, aged 20 to 35.

4. How would you like your message to impact your readers?

Blood on the Pen has more than one theme. First, one character is a frustrated, unpublished author who receives one rejection letter too many. This ignites a spark in him that leads him to kill literary agents. Yes, this character is the villain, but he is one with a background that just might challenge the reader’s current perceptions. Also, it may be cliché to say, but Jack and Elsie show the healing power of love and devotion, even in Jack’s violent world. Their message delivers hope in times of despair and violence.

5. What have you learned about yourself through the publishing process?

That I am not as patient as the process requires. Publishers are very busy, but authors don’t always appreciate that; we want things to happen sooner rather than later. Publishers can be painfully slow, and I learned that I had to adjust to their pace.

6. What is your goal as a writer?

I’d like for my stories to mean something to the reader. Erotica sells, but I refuse to write it. I want my readers to recognize the world for what it is, sometimes not so nice, and see that people can lead meaningful lives in spite of that.

7. How will your book award help you achieve that goal?

By exposing my story to more people. Hopefully, when they read it, the story will ring true in their lives.

Blood on the Pen by David W. Huffstetler

CBC Book Awards, Character Building Counts,


A Mother Worthy of Honor

In honor of my mother I write to you an ode,

Something to relate to, no matter what is told.

Once so close and now so far, we live in different lands.

I long to see her once again and hold onto her hands.

When I was just a little girl, I watched my mum with awe.

I sat and stared and longed to be the woman that I saw.

A beauty in, a beauty out, a glowing trail of light,

Surrounded her most everywhere. She truly was a sight.

I longed to be my mother, and now I am my own.

I learned to be a woman from all that she had shown.

As time has come and time has gone with distance in between,

The hands of time have made a mark that surely can be seen.

A small and frail beauty now inside a body of age,

Parts of our dear story are each on a different page.

A glowing light surrounds her still, as she moves and walks.

That in itself is such a gift—we heard the doctors talk.

As we walk along this trail apart, I wish we were together,

Especially since I know my mother won’t be here forever.

I write to you this ode for her that’s made for no one other

Because it’s such an Honor to have her for my mother.


By daughter Charlotte, in Honor of her mother, Lucia Mann, author of “Rented Silence” and a passionate anti-slavery advocate.


Dolls Teach Anti-Bully Lesson

Describe your book’s character-building message.

Pretty Dolls is a story about Gracie—a purple-eyed, one-armed, spiky-haired doll—who’s won the heart and snuggly arms of a little girl named Tasha. But Emily-Nicole, the most beautiful and the haughtiest of the dolls, will have none of it. Little does Tasha know that when her bedroom lights go out, doll wars begin. Through Gracie’s kindness and generosity, Pretty Dolls addresses universal themes of jealousy, love, and friendship.

What inspired you to share that message with your readers?

I have been a public school teacher for about fifteen years and am a strong advocate of character education. Research shows that a child is bullied every seven minutes, starting in the primary and elementary years. Our greatest defense to bullying is to teach empathy, and the best way to begin to do that is to utilize quality children’s literature. By relating to fictional characters, such as Pretty Dolls’ Gracie, young children can learn about empathy, which is at the core of human social interaction.

Describe your target audience.

Although the book’s themes can be enjoyed and appreciated by anyone, my target audience is children in the primary and elementary grades, ages four to eight.

How would you like your message to impact them?

By empathizing with Gracie, children will learn what it is like to be a bully’s target. From there, they will learn that kindness, respect, and generosity are favorable, positive qualities to possess—as opposed to bullying someone because he or she is different or “looks funny.” The book’s underlying theme comes down to this: Be a Buddy – Not a Bully.

What have you learned about yourself through the publishing process?

After I published Pretty Dolls, a group of librarians and teachers encouraged me to market the book as an educational tool. It was then I realized I could help impact the classroom in a positive way by helping educators teach prosocial behaviors at the elementary level. I took some time off from my writing to develop an easy-to-use curriculum guide that could be downloaded for free from my Web site and used as a hands-on classroom resource. Since then, the book has been reviewed and endorsed by librarians and teachers across the country as an ideal classroom resource for teaching character education, prosocial skills, and anti-bullying strategies. Pretty Dolls has since won awards from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and Reader Views as Best Children’s Picture Book of the Year. It is also recommended and endorsed by award-winning educational Web sites and

What is your goal as a writer?

I would like to continue to reach out to kids with books that entertain them with characters that carry a message of hope and inspiration. Children, tweens, and teens are the ultimate emotional truth-tellers. They are my muses and my guiding light.

How will your book award help you achieve that goal?

Hopefully parents and educators will view the CBC Book Award as a continual endorsement for Pretty Dolls’ efforts to help children explore the importance of respect and fair treatment for everyone.

CBC Book Awards, Character Building Counts,,

What is Honor?

To determine to safeguard and cherish our core beliefs and never, in any way, abandon those beliefs. To attain victory and pass on worthwhile values, ethics, and character traits to our successors. To nurture an insatiable appetite to help others excel in the quest for excellence. To develop a unique capacity to endure.

Stamina and fortitude will be your mainstay. Honor is your goal. Rights, rules, and responsibility will be your guide through the darkest hours that, at times, will challenge your very being and your very soul. To quit will be defeat. To accept defeat is to reject honor.

Selflessness, trustworthiness, courage, steadfastness, and loyalty are the rivets that strengthen the steel plates of honor.

Honor sustains us. Honor never goes out of style!

The above wisdom was written by a man who knows a lot about honor. Mike Cattolico, the author of Take a Stand, has enjoyed a rich and varied navy career. He survived two tours of duty in Vietnam, where he played a critical role as a navy combat salvage diver. His life and his book teach us that leaders build leaders, courage brings honor, and tenacity breeds success. Through riveting stories, Cattolico transfixes his readers by his factual accounts of what it takes to become a confident, principled, determined U.S. Navy mineman, explosive ordnance disposalier, and deep sea diver.

Take a Stand is not only a compelling story of survival of the fittest, it is also a tested recipe for achievement and fulfillment. Cattolico offers dramatic, dynamic, and practical advice as he shares a lifetime of contribution, commitment, and patriotism.

Essay by Mike Cattolico, LCDR, USN (Retired)

A CBC Book Award Winner

Amazon and


Nesta Aharoni, CBC Book Awards, Character Building Counts,

Noah Zarc Teaches Kids Their Parents Love Them

D. Robert Pease, author of YA novel Noah Zarc, shares his interview with Character Building Counts Book Awards. Using time travel and spaceships to save animals from extinction, Pease teaches children about overcoming disabilities and the power of family love.

Describe your book’s character-building message.

At its heart, Noah Zarc is a book about family and the lengths each member will go to help and protect the ones they love. It incorporates the usual sibling issues and kids getting in trouble with their parents, but behind it all is a family that truly loves one another—even to the point of great sacrifice. Noah Zarc also touches on finding your place in the world, even if you are different. The main character, Noah, is a paraplegic. Sure he has moments of self-pity, but in the end he overcomes his disability and thrives.

What inspired you to share that message with your readers?

I didn’t consciously set out to write a book like this; it just grew out of my great love for my kids. I wanted to, in some small way, show my children how far I would go to protect them—how much they mean to me. Noah being a paraplegic was also not intentional. He actually didn’t start out that way, but I had one of those strange instances where my character “spoke” to me and said he was a paraplegic. I actually fought it for a while because I didn’t want people to think I wrote him that way for some politically correct reason. In the end I gave in because I realized I had no choice; Noah was a paraplegic, so I couldn’t fight it any more.

Describe your target audience?

While it seems many people of various ages and genders enjoy Noah Zarc, my primary goal was to write a book for tweenage boys between about nine and fourteen-years-old.

How would you like your message to impact them?

I hope the children who read this book will get a glimpse of how much their parents love them. I know I didn’t have a clue when I was a kid. And most parents will probably say they didn’t really know what love was until they had kids of their own. But maybe when kids see what Noah’s parents do for him and his siblings, they will learn a little more about how much their parents love them.

What have you learned about yourself through the publishing process?

Publishing is hard—really hard. And I have always been the kind of person who doesn’t like hard work. I know that’s sad, but that’s just who I am. Through this process I’ve learned (and am still learning) how to push past it—how to keep going when I feel as if I want to quit. So I am actually learning I can work hard. I can keep going when I’d rather just lie on the couch and watch TV. If I really want to reach my goals, I have to suck it up and get to it.

What is your goal as a writer?

First and foremost, I want to write stories that people of all ages have fun reading. Nothing makes me feel better than to receive a note or read an online comment from a youngster who just finished Noah Zarc. Simple comments like “Awesome!” and “Great book!” from kids make my day. Ultimately, I suppose, I’d like to be able to make a living at this thing called writing. I don’t really crave the fame or the fortune—just a comfortable income.

How will a book award help you achieve that goal?

When readers see that a book received an award, that work immediately gains standing in their eyes. I have found that people who read Noah Zarc really like it. The age-old problem, of course, is getting them to read it. So having that award, or that acknowledgment from some official source saying that yes, this book is worth reading, can go a long way toward getting someone to click that “buy” button.

D. Robert Pease,

Nesta Aharoni, CBC Book Awards,, Character Building Counts!


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