Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ALA Youth Media Awards 2012

ALA Midwinter in Dallas was a wonderful long weekend celebrating the core of what being a librarian is all about - books, books, books and more books!

Here are my thoughts and reflections on this year's big award winners.

The Newbery Award went to Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, with Newbery Honors going to Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai and Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin.

Once again, I failed to call it - I'd heard so much buzz about Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, I assumed that it would win. And I must shamefacedly admit, that I haven't read Dead End in Norvelt, either! I did read Inside Out & Back Again, and felt in my heart that it was a Newbery contender. Hurrah! I'm so happy to see it honored. I've never even heard of Breaking Stalin's Nose.

Even though I haven't read Dead End in Norvelt, I can tell it's the "right sort" of book. Heartrending stories about kids in tough situations are to the Newbery Committee what heroic, drawn-out movie death scenes are to the Oscar Committee, right? I feel like there's a balance between winning books with a girl protagonist vs. a boy protagonist and we were "about due" for a "boy book" so I wasn't surprised to hear it had won.

This quote concerns me: "Who knew obituaries and old lady death could be this funny and this tender?” said Newbery Medal Committee Chair Viki Ash." Wow - that sentence does not have me rushing out to read this book. That sounds like a downer, quite frankly. But, I have read Hole in My Life, Gantos' autobiography for kids, which I found riveting. It's a cautionary tale about how he got caught up in drug trafficking, got caught and how serving time in prison gave him a big wake-up call and a second-chance just when he needed it. He wisely left out a lot of details about the political scene in the '60's, making it a much more accessible book for teens today. Knowing that Dead End in Norvelt is also a highly autobiographical work leaves me more interested. Shockingly, my library's reserve lists have not filled up on this title. Are people just slow to hear about the Newbery this year? Or is this book failing to draw them in?

The Printz award went to Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. I hadn't even heard of this one. I hadn't heard of two of the Honor books in this category either: The Returning by Christine Hinwood and the somewhat critically reviewed Australian import, Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. I had heard good things about the other two Printz Honor books: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman and Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka is the Caldecott winner this year. I vaguely remember seeing it around, but I hadn't expected it to win big. Honors were given to Blackout by John Rocco, Grandpa Green by Lane Smith and Me... Jane by Patrick McDonnell. I've been a fan of John Rocco for years. I met him at a book talk he gave right after he wrote his first book, Wolf, Wolf! and have been rooting for him to win since then. Hoorah! I'm so happy he got the honor for this one. I think any book that celebrates less computer time and more face-to-face interactions is sure to hit a sentimental note for a lot of older readers who don't see their digital and their "real" lives as seamlessly interwoven as the younger generation does. Grandpa Green and Me... Jane are two picture books that I've been dying to get at my library, but as our budgets have dwindled, sadly, picture books are some of the "easiest" to cut, since not having them doesn't provoke as much outcry as not having ample copies of adult New York Times bestsellers titles, for example. Now that they've both won Honors, hopefully, I'll find it easier to lobby for their purchase!


  1. I have been meaning to read Hole in My Life forever...maybe after I get caught up on my award reading.

    So, so sad there is no outrage over dwindling picture books - here's hoping you can get these!

  2. Hi Madigan, I chanced upon your website through the Comment Challenge hosted by Mother Reader and Lee Wind. Great thoughts about the recently-announced award-winning-books. I also noted that apparently the Newbery winners have been declined yet again for feature in morning shows. That could likewise be the reason why people are 'slow to hear' about the Newbery wins. Like you, I haven't read most of the titles yet, but I've read (and reviewed) Inside Out and Back Again for our novels-in-verse theme December of last year. :)

  3. Great review. Thanks for getting me up to speed!

  4. @Amy - I know, right? There's demand for known franchises: Fancy Nancy, Pinkalicious, Thomas the Tank Engine. But, not enough folks are seeking out those really beautifully done, unique, intelligent, picture books each year.

    @Myra - You are so right. On one hand, my feelings on The Today Show outrage are: these awards pre-date the Today Show by a very long time. And these awards will still be around long, long, long after The Today Show has gone off the air. On the other hand, a little press coverage would be nice!

  5. That's horrible that picture books are the easiest to cut. I mean, I understand why, but it's not like a 5 year old can go out and get a second job to pay for their book addiction, right?

    I was happy Grandpa Green had an honour. It's a lovely story. So many others to check out too.

  6. I read Betsy's Bird post on the awards and she definitively declared "Dead End" to be a super funny book. I don't think I ever would have picked it up, had it not won the Newbery... but now my curiosity is piqued!



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