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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Newbery / Caldecott / Etc. 2012: Post Awards Edition

Since it’s apparently football season (or at least that’s what the trending topics on Twitter seem to imply) think of this as a kind of post-game recap of what went on yesterday in the land of ALA Media Awards.  Each year I like to look at what I got right, what I got wrong, what I got horrendously wrong, and what I got so wrong that it’s a miracle I’m even allowed to blog anymore.  And because I believe in eating my cake before my dinner, we’ll start at the top and work our way down (metaphorically speaking).

First up:

Newbery Winners: I Got Them Moves Like Gantos

When I posted my review of The Great Cake Mystery yesterday and happened to include at the end an image of Dead End in Norvelt: British Edition (called just plain old Dead End and shown here) I hadn’t even considered the possibility that the darn book was poised to win the greatest honor in the field of children’s literature.  Why had I recovered from my Gantos fever?  Well, I think Jon Scieszka put it best yesterday when he tweeted his congrats to Jack and applied the hashtag #afunnybookfinallywins.  Ye gods.  He’s right.  I ran over to ye olde list of past Award winners and while some contain elements of humor, none of them have been as outright ballsy in their funny writing as Gantos was here.  I mean, you can make a case for Despereaux or Bud Not Buddy if you want, but basically even those books drip of earnestness.  And on some level I must have figured the funny book couldn’t win.  I had forgotten myself the moniker I had applied to this year.  The Year of Breaking Barriers.  Well if giving a big award to a funny title isn’t breaking a barrier here or there, I don’t know what is.

It’s really funny to read my mid-year and fall predictions in regards to the Gantos title.  In the middle of the year I mentioned the book as a possibility but even then I wasn’t putting too much hope there.  I wrote:

This is undoubtedly wishful thinking on my part.  Gantos has never gotten the gold, and he deserves it someday.  This book, of course, has a weird undercurrent to it that may turn off a certain breed of Newbery committee member.  Not everyone is going to find Jack’s constant brushes with death as interesting as I do.  Still, I hold out hope that maybe this’ll be a Gantos-luvin’ committee year.  Stranger things have happened.

Stranger indeed.  By the fall I was mentioning it, but only in passing and with the feeling that it was an unlikely bet so that by my last prediction it had fallen off the radar entirely.

New Cover

Do I agree with the decision?  I do as a matter of fact.  I’ve always figured that it was a great crime against man that Gantos was cheated out of this award time and again.  Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key didn’t get so much as an Honor and Joey Pigza Loses Control came a little closer with an Honor but the gold proved elusive.  I had high hopes for I Am Not Joey Pigza too, but nothing came of it.  Maybe I figured Mr. Gantos was doomed.  As it stands, I do adore this book.  I’m not overly fond of the American cover (despite the tweaking it underwent from galley to final publication) but I figure that now that it’s destined to appear in paperback someday, I’m sure they’ll take the time to give it a decent jacket.  If I may be so bold, I would suggest purloining the British edition.  If I were ten I would read that book.

By the way, I know for a fact that there were a couple limited editions of this book released in proto-galley form way way back in early 2011.  These editions had brown covers and photographs in the back that I always assumed would appear in the final edition (they didn’t).  This book also sported an image on the spine of Jack the hero holding binoculars up to his eyes, his shirt covered in bloodstains.  This image (which would have sold a lot of books) has never appeared anywhere else.  So if you are one of the lucky souls who has one of these editions, good news!  That puppy is going to be worth an awful lot of money someday.  Peter would know more about that than I would, though.  By the way, if you missed his A Day Before Newbery Brunch post on Sunday, go back and read it through.  Wonderful stuff.

Looking ahead, it was Wendy Stephens who pointed out on Twitter that if Jack Gantos is giving the Newbery acceptance speech this year you better buy your tickets PRONTO!  The man can give a helluva talk.  I’ve been lazy about doing so until now.  Time to get cracking.

As for the Honors, one was no surprise and the other was a complete shot out of left field.  The very reason I love the Newberys in a nutshell.  Can you imagine how dull the award announcements would be if there were shortlists like the Oscars?  Far better to never know what you could possibly expect.  Here we have Thanhha Lai’s National Book Award winning Inside Out and Back Again on the one hand while on the other hand there’s Eugene Yelchin’s Breaking Stalin’s Nose.  I confess to you that I didn’t even read that one this year.  And it’s short too!  We bought plenty of copies for my library system (thank goodness) so that’s all right, but I bet I’m now one of countless folks who have placed a hold on it in the hopes of catching up with what I missed.  It also has a 3.82 ranking on Goodreads right now.  Very interesting.

Obviously many of us were very disappointed that all Okay for Now ever got was an audiobook award.  As for my beloved Amelia Lost, it didn’t even get so much as a Sibert.  It’s like the year I really wanted Chains to win the Newbery and The Graveyard Book got it instead.  Perfectly nice title, but couldn’t the books I really liked have won some Honors at the very least?  There has been some speculation that in years where there are so few Honors it’s possible that those are committees that all decided on the winner relatively quickly without much debate.  I don’t know if there’s any truth to that, but I do know that any time an announcement is made that says “there were only two Honor books” my stomach tends to drop (and for good reason).

By the way, I had a brief moment of wonderment when I thought that Feiwel and Friends had garnered awards for two out of the three Newbery books.  Turns out that Stalin’s Nose isn’t Feiwel but Henry Holt.  Still, Macmillan got two out of the three winners right there.  Well played, y’all.

Caldecott Winners: I’m Half Crazy All for My Love of You

Last week I was looking up the various books that appeared on NYPL’s 2011 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing list and I saw to my horror that the library system somehow only ended up with six copies of Chris Raschka’s A Ball for Daisy.  Knowing full well that this was a potential award winner, we submitted a rush order for more copies.  Too little too late it seems, for here we have Mr. Raschka sporting his second Caldecott Award win and the first for a book he both wrote and illustrated himself.

Mr. Raschka is the kind of fella who balances between being arty and being kid-friendly.  Sometimes this comes naturally to him.  Other times it does not.  With A Ball for Daisy the man went for the emotional gut punch and a shiny medal is his due reward.  I’m not a dog person myself and I have a hard time assessing Raschka’s work even on my best days, so I eschewed reviewing this one.  By the way, how adorable is it that if you put the medal in the upper left hand corner it looks like Daisy is standing up, trying to get to it?

Chris was once thrown out of the main children’s room of NYPL in his youth for looking scruffy.  I was betting dollars to donuts he’d mention it in his last Caldecott acceptance speech, but no go.  Fingers crossed he works it into the newest one.  I want that moment recorded for posterity, doggone it!

Honorwise, no real surprises there.  Grandpa Green was sure to get something and the only reason I didn’t mention Me…Jane in my last round of predictions was because I was worried the committee might disqualify the book for including art by Jane Goodall as well as Patrick McDonnell.  I couldn’t be more pleased to be wrong.  Blackout is a fine piece of work too for that matter.  In fact author/illustrator John Rocco (who did all those Percy Jackson covers everyone loves so well) shares a studio space with Sophie Blackall, Sergio Ruzzier, John Bemelmans Marciano, and Brian Floca.  One has to wonder if they’ll be razzing him for suddenly attaining Caldecottian status in their midst.

The Mildred L. Batchelder Awards

True Fact: The very last 2011 children’s book I read this year was an innocuous little number called Soldier Bear by Bibi Dumon Tak.  I mentioned it recently in a post on shrinky dinks and if you read that piece you can see a version of Voytek (the bear in question) as drawn by the illustrator Gareth Hinds.  Of all the books I failed to review in 2011, this one cuts deeper than most to have missed.

The Pura Belpré Awards

Pura Belpré was, as every good little New York Public Librarian knows, the first Puerto Rican librarian to work in the system, and a heckuva amazing storyteller.  She even had this vast array of puppets that she would use in her work (a fact highlighted in the picture book The Storyteller’s Candle).  I was very happy to see that NYPL had all but two of the current crop of Belpré winners.  And that drop dead gorgeous The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred got an Honor, much to my delight.  Awesome!  Now considering the sheer number of awards Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall garnered, I think I shall have to find and read that one as well.

The Carnegie Medal

This one goes to the best video production for children but eventually we’re just going to have to buckle down and name it The Weston Woods Award (and yes, I know that I say the same darn thing every year, but it keeps being true!).  This year’s winner was a delight.  Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown didn’t get any awards in book form when it came out, but in video form it’s a shoo-in.  I don’t think I was the only one disappointed when the video clip playing over the live feed ended.  Interestingly, as we all watched the video the hashtag #alayma stopped trending.  Probably because we were all viewing rather than typing.

The Geisel Award

Did NOT see that one coming!  I know there was all kinds of talk about I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen getting a Caldecott, but who could have predicted that it would be the Geisel folks who gave it to him?  And the universe rejoiced.  The only surprise at seeing an Elephant and Piggie book here was that it didn’t get the award proper.  That honor went to a title that my library recently had to re-catalog because it had ended up in the wrong section.  Little wonder.  Tales for Very Picky Eaters is a hard one to categorize.

The Sibert Medal

Or, as I like to call it, WHERE THE HECKEDY-HECK IS AMELIA LOST??!?

*pant pant pant*

Okay.  I feel better now.

Honestly, it’s still a great line-up when all is said and done.  I mean, who can argue with the winner?  Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet was projected to be a Caldecott contender, and maybe it was.  We’ll never know since committee members are sworn to silence.  Still, even if it didn’t get anything in that area, it’s utterly deserving of Sibert love.  The Honors (the ones I read anyway) were also stellar.  I was delighted to see Allan Say’s Drawing from Memory and Rosalyn Schanzer’s Witches! both made the cut.  I was also very happy that Boyds Mills Press got a book award as well.  They’re such a nice publisher.  They deserve some award attention once in a while.

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards

It’s a little strange to see that the CSK Twitter account hasn’t been touched since 2009 or so (have we had Twitter for so long?).  In any case, though Heart and Soul couldn’t make a dent in the Caldecott arena this year, at least it found some awards somewhere.  Now I had predicted a Caldecott win for Kadir Nelson, but even after I typed up my post I knew how unlikely it would be.  Caldecotts tend to go to books where the words and pictures interact.  Yet the pictures in Heart and Soul could be removed entirely and you’d still understand the book just find, words alone.  Some had projected a win for Kadir for A Nation’s Hope but that book sank like a stone without so much as a blip or a burp.

Kadir won on the author side of things this year while Shane Evans was given a chance to win on the illustrator side with UndergroundNever Forgotten appeared on the author list and the Saint of Children’s Literature Ashley Bryan got the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.  Sadly it doesn’t look as if the John Steptoe Award for new talent was given out this year.  Bummer.  I would have liked that to have gone to Greg Neri (who was totally passed over for Ghetto Cowboy), though I see that he has four books out and the award has to be given to someone with three or less.  Darn.

The Schneider Family Book Award

This was actually the first award given on this particular day and it began with the somewhat harsh statement that NO picture books were worthy recipients this year.  Schneider burn!  Fortunately there were great middle grade and teen reads instead.  Wonderstruck, a book that did not win a shocking Caldecott or Newbery or anything, got a Schneider Award of its own.  Which, if I’d really been thinking about it, makes perfect sense.  One thing that did shock me was that Bluefish by Pat Schmatz didn’t win an award on the teen side of things.  Then I remembered that the main character doesn’t have a reading disability but rather just never learned to read in the first place.  A fine distinction that.

And then it’s pretty much teen stuff from there on in.  At one point on Twitter the hashtag #alayma was trending (which means it was included in so many tweets that it appeared on the sidebar as a hot topic).  It never quite managed to surpass #MySexPlaylist, though.  Oh!  And next year could we perhaps get someone to perform some better hold music while we wait for the live feed to come through?  The elevator music they were pumping out was a real shame.  Play the Effin G’s song Randolph Caldecott or something by Tiger Beat next year, please.  Something rocking that gets us in the mood.

Now to plan my outfit for the awards banquet in June.  I had figured that if Okay for Now won I could do a fantastic fake tattoo tribute.  Dead End in Norvelt offers its own possibilities, of course.

Finally, congrats to the winners and to the hardworking committees that put so much blood, sweat, and tears into these decisions.  They’re never predictable.  Never boring.  Always interesting.  Just the way I like ’em.

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. Once again, the Caldecott award proves it is nothing more than a lottery. If you told me that these four books were not even considered for an award yesterday, I would not have blinked an eye. They all have some nice things going on, but it seems so unfair that these books will go on to launch the illustrators careers to another level, when there are many many other illustrators who don’t even seem to get a sniff from the committee who are just as deserving.

    There is no answer, I guess they just have to wish and hope that their number gets pulled someday.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      To be fair, Chaz, last year the Caldecott went to an unknown debut illustrator. And certainly on the Newbery two newbies got Honors. I think of it less as a lottery and more as a litmus test of professional opinions. Or maybe an experiment in consensus.

  2. Jefferson’s Sons?

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Oh, and yes. Jefferson’s Sons. Would have loved to see it get something, but at least it got a lot of debate and attention early on. Still, disappointing.

  3. I share your disappointment in AMELIA LOST. Such a shame. However, as you pointed out, the reason I love these awards so much is their unpredictability. Can’t wait to get my hands on BREAKING STALIN’S NOSE, DRAWING FROM MEMORY, CAZUELA, and SOLDIER BEAR. On SOLDIER BEAR particularly as I was convinced PRESS HERE was a lock for the Batchelder.

  4. Elizabeth, I really like the “experiment in consensus” phraseology. That helps put the results in a better light.


  5. I finished Breaking Stalin’s Nose and Under the Mesquite this weekend (snow, ice, and a wicked cold gave me plenty of time for reading!), so I was very happy to see that they were recognized. Do read Under the Mesquite; it’s well worth it.

    I am very sorry that Amelia Lost did not win anything. I was quite happy that The Running Dream won the teen division in the Schneider Family award. Personally, it was a good day for local pride: Virginia author Maggie Stiefvater was a finalist for the Printz (I knew that already, though), and Printz and Morris winner John Corey Whaley is from Louisiana, my home state!

  6. So happy to hear the NYPL ordered more copies of A Ball for Daisy. I had put it on hold a while ago and the status indicated it was “on order.” Then it changed to “in library use only.” I hope some will be available for borrowing soon!

  7. Oh yes, pearls were clutched at the announcement of the Schneider picture book non-decision! Library scandal!

    The Horn Book should be pretty pleased with the Newbery results. Breaking Stalin’s Nose wasn’t even on my radar until it made their Fanfare list.

  8. On the topic of funny Newbery winners – what about A Year Down Yonder? Sure, there’s some earnestness, too, but that one had me howling at times. I would call Bud Not Buddy a funny book, too, and also Holes. I haven’t read Dead End yet so I can’t compare relative humor, but still.

  9. One book that I had never heard of till the ALA awards is Rotters by Daniel Kraus, which won the Odyssey Award for best audiobook. What a strange-sounding novel–about modern-day grave-robbing, of all things. Not sure if I’ll like it, but I have to check it out.

    And I was thrilled that Susan Cooper received the Edwards Award.

  10. A BALL FOR DAISY already has an award in that top ball on the jacket, starting with the second printing. They’ll have to put the Caldecott gold somewhere else.

  11. Alyson Whatcott says

    I agree, Holes was definitely funny. Also Maniac Magee–one of my favorite Newberys. Contests to a funny book!

  12. Glad to see the mention of the Schneider but you left out the other winners. There were 2 Middle Grade winners Close To Famous by Joan Bauer was the other in that category. The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen was the teen winner as mentioned above in the comments.

  13. I really love your posts predicting and then dissecting the ALA awards. You are my GO TO for that! Love your perspective. When are you going to start judging the Newbery anyway?!!! I’m looking forward to that!

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Thanks! I did judge back in 2006 for the 2007 Newbery. I don’t expect I’ll ever get a chance again, though, since I’m doing a bit of publishing of my own soon. But thanks for the notion!

  14. Kristi Hazelrigg says

    I’m chiming in a month late here, but I just finished Dead End in Norvelt last night. Good book. Very entertaining. NO WHERE NEAR as good as Okay for Now. Still mad about that. Just had to vent. 🙂