Among we library-geek types, the annual American Library Association announcement of the best kids' and teen books of the year is a big deal. Like bigger than the Superbowl. And way bigger than the Oscars. Of course, librarians form the committees that give the award, so we're generally a bit biased about their qualifications to choose the winners and runners-up.
The awards were announced Monday morning, and it was a banner year for diverse books, which were awarded major accolades in broad categories. It was also a remarkable year for graphic novels, which showed up in both of the two major award categories! Finally, poetry (including novels told in verse) made a huge showing. This is all very exciting because it means the awards are moving with the times, which makes them relevant and a great place to find awesome reads.
I'm always interested to see if the books I loved match the winners. It's an ego thing, of course. Let's take a look!
The John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature in 2014 goes to:
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
I am so, so VERY EXCITED about this book being named the Newbery Medalist for 2015! Why? Because it's a book that kids actually like! It's written in some slamming fast verse, it's about basketball, and hip-hop, and family, and boys and girls ages 9 to 12 LOVE it! It's the perfect book for kids who love the read and the perfect books for kids who'd rather do ANYTHING OTHER THAN read! Here's the publisher's blurb:
"With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering," announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander (He Said, She Said 2013).
Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story's heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.
Here are the two runners-up, which received Newbery Honor awards:
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
El Deafo by CeCe Bell
I blogged about both of these AMAZING, WONDERFUL, DIVERSE contributions to children's literature here. Brown Girl Dreaming won so many awards Monday morning (not to mention its National Book Award a few months ago), that you may not be able to see the cover for all the medals that will soon be attached to it! It's written in verse, just like The Crossover. And El Deafo is the first graphic novel (comic) to be recognized in the Newbery category, which is awesome! Both of these are appropriate for kids roughly ages nine to 12.
Moving on to my personal favorite award, the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children: The mold was broken this year with a rare selection of SIX honor books (runners-up), one of which is a graphic novel for teens! This means that graphic art (or comics) is being taken seriously as an illustrative art form in children's literature. I say, about time.
The winner is:
The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
This is another major award winner that is a huge hit with kids. My fourth grade daughter really loved it. Here's why the committee awarded Beekle this prestigious recognition:
In four delightful “visual chapters,” Beekle, an imaginary friend, undergoes an emotional journey looking for his human. Santat uses fine details, kaleidoscopic saturated colors, and exquisite curved and angular lines to masterfully convey the emotional essence of this special childhood relationship.
“Santat makes the unimaginable, imaginable,” said Caldecott Medal Committee Chair Junko Yokota.
My next favorite award is the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, which is the awarded to the finest non-fiction published in a calendar year. I LOVE LOVE LOVE children's non-fiction, which seems to get better and better in terms of availability and quality each year. This year's Sibert Medal goes to:
I wrote about the last two pictured above, here. You can learn more about The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia and Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, here.
The Theodore Seuss Geisel Award, named for Dr. Seuss, is another medal I pay close attention to, because it's a wonderful place to find books you might not have otherwise heard about. It's given for the best beginning reader published in a calendar year. The winner for 2014 is:
You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant, which I wrote about here. It's a wonderfully funny book all about perspective, which kids ages two to six will enjoy. My son, who is five, had me read it many, many times to him.
The runners-up are:
Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page by Cynthia Rylant and Arthur Howard
Waiting Is Not Easy! by Mo Willems.
Both of these easy reader series are among my favorites!
Finally, if you have a teen or you are one of those adults who read crossover teen lit (there are about a million!), you will want to know which books won recognition as great literature for young adults. The complete list is available here. This one won the most prestigious of the teen awards, the Michael Printz Medal for the most outstanding contribution to young adult literature:
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
The Carnival of Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
You can learn why each of these titles was chosen for a Printz Honor medal, here.
Later this week I'll write about awards for African-American, Latino, international, and Jewish picture books, as well as those that promote diverse peoples and families! Stay tuned and happy reading.
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