I miss Peter Sieruta.
Many of us get excited when the Newbery and Caldecott Awards are announced alongside the other ALA Youth Media Awards at the beginning of the year. But I say with certainty that there was no blogger out there half as excited as Peter Sieruta. At Collecting Children’s Books he poured his heart and soul into the history of the awards, giving facts and background to the winners and where their place on the pantheon of winners really was. This time last year he wrote the post We Neeeeeeeed Bookmarks! and ended with this passage:
Way back in the early 1980s, I used to shop at a mall bookstore called The Children’s Bookmark. That was where I got my first Cynthia Voigt book, HOMECOMING. M.E. Kerr’s LITTLE LITTLE. Robert Cormier’s EIGHT PLUS ONE. Katherine Paterson’s Newbery winner JACOB HAVE I LOVED. I have many fond memories of that little store. I also remember one incident I witnessed outside the store. A mother and father were heading for the mall exit, when a little girl, maybe six or seven years old, drawn by the word “children” on the sign, started begging to go in the store. In a hurry to leave, her parents dragged her away from the Children’s Bookmark, while she kicked and whined, “But I NEEEEEEED bookmarks!”
That girl is probably now pushing forty, perhaps with little kids of her own. But I still think of her plea for “bookmarks” after all these years. For me, each Newbery Day is slightly different — a happy day, a sad day; a day when I like the winning books, a day when I don’t; a snowy day, a warm day; a day when I eat at Ponderosa or end up with Chinese take-out; a day when I look back at last year’s books and look forward to next year’s books.
I celebrate every “Newbery Day” and I remember each one of them, going back years and years.
They are bookmarks marking the pages of my life.
They were. I can’t stand that I can’t email him today and ask him questions like “Has a Caldecott Award winner ever won an Honor in the same year?” I happen to think that this year would have been a particularly fine one for him. He would have loved the winners. I know I sure did. Here are some thoughts on the matter.
It’s All About Me
I did far better in the prediction department this year than usual. Granted, I never seem to be able to predict the outright winner of either the Caldecott or the Newbery, but that’s par for the course. The books that did win were near and dear to my heart. Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan took home the gold. I think my exact words about it were, “I would actually be right pleased if it walked away with the gold. Is it distinguished? Absolutely! And smart and funny and a talking animal book that will even please folks who can’t stand talking animal books. Ivan, you have my vote of confidence.” As I write this I see that there’s even a One and Only Ivan ad on the right side of my screen. Good planning, Harper Collins. That’s foresight for you.
Says the ALA Press Release, “Three Newbery Honor Books also were named: “Splendors and Glooms” by Laura Amy Schlitz and published by Candlewick Press; “Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon” by Steve Sheinkin and published by Flash Point, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press; and “Three Times Lucky” by Sheila Turnage and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group.” No real surprises here, aside from the fact that Grace Lin didn’t get anything (much to my own chagrin). But each of these books was a true winner. I was inspired by the appearance of Three Times Lucky, a deserving book if ever there was one. I did not review Bomb, it’s true, but I don’t know that I can say anything that others haven’t.
On the Caldecott side of the equation This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen beat out Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and ALSO illustrated by Jon Klassen. It was a Klassen vs. Klassen year (and not the last we’ll see, I’d wager). Klassen gives a helluva good speech, so his Caldecott acceptance will be something to look forward too. Honestly, I personally would have preferred Extra Yarn to win over the fishy hat sequel, but beggers can’t be choosers. No sir.
The real Caldecott delight for me was seeing Peter Brown’s Creepy Carrots get some love. There are certain illustrators that I fear will never get the award chutzpah they deserve. Your Blackalls, your Santats, your Rexes, etc. Peter Brown was in that category as well (so was Klassen for that matter) so to see him break out like this was inspiring. Green was my top pick but at least it got an Honor. One Cool Friend did very well in the Mock Caldecotts around the country (though I confess I liked the art far more than the text). Sleep Like a Tiger . . . . meh. Zagarenski won a Caldecott Honor before. Both this as This Is Not My Hat strike me as books that win when their predecessors were stronger, but of course a committee isn’t supposed to take that into consideration. So there you have it. Which brings us to . . .
Whitey Whitey Whiteville
Surely I’m not the only person to notice that not a SINGLE person of color won a Caldecott or a Newbery anything this year. I’m not hung up on the whole girls-win-Newberys-and-boys-win-Caldecotts debate since I don’t think it’s a serious issue, but I AM a bit concerned that we’re forgetting about some stellar diverse books. Grace Lin was just the tip of the iceberg. Kadir Nelson has been referred to as the Susan Lucci of the children’s book world, never winning the gold. I suspect that’s because he hasn’t been paired with the right text yet, but it’s not as if there wasn’t some great stuff out there this year. Crow, The Lions of Little Rock, and Chickadee all featured main characters of color (something that none of these winners do either). They didn’t win. Nor did Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten, Jazz Age Josephine, or any of the other stellar titles on the illustration side. People wonder why we have awards like the Coretta Scott King and Pura Belpre. I say it’s because if we didn’t this type of thing would happen every year.
Speaking of which, I was fascinated by the Andrea Davis Pinkney win of Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America. This book should be required reading by children young and old around our nation. The Benjamin Banneker chapter alone is worth it. I was talking to someone about the book and we speculated on what a version starring women would consist of and who you would pick. All well and good until you realize that it would probably have to end with Condoleezza Rice. Hopefully Ms. Pinkney would see a different way of tackling that.
Said the press release: “Two King Author Honor Books were selected: “Each Kindness” by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis and published by Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group; and “No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and published by Carolrhoda Lab, an imprint of Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.” It is very interesting to me to see an award where a picture book and a young adult novel can win in the same category. Great choices, though. I know that Monica Edinger had been hoping Woodson might relive her picture-book-winning-a-Newbery moment with her latest text.
And yes, Bryan Collier won for I, Too, Am America, which is a great book no question. What truly thrilled me was seeing Christopher Myers’ “H.O.R.S.E.” win an Honor. Except it just made me kick myself again that I didn’t review when I had the chance. Gah! Other winners were: ” “Ellen’s Broom,” illustrated by Daniel Minter, written by Kelly Starling Lyons and published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group; and “I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr.” illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Martin Luther King, Jr. and published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.”
On the Pura Belpre side, it looks as though Gary Schmidt may have lost out awardwise with Okay for Now, but his Martin de Porress: The Rose in the Desert got some Award lovin’ thanks to David Diaz. However, the fact that no Illustrator Honor Books were chosen really chaps my hide. My sole comfort is that already in 2013 I’ve seen some stellar work by a LOT of good Latino folks. Here’s hoping future years have a rosier outlook. On the authorial side, Maria from Sesame Street (a.k.a the lady who sings “Turn Back Oh Man” on the cast album of “Godspell” a.k.a. Sonia Manzano) won an Honor for her pretty darn good The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano. It’s fine fare. Very middle school. If you haven’t read it, do.
Dribs and Drabs
Eerdmans is the little publisher who can once more. They first shot to prominence when their A River of Words garnered a nice and lovely Caldecott Honor. No Caldecotts were on the menu today, but that didn’t stop them from getting a Schneider Family Book Aard for Claire Alexander’s Back to Front and Upside Down! not to mention a Batchelder Honor for Son of a Gun by Anne de Graaf.
The award I snarkily refer to as The Weston Woods Award went to a bit of nonfiction this year. The Andrew Carnegie Medal was handed over to Katja Torneman, producer of “Anna, Emma and the Condors,”. That made me wonder if the slow creeping influence of the Core Curriculum can change things with these awards. Aside from Bomb getting a Newbery Honor and this, few nonfiction titles jumped out of their boxes. Maybe next year.
Speaking of nonfiction, no real surprises when it came to the nonfiction winners. Again, white as all get out, but good writing just the same.
A VERY nice surprise to see Tamora Pierce win the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. Extra points for her write-up ending with the line, “She currently lives with her husband (spouse-creature) and a myriad of animals in Syracuse, New York.”
And a special shout out to Raina Telgemeier for winning a Stonewall Honor for her remarkable little Drama.
Now as crazy as it sounds my favorite winners this year might have been the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winners for the most distinguished beginning reader books. First and foremost, my beloved Up! Tall! And High! written and illustrated by Ethan Long was the proper winner. But look at these Honors!
Three Geisel Honor Books were named: Let’s Go for a Drive! written and illustrated by Mo Willems, and published by Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group; Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin, created and illustrated by James Dean and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers; and Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover, written and illustrated by Cece Bell and published by Candlewick Press.
Wow. I like every last one of those. Even that darn cat. Color me impressed.
Those of you watching the awards live probably could not help but notice my former co-worker Jack Martin, the president of YALSA, take the stage and liven the joint up a bit. That’s Jack for you. When they did an article in the Times on the best dressed librarians in the system, he was front and center. In this case his coffee must have been working particularly well since he was throwing out terms like “love-bombs” and “ballyhoo” like nobody’s business. If he isn’t tapped to run the bloody awards from here on in then there is no justice in the universe.
Of course, the big name titles this year were the ones that suffered the most. Wonder, as predicted, got shut out. Not so surprising on the Newbery side. VERY surprising on the Schneider Family Book Award side. It apparently got beaten out by A Dog Named Homeless by Sara Lean. Did NOT see that one coming. As for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, it didn’t win any writing awards but it did garner an Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States. Special shout out too to Beth Fama and her Monstrous Beauty getting an Odyssey Honor, by the way!
So what have we learned? Well, we need a bit more diversity in our winners, that’s for certain. But it was a good year. Strong winners and contenders. I think I can finally close the book on 2012 for good. Whew!
Now check out these gorgeous little 2013 titles right over here. I daresay you’ve never seen the like. Can I interest you in some Newbery/Caldecott 2014 predictions, eh?