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?
If you need any proof that books aren't dead, just look to the children's and young adult industry, which continues to grow and dominate bestseller charts for adults and young readers alike.
To celebrate this "golden age" of children's and YA books, Time Magazine has compiled a list of all-time classics, both old and new. The children's list includes favorites such as The Giving Tree and Make Way for Ducklings, and my own personal favorite, Miss Rumphius. Check out the full list of 100 here, and vote for your favorite.
The young adult list is a little . . . let's say confusing, and we're not the only ones who feel this way. Books like Wonder—which is middle grade, not young adult—share space with A Monster Calls, and it's almost unfathomable to see Twilight and To Kill a Mockingbird on the same list. See the full 100 here.
Readers, what do you think?
The global phenomenon that is Harry Potter will never, ever end. (Insert maniacal laughter here.) A new deluxe, fully illustrated, full-color edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is coming on October 6, 2015, from Scholastic.
It will be illustrated by Kate Greenaway Medal winner Jim Kay (A Monster Calls) and will be the first fully illustrated HP book. Scholastic recently released four new images from the book. Check out Kay's Ron, Hagrid, Hermione and Draco:
Scholastic will publish Brian Selznick's next novel on September 15, 2015. In the vein of his Caldecott Medal-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret (which was adapted into Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award–winning movie Hugo, one of the only movies I've ever enjoyed watching in 3D) and Wonderstruck, The Marvels combines two seemingly unrelated stories—one told in words, the other in pictures.
A preview from the publisher:
The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle’s puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries. How the picture and word stories intersect will leave readers marveling over Selznick’s storytelling skill.
Read more here. Sounds like classic Selznick, and I couldn't be more excited! Readers, what do you think?
Of all the many authors I had the pleasure of seeing and meeting at this year's Southern Festival of Books, it was especially thrilling to take a moment with award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson to talk about her new memoir-in-verse, Brown Girl Dreaming.
This truly marvelous book reveals a childhood caught between worlds, and her poignant verse succeeds in stripping away extraneous details, allowing room for readers to make an instant emotional connection.
Throughout her session, Woodson quoted from several of her books, including a selection from Locomotion that instructed a young mind to "be quiet" and to allow memories to make themselves known. She read several of the poems from Brown Girl Dreaming, including her favorite, "Music," which begins:
Every morning the radio come on seven o'clock
Sometimes Michael Jackson is singing that A-B-C
is as easy as 1-2-3
or Sly and the Family Stone are thanking us for
Sometimes it's slower music, the Five Stairsteps
things are going to get easier, or the Hollies singing,
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
So on we go . . .
After her session, Woodson graciously agreed to chat with me about the book, her complex relationships with music and the South, and so much more. A preview:
Why did you think verse works so well for this book?
It’s how memory comes. Memories come in these small moments, with all of this white space around them, but the moments are very distinct. I feel like I have all this information, [but I'm] not sure what it’s connected to. And then the exploration of years and months and days brings the connection together. But it wouldn’t have been a straight narrative. A straight narrative would’ve been a lie. It’s not how you remember things—you remember them in small moments.
Nobody does interactive picture books like French artist Hervé Tullet. Following the success of his 2011 bestseller Press Here, Tullet has become a bit of a picture book sensation, encouraging the littlest readers to poke and shake books that seem to respond to their command. The dots from Press Here return on September 16 in Mix It Up!, but this time they've got something to show us about mixing and creating colors.
Tullet's Help! We Need a Title! came out in May of this year and took his interactive elements to a metafictional level, subtly provoking questions about what a book is. What's an author, and where do ideas come from? The scribbly, mixed-media characters in Help! seem to come straight from a child's mind, but when the book opens, they're all completely unprepared. Surely the reader expects a story . . . so what do you do when it hasn't been written yet? (Who's in charge around here, anyway?)
This fall's crop of picture books includes several more metafictional titles, encouraging fearless and unfettered creativity while challenging the relationships between readers, listeners, authors and characters.
Before snuggling down with this book, I highly recommend fixing yourself and your lap listener some PB&J sandwiches, then sit back and let the giggles begin. Everything starts out as planned in Louie's story—"Once upon a time, little Louie went skipping merrily along."—but a messy reader ruins everything. First a glob of jelly plops right in Louie's way, and then peanut butter lands on his face . . . and as the book gets dirtier and dirtier, Louie gets more and more upset with the reader/offender. Fortunately Louie and the reader come to an understanding. Perfect's boring anyway. Coming October 7.
This time, the reader is hero, not villain. The gutter of this unexpected adventure has a mind of its own, and when Bella's dog disappears between the pages, she finds herself in an escalating conundrum reminiscent of the events in Jeffers' Stuck. Soon the gutter has sucked up everyone in the book, and it's up to the reader to set them free. We're asked to shake the book—keep shaking!—until everyone reappears . . . almost as good as new. Coming September 30.
Just as you'd expect, Novak's debut picture book has absolutely zero pictures—not even an author photo on the jacket flaps. This innovative story is not really a story so much as a challenge to parents, to drop the ego and get silly. The concept works, though, as it calls into question the real balance of power in the relationship between reader and listener. When a reader has to read what is written—no matter what is written, no matter how ridiculous or how little it makes sense—things can get very, very silly. Coming September 30.
BookPage contributor Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators on her children's literature blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Her book, Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and the late Peter D. Sieruta, is out now. This lively and well-researched book sheds light on some of the common misconceptions about children's literature, shares behind-the-scenes anecdotes and thoughtfully explores the changes and realities of the industry. (Read our review.)
To celebrate her book's release, we asked Danielson (known as "Jules" to her Seven Imp fans) to select 10 of her favorite new picture book illustrators.
Next to the coffee bean, a good picture book is my favorite thing. To be asked to weigh in on my 10 favorite new illustrators is both a little bit thrilling, as well as very challenging. And that’s because I think there are a lot of talented up-and-coming illustrators in children’s literature today. I may or may not have gnashed my teeth for weeks, fine-tuning this list. (Case in point: I can’t help but cheat and zippy-quick add two bonus illustrators to my list. Just humor me. I love my picture books.) But I like how my list turned out, and if these illustrators are entirely new to you, I highly recommend you check out their work.
I don’t think this list would be worth its salt without the inclusion of Aaron Becker. His debut picture book, Journey, is a 2014 Caldecott Honor Book. This fall’s epic Quest will be a sequel, and fans will eventually be treated to a third picture book in what Becker calls the Journey trilogy.
Check out my Breakfast interview with Becker, and keep an eye out for a Meet the Illustrator interview in the September issue of BookPage.
Robinson is one of my favorite illustrators, and I’m not alone: He is the 2014 Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award winner, and Patricia Hruby Powell’s vibrant Josephine, which he illustrated, is a 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Winner. It’s also, thus far, one of my very favorite picture books of all of 2014.
Keep your eye on Ms. Wheeler. Her debut picture book, last year’s Miss Maple’s Seeds, was a tender story of friendship. And her illustrations for this year’s The Grudge Keeper, an original fable of sorts written by Mara Rockcliff, are just as inviting.
Wheeler shares some sketches here.
Campbell not only illustrated the reigning Newbery winner, Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, but he’s also received both the 2013 and 2014 Ezra Jack Keats Award New Illustrator Honor (for, respectively, Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters, which he also wrote, and Ame Dyckman’s Tea Party Rules). His illustrations for The Mermaid and the Shoe are some of the most beautiful you’ll see this year.
View some of his illustrations here.
Originally from Mexico City, Dominguez has three picture books on shelves and Knit Together coming early next year. The delightful Maria Had a Little Llama with a text in both Spanish and English is a 2014 Pura Belpré Award Illustrator Honor Book.
Angela shares some sketches here.
The Brothers Hilts
Brothers Ben and Sean managed to make the night-time palette of Karina Wolf’s The Insomniacs warm and inviting. For that, they received the Society of Illustrators’ 2012 Founders Award, an award given to new talent. I can’t wait to see what’s next on their plate.
Check out my Breakfast interview with the Brothers Hilts.
Theodore Taylor III
The recipient of the 2014 John Steptoe Award for New Talent, Taylor’s been working for years in graphic design, web design, photography and more, but it was last year’s illustrations for Laban Carrick Hill’s When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop that proved he’s also one to watch in picture book illustration.
View some of Taylor's work here.
Idle’s been illustrating books for more than a couple of years, but it’s been in just the last year that she’s gained copious recognition for her work. A 2014 Caldecott Honor (for the utterly charming Flora and the Flamingo) will do that. Flora fans will be in for a treat, come September, with Flora and the Penguin.
Check out my Breakfast interview with Idle.
Greg didn’t waste any time showing readers what he’s capable of when his debut picture book, last year’s very funny The Watermelon Seed, up and won the 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book. This year’s Number One Sam is a winner, too.
Check out my Breakfast interview with Pizzoli.
Tonatiuh’s work, more prominent in the past couple of years, has been recognized by the Tomás Rivera Mexican American children's book award, as well as multiple Pura Belpré Award committees. Last year’s Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale was awarded 2014 Pura Belpré Award Honors in the categories of both Author and Illustrator.
View some of Tonatiuh's sketches here.
BONUS (because I can’t help it)
Hop outside of the States with me for a moment, will you?
Iranian artist Hoda Hadadi illustrated last year’s Deep in the Sahara, written by Kelly Cunnane. She’s not new to illustration, but she’s new to Americans. Schwartz & Wade, who published Cunnane’s book, tells me that Hadadi has nothing else lined up for publication in the U.S.—at least not in the immediate future and not as far as they know—but I hope that changes soon. View some of Hadadi's work here.
Finally, hailing from Iceland (but currently living in Sweden) is author-illustrator Birgitta Sif. Her debut, Oliver (2012), is the picture book I’d point to that most accurately gets what it is to be an introvert. And Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance, coming at the end of August, pretty much nails shyness. And Sif executes it all with style and warmth.
Alright. I’m making myself stop now.
Readers, what new illustrators would you add to this list?
"Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?" —Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014)
If the year 2014 will be remembered for anything in the world of children's literature, it will be the groundswell of discontent over the lack of diversity and the subsequent #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. On March 15, the New York Times published an op-ed piece by author Walter Dean Myers, who asked, “Where are the people of color in children’s books?” It’s not the first time he's asked that question, as nearly 30 years earlier, Myers raised the same issue in another Times article, “I Actually Thought We Would Revolutionize the Industry" (1986).
While the market continues to reflect a disparaging lack of diversity in children's literature, there are fortunately lots of people who make it their job to write, read and share books that feature main characters of all colors, ethnicities, religious persuasions, sexual orientations and socioeconomic backgrounds. Myers will be missed dearly, not just as an author but as a champion for diversity in books. So we honor Myers—and all authors like him—with a list of a few of our favorite multicultural books so far this year:
Abuelo by Arthur Dorros and Raúl Colón
Spanish words are sprinkled throughout Dorros' sweet story of a young boy's adventures with his abuelo as they explore the Argentian countryside on horseback. When the boy's family moves to the city, these memories stay with him, and his connection to his grandfather and their heritage remains despite the distance. Colón's warm and windy illustrations are just perfect for this story. (And if you're as big a fan of Colón's work as I am, watch for his next book, Draw!, coming September 16.) Read our review.
Bird by Crystal Chan
On the day Jewel was born, her brother tried to fly off a cliff and died. Twelve years later, Grandpa has still not uttered a word, and Jewel feels stifled by her moody parents. She meets a boy who calls himself John (which was her brother's name), but Grandpa's convinced that the boy is a duppy, a type of malevolent spirit. Chan drew on her own mixed-race upbringing for this heartbreaking story, as Jewel takes pride in her Jamaican heritage but gets frustrated when people expect her to speak Spanish—even more frustrated when strangers ask what she is instead of who. Read our review.
The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods
Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author Woods (The Red Rose Box) was inspired to write Violet’s story by the circumstances of a biracial daughter of a friend who was unable to trace the African-American side of her family. From this true story comes the uplifting tale of a biracial 11-year-old girl who meets the African-American side of her family for the first time. After a rocky start, Violet and her dad's family build a relationship around personal prayer, her family’s difficult history and her own racial identity, all while dancing to old records and whipping up some delicious meals. Read our review.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
This novel-in-verse about family and basketball is full of quick wordplay, deft rhymes and allusions to classical and jazz music. Twelve-year-old Josh and his twin brother Jordan live for the game, but their home life is just as strong. Their mother is tough but fair with the boys, and their father is an ex-player whose pro dreams faded after an injury. After an irreplaceable loss, familial bonds become even more important. This book definitely has a rhythm all its own, as the verses here are more than just a device to encourage reluctant readers. It is kinetic, gripping poetry. Read our review.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
Created by Chinese American artist Chu F. Hing and first appearing in 1944 in Blazing Comics, the Green Turtle was the very first Asian-American superhero. National Book Award finalist Yang and artist Liew rescued the Green Turtle from obscurity with this funny origin tale. Nineteen-year-old Hank was just an average boy—until his mother decided he should be a hero. Now he's training in martial arts and getting in over his head with the local crime scene. Fortunately a dash of Chinese mythology gives him the chance to fulfill her dream. Read our review.
Girls Like Us by Gail Giles
Special-ed teenagers Quincy and Biddie have just graduated from high school and must enter the real world. They've been matched up as roommates (though mixed-race Quincy isn’t sure how she feels about interacting with a white landlady), and as they learn how to fend for themselves, the girls find unexpected friendship with each other as well as with their landlady. The story unfolds in dual voices that are truly unforgettable, revealing their progress and fears, as well as physical, mental and sexual trauma. It's a frank and honest story about physical and mental disabilities that never feels cliche or sensationalized. Read our review.
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
Ali lives with his mom and sister in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn. He hangs out with his best friends Noodles and Needles—who was born with Tourette's syndrome and knits to help focus his attention—on the streets and on the brownstone stoop, and of course they get themselves in a bit of trouble. Reynolds' depiction of urban life is authentic, and his characters are well developed and relatable. This debut immediately announced Reynolds as an author to watch. (I'm serious about that . . . his follow-up, The Boy in the Black Suit, is coming out next January. Watch for it.) Read our review.
Readers, share in the comments below! What should be added to this list?