Like so many other librarians across the country, I sat down in my pajamas to watch the live webcast of the Youth Media Awards yesterday morning. It was bright and sunny here in Texas, though a little cold (35 degrees is cold, don’t give me that look). Nothing like the snow that walloped Chicago, where the announcements were made. I have to admit I preferred being at home this year…mostly.
I’m so grateful that ALA does its webcast. The quality is pretty good, with clear sound and an up-close view of the podium and the slides, I just wish that we could have gotten some audience shots. It was so exciting to hear the shouts and cheers as crowd favorites were announced as winners; it would have been even nicer to see their reactions too! (Thankfully, there have been some awesome photos.)
This year was a fantastic year for diversity and thinking outside the box of a “traditional” award winner. The Newbery category encapsulates perfectly this idea. The winner (The Crossover by Kwame Alexander) is a novel in verse by a black writer featuring two black leads. Jacqueline Woodson garnered an Honor for her memoir in verse about growing up as a black girl in America (Brown Girl Dreaming), and Cece Bell won an Honor for her graphic novel memoir featuring a hearing-impaired heroine (El Deafo). That’s two books in verse, two nonfiction (-ish), one novel, one graphic novel, two books by and about people of color, one book by and about a disabled person – and all of them have an eager audience.
For a great breakdown of the diversity in the young adult awards this year, check out the Diversity in YA tumblr.
Speaking of El Deafo, this was a great year for graphic novels. It’s the first time a graphic novel was recognized with a Caldecott (This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki with an Honor), which seems so strange that it’s taken this long, now that I think about it. It’s long overdue and I’m excited to finally read this book which has gotten so much critical praise. The Tamaki duo also garnered a Printz Honor for their book, the second time a graphic novel has gotten Printz love since American Born Chinese. Hidden, a great graphic novel about the Holocaust for very young children, also won a Batchelder Honor. Raina Telgemeier’s Twitter feed was a great one to read during the announcements. I see only more recognition for graphic novels in these “mainstream” awards in the future.
I’m not surprised at all by the Morris pick, and I know Kelly must be extremely happy about it. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is a book I’ve heard so much about and it sounds like Isabel Quintero is a really exciting new talent. It will be interesting to see what she does next.
I loved that there were six Caldecott Honors! The more Honors the better, in my opinion. (I think the audience was a bit let down going from six Honors with the Caldecott to only 2 with the Newbery.) This is another moment I really miss no longer being the youth materials selector at my job; I hadn’t read any of the books that won Caldecott recognition.
I actually hadn’t read many of the winners at all. I had read Hidden, and I read most of Beyond Magenta, which got a Stonewall Honor. Other than that, there’s just a lot on my to be read list that I hadn’t tackled yet. I’ve already placed This One Summer and El Deafo on hold and am excited to read them. Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh (Sibert Honor and Belpre Honor) is on the Bluebonnet list this year, and I’ve read that one; it’s fascinating and tells a little-known story in the fight for integration.
I was thrilled with the selection of Sharon Draper for the Edwards, as well as Donald Crews for the Wilder. Both of those authors’ works continue to influence young people daily.
The only thing I’m a little disappointed by is the lack of SFF represented. I’m not surprised by it, and it’s more of a personal wish than a professional one, but I can’t help but remember what it was like for me as a kid knowing that if I had to read an award winner, it would be slim pickings in the genres I actually wanted to read. We’re definitely doing better with diverse voices and characters, which I freely admit is more important than SFF being better represented. But I do wish there were more SFF for those kinds of kids, and it’s not an either/or situation. This is one reason I’m so glad the Cybils exist! (Last year was much better for SFF, which was pretty awesome.)
What are your thoughts on this year’s winners? What do you wish had been honored and wasn’t? More importantly, what about next year??