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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Good News on the Prize Front

I Mean that in several ways.

Congratulations to Peter Sis for winning the Sibert for The Wall — a book that in many ways brings the personal into nonfiction. The New York Times, in reporting on the awards, noted that the Newbery and Caldecott winners were unusual kinds of books — mixtures of visual and text that go beyond the familiar categories. If you look at the Sibert winners, you also see in Lightship and Spiders, two heavily visual (and younger) forms of nonfiction. Which then leads me to the other sense of Good News. YALSA has agreed that it will be creating an older nonfiction award — the Sibert, an ALSC award, being limited to readers through 14 years old. So it seems we may be working towards two broad areas of nonfiction excellence (as judged by ALA): younger books that make innovative use of the blend of text and visuals, and then some as-yet-to-be-determined older set of criteria. Now visuals may play a role there as well — graphic novels are a great format for YA nonfiction — but I wonder if we will see Sibert settle in as a younger award, while the YALSA prize skews older.

I’ve mentioned this frequently before — the question of how nonfiction can be both accurate and personal. Peter has shown us one way. I continue to think that is an important for all ages — and books that are personal are going to run into opposition. Folks, that just will happen. But I am convinced they are the right direction for nonfiction in the Google universe.


  1. womanreader says:

    And don’t forget Vulture View, Steve Jenkins’ nonfiction picture book, a winner of the Geisel Honor! Another national recognition for nonfiction for the “little ones!”

  2. Judy Freemanand says:

    As a member of this year’s Sibert Committee,I want to make it clear that the nine of us read, evaluated, and discussed scores of distinguished nonfiction books for the youngest readers up to age 14. The fact that two picture books for young children won the Honor medals was just how it played out, though I think we were all delighted with our choices. The hard part is that you can’t give all of your favorites the award, and there were many other worthy books that we were wild about. (When I walked by the publishers’ exhibits at ALA in Philly this week, I felt pangs of sadness each time I passed one of my favorites that didn’t make the final ballot.) Know too that very few nonfiction books for young children have been included in past Sibert Awards–Vicki Cobb’s I Face the Wind won in 2003, and that may be it. The Wall, our gold medal winner, is an extraordinary book that works on many levels, and we weren’t a bit surprised when it won the Caldecott Honor as well. And wasn’t it great to see nonfiction represented in the Caldecott honor books–The Wall, Henry’s Freedom Box, and First the Egg–and in the Geisel with Baby Bumblebee Bat and Vulture View! This was a fine year for nonfiction, especially books that will captivate young readers with facts and make them eager to discover more.

  3. Marc Aronson says:


    Thanks for that nice, informative, and helpful post. And, yes, I recall I Face the Wind and the whole region of fine nonfiction it exemplified. I can’t help contrasting your post with the BCCB statement that it was a bad year for nonfiction. I guess opinions will always vary, and be strongly held.