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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

ALA Mid-Winter 2008 Recap: The ALA Media Awards

Why "media" awards?  Seems imprecise and confusing.

Ah well.  In any case, on Monday morn at 6:30 AM I woke up in my teeny tiny hotel room at the Travelodge to get ready to attend the award announcements.  Because my previous accommodations had fallen through I was forced to take a room at a hotel where the mere mention of windows was enough to confuse the staff.  "Rooms with windows?  Uh… I think this place has three of those".  Top it all off with the fact that I was in a smoking room and the result is like nothing so much as a human-sized humidor.

Still, by 7:15 I was standing outside the Ballroom B doors, just itching to get inside.  Agent Barry Goldblatt was neck-and-neck with me in another line and a lot of familiar faces filled in as well.

Now I consider these awards to be social gatherings.  The last thing you want is to find yourself with people who clap politely and do not whoop.  When a favorite of yours comes up, you wanna whoop.  So I found the perfect person to accompany (and she will remain nameless to protect the innocent) and when those doors opened we high-tailed it to one of the tables with plugs so that she could hook up her computer.

Maybe I should have worn something indicative of my choices.  Some people take the time to make clothing for these kinds of events.  Observe the shirts that read "Team Rowling" below.  See what I mean?

Can you spot the blogger?

Anywho, here’s a sense of the space.  I was next to these people…

… and behind these people …

And if I’d been a little farther to the left I would have been able to see Walter Mayes‘ now infamous reaction to the Caldecott winner.

No opening ceremonies or long-winded speeches began the festivities.  When it was time to begin, there was Dr. Loriene Roy, the ALA Prez, doing the honors.  Then the awards began!

The first surprise for me was seeing Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby get the Schneider Family Book Award for best teen novel.  Not that I objected.  It was a remarkable book that I never thought got enough attention.  But since it came out last year I would have assumed it was ineligible.  A nice surprise, that.

Okay.  So that was new.  The Coretta Scott King Award was then given to Elijah of Buxton and…

You know.  I think I’ve figured out the real problem with the cover.  Hear me out here.  It looks like this:

As of right now it has won 3 shiny awards.  The Scott O’Dell Award.  The Coretta Scott King Award.  The Newbery Honor.  See the problem?  Bad planning, Scholastic!  If you’d just gone with a smaller face then all these awards would have worked.  Instead, we’re going to end up with something like this:

(Pretend that the silver thing is an Honor)

The first real surprises happened when the Printz Award for the best teen novel came out.  I don’t "do" teen, but even I heard the mention of things like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Arrival.  Instead, neither one got anything.  And Leila Roy tells us that what did win was pretty good too, so no real complaints here.  Would have been nice to see The Arrival get some luvin’, tho.

The very first Odyssey awards were handed out this day in history.  There were five honors and Listening Library at first seemed to do very well.  That is, until it looked as if the Powerpoint had been mislabeled and Live Oak Media got the big award for Jazz.  NOT Listening Library.  Whoopsie-doodle.

I’d like to pause and raise my glass now to the secretive sneaky members of the Sibert committee.  To Judy Freeman in particular.  Just the night before I had disintegrated into a rant about non-fiction picture books and how they never get enough attention from the Sibert.  And there was Judy, knowing full well that The Wall by Peter Sis and Lightship by Brian Floca had gotten some love, and she didn’t so much as crack a grin.  Well played, Judy!  Well played!

Regarding the Pure Belpre Award, could we just make it easy on ourselves and give Yuyi Morales something sparkly every year?  I don’t see why not.  She just happens to be one of the most talented artists living today.  I was pleased as punch to see her book get two awards (though the suspense regarding the medal for narrative was broken when they showed the cover after she won it for illustration and the image displayed TWO medals on the cover). 

I’m sure there were many reactions to Jump In, starring that High School Musical boy, winning, what until this year was known as, the Weston Woods Awards (a.k.a. The Carnegie Medal).  My reaction was perhaps a little different from yours.  You see, I have a gym membership here in New York.  My gym has lots of little television sets that, when I control them, play nothing but music videos.  I can’t work out to anything but music videos.  If I were an adult in the pre-MTV age I would be 400 pounds.  Recently my gym’s two video channels (yes, they have two plus VH1) have been playing a lot of videos starring High School Musical kids.  And at least TWO of those videos are from Jump In.  I know all about that movie by now.  How Corbin Bleu’s friends photograph him jumping rope and plaster the school with Xeroxes.  How there’s a girl that boxes.  The cool jump rope routines.  I from all this I can tell you that there was probably a cooler clip they could have shown.  Maybe they’re saving it for the Newbery/Caldecott Awards Banquet though.  Dunno.  We’ll figure it out.

The Geisel Award went to a Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie book (yay!) but it wasn’t my favorite (boo!).  You see?  A person can complain about anything if they try hard enough. 

And then, suddenly, we were hearing the Caldecott winners.  How did that happen?  So I try to gear up.  Next year I am SO making ballot sheets.  I couldn’t even remember what I wanted to win. 

It’s fortunate that I’m lamentable at predicting Caldecotts anyway, though.  I was delighted to see Selznick grab the Caldecott proper and not a little awed by the guts of the committee that gave it to him.  It opens things up, I think.  And don’t you love how all the articles out there that are saying that Selznick "nabs" the Caldecott?  Like he put on black pajamas and stole it in the dead of night?  Nuh-uh, puppies, he OWNED that award.  That award is his by rights.  Now we just need to figure out how to make it happen again in the future.

Ah.  And then the Newbery.

Readers, I made some predictions about the Newbery and I was fully prepared to be as dead wrong as a person could be.  I was wrong, but in the best possible way.

When Elijah and Wednesday Wars got Honors I was not surprised. But when I saw Feathers get an honor as well, I was well and truly stumped.  I think my mental process ran somewhat along these lines.

"Feathers?  Honor?  What the…. ?  Then. . . . well, if let’s say perhaps maybe that Ms. Schlitz does . . . what could it be?  I’m never right about . . . what if it’s, like, Joey Pigza or something?"

It wasn’t.  It was Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!  I think they could hear my cheers somewhere in the outer limits of residential Boston.

Because, you see, it wasn’t that something I’d predicted to win had won.  It was that something I loved deeply and wanted so badly to be recognized won.  How often in your life do you root for something and then get to see it receive the glory it so desperately deserves?   Let me tell you a little something about this book.  Back in July I had a Kidlit Drink Night at the bar Sweet & Vicious.  About seven children’s librarians from Queens were present and after the drinks we high-tailed it to a pizza slice shop to chow and talk.  I had, in my possession, a rare and beautiful hardcover copy of this book and the librarians instantly recognized how cool it was.  They started passing it back and forth, cooing over the contents.  It was that kind of crowd.  That, for me, was the moment when I decided that I thought it might have a fighting chance. 

Anyway, I pretty much lost it.  Other bloggers will attest to this, I think.  At some point I’ll put my recording from the floor on my podcast.  I just listened to it and it’s pretty funny.  You should hear the gasps when Feathers gets an Honor and not the Gold.

Screen shots, as you can see, don’t do too well from the floor, but I did manage to grab this one …

Then I decided to hang out with my own committee from last year afterwards. 

All in all, it was the perfect capper to a magnificent year.  I can’t wait to see 2008!  Shall I make a prediction for the 2009 Caldecott/Newbery?  All right.. uh… howzabout We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson getting both the Newbery and the Caldecott at the same time?  So sayeth I.  Obviously this whole week has gone straight to my head.


Here’s some excess info for fun.

  • Monica Edinger, one of the Newbery committee members, is keeping up an impressive and steady stream of Newbery thoughts and news regarding the award.  If you haven’t read Educating Alice before, now is the time to start.

  • Brian Selznick and Laura Amy Schlitz appear on The Today Show.  Here’s the video.

Now, I’m going to embed this below. As you watch, notice how increasingly annoying that Today Show woman is. I understand that they’re pressed for time. I also understand that Mr. Selznick and Ms. Schlitz are perfectly capable of summing up their own books. For crying out loud, they are THEIR books! The woman cuts off Brian, gets Laura’s middle name wrong (how do you mess up "Amy"?) which Brian is good enough to correct, and is just slimy. Oog. I’m glad that our winners got attention, but shouldn’t Al Roker be handling this anyway? He’s the one with a friggin’ children’s bookclub, after all. Heck, he might have actually have READ one or both of these titles. Anywho, here it is:

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Monica Edinger says:

    I believe the whooper is in your first photo:) You couldn’t go for the loudest of all as he was on the Printz. (I sure heard him when our award winner was announced!)

  2. Good grief! They got a 3 min. time slot and Ann jumped all over Brian and Laura–they couldn’t get hardly any words out. Let them speak! Thanks for sharing the video–I missed it.

  3. MotherReader says:

    Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!!! Nice recap. Felt like I was there. (And thanks for the reminder about Monica’s post. I’ll put it in my own recap – along with the Today show link.)

  4. For those of use who were unable to go to the conference … what was the “infamous” reaction by Walter Mayes? I’m dying of curiosity, but Googling variations on his name and Caldecott isn’t bringing anything up.

  5. Oh. Well, the man is 100 feet tall (give or take) and when Selznick was mentioned as the winner he apparently jumped up and started running about the room in a frenzy of sheer unadulterated joy. This is all heresay and conjecture, however, since my eyes were glued to the screens in front of me and were incapable of glancing so much as a centimeter to my left.

  6. MotherReader says:

    Oh, and after commenting I watched the video. Yikes. What a terrible interviewer! The best/worst part for me is when she says “And the reason it’s written with pictures for movies is because…” and pauses like she’s going to actually let Selzick talk, but then PYSCH! she answers her own question actually TALKING OVER HIM! Poor guy. He had to get up early in the morning for it too.

  7. Yay! Thanks for the super-fun recap!

  8. Since I was sitting at Walter’s right elbow (aka “Walter the Giant”) I can attest to his ecstatic, joyous, utterly wild reaction to Hugo’s win-he went nuts.

    ALA committees rock ( just slightly biased here)

  9. The moral of the story: always put on your makeup and do your hair before Fuse visits. Cause otherwise, you’ll be chilling after a long day at ALA, not looking your best, but Fuse takes your photo, and that is the one which ends up on SLJ.

    Oh, there was something in this post other than my photo?

    Right, topic, (not me and the photo), but rather awards. I love how the committees went all “philadelphia lawyer” on the awards in the best possible way: by thinking outside the box and really looking and thinking about the awards and the books.

  10. You kidding me? You look adorable, toots. A-DOOR-A-BULL. And I love the term “Philadelphia lawyer”. May I steal that? It’s a perfect description of what happened. They looked at the rules, checked ’em out forwards and backwards, and figured out how to give the best books their due.

  11. Ha! So I can read faces after all. It’s okay if you like the demonstrative responses. I guess I was there as an objective scientist, rather than there to cheer on my favorites. I really had no predictions or hopes as to who would win. This was my first time attending the awards and I was trying to observe the room and see what the mood was. It was interesting how fast everything went and how quiet most of the room was. Sort of somber until you got to the bigger awards at the end.

  12. LOL, I love the doctored cover of Elijah!

  13. I think Ann Curry enjoys hearing herself talk. Surely, email has been sent to TODAY!