YA? Why Not?
So, what about YA? We talked about this quite a bit in the comments of our post about the National Book Award Longlist, which was heavily Young Adult. It’s come up in other places too, including in one of our very first posts this year, about VINCENT AND THEO. There are quite a few titles this year that are quite strong, and also lean into the Young Adult category. So, how do we consider these? For complete transparency here, I’m just going to mention that I was on the Caldecott Committee that selected THIS ONE SUMMER as an Honor Book and have written extensively about why and how that was an eligible title.
Of course each committee’s conversation around this is going to go differently and is going to depend, largely, on which particular books are nominated. We have some guidelines to go by in the manual, including:
Definition 2: A “contribution to American literature for children” shall be a book for which children are an intended potential audience. The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered.
These are things that don’t matter to me at all when thinking about whether a book should be considered for a Newbery in regards to potential age level:
- Whether or not it is eligible for a YALSA Award, like the Printz
- Whether or not it has a curse word or something else potentially offensive to some in it
- Whether or not the primary audience starts at the upper-end of our age-range (0-14) and continues outside of it
- Whether the book won’t be relatable to some people in the age range (0-14)
These things all seem clear to me, based on Definition 2 above. (My final point speaks, also, to a diverse audience and remembering that just because some 12, 13, and 14 year olds might find a book challenging to read and outside of their experiences, that doesn’t mean the book isn’t excellent, and intended for a child audience. The 12, 13, and 14 year olds for whom the book is written also count.)
These are things that do matter, to me, also based on Definition 2 and the Criteria:
- Excellence in presentation to a child audience (up to and including age 14)
- That children (up to and including age 14) are an intended audience
There are quite a few excellent titles this year that span that in-between area. That space of early YA, or even just plain old YA, but where 14-year olds are definitely an intended audience. Some of the ones I’m thinking about are AMERICAN STREET, BULL, THE HATE U GIVE, THE PEARL THIEF, VINCENT AND THEO, and maybe THE 57 BUS which I’ve just gotten my hands on (so, will keep you posted).
Of those, I would argue that any of them *could* be considered eligible based on age range, except, perhaps, AMERICAN STREET. Some are, I think, more likely to be considered seriously by the committee. VINCENT AND THEO, and THE HATE U GIVE are high on my list for that. We haven’t talked much about THE PEARL THIEF here. Is it strong enough? Is it for children? Where does it fit in with our other mysteries?
I intend to give THE HATE U GIVE a full post of its own in the near future, as I think it merits a deeper discussion. Which others?
I’d love to know which ones you think are likely contendors, from my list, or that I’ve missed, and which you think are just truly out of the range of the award. What do you consider when making that call? Are there any of the above mentioned titles that you think deserve further treatment on this blog?
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Sharon McKellar
Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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