Today’s announcements of rhe American Library Association’s children’s and teen literature awards can be summed up in two words: happy surprise.
While many children’s book experts had tagged “Locomotive,” written and illustrated by Brian Floca, as a potential winner for the 2014 Caldecott Medal, most seemed to agree that “Journey,” written and illustrated by Aaron Becker would be the likely pick. Instead, “Journey” was one of three 2014 Caldecott Honor books. The other 2014 Caldecott Honor books were “Flora and the Flamingo,” written and illustrated by Molly Idle, and “Mr. Wuffles,” written and illustrated by David Wiesner, which was another popular pick for the actual medal.
The crowd of hundreds of librarians gathered at the awards announcements this morning in Philadelphia went wild when “Locomotive” was announced as the winner of the 2014 Caldecott Medal. In a nice touch, the Caldecott committee members who selected the book as the winner stood and blew on train whistles when they were recognized for their work.
In “Locomotive,” Floca combines impeccable research with beautifully detailed illustrations to show how the locomotive helped bring the country together. Train buffs of all ages, in particular, will delight in the many facts that Floca packs into his book. But you don’t have to be a fan of trains to appreciate the mastery of Floca’s art in “Locomotive.”
The 2014 Newbery Medal winner, “Flora & Ulysses,” written by Kate DiCamillo, was another happy surprise. Again, many children’s book experts loved the book and had touted it as a potential winner. But it wasn’t a sure bet because the Newbery Medal is given for text, and “Flora & Ulysses” has a number of comic panel illustrations that are part of the story.
In “Flora & Ulysses,” DiCamillo tells the story of a lonely girl named Flora whose life is transformed by a squirrel that is sucked into a neighbor’s vacuum cleaner and emerges with superhero powers. The book is, by turns, quirky, hilarious, compelling and wholly enjoyable. It’s already a word-of-mouth bestseller among young patrons in my library; we’ll definitely be adding a couple more copies.
In fact, it’s been a year of happy surprises for DiCamillo, who was selected earlier this month as the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. DiCamillo is the fourth children’s book creator to hold the two-year post, which was created by the Library of Congress to highlight the importance of children's books.
Four 2014 Newbery Honor books also were selected. Three of them were on many people’s shortlist of contenders: “Doll Bones” by Holly Black; “The Year of Billy Miller” by Kevin Henkes; and “One Came Home” by Amy Timberlake. But the final choice – “Paperboy” by Vince Vawter – was a true dark horse.
All in all 18 different children’s and teen literature awards were announced today, so there will be plenty of fodder for upcoming blog posts!