Monday, February 2, 2015

Surprise & Delight at the Youth Media Awards

Today's Youth Media Awards were filled with high emotion, with the crowd of several hundred alternately gasping in surprise and/or roaring with delight. The awards also were history-making as, for the first time ever, graphic novels won a Newbery Honor (El Deafo, written and illustrated by Cece Bell) and a Caldecott Honor (This One Summer, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Mariko Tamaki). And the Caldecott Medal winner, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend), was written and illustrated by Dan Santat who also is well known for his popular graphic novels.

Winner of the 2015 Caldecott Medal

This One Summer also won a Printz Honor (the Printz Award is given for books for readers ages 12-18 and is sometimes called the Newbery Medal for teens). But a graphic novel, American Born Chinese, written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang, won the top Printz Award way back in 2007, so today wasn't a history-making moment for the Printz. Meanwhile, the 2008 Caldecott Medal winner, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is considered a hybrid book, not a graphic novel, but it did feature a heavily-woven combination of illustrations and text.

Winner of the 2015 Newbery Medal

The current push for more diversity in children's and teen books, sparked by the We Need Diverse Books movement, also was reflected in today's winners. The Crossover, a novel in verse by Kwame Alexander, is the 2015 Newbery Medal winner. Alexander is the fourth African-American author to win the award, established in 1922. The three previous African-American winners were: Virginia Hamilton, for the 1975 Newbery Medal winning M.C. Higgins, the Great; Mildred Taylor, for the 1977 Newbery Medal book, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; and Christopher Paul Curtis for the 2000 Newbery Medal winner, Bud, Not Buddy.

Brown Girl Dreaming, author Jacqueline Woodson's memoir in verse about growing up in the midst of the civil rights movement, won a 2015 Newbery Honor, as well as this year's  Coretta Scott King Author Award and a 2015 Robert Sibert Honor (the Sibert Medal and Honor books are focused on the best non-fiction books for kids). Brown Girl Dreaming also won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature back in November.

As Nina Lindsay points out in her Heavy Medablog today, poetry also was a big winner in today's awards. Both The Crossover and Brown Girl Dreaming are written in verse, while author Marilyn Nelson uses 50 unrhymed sonnets to tell her story in How I Discovered Poetry. Two other books of poetry won awards: Josphine, a biography of entertainer Josephine Baker written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson won both a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor and a Sibert Honor, while books by two poets were honored by the Pura Belpre Award committee. I Lived on Butterfly Hill, written by Marjorie Agosin won the Pura Belpre Author Award, while Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes by Juan Felipe Herrara was the lone Pura Belpre Author Honor book.

Woodson's book captured three awards today.

Several committees selected a large number of Honor books (each committee decides how many Honor books, if any, will be named). There were five Sibert Honor books: in addition to Brown Girl Dreaming and Josephine, Sibert Honor books included The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming; Neighborhood Sharks, written and illustrated by Katherine Roy, and Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family's Fight for Desegregation, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh.

But it was the six Caldecott Honor books that really produced a gasp, then a roar of approval, from the audience. Apparently there may have been other years where six Honor books were named (I'm still checking!), but it certainly isn't usual. Yet, 2014 was a banner year for picture books, and the crowd was clearly delighted that the committee's decision reflected this fact.

The first graphic novel to win a Caldecott Honor.

In addition to This One Summer, Caldecott Honor books included: Nana in the City, written and illustrated by Lauren Castillo; The Noisy Paint Box, illustrated by Mary GrandPre and written by Barb Rosenstock; Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, illustrated by 2013 Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen and written by Mac Barnett; Viva Frida, written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales; and The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus, illustrated by Melissa Sweet and written by Jen Bryant. The Right Word also won the 2015 Sibert Medal, the second for Sweet, who won the 2012 Sibert Medal for Balloons Over Broadway, which she both wrote and illustrated. (Personal note: I served on the 2012 Sibert Committee).

The 2015 Caldecott Medal winner, The Adventures of Beekle, had been popular with some mocks, but wasn't widely considered a front runner. When it was announced as the winner, however, the audience cheered in approval as the Caldecott Committee members donned crowns, symbolic of the crown sported by Beekle.

As for how my library's Caldecott Club and Mock Caldecott picks measured up? Well, we got a few things right. Our own Mock Caldecott Honor Books included two of the actual 2015 Caldecott Honor Books, The Noisy Paint Box and The Right Word. But our top pick, The Farmer and the Clown, written and illustrated by Marla Frazee, surprisingly didn't win anything. It was a similar situation for our Caldecott Club. Our winner, Quest, written and illustrated by Aaron Becker, didn't win anything. But one of the Club's two Honor books, Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, won a 2015 Caldecott Honor.

The first graphic novel to win a Newbery Honor.

Meanwhile, the 2015 Newbery Committee, like the 2015 Caldecott Committee, also decided to include a graphic novel, El Deafo, as one of their Honor books. (Author/illustrator Cece Bell came to our library in November along with her husband, author/illustrator Tom Angleberger, and authors Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett and Jory John). The Newbery Committee, sporting t-shirts that read "Trust the Process," named only two Honor books, to the evident disappointment of the audience, who clearly would have liked to have seen more Newbery Honor books.  Brown Girl Dreaming was the other Newbery Honor book.

And let me close this blog post with a shout-out to a long-time mentor of mine, Deb Taylor, who is the coordinator of School and Student Services at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. Deb was my young adult literature professor when I was working towards my master's in library science at the University of Maryland, and she and I also served on the 2012 Sibert Committee together. (She was chair of the 2015 Sibert Committee). Deb has mentored and inspired countless librarians, kids and parents, and I'm thrilled that she was chosen as this year's winner of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. Way to go, Deb!

Deb Taylor and I after she was honored today

PS If you, like me, can't get enough of these awards, check out this wonderful behind the scenes video of today's winners getting "The Call." Thanks to John Schumacher for spotlighting it on his blog, Watch. Connect Read. 

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