Tis’ the season of awards: The Golden Globes, the Oscars, the Emmy’s, The Grammy’s, etc. More important than them all, of course, are the ALA Youth Media Awards. There is a long list of distinguished prizes; I can only speak to the few I know well (and, in my wildest fantasies, pretend I’ve won).
The 2014 Newbery Medal winner went to “Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures,” written by Kate DiCamillo. I didn’t think DiCamillo could outdo “The Magician’s Elephant,” but then she did it. I have a weakness for philosophical rodents, and the titular squirrel Ulysses comes into existential fullness after a scrape with a vacuum cleaner. His poetry, aptly typed on Flora’s mother’s typewriter, could send a clear message to a certain overexposed mouse my children force me to endure on the Disney channel. Ulysses and Mickey could easily form a media empire, though I imagine they would soon part over creative differences. Readers of this book might just feel their cynicism melt away for a bit, and like Flora, be “born anew.”
The Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children went to “Locomotive,” illustrated by Brian Floca. Is this my son’s favorite book? Yes. Is it beautiful? Yes. Will train boys and girls geek out over it? Definitely. Did it have one of the most extensive marketing campaigns at all of the National Council of Teachers of English Conference? My posters and stickers argue in the affirmative. In spite all of this, was I rooting for Mr. Wuffles, written and illustrated by David Wiesner? Yes; yes I was. I like trains well enough, don’t get me wrong. My little guy is a fanatic. But Mr. Wuffles is just so darn plucky. Read Locomotive, but then give honor book Mr. Wuffles a try, too. Finally, the 2014 winner of the Printz Award is “Midwinterblood,” by Marcus Sedgwick. I loved this book; if you didn’t love this book, you and I might not get along. Each of the seven stories that make their way backwards through time could be their own novel . . . but they aren’t. The economy of words and the tight storytelling in this book is radiant. I admit I didn’t read it until after I heard that it had won—my heart solely belonged to honor book Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell before. But after reading Sedgwick’s mysterious and lovely novel, I bumped Eleanor & Park to second place. Though, to be fair, I sometimes argue this out in my head even now.
I’m a one-woman book award committee. As long as I don’t start arguing for books to win out loud to myself at the bus stop (which happened only once, I tell you, when I was listening to a podcast and started arguing with it), it’s a great intellectual enterprise.
To see all of the award winners and to bask in all of the praise-worthy prose, go here.
Also, on February 13, 2014, there will be panel discussion sponsored by Children’s Books Boston. The public is welcome to join moderator Roger Sutton and panelists Martha Parravano, Julie Roach and Vicky Smith for a discussion of “Why Did THAT Book Win?” The program begins at 6:00 PM in the Kotzen Room at Simmons College, Boston; admission is free but registration is required as space is very limited. Write to CBB @ hbookdotcom if you would like to attend.