The ALA Youth Media Awards announcements happen today, and I can hardly contain my excitement. The Printz, Newbery, and Caldecott always get a lot of attention (as they should), but there are actually eighteen different awards announced on this special morning. I thought I’d take a little time to focus on a few of the lesser-known awards that I particularly appreciate.
Margaret A. Edwards Award
This award honors an author, along with specific titles, for “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.” When Tamora Pierce won this last year, a collective shriek was heard round the world from readers like me. This was such a deserved honor. Pierce has never won a Printz, but an award like this shows the tremendous impact she has had, and continues to have, on the YA lit world.
Fantasy books are bestsellers now, but they still trail realistic novels (both historical and contemporary) in recognition of literary merit. An award like the Edwards allows the books and authors I (and readers like me) love to be recognized in this way. Many recipients of the Edwards have also been honored with Printz or Newbery awards or honors (including Lois Lowry, Terry Pratchett, and Laurie Halse Anderson), but past recipients also include authors such as Lois Duncan, Francesca Lia Block, and Anne McCaffrey. Winner Cynthia Voigt has received huge acclaim for her realistic series featuring the Tillermans, but the Edwards committee also recognized her for Jackaroo, a beautiful novel about legend and history and love and truth and how they all intertwine. (You should all read this book and its loosely-connected sequels.)
I guess what I’m saying is that fantasy novels often get short shrift when it comes to literary awards, and the Edwards is a fantastic way to remedy some of that oversight. It’s a little vindication for us readers who spent our time in other worlds – the things we love do matter.
It’s no secret I love audiobooks. The Odyssey award recognizes outstanding audiobooks each year, usually a winner and at least three honors. Past winners/honorees that I have personally listened to include The True Meaning of Smekday (narrated by Bahni Turpin), The Knife of Never Letting Go (narrated by Nick Podehl), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (narrated by Jim Dale), Skulduggery Pleasant (narrated by Rupert Degas), and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (narrated by Sherman Alexie).
Each of these selections are written well, but the skilled narration elevates them further. They’re done so well that if you’re working on a household chore while listening to one, you run the danger of suddenly coming to and realizing you’ve been holding the washrag in your hand, motionless, for the past ten minutes, the book held you so rapt. A good audiobook is better than a movie, can be better than the just the book itself. The Odyssey Award has only been around since 2008, but the idea behind it is timeless. As the award’s about page writes, “Through the years our cultures have been nurtured and our customs passed on by storytellers–audiobooks carry on that tradition.” Hence the name of the award, recalling Homer – a perfect choice.
Other notable awards include the Pura Belpre (for Latino/Latina writers and illustrators whose work celebrates the Latino cultural experience), the Coretta Scott King (for African American authors and illustrators whose work celebrates African American culture), and the Stonewall (for books GLBT books). Interestingly, the Stonewall has been given since 1971, but it’s only honored a children’s or YA title since 2010.
While not a part of the Youth Media Awards announcement at Midwinter, the American Indian Library Association also bestows youth literature awards at this time. Joseph Bruchac, Tim Tingle, and Eric Gansworth were all honored this year. Check out the full list here.
This year is also notable as the year the Outstanding Books for the College-Bound list will be updated (as is done every five years). Kelly is on the committee this year and I’m excited to see the results of her time and effort.
With all of this going on (and this isn’t even all of it!), it’s not hard to see why many youth librarians consider this the Oscars of our profession. I love that the ALA strives to recognize books in so many different categories: the Schneider honors books portraying the disability experience for kids and teens, the Geisel honors early readers (so often overlooked and written off), the Batchelder honors books in translation, and the Morris honors debuts. It’s to all our benefit to be aware of outstanding books across the spectrum of kidlit – the YMAs help bring these books to our attention.
What awards do you look forward to most each Midwinter?