Affection for a Book
Congratulations to all the hard-working committees! Some scattered thoughts on the awards . . .
ALEX AWARDS: The audience seemed to respond most enthusiastically to ROOM by Emma Donoghue. I haven’t read it yet, but have heard raves. The name may ring a bell as Donoghue has contributed to some short story anthologies, namely LOVE & SEX and NECESSARY NOISE both edited by Michael Cart.
SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARDS: I think most of us expected to see either OUT OF MY MIND or MOCKINGBIRD as the middle grade book. Which is not to say that AFTER EVER AFTER is necessarily a disappointing choice, just a slightly unexpected one. And there were two YA books with deaf characters this year: FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB and THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN.
STONEWALL BOOK AWARD: I thought WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON was almost a foregone conclusion here. Oops. ALMOST PERFECT made 2010 BBYA (meaning it was published in 2009). I’m not sure if this new award is on a two year cycle or if they just wanted the inaugural crop drawn from a larger pool of books.
CORETTA SCOTT KING AWARDS: All the usual suspects are here, but FINDING FAMILY is the odd book out.
ODYSSEY AWARD: I haven’t listened to any of these, but this is such an interesting award because it runs the gamut from audiobooks for very young children to older teens, from books published in previous years and those published just recently.
EDWARDS AWARD: This committee is arguably my favorite of the entire roster. I love you guys! I’m going onto this committee, but I’m a year too late. I’d made a mental list of 2012 Edwards possibilities and Pratchett was very high on my list. I wasn’t sure he’d travel here to accept the award, so I’m stoked to see him honored.
MORRIS AWARD: Carol asked about the lack of buzz for this one, and since I hadn’t read any of the finalists, I’ll only hazard a guess. I don’t know if these were all eligible, but . . . no BEFORE I FALL, no THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, and no STOLEN. I’m not saying these are better than the shortlisted titles, but they did have buzz.
YALSA NONFICTION AWARD: I was expecting KKK to win, but JANIS was my second choice. The book design is more inviting and it might be a more popular book with young adults. Maybe? Maybe not? Two of my nonfiction favorites–SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD and THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD–were published too late for this year’s shortlist. They could both make the 2012 shortlist.
PRINTZ AWARD: I have mixed feelings about this one. This year offered . . . an interesting crop of books . . . and I worried that this committee would embarrass itself by entirely eschewing the fantasy and nonfiction and going for off-the-wall realistic fiction choices. SHIP BREAKER is the first science fiction/fantasy book to win the Printz, so that’s refreshing. It didn’t do much for me on a personal level, but beggars can’t be choosers. Now they did pick four realistic novels, but all got solid reviews. Not my cup of tea (I would’ve liked to see more fantasy/science fiction recognized), but each of those choices is defensible. But the nonfiction: KKK, WWI, BARBIE, BENEDICT, and SUGAR? Was it too much to ask for one of these titles to be an honor book? One?
BELPRE AWARDS: Yay for THE DREAMER!
ARBUTHNOT LECTURE: Yay for Peter Sis!
BATCHELDER AWARD: A TIME OF MIRACLES got several great reviews late in the year. If THE CHICKEN THIEF had had any kind of a written narrative, I think we would have seen it here, too.
SIBERT MEDAL: I love all of these choices, even LAFAYETTE which I reviewed for Horn Book. But they’re awfully short and very young–all of them. Compare the average length of the Newbery and Sibert books. I know not every committee is going to feel comfortable with “young adult” nonfiction like KKK, WWI, BARBIE, and SUGAR, but what about THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD?
WILDER AWARD: Another great choice! And it leaves Susan Cooper on the table for if I ever serve on this committee.
CARNEGIE MEDAL: You know this award really needs one of those clauses where the committee can elect not to give the award if nothing is deemed sufficiently meritorious.
GEISEL AWARD: Great choices! You might take this wonderful committee for granted, but consider this: It only took them three books to recognize the most distinguished easy readers. Conversely, the Cybils needed five books, but they only got one of them right.
CALDECOTT MEDAL: I like the Medal, but haven’t seen the Honors. I’m partial to DARK EMPEROR and CITY DOG, but I’m withholding judgment until I see this other pair. I do like Collier and Stein, however, so I can’t imagine I wouldn’t like them.
NEWBERY MEDAL: First of all, I still feel warm and fuzzy about DARK EMPEROR. Since 2002, every single committee (with the exception of 2003 and 2007) has recognized either nonfiction or poetry (2002: CARVER, 2004: AN AMERICAN PLAGUE, 2005: THE VOICE THAT CHALLENGED A NATION, 2006: HITLER YOUTH, 2008: GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES!, 2009: THE SURRENDER TREE, 2010: CLAUDETTE COLVIN, 2011: DARK EMPEROR). I do miss the nonfiction, but since most of the best stuff was published for ages 12 and up, I was pessimistic about its chances to begin with. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the generally warm reception that SUGAR, KKK, and KAKAPO RESCUE have gotten here on the blog.
Nina and I both read the first several chapters of MOON OVER MANIFEST because it had three starred reviews and good recommendations from friends in high places, but we were both scrambling to look at many different books for the final spots on the mock Newbery shortlist. We obviously didn’t give it enough of a chance. Nevertheless, it did appear in the comments from time to time. Both Samuel and Dean put it in their Top Seven and Carri highly recommended it even earlier than that. In fact, everybody who had finished it spoke highly of it, so when I wrote about Too Many Books, Too Little Time, I initially wanted to include covers for all of the books, but that wasn’t feasible so I just included the two that I felt had (a) the best shot at Newbery recognition, but (b) had not gotten their just due on the blog. Those two books? HEART OF A SAMURAI and MOON OVER MANIFEST? I was just never quite certain that OCS, FORGE, COUNTDOWN, DREAMER, and KEEPER were actually more distinguished–or if they just had more popular and established authors. Anyway, I’m third in line at my public library so it will be awhile before I get to read it.
And, finally, for all those who are feeling slightly down because your favorite book didn’t get picked, take heart in the wise words of E.L. Konigsburg: “Affection for a book is its best award, and books that earn that award arrive from the hearts and minds of writers, not juries.”
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About Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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