Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Let's call it... the Boynton

Are you a picture book reader/listener? An emerging reader? A middle-grader? A young adult? A young adult who wants to read crossover adult books? An audio-phile? A nonfiction fan? A reader interested in stories about your own or another culture or life experience?

There's an award for that.

There are so many children's and YA lit awards out there, both from ALA and from other sources, that it can seem like there's a chance for every worthy title to be honored. But what about It's a Little Book? What about Yawn? And as long as I'm wish-listing, let's ignore original countries and languages of publication and ask, what about every board book Herve Tullet has ever done? I'm not aware of any major award for board books (or, more generally, for books aimed at ages 0-2), and I think that's symptomatic of a prevalent attitude that board books aren't worth much critical attention.

Some of them aren't. Some are vehicles to sell franchise characters (not always a bad thing, but only good if the familiar characters act as a hook into a book worth reading). Some are pretty much photo albums to teach vocabulary, which is fine but not particularly memorable. Some are adaptations of existing picture books with varying degrees of success. (I maintain that It's a Little Book goes far beyond just adapting It's a Book.)

But then there are the books that take advantage of a baby or toddler's skills and interests to create something entertaining and edifying. These newest of people have hands that can grab, they have eyes that love bright colors, they have mouths that can laugh at and maybe imitate an animal sound. They love repetition, they love getting involved, and they're just beginning to understand humor and cause and effect. Give them the power to lift a flap and reveal Spot, or to laugh at the incongruity of pigs saying "la la la," and you've taught them that they're pretty smart and reading is fun.

Why isn't there an award for that?

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