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Thoughts on ALA

Yesterday morning, the American Library Association announced its annual slate of children’s book awards, including the Newbery and Caldecott Medals. Congratulations to all the winners, especially Jewell Parker Rhodes and A.S. King (who just happen to be DGLM clients). Go team!

It’s always interesting to look at the slate of winners and see if there are any lessons to be drawn for the future. Hence, some thoughts, although with a major caveat—I, er, haven’t read any of them yet…

  • CALDECOTT:  A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin E. Stead, written by Philip C. Stead. Though it had been discussed on-line as a contender, it’s still rare for a debut to win the medal. That said, I can see why it won: The art has a great blend of classic line and child-friendly simplicity, much like Caldecott favorite Marla Frazee. But I’m particularly struck the story and how it features an adult main character, which is one of the big no-nos in picture book writing. Kudos to the Steads for pulling it off—I’d love to see more writers break the rules like this!
  • NEWBERY: Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. Also discussed on-line as a contender, also a debut, though that’s less unusual for Newbery. Like Amos McGee, it seems a bit retro—historical fiction often comes across as old-fashioned these days. Granted, Newbery has a long history of loving historical fiction, but it’s telling that in a year when ebooks and apps were the talk of the town, the librarians chose to look back to the past. So I’ll be curious now to see if Moon starts to take off in the trade, or if it’s regarded as hopelessly institutional—that’s a question prospective MG writers should consider, too,  especially as the gap between trade and institutional seem to be widening further.
  • PRINTZ: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. Really eager to read this one! I have to say, Newbery could take a nod from Printz when it comes to balancing high-interest subject matter and art (i.e., trade and institutional). Year after year, they seem to pick winners and honor books that run the gamut of YA genres and subject matter. I will say, though, that this year’s list seems pretty dark, especially compared to last year’s winners. A reflection on 2010 in general? It’ll be interesting to see if things brighten up for YA in 2011.
  • CORETTA SCOTT KING: I’ll probably catch hell for saying this, but could we please get some new names in here? Not that winners Rita Williams-Garcia and Bryan Collier aren’t deserving, but you look at the winners and honors over the last ten years, and it’s the same players over and over again. Can’t we expand the club a bit?

So, dear readers, what did you think about the awards? Pleased? Surprised? Outraged? I’d love to know. And finally, a BIG congratulations to Wilder Award winner Tomie dePaola. Hooray for Tomie!!!

2 Responses to Thoughts on ALA

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Thoughts on ALA | Dystel & Goderich Literary Management -- Topsy.com

  2. LEllsworth says:

    Why do you think the gap between trade and institutional is widening so much? It seems that most school libraries purchase books that are popular with kids because they know they’ll be checked out. They do balance that with well-written historical fiction and non fiction.

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