Sunday February 3, 2013
TOTS TO TEENS
By DAPHNE LEE
‘Contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels.’
THE first big prizes in children’s literature were announced last night (as I write this, on Tuesday) at the ALA Youth Media Awards in Seattle.
A little background info, from the American Library Association’s website: The ALA honours, annually, “books, print and other forms of media through a variety of awards. These awards are given to publications, and the authors, illustrators, and publishers who create them”.
You have probably seen the books honoured by the ALA – they’re the ones with the gold or silver discs (often embossed) on their covers. Gold means the book has won the medal or main award. Silver “honours” are conferred to worthy books in the same category.
I attended a talk by someone who had been a judge at these awards, and was fascinated by her description of the whole judging process. It sounded very complicated, involved and long-drawn-out. I’m surprised no deaths occur during these discussions every year....
Apparently, if a book is discussed as a potential medal recipient and it is eventually rejected, it does not automatically become a candidate for an honour. Only when the choice for medallist is a done deal do the judges pick potential honour recipients. Also, every final decision must be unanimous. Again, I’m imagining fights to the death. But no, obviously, the ALA juries are all terribly civilised and no one is hurt or maimed, let alone killed.
The Newbery and the Caldecott Medals are what I pay special attention to. I also take note of the winners of the Printz, the Alex and the Laura Ingalls Wilder awards. The John Newbery Medal is awarded to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”. I love American publisher, bookseller and editor Frederic G. Melcher’s reasons for creating this award in 1922: “To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasise to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children’s reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field.” Oh yes!
The Newbery is the world’s first children’s book award and this year it goes to The One And Only Ivan (HarperCollins Children’s Books) by Katherine Applegate.
The Randolph Caldecott Medal is no spring chicken either. This year, the award for “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children” turns 75 and goes to the hilariously sinister This Is Not My Hat (Candlewick Press) by Jon Klassen.
The Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults goes to In Darkness (Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers) by Nick Lake. While the Newbery and Caldecott winners were both on my “best of 2012” list, I’m afraid Lake’s book about growing up in Haiti totally escaped my notice (note to self: must pay more attention and read more books this year).
This is a great reason to pay attention to the ALA and other awards: they flag books I might have missed and point us all in the direction of titles worth our time (and money).
The Newbery Honour book Splendors And Glooms (Candlewick Press), by 2008 Newbery medalist Laura Amy Schlitz, is one such book. This gothic mystery sounds like the perfect companion on a rainy afternoon and goes directly on my “I want” list.
The Alex Awards are always interesting to adults who enjoy reading about the complications of adolescence and childhood (that would be me) and teens who want to try exploring the shelves away from the young adult section. These awards highlight 10 adult books that appeal to teen audiences and among this year’s winners are The Round House (HarperCollins) by Louise Erdrich, a coming-of-age story set in a fictional North Dakota Ojibwe reservation; Girlchild (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Tupelo Hassman, about teenage Rory Hendrix who’s determined to be happy despite her challenging family and their grim and grotty world and social circumstances; and Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Robin Sloan, which is about young love and eternal life – and it’s set in a bookstore, enough said.
Before I forget I must mention that this year’s William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens goes to Seraphina (Random House Children’s Books) written by Rachel Hartman. Seraphina was also on my “best of” list and is probably the newly-published book I enjoyed most in 2012.
I also must mention that Katherine Paterson is the recipient of this year’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, which honours “an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children”. Paterson has won the Newbery Medal twice, for Bridge To Terabithia (1977)
and Jacob Have I Loved (1981), and these and her other works have most certainly touched the lives of readers the world over.
Well, if you haven’t already read the award winners mentioned here, you can add them to your 2013 reading list, along with the winner of the Costa Children’s Book Award, awarded early in January to Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon (Hot Key Books).
And the next awards to look out for? The Blue Peter Awards results will be announced on March 7. The shortlist includes The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas (Walker Books) by David Almond, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (best story); and Fantastic Mr Dahl (Puffin) by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake (best book with facts). I can’t wait!
Daphne Lee reads to wonder and wander, be amazed and amused, horrified and heartened and inspired and comforted. She wishes more people will try it too. Speak to her at email@example.com and check out her blog at daphne.blogs.com/books.