Sunday, January 29, 2012

Youth Media Awards: Some thoughts...

As I mentioned in a prior post, this was my first time attending the ALA Midwinter Conference and one of my main reasons for attending was so that I could be there for the announcement of the Youth Media Awards. If you’re not a children’s literature junkie (though I’m not sure why you’d be reading this blog otherwise), this is the time when they announce the winners of all the major American youth literature awards – the biggies being the John Newbery Medal, the Randolph Caldecott Medal, and the Michael L. Printz Award. This is probably going to show how much of a nerd I am but attending the announcement of the awards felt like being at the Oscars – there was a huge sense of anticipation throughout the room, along with wild cheering when awards were announced. It was a lot of fun being there. However, it probably would have been a lot more fun if I had read a bigger percentage of the winners. I don’t know if I want to go through all the awards individually, but there are a few things I’d like to talk about.

I, like most people in the room, was rather shocked when they announced that there would be no picture book winner of the Schneider Award. It’s funny because I’m not sure why this should be shocking; it’s not like I could think of a suitable candidate myself. I suppose it just seems controversial not to select a winner, especially when it was clear that books had been nominated for the award – the committee announced that none were deemed worthy. It almost seems like a bit of a slap in the face to anyone who nominated a picture book for the award. Of course, I understand that it’s the committee’s decision in the end and they were selected to the committee for a reason. I think it was just a baffling moment for many people in attendance. Additionally, I was surprised (but happy) that Wonderstruck was one of the Schneider Award winners – surprised because, while I was reading, I never really thought of this book as a story about children with disabilities (although, of course, it is) and happy because it’s such a great book that it deserves to be honored. That being said, I was pretty surprised that this was the only award it received. I had thought it might be a Newbery or Caldecott Honor and I don’t think I was the only one to think so.

Has there ever been a year when Kadir Nelson released a book (either written or illustrated by him) and he didn’t win some sort of award? I haven’t yet read his newest book, though I really want to, but he won both a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor and the Coretta Scott King Author award. I’m pretty well convinced that Nelson is almost always the one to beat in any year that he’s published.

The Michael L. Printz Award is probably the biggest award for young adult literature and this year’s announcement was full of surprises for me. I haven’t read the winner or any of the Honor books, which I find pretty surprising considering how much young adult literature I read. (Side note: I have a copy of The Scorpio Races but, sadly, haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.) I’m not too terribly surprised by the winner (Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, which also won the William C. Morris Award for a previously unpublished author) because I’ve seen a lot of excellent reviews for it lately. I’m more surprised by the Honor books – two of which I’ve never even heard of. As I said, I read a lot of young adult fiction and I hear about even more. So for there to be two books on this list (which is presumably made up of the most outstanding fiction published in the last year) that I’ve never heard of is quite a bit of a shock for me. I guess even with as much as I do read, there is still a lot out there that I miss (of course I knew this already but I just pretended I didn’t). Perhaps even more shocking to me is that Daughter of Smoke and Bone was not selected as an Honor book. Seeing as it was probably my favorite book of 2011, I thought for sure it would garner at least an Honor. I was disappointed to say the least.

Less surprising for me were the Caldecott books – I’d seen all of them singled out as likely candidates in one place or another. I have actually read all of them and, perhaps I shouldn’t admit to it, but I am not a fan of Chris Raschka’s illustration style. So, for me, to see the three Honor books (all of which I really, really loved) lose out to his latest title was a bit disappointing. I know that it’s not the first time he’s been honored and I know that many people love his work – it’s just not for me.

And the Newbery – another surprising announcement of the day. Nearly every source I’d looked at in anticipation of the announcement had Okay for Now pegged as the winner. I think many people were surprised by the announcement of the winner and Honor books – of which Okay for Now was neither. I’ve only read one Jack Gantos book before but it is absolutely one of my all-time favorite children’s books – The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs. I’ve heard good things about Dead End in Norvelt, so I was pretty pleased with that choice. But I don’t think anyone predicted the Honor books, although one recently won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. As always, the announcement of the Youth Media Awards just means more books that I have to go back and read so I don’t fall behind on my award-winning literature.

As I said, this is not an exhaustive list of this year’s winners; for that information, go here. And, once again, these are simply my humble opinions – I don’t claim to be an expert, just an enthusiastic fan. Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments – but please, keep it friendly!

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