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Text, Image, and 2010: Why Baby Needs a New ALA Award

emptyaward 225x300 Text, Image, and 2010: Why Baby Needs a New ALA AwardRoundabout this time of year a young girl’s thoughts turn to the upcoming award season.  By now most of the fall releases have been produced in ARC, galley, or F&G form.  The buzz is building.  The mock Newbery/Caldecott discussions are starting.  And in the midst of these discussions will arise a question that shall come up over and over and over again until ALSC does something about it.

What do we do with these books that are chock full of images?

Consider the strange case of Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg or Countdown by Deborah Wiles.  Two books handling two very different and serious subjects: Overcoming family grief and the Cuban Missile Crisis, respectively.  Different stories, same problem, though.  In the case of Silberberg we are looking at a title that integrates comic panels and interstitial illustrated bits to complement the text.  In Countdown, the book describes itself as a “documentary novel” and includes photographs, song lyrics, and other timely ephemera.  These creative elements give the books the extra added kick needed to make them wholly new art forms.  It also dooms them when the award season comes around.

Illustrated elements when incorporated into a book’s structure serve to increase the reader’s appreciation of the book itself.  Those of you that doubt the previous statement might enjoy Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, which delves into this idea at more length.  Unfortunately, by choosing to add such details the books are now less likely to be serious contenders for awards like the Newbery and Caldecott.  Why?  Well, a Newbery Award (criteria here) has to go to the most distinguished work of American children’s “literature”.  Are illustrations “literature”?  Not usually (the criteria specifies that “the committee shall consider all forms of writing—fiction, non-fiction, and poetry”), which indicates that if you separate the text from a book and it isn’t as strong without the pictures then the “literature” in the book can’t stand up to significant scrutiny.  Could comics win Caldecotts then?  No, a Caldecott (criteria here) must go to a “picture book for children” with “distinguished” illustrations.  A graphic novel might have a chance if it was definitely a “picture book” but even so, the art would have to be stronger than the text.  This is not to say that comic-inspired picture books haven’t won before (The Red Book by Barbara Lehman, for example), but they are picture books first, graphic literature second.  So it is that many a fine novel or graphic novel is shot down in the course of award discussions each and every year.

This is particularly maddening when you consider how strong a year 2010 is in terms of graphic novels.  Already we’ve seen an incredible crop of titles this year.  Here are my favorites so far:

  • Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • Ghostopolis by Doug Tennapel
  • Thunder from the Sea: Adventure On Board the HMS Defender by Jeff Weigel

Had I the power I’d give each and every one of these books an award.  As it stands, the ones written for older readers will be lucky if they can finagle a Printz, National Book Award, or Eisner nomination in a young person’s category.  The rest might try for a Scott O’Dell Award (risky but sometimes it works) or something along those lines, but it’s hardly a given.

The time has come for ALA to establish an award for books like these standard GNs and for books like Countdown and Milo, like The Arrival by Shaun Tan, or The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.  In short, books should be rewarded for creatively mixing together text and image in new and unforeseen ways.  Sure, The Invention of Hugo Cabret won a Caldecott Medal, but how often are you going to get a committee willing to do something so radical?  Cabret deserved every award it received.  However, until we get an award for books that strive to push boundaries and attempt new things, they will generally be forgotten.  For every Cabret you’ve hundreds of Secret Science Alliance titles disappearing into the mists of obscurity.

Now whenever someone suggests something along these lines you meet the old there-are-too-many-awards-anyway argument.  I understand why folks would feel that way.  Sitting through each year’s ALA Children’s Media Awards announcements increasingly starts to resemble the running time of the Oscar Award ceremonies.  That said, a distrust of graphic literature harkens back to the days when librarians looked at comics askance with a jaundiced eye.  If we can change our perceptions of the form, and for the most part I believe we have, then we can find ways to judge the best in the field and promote them to our kids.

New award category, please!  Name Suggestion: The Walt Kelly, or just “Kelly Award”.

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Elizabeth Bird About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist. 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 NYPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Colleen says:

    You said everything I have been thinking because illustrated novels/GN are some of my all time favorite books. Did you read CITY OF SPIES from First/Second? I though that was a fab GN as well and the SECRET SCIENCE ALLIANCE crew would especially enjoy it.

    We need a new award. Totally.

  2. Hmm…the original idea of the Newbery was “”To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children.” (from Frederic G. Melcher’s original statement in the section of ALA’s Newbery page called How the Newbery Medal Came to Be.) I recognize all the problems with attempting to alter the criteria, but I sure wish it could be done so that these books could be in the running for the Newbery. After all, it has a clout that a new award just won’t have.

  3. Just did a blog post on this. “Thoughts on Newbery: Something Old or Something New?” http://medinger.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/thoughts-on-newbery-something-old-or-something-new/

  4. paula says:

    Well, and then there’s the issue of … you’ve got a hybrid novel like Origami Yoda or Countdown, and who gets the award? The illustrator or the author? And the answer is, of course both, but if a creator does both the story and the images, do we give greater weight to his/her talent? Ursula Vernon deserves massive props for being a terrific artist and also writing funny, kickin’ stories. Likewise Eric Wight.

    The Eisners already recognize achievement in purely g/n work – note that Lunch Lady, Secret Science Alliance, and Tiny Tyrant, among others, are nominated. But the Eisners are quite granular, like the Oscars, with almost 30 award categories. I am pretty sure the children’s book world wants to avoid THAT.

    An excellent discussion. I think my gut says I want illustrated chapter books, graphic novels, and hybrids to all be eligible and seriously considered for the Newbery… I don’t think that illustrations give a book an unfair advantage. OR I could easily see a new award for each category.

  5. I’m not entirely in agreement — largely because I don’t see why graphics should necessarily detract from the quality of the text or vice versa. Is it really true that “the art would have to be stronger than the text” for a graphic novel to win a Caldecott? I’m not sure whether you meant “stronger” as in better or “stronger” as in dominant, but either way I don’t think the statement holds up when you look at the list of past Caldecott winners. Seems to me that if the art’s special enough compared with competing books, the art’s special enough.

    I’m also not convinced that comic strip panels and ephemera are enough to make a new artform of what remains your basic novel. They’re innovative and different, but if the text doesn’t stand up to the text of competing novels, why should they get a pass? Also, admitting that I’ve never served on one of these committees, would such graphic elements really detract from a novel’s literary value? I feel like we need to give the Newbery committee more credit than to assume they’d assume they’d automatically disqualify such books; after all, the Caldecott committee surprised us with Hugo Cabret.

    On the other hand, while I personally wouldn’t consider Countdown or The Strange Case of Origami Yoda graphic literature per se, and I don’t think The Arrival would have been disqualified as a Caldecott winner (except for the whole American authorship problem), there certainly have been a growing number of brilliant graphic works that have great text, great illustrations, *and* a great marriage of the two. That’s what I think is most important, if one is going to talk about creating a graphic literature award, though: all three of those elements have to be great, or a new award isn’t worth giving.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      In terms of the Newbery itself, if they’re reluctant to change the 0-14 age range to 0-12 (which makes sense to me since the creation of the Printz Award, though I do acknowledge that tween books would then get caught in the cold) I don’t see them making exceptions for graphic literature.

      Note that I’m not saying strictly “graphic novels” because there are too many books out there that combine text and image in new ways that aren’t necessarily comics. Such an award would need to be vast. And, as Paula points out, for both author and creator. The Eisners are just for graphic novels, but I want something more broad than that.

      The oldest argument states that somehow by combining words and pictures your average graphic novel is less “literary” than a novel or a piece of artwork. Scott McCloud discusses this in “Understanding Comics” (which is why I mentioned it). And Lisa, we are in complete agreement about how “all three of these elements have to be great, or a new award isn’t worth giving”. That’s my point! A Newbery is given for words. A Caldecott is given for pictures. I want something that gives credit to books that have strong words AND pictures equally and gives them both credit. Right now you can reward a book for one or the other but never both at the same time.

      Aside from all that, it makes no sense to compare a work of graphic literature to a picture book vying for a Caldecott because the two genres are completely and wholly different. Melcher didn’t have “Superman” in mind when he created the Caldecott, nor should he. But how could he have predicted “Mirka” or “Yummy”? Times change. Graphic novels have come into their own. The time has come to reward them.

  6. Betsy,

    Fantastic post. And I’m not just speaking as someone who creates GNs and the like, but as someone who cares about children reading quality literature. Librarians would greatly benefit from having a list of the best of the year. Texas librarians started the Maverick list for YA GN titles: http://www.txla2.org/groups/yart/maverickcommittee.html

    Our kids need more than just disproportionate superheroes.

    JJK

  7. A new award would be great, but I’m absolutely not willing to let theNewbery off the hook because of one. As I wrote on my blog it IS the one “the world” knows. Just as I’m sure the age range issue isn’t over (I believe it was just tabled for various procedural reasons and will be considered this coming year) this one ain’t either!

  8. paula says:

    JJK and I have been discussing this post on Facebook, and I wonder if Art Spiegelman & Francoise Mouly, who have done so much to redefine illustrated novels and comics for kids, might be talked into further legitimizing the field by sponsoring an award.

    And I’m with you, Betsy – I want an award for, like, “best integration of art and text in a book for children,” so that The Invention of Hugo Cabret could be considered alongside Under the Volcano.

    But also I want the same award for nonfiction, and also I want an award for series illustrated fiction, and basically I just want the Newbery Caldecott Banquet to go ALLL NIGHT!

    Plus I think it should be named after Jules Feiffer. That’s all. Going to work now!

  9. Roger Sutton says:

    This is a juicy one, Bets. The problem with graphic novels (or something like Hugo Cabret) and the Newbery is that, under the current terms, only the text can be considered. The best graphic novels (like the best picture books) make text and pictures so interdependent that one doesn’t make sense without the other. Hugo Cabret (not a graphic novel, although it frequently is called one) would be impossible to follow without the pictures; likewise Storm in the Barn, the O’Dell winner.

    Personally, I’d rather see ALA get it together to make both Newbery and Caldecott criteria more openminded than have another award. You know that just as soon as they have nailed down the criteria for that one, some mad genius will come along and break THOSE rules, too.

  10. Nathan Hale says:

    Yes please! I like “The Kelly.” Where can I vote for this to happen?

  11. Really interesting post and I love the discussion!

    I just wanted to add that I know my goal as the writer of Milo was to find a way to tell the story the best way possible to me. The added graphic elements were a story-telling technique at my disposal that I felt could add another layer to the story and make the reading experience deeper (and funnier).

    As writers we want to have children find themselves lost in the reading experience whether it includes graphics sparingly, throughout, or simply not there at all!

    I guess in the end it’s not just about “awards”. We all want great stories to get in the hands of kids no matter what they look like, right?

  12. Matt says:

    LOVE THIS IDEA. Maybe an award that recognizes new trends in children’s literature? Then it could adapt with unforeseen changes. For example, (and I’m not going to win any fans on this one) interactive ipad-like books are coming and they’re gonna deserve awards too.

  13. The Kelly would be good, but I also like paula’s suggestion of it being the Feiffer. Or the Jules. I’m picturing an awards seal that’s shaped like a faceted gemstone, to be the Jules Jewel or the Jewel Feiffer.

  14. Kiera says:

    Hmmm….you’ve got me thinking, Betsy. At first, I was squarely in the “Yes! A New Award!” camp, but after reading Monica’s argument, I’m not so sure. The Newbery has such built-in UMPH. It’s got name recognition, brand power. And I like the idea of a Newbery award that evolves.

    These times they are a-changin’ and the committee has a responsibility to recognize that and adapt when necessary. Certainly, we don’t want a watering down of the Newbery. We don’t want to lose the essential criteria that enables the committee to select distinguished works for children. But I’d think most librarians would agree that we need to remain relevant. We should be recognizing unique, creative, and innovative books for children.

    The question might then be, can the Newbery adapt? Can the Newbery committee adapt? Are we (the broad community of children’s librarians and kid lit professionals) willing to stretch our idea of what constitutes distinguished and lasting contributions to children’s literature? If we fail at that, then I would argue that we have no choice but to create a new award.

  15. Krista King says:

    I’ll leave the hard-core critiques to my much more wise and more practiced librarians, authors and educators out there.

    Instead, I’ll offer this up – Betsy, let’s start an official petition for a new award!

  16. IF says:

    “I want something that gives credit to books that have strong words AND pictures equally and gives them both credit.”
    Picture books would be included in this description. The borderlines for what qualifies–or doesn’t–for this proposed new award would be difficult to define.
    IF

  17. Jim Averbeck says:

    Hi Betsy,

    While I support an award for graphic novels, I’d like to say there is another class of children’s book creator that has been overlooked for decades. Can we have our ALA award first? I’m talking about picture book writers.

    I know- people will say “but Jim, the Newbery is for writers of books for ages 0 to 14.” To which I respond, I counted once and if I did it correctly, only somewhere around 11 or 12 picture books have ever been given any love from the Newbery committees. Do we really think that, of all the books honored by the Newbery, only 11 picture books were deserving? It’s particularly galling because these are the books that first instill children with a love of reading. To my knowledge, the only one to win the gold was A VISIT TO WILLIAM BLAKE”S INN. Really? Only one picture book, in all the incredible picture books ever written, merited the gold? C’mon!

    I think the problem is that writing a picture book is not like writing a novel. The picture book writer needs to leave room for the illustrator. For us, what we leave unsaid is as important as what we say. The best picture books are those in which the words and pictures weave together seamlessly, making a sum that is greater than its parts. So naturally, when you tear out just the text, it will have a hard time competing with a middle grade novel that hasn’t had an essential part of itself ripped away. It’s like entering apples in a “best orange” contest. The criteria are stacked against us.

    In the case of picture books, I think the solution is not another award. Since the best PBs combine words and pictures, it is my opinion that the Caldecott award should be granted to the best PB based on the gestalt of text and images. (I believe currently the criteria says the committee can consider the text, especially if it “makes the book less effective as a children’s book.” In other words, the writer can bring the illustrator down, but is not considered to have helped him out! Arrrgh!) Since the Caldecott is for the “most distinguished picture book” why don’t we admit that a picture book is a STORY in words and pictures? The award should be given to both the writer and the illustrator. If they are the same person, then great. If they are 2 people- also great. If the illustrator has managed to tell his story wordlessly- super great. But let’s not leave the writer out of it altogether. It’s his words that inspired the pictures. Both creators of “the most distinguished picture book” deserve to be honored.

    Another solution: Esteemed children’s book editor and writer Charlotte Zolotow recognized this gross injustice and started an award for picture book writers, granted by the CCBC. I was deeply honored to win a silver medal for my book IN A BLUE ROOM. (But the fact is that I know the book was better for the combination of both words and pictures. Tearing the work in half to award one part or the other seems cruel to the book itself. I would have loved to share the podium with my illustrator, Tricia Tusa, because a picture book is a whole thing, entire of itself.) I also have to say that, without the imprimatur of the ALSC, the response of my publisher in terms of promotion or attention given the Zolotow award was, frankly, tepid. The Zolotow is a young award, so maybe with time it will get the respect it deserves. Maybe that could be sped along if the ALSC gave the award a stamp of approval and announced it with the other awards, bringing PB writers the attention they deserve.

    So, that’s my plea. We’ve been waiting for decades for our award. Please can we have ours first?

  18. Jim Averbeck says:

    PS- @ IF:
    “I want something that gives credit to books that have strong words AND pictures equally and gives them both credit.”
    Picture books would be included in this description. The borderlines for what qualifies–or doesn’t–for this proposed new award would be difficult to define.

    A good solution would be to let the committees define it on a yearly basis. And I’d be fine with picture books competing with graphic novels, as long as there is an acknowledgment that in these forms, words and pictures work together.

  19. :paula says:

    I keep trying to think of this in real-world terms. How would “Meanwhile” be compared to “When You Reach Me”? I mean to say, how would an award committee even discuss them?

    Oh well “Meanwhile” is an extreme example I guess. I could certainly discuss the merits of the Milo book vs. One Crazy Summer in the same breath. This argues for keeping it all in the Newbery.

    But only if Newbery’s brief is revised. The age range, at least. Consideration of the book’s illustration program (if any). And some way of eliminating the unlikeliness that a funny book will win.

    It’s the ‘funny’ thing that makes me kind of want a new award, BTW. I feel like Yummy could end up being one of those boundary-busting Honor books, but I would be shocked to find Origami Yoda on that list. (Because it’s funny.)

  20. Eric Wight says:

    Awesome post, Betsy. Anything that creates awareness and validates the literary significance for graphic novels is a-okay in my book. I personally would love to see the ALSC annually create a list similar to YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens so that parents, teachers, and librarians have a trusted resource to aid them in not only finding great graphic novels for children, but also help them distinguish which titles are age appropriate. This could also help some of the more obscure titles in circulation.

  21. :paula says:

    Pleasantly shocked. I mean… oh, Angleberger’s gonna kill me if I’ve jinxed his book. Nuts.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      In terms of the Newbery changing, certainly that might work for books like “Countdown” and “Milo”. I could see it shifting enough to include books of that sort. But out-and-out graphic novels? Doesn’t seem fair. The joy of a GN is the combination of two disparate elements coming together to produce something wholly new. And a picture book is a different breed of beast than a graphic novel. If Easy Books get their own award, why not GNs?

      That said, I would be content with an ALSC-approved GN List like YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens, as Eric suggests.

  22. I’m honored to see my books in hypothetical consideration for this hypothetical award (and look at how wonderful my proposed competition is!) and I for one love the idea of a new award, right down to the Walt Kelly name. That said, in agreement with Mr. Averbeck above, I feel it is long past the time for an award that celebrates both halves of a picture book’s creation. It’s true that the line that divides graphic novels and picture books is a tricky one to define, but the best definition I’ve come across is that graphic novels are meant to be read BY, and picture books read TO. It’s probably too much for the ALA to add two new categories, so maybe Mr. Averbeck’s suggestion of letting the awarding committees define it on a yearly basis?

  23. In regard to your comment about the ALSC-approved GN list, I brought up just that issue with ALSC several months ago. At the time, they were consumed with pre-ALA prep, but I was told that ALSC thinks it’s a great idea and that a committee would begin working on a list soon!

  24. paula says:

    Jim – “A VISIT TO WILLIAM BLAKE”S INN” ? Seriously? Wow, I have never even heard of that. Maybe we should do up “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as a graphic novel and see if we can win an award!

    Your point about picture books being – for the most part – judged on the basis of the art alone is an excellent one. I have trouble all the time explaining to parents the difference between the Newbery and the Caldecott. Laypeople understand those awards to be “the picture book award” and “the fiction award”. The whole shebang needs revision.

    Especially since there are already illustrator awards – I’m thinking Geisel – Caldecott could work as ‘distinguished collaboration of art and text in a picture book.’ Jim wins jointly with Tricia Tusa, or Jan Ormerod stands on the podium alone.

    And Betsy, I do think graphic novels and hybrid works can fit into the existing awards, that is if both award definitions are revised. Heck, something like Frankie Pickle could qualify for both!

    In earnest and little brotherly love (Jim),
    :paula

  25. Jim: I believe that there is already an award that examines to picture books as a whole, with merit to both author and illustrator: the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. And in terms of clout, it ain’t too shoddy, either.

    And while it’s true that only one picture book has won the gold Newbery sticker, many more have been honor books. But yeah, it’s a shame that stellar picture book writing doesn’t get more credit from the Newbery committee.

    So what are we looking at here, a double-barrelled goal? Seems that if we want these lovely books-with-pictures recognized, we’d need an adjustment to Newbery criteria AND the creation of a new graphic novel award. Honestly, I’d be happy if the Eisner folks split their young people’s category into two, to make room for more kids’ GNs. The Eisner might not have as much recognition in the library world, but it has loads of significance in the graphic novel world.

  26. Tom Angleberger says:

    Well, somebody do something quickly because Meanwhile deserves something shiny whether it’s old or new.

  27. Tom Angleberger says:

    Also, how does a book like Popularity Papers get considered for the Newbery? The text is inseparable from the illustrations.

  28. Janet Weber says:

    I’ve been thinking for years that ALSC should have at least a juvenile graphic novels notables list, even better, an award. After being chair of an ALSC committee last year, wed needed to discuss with our committees what ALSC can do in the future to improve itsself and then submit the comments. On the comment sheet was the mentioning of having a notables list for juvenile GN’s and a list for reluctant readers. YALSA has a GN list, why can’t ALSC? Only a few juvenile GN’s make it on the notable children’s booklist…which is certainly not enough to build a GN collection off of. I get so many librarians asking me where to buy GN’s for kids and how I learn about them. If ALSC had a list, then librarians could go directly to the list and use it for collection development purposes.

  29. There is a list of graphics each year that comes out of YALSA. It is not an award per se but we do compile a top ten list and it has been a way for great graphic books to be highlighted in the library world. After a year and half on the committee (and with a big stack of books in front of me to nominate) I can tell you that there is lively and involved conversation about graphics going on in the ALA community. Please take a look at the committee website and feel free to field nominate your favorites:
    http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/greatgraphicnovelsforteens/gn.cfm

  30. Alison Hendon says:

    Betsy: you wrote (about lowering ages for the Newbery to 12) “which makes sense to me since the creation of the Printz Award, though I do acknowledge that tween books would then get caught in the cold”

    Why would tween books (and what are tween books anyway?) get caught out? I don’t understand this. Books for ages 9-12 would be eligible for the Newbery. Books for ages 10-14 would be eligible for EITHER the Newbery, the Printz, or BOTH. Books for ages 12 and up are eligible for the Printz. Seems to me all ages would be covered.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Ah! Tween books are for older kids that aren’t quite teens. The 11-13 year old titles. The argument is that since the Newbery goes to 14, it can cover books that the Printz committee would otherwise ignore. Books like “Hattie Big Sky” or “Criss Cross” or “Kira-Kira”. Books that are written for a slightly older sensibility, but that aren’t edgy or complex enough to be noticed when it comes to the Printz. This line of thinking suggests that Printz committees only care about “edgy” and we know this is not the case. However, since (as you say) the Newbery goes to 14 and the Printz starts at 12, tell me how many books have won both awards. It doesn’t happen, and that’s not because there aren’t really worthy 12-14 books out there. It’s because the Printz really does examine a different kind of book than the Newbery. So, as I mentioned, some tween books would get caught out in the cold if the Newbery went down to 12.

  31. Sondy says:

    I like this post. Definitely something to think about. I’d been thinking about it all year with respect to nonfiction. Nowadays, the best nonfiction has wonderful photographs that present the story as well. And they just don’t get credit for that in the Newbery deliberations. Though maybe with the Siebert Award and the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction, that shouldn’t be a concern any more.

    One thing that wasn’t true when the Newbery and Caldecott were first established: Now it’s easier and more common to have pictures and words working together, in whatever format. So it just doesn’t seem fair to only consider one or the other, when so many times the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. (And Jim Averbeck’s In a Blue Room is an example of that. It’s the words that make the images powerful, and if the images weren’t so excellent, it would take from the overall effect. The final product is a product of both the words and the images, and it’s excellent.)

    Here’s a thought: What if the Caldecott were for books up to, say, age 6, the Newbery for ages 6-12, and the Printz for ages 12 and up? And then make it the Caldecott/Newbery/Printz Banquet, with consideration given to the complete book package, not just illustrations, and not just text.

    I know, I know, you’d have to have YALSA work too closely with ALSC (and the criteria are different already), and you’d have to have the authors and illustrators sharing the Caldecott, and you’d have way too many arguments about the age level of the book. It would never work! But I do think that separating the words and pictures so drastically is a little behind the times. Anyway, it is good that the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards (and the Cybils!) don’t do that kind of separation.

  32. Chris Langsam says:

    I agree with a way to honor graphic novels. This discussion has covered a lot of interesting points of discussion that both public and school librarians often have when talking about the awards. Honoring both author and illustrator with the Caldecott makes sense. The very best Caldecott books have a great combination of text and illustrations. If graphic novels were honored in the Caldecott award, those of us who serve younger children would have one less award that for some years are not appropriate for our students. I would also like to see the age of the Newbery also lowered to 12. As a librarian in a K-5 building there have been years when both the Newbery and Printz award were for older students. Younger students need high quality, exciting new books also. I also agree with Paula, please don’t be afraid of humorous stories.

  33. :paula says:

    So much good discussion! But now I’m thinking – at the risk of sounding like some actor at the Oscars, the whole idea of honoring just one book in any given category is kind of absurd at its root. No matter how strictly or loosely you define an award’s scope, comparing After Ever After to Nightshade City is an apples/oranges situation, although we do it all the time.

    I like the idea of more lists of notable books from ALSC and YALSA. When I do my annual book orders, those lists (and lists from other professional organizations) are the most helpful when I make my decisions.

    Plus, look at how those lists are titled – ‘notable books’. Not ‘notable writing,’ not ‘notable illustration’. If Newbery and Caldecott want to be awards for individuals, maybe they ought to be for a body of work, and not for an individual book. And then maybe the notable books lists could have a Most Notable title heading up each list.

  34. What a wonderful discussion! If i may chime in, it would be great to see an award for graphic novels and the challenge then would be: for what age ranges? We’ve seen some breakthroughs where graphic novels are gaining recognition at the National Book Awards and with Smile scoring a Horn Book Honor. Then we have TOON Books picking up a Geisel honor and the award, so there is some tangible progress. A notable books list from ALSC would, I think help to add momentum to the movement. I honestly believe the GGNFT committee has done a great deal in helping to generate credibility and ALSC can certainly add to this.

    There needs to be an even greater recognition of the tween titles though. This will help encourage more writers to do great books for these kids and it will also let the publishing houses know there is a great market opportunity.

    I know that sounds crass to some, but the publishers are in the business to make money and they will eventually go where the money is to be found.

    What is also critical to remember is that the tween market is where the struggling and challenged readers become evident to us. It is also where we lose them as readers for life. A Caldecott win would resonate for a long time and encourage more projects.
    If you look back to when Art Spiegelman was awarded that special Pulitzer, the comics world figured a new age had arrived. In theory, it should have. The problem with the theory is that there werent any more books, or a lot of books in the pipeline to take advantage of the moment.

    Now we have the books! We have the audience, we just need a few more people in those ‘key decision making’ roles to fully recognize the value of what graphics/comics bring to the world. They foster a love of reading and that above everything else is what this industry needs to recognized.

    Please get that ALSC list rolling, lobby your Caldecott folks, encourage ALA to create an award and above all else, hound the publishers to do a better job of promoting the great books they already have!

    Cheers!

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