Last week, the National Book Critics Circle honored six authors for their excellent books published in 2014. The committee of book critics voted on the best books of the last year, and these are the results:
Fiction: Lila by Marilynne Robinson
General Nonfiction: The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation by David Brion Davis
Autobiography: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Biography: Tennessee Williams by John Lahr
Criticism: The Essential Ellen Willis by Ellen Willis
Poetry: Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Additionally, the John Leonard Prize for excellence in first books was received by Phil Klay for his debut, Redeployment, and Toni Morrison was honored with the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award for her significant contribution to the literary world. And, because this is a critics' award after all, Alexandra Schwartz won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.
The longlist for this year's Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction has been announced. The prize (formerly known as the Orange Prize) recognizes one outstanding female author who writes in English and has been published in the U.K., and comes with a prize of £30,000. The shortlist will be announced on April 13, and the winner will be announced at an awards ceremony held at the Royal Festival Hall on June 3.
Eleven of the 20 longlisted authors have made the long or shortlist for the prize before—and a record-setting 16 of them are British. A few have yet to be published in the U.S. Who are you rooting for?
Rachel Cusk, Outline (FSG)
Lissa Evans, Crooked Heart (Harper, July)
Patricia Ferguson, Aren’t We Sisters? (no scheduled U.S. publication)
Xiaolu Guo, I Am China (Nan A. Talese)
Samantha Harvey, Dear Thief (Atavist Books)
Emma Healey, Elizabeth Is Missing (Harper)
Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (Knopf)
Grace McCleen, The Offering (no scheduled U.S. publication)
Sandra Newman, The Country of Ice Cream Star (Ecco)
Heather O’Neill, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night (FSG)
Laline Paull, The Bees (Ecco)
Marie Phillips, The Table of Less Valued Knights (no scheduled U.S. publication)
Rachel Seiffert, The Walk Home (Pantheon)
Kamila Shamsie, A God in Every Stone (Bloomsbury)
Ali Smith, How to be Both (FSG)
Sara Taylor, The Shore (Crown, June)
Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread (Knopf)
Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests (Riverhead)
Jemma Wayne, After Before (Legend Times Group, April)
PP Wong, The Life of a Banana (Legend Times Group, May)
It's one of my favorite—and most fascinating—times of year: The days and weeks following the American Library Association's announcement of the winners of the Youth Media Awards, including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards, are filled with as much joy as debate. We all have our favorite children's and YA books of the year (you can view the BookPage Best Children's and YA Books of 2014 here). Sometimes your favorites don't get the recognition you hoped for, and sometimes they do. And sometimes it seems like the award committee likes to test our understanding of the awards just because they can.
But putting all that aside, we love catching up with the winners of these awards, so we spoke with Caldecott winner Dan Santat, Newbery winner Kwame Alexander and Printz winner Jandy Nelson about what it's like to be recognized as the best in children's and young adult literature.
"It was a dream come true. A dream I never thought I would ever achieve."
"Am I delirious? Dreaming? Did he just really say 'Medal'? And then, like the clouds shifting to reveal the golden sun, my life changed, a new normal ablaze."
"I love being inside the minds/hearts of my teen narrators, love the urgency of the teen experience, that period of time when everything is so new, so dramatic, so emotional, so confusing, so funny, so raw, so honest, so everything."
It's February, and everyone has their favorite literary couples: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Sometimes the best duos are the ones you'd never think had anything in common . . . like, who would've thought that Ron and Hermione would stop fighting long enough to fall in love?
Oh, it's just so difficult when everyone loves you. Where will the two medals go, anyway? Here's an attempt to pile them on via Mariko Tamaki's website.
With the recent announcement that This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki had won both a Printz Honor and a Caldecott Honor—the first graphic novel to win the latter—these two supposedly irreconcilable seals now sit side by side on the book's cover. The young adult (YA) world is buzzing with debate over this pairing, but I'd like to suggest that it's a terrific chance to challenge assumptions about these awards, and to think about what happens when they come together. Here are three ideas worth considering.
The Caldecott has pushed boundaries before.
The Caldecott medal is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children, with Honor books considered to be similarly distinguished runners-up.
Most Caldecott winners and Honor books have looked like picture books—they've been 32 pages or so, and generally taller than they are long—and many are appropriate for preschool audiences. But in 2008, the Caldecott medal went to The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, a book most likely to be enjoyed by late elementary school and early middle-school readers. Clocking in at a hefty 534 pages (and longer and almost wider than it is tall), Hugo Cabret was an unusual choice. And yet its detailed black and white drawings, and its mix of verbal and pictorial storytelling, could certainly be argued to be distinguished.
The two medals' criteria overlap in interesting ways.
In December, I'd predicted that This One Summer would walk away with the Printz award as the best book written for teens this year, based entirely on literary merit. Although "literary" seems at first to refer only to words, books that include both words and pictures have been recognized in the past. Consider American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, the medal winner in 2007.
Similarly, while the Caldecott's "for children" designation seems at first to exclude teens, a deeper dig through its terms and criteria reveals that "children" is actually defined as "persons of ages up to and including fourteen" (possibly a holdover from before the Printz and other YA awards were established, or before YA lit as it's currently understood existed at all). While the Caldecott is usually thought of as a children's illustration-based award and the Printz as a YA word-based one, there's no definitional reason why an illustrated book aimed at 12- to 14-year-olds can't qualify for—and win—medals in both categories.
This One Summer is all about in-between-ness and liminality.
And if any book was the one to show how this overlap might work, it's Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki's monochromatic, intensely reflective graphic novel. As discussed on this blog series all the way back in November, narrator Rose's age is never actually specified. We know that her younger friend Windy is still very much a child and her aspirational "like eighteen"-year-old crush is too old for her, making Rose probably around 12.
But by writing (and drawing) Rose as an in-between character, the Tamaki cousins actively invite readers to think about liminality, or what it means to be part one thing and part another. Suspended between childhood and young adulthood, Rose is the perfect protagonist of a book that's the first ever to be recognized by both the Caldecott and the Printz committees.
Sure, there've already been calls to redefine the Caldecott criteria to include only books aimed at children 12 and under—and already questions of whether collections that're determined to buy every Caldecott book will wind up with a title that doesn't quite belong. But I think the dual recognition of This One Summer is great for the book, great for children's and YA lit, great for graphic novels and great for ongoing discussions about what these awards are . . . or should be. Like Ron and Hermione, these two opposites might have more in common than they first appear.
What do you think of This One Summer's dual win? Do you think young-leaning YA graphic novels should be eligible for the Caldecott? Tell us in the comments!
Locker Combinations is a Book Case feature by BookPage contributor and young adult (YA) literature expert Jill Ratzan. Using a variety of literary, cultural and educational perspectives, Jill guest blogs about the latest in YA lit and the general direction, trends and changes of the field. Read more BookPage reviews, interviews and posts by Jill here.
Today the American Library Association (ALA) announced the top books for children and young adults, including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards, with several of the BookPage Best Children's and YA Books of 2014 receiving well-earned nods.
Standouts include Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, which was our favorite to win the Newbery Medal but picked up a Newbery Honor, a Sibert Honor and the Coretta Scott King Author Book Award. The Right Word by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet also received recognition as the Sibert Award winner as well as a Caldecott Honor. This One Summer's Printz Honor came as no surprise, but we were tickled to discover that it also garnered a Caldecott Honor. And congratulations to Sharon Draper, who won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults!
Read on for all the winners:
NEWBERY: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (HMH)
Newbery Honor Books:
CALDECOTT: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat (Little, Brown)
Caldecott Honor Books:
CORETTA SCOTT KING AUTHOR BOOK AWARD: Jacqueline Woodson for Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen)
King Author Honor Books:
CORETTA SCOTT KING ILLUSTRATOR BOOK AWARD: Christopher Myers for Firebird, written by Misty Copeland (Putnam)
King Illustrator Honor Books:
CORETTA SCOTT KING/JOHN STEPTOE NEW TALENT AUTHOR AWARD: When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum)
PRINTZ: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Dial)
Printz Honor Books:
SIBERT AWARD for most distinguished informational book for children: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet (Eerdmans)
Sibert Honor Books:
THEODOR SEUSS GEISEL AWARD for distinguished beginning reader book: You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant (Two Lions)
Geisel Honor Books:
MORRIS AWARD for first-time YA author: Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero (Cinco Puntos)
Click here to view all the winners, including the Alex Awards (the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences), the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the Stonewall Book Award (books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience), the Pura Belpre Awards for Latino authors and illustrators and more.
Did your favorite children's or YA book pick up an award this year?
The National Book Critics Circle has chosen the finalists for their annual awards, which will be announced on March 12 in New York City (if you're local, you can watch for yourself—the ceremony is open to the public). Check out the fiction and nonfiction finalists below, and visit their site for the full list.
Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
Marilynne Robinson, Lila
Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman
Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
Phil Klay, Redeployment
Roz Chast, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
Edward O. Wilson, The Meaning of Human Existence
Anand Gopal, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes
Evan Osnos, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China
John Lahr, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh
Maureen N. McLane, This Blue
Louise Glück, Faithful and Virtuous Night
Fanny Howe, Second Childhood
Fred Moten, The Feel Trio
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric
Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming
John Corey Whaley, Noggin
Deborah Wiles, Revolution
Eliot Schrefer, Threatened
Today the final National Book Award category longlist was announced. For the authors involved, that means it's time for nervous hand-wringing to commence. For readers, well, it's time to dig into those lists and start reading, dissecting the judges' motives and/or rooting for your favorite . . . which is exactly what we're doing at BookPage! Read on for the behind-the-scenes action.
I’m pulling for young, experimental poet Maureen N. McLane—third er, collection’s the charm, right? The New York University English professor blends lush natural imagery with pointed, contemporary syntax in This Blue. At once playful and profoundly sobering, these poems examine mankind’s history and our tendency to exploit and abuse the beauty of our earth. Now is the perfect time to dive in if you missed this fantastic collection during National Poetry Month.
—Hilli Levin, Editorial Assistant
Looking at the NBA’s nonfiction longlist reminds me of the old “Sesame Street” song: One of these things is not like the others. Roz Chast’s hilarious and moving graphic memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, stands out from a crowd of traditional narrative history and biography. Could Chast emerge as the winner? It seems highly unlikely, but I’m thrilled to see her deeply personal look at the perils of aging among this year’s contenders.
—Lynn Green, Editor
One farm. One family. One hundred years. Jane Smiley is taking on a seriously ambitious literary project with her Last Hundred Years trilogy, so it doesn’t surprise me a bit that the first novel, Some Luck, grabbed a spot on the NBA longlist this year. This installment takes us through the life of the Langdons from 1920 to 1953, and if the next two books are anywhere near as marvelously executed, then don’t be surprised if the critical praise and award nominations continue to flow her way.
—Hilli Levin, Editorial Assistant
It might feel shocking to see John Darnielle, a man most famous for being the lead singer of The Mountain Goats, on the NBA longlist for his first novel, Wolf in White Van. But when you consider the fact that his lyrics might as well be poetry or short stories, it's really not that surprising. Blame it on my love of the underdog, but I'm hoping for a win for this musician-turned-novelist.
I'm also rooting for Molly Antopol and her quietly beautiful collection of short stories, The UnAmericans, because, well, wow. She's under 35 and this is her debut work of fiction. I'm under 35 and I just googled "how to handwash stuff" so I find this immensely impressive.
—Lily McLemore, Assistant Editor
As the fiction editor at BookPage, I'm starting to have a visceral reaction to the descriptor "post-apocalyptic fiction." But Canadian author Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven brings a breath of fresh air to the genre with her fourth novel, a beautiful and deeply felt story that uses its dystopian setting to explore our very human need for shared culture, art and stories. Here's hoping this original and insightful work moves on to the shortlist.
—Trisha Ping, Managing Editor
It’s no surprise to see Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir-in-verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, on this list, and you’ll likely see it on several more award lists before the end of the year. Her accessible and poignant story shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and ’70s in a country “caught / between Black and White” and how writing helped her find her voice.
Also, is there any living writer who better captures the hilarity, messiness (sexual, social and emotional) and adventure of being a teenage boy than Andrew Smith? Not likely. Although I thought Grasshopper Jungle was the better of his two books that came out this year, 100 Sideways Miles is another winner—and it’s about time Smith was publicly and widely recognized for his talent.
—Cat Acree, Associate Editor
This morning, the PEN/American Center released the shortlist for their annual awards, which are some of the most lucrative (and therefore most coveted!) in the United States. The 18 awards cover categories from debut fiction to science writing to essays, and this year the various judging panels included the likes of Cheryl Strayed, Jonathan Dee, Terry McMillan, Ariel Levy, E.L. Doctorow and Zadie Smith.
Here are the shortlists for some of the bigger prizes; for the full list of finalists visit PEN's site. Which books are you rooting for?
PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize ($25,000 to the author of a debut work of fiction)
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Brief Encounters With the Enemy by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh
Everybody’s Irish by Ian Stansel
Godforsaken Idaho by Shawn Vestal
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000 award)
PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5000 award)
Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson
Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore by Linda Leavell
Margaret Fuller by Megan Marshall
American Mirror by Deborah Solomon
A Life of Barbara Stanwyck (Volume 1) by Victoria Wilson.
Yesterday the winner of the 2014
Orange Bailey's Prize for Women's Fiction was announced, and it was a bit of a dark horse: debut author Eimear McBride's modernist masterpiece, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing.
The Irish author, who is 38, snagged the prize despite a highly competitive shortlist that included Jhumpa Lahiri, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Donna Tartt, as well as the acclaimed debut Burial Rites.
Published in the Commonwealth last year, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing is a challenging stream-of-consciouness narrative, told from the perspective of a young girl, that proved a tough sell: McBride spent most of a decade shopping it around before finding a home with Norwich's Galley Beggar Press. But its vital, visceral voice—one UK reviewer called the book "an instant classic"—proved impossible for the judges to ignore.
In her announcement, judge chair Helen Fraser called the book, “An amazing and ambitious first novel that impressed the judges with its inventiveness and energy. This is an extraordinary new voice—this novel will move and astonish the reader.”
A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing will be published in the U.S. in September by Coffee House Press. Will you read it?