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!