The Oscars of Children’s Literature

Well, actually, I wouldn’t know because I’ve never watched the Oscars, but I saw someone refer to them that way. I am talking, of course, about the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards, announced on Monday at the ALA’s Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. (I heard there was a lot of snow!) The Youth Media Awards include household names like the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, as well as many more prizes. The unveiling of the winners is broadcast live on the web, and this year I decided to watch.

I watched once before, in 2013, sitting at my desk on the third floor of a Minneapolis office building. I believe ALA Midwinter was on the West Coast that year because I followed the live announcements at a reasonable hour, after arriving at work. This year, the awards started at 6:00am my time. That means they started at 8:00am in Chicago, which strikes me as awfully early in the morning even for people attending in person. But I just went to bed early, got up at 5:50, and made myself a mug of hot chocolate before settling down in front of my computer.

There were no huge surprises. Mostly the awards just reminded me of books I’ve been meaning to read and gave me another reason to get around to them. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, winner of the Morris Award for a debut YA novel, and I’ll Give You the Sun, winner of the Printz Award for best YA novel, are cases in point. Also, I really have to pick up Brown Girl Dreaming soon, seeing as it’s now won the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and a Newbery Honor.

The only surprising moment for me was when This One Summer, by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, won a Caldecott Honor because the Caldecott is typically awarded to picture books and This One Summer is a graphic novel for young teens (it also got a Printz Honor). I’ve wanted to read it for a while, along with the Tamakis’ earlier graphic novel, Skim.

People have been talking about how much recognition graphic novels and poetry got this year. In addition to This One Summer, the graphic novel El Deafo (which I have read!) received a Newbery Honor. Brown Girl Dreaming is written in poems, and the winner of the Newbery Medal, The Crossover, is a novel in verse. People have also been talking about the diversity of the winners. The Laura Ingalls Wilder and Margaret A. Edwards Awards, each of which honors an author’s career/oeuvre, both went to African-Americans, and all three Newbery books are diverse books (not a term I love, but it has its uses). All in all, it was a satisfying YMA. Now, back to my pile of books…

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