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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Thoughts on the Recent Spate of Awards

I’ve been privy to lots of interesting conversations about our most recent ALA winners this week.  And since it’s Friday and we’re all now able to step back and take into account what all just happened, here is a quick summary of some of the discussions, topics, and random facts surrounding the Youth Media Awards of 2016.  Just so that you’re playing along at home, here is the announcement of who the winners were.  First up . . .


We’ll begin with the most surprising choice.  Last Stop on Market Street, a picture book, won the Newbery.  The question was then whether or not it is the first picture book to win the award.  After all, A Visit to William Blake’s Inn won back in 1982, yes?  And it also won a Caldecott Honor, just like Market Street.  Yet William Blake’s Inn was poetry first, and picture book second.  Market Street is straight up picture book text, context, you name it.  So, in some ways, it is the first award winner, yes.

Next, there was a question as to whether or not Matt de la Pena is the first Latino to win the Newbery Award (not Honor but Award).  And it was Roger Sutton who pointed out that maybe not.  Remember, if you will, Paula Fox.  As he wrote, “from Augusta Baker’s profile of Fox, written for The Horn Book to accompany her Newbery speech in 1974: ‘Paula Fox knew her share of pain as a child. A New Yorker by birth, half-Spanish, half-Irish-English, she was sent at the age of eight to live with her grandmother in Cuba’.”  This is not something I’d heard before.  Thank you, Roger!

Jon Scieszka tweeted this during the week as well:

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You can read more about that night here, if you like.  My sole regret is that the evening wasn’t taped.  Matt killed in that tux.

Moving on, while Matt may not be the first Latino Award winner of the Newbery, it is certainly true that 2016 was the first time that there was a Latino winner of the Award and a Latino winner of an Honor in the same year.  Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan was an early favorite in 2015.  I remember the book well and I also remember its swag.  Many galleys were sent out with little harmonicas.  In my office, just because of who works there, we received about four of five of these harmonicas.  They were cute but we weren’t entirely certain what to do with them.  Someone should write a middle grade called A Confusion of Harmonicas.


Someone should also tap Norton Juster to play a harmonica at the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet the way he did the year Raschka’s The Hello, Goodbye Window won a Caldecott.

Many were quite thrilled that The War That Saved My Life received recognition, including myself.  You can find my review of it here.  It was particularly gratifying since back in the day I wanted her to win an award for Jefferson’s Sons.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson was a surprise win for many.  If folks thought El Deafo‘s win last year was a fluke, Victoria’s latest Honor drills home that graphic novels are here to stay.  It also means that the push for a separate Graphic Novel award may fall by the wayside.  After all, they can apparently win Newberys now.  For fun, take a trip in the wayback machine to 2009 when Victoria solicited cool children’s literature-related roller derby names on this site.  My favorite remains Jacob Have I Shoved (with special honors going to Winnie-the-Pow!).

And speaking of Winnie . . .


I’m going to level with you.  When I read Finding Winnie I had a lot to say about it.  And though it was being published in October, I reviewed in May. I loved it so.

Sophie appeared at a Spring Little Brown & Company preview in early March of 2015 to talk about the book, as it happens.  While doing so she showed a lot of the research she conducted for the art.  Here are some of the tweets from that time:

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On his post on The Relative Surprise-iness of the 2016 Youth Media Awards, Travis Jonker points out that Trombone Shorty wasn’t one of those books that made it onto a lot Mock Award lists.  Looking at the ALSC blog that collects these Mock Awards, it wasn’t shut out.  The 43rd annual Caldecott Read-In was held on January 9th at the Main Library for the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library (Ohio) predicted its Honor.  It was also the Award winner on December 21, 2015, when over 900 students in grades K-5 voted for the Mock Caldecott at Falmouth Elementary School in Falmouth, Maine.  Well done to both!

Far more people were familiar with Voice of Freedom:  Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, written by Carole Boston Weatherford. Now there’s a book that could have won a Newbery as easily as a Caldecott as well.  The writing is so superb.  I’m happy to report that both this book AND Trombone Shorty appeared on New York Public Library’s 100 Books for Reading and Sharing list for the year as well.  Those NYPL librarians.  They’ve got their fingers on the pulse.

As for Waiting by Kevin Henkes, note this screenshot from a Harper Collins preview on December 29, 2014:

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 12.14.35 AM

Nailed It!  Or, to be more precise, Somewhat Nailed It!  I wasn’t entirely off anyway.

Other awards were interesting as well.  For example, the recent Printz Award winner spoke at LENGTH on this site about her soon-to-be-award winning book.  Here, I’ll save you the trouble.  Voila:

On the Coretta Scott King side of things, Rita Williams-Garcia was kind enough to talk about her book here:

For further final fun, do be so good as to read Travis Jonker’s post on  as well as the reaction tweets.  Also consider the Heavy Medal thoughts on the Newbery Award winner and their commenters thoughts on all the winners here.  And Calling Caldecott did the same here.

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. Very important question: do you and Jon just travel with spare red tuxes all the time? I feel like more backstory is needed here!

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      There’s an explanation all right!

      Jon was slated to co-host the Children’s Book Choice Book Awards Gala alongside Oliver Jeffers. Then Mr. Jeffers has a clash of commitments (Bono needed him) so that meant Jon was left with a spare purple tux. He’d bought two, you see, and needed a co-host. And who likes purple tuxes (besides The Joker)? Me! So I got to co-host and somehow Jon, in his infinite charm and wisdom, managed to convinced Matt to wear a red version.

      It was a good night.

      • Sherry Rosso says:

        Great photo and I’m sure it was a great time – awesome tuxes!! I really appreciated the diversity in the selection process, and I’m particularly pointing out the novelty of the honorees and winners. Picture books with a deeper message, novels with graphic intensity and style, government secrets laid thread-bare, music and politics, personal memoirs. I’ve enjoyed your wrap-up column, with all it’s thoroughness – as usual! Thanks!

  2. I always love your round-ups, Betsy! And by the way, I happen to know that Pam herself can play a mean harmonica, so who knows what may happen at that banquet.