Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fruit's been good for January. Newberys and blueberries, anyone?

ALA Youth Media Awards on Monday! I'll refrain from guesses at what's likely to win, and save my speculation (outside the Kidlit Drink Night pool) for how much display space we'll end up devoting to the awards in our kids' section and how fast the results will be up in an easily referenced format, since I'll be running around the store when they're announced.

But I will use this space to sing the praises of a few titles that would make me really happy if they won something.

I was delighted to see my staff pick at the time, Inside Out and Back Again, win a Newbery Honor last year, and I would love to see similar good fortune befall any of this year's picks. (A Very Special House doesn't count, since it won its Caldecott Honor long before I... well, long before I anything.) 

See You at Harry's is a tough one to pigeonhole. Is it upper middle-grade? Lower YA? With the Newbery encompassing books for ages fourteen and down and the Printz including books for ages twelve to eighteen (my inner bookseller keeps wanting to say "about" before mentioning numbers), I'd say it has a good and well-deserved shot. It has a decent shot at the Stonewall, too, as does Ask the Passengers, which I'm about to finish and which is also quite the Printz contender. It's really successful in conveying the common adolescent realization that not everything fits into simple categories, and the difficulty in getting others to understand how that truth fits into one's own identity. Warning: reading this after the sometimes-infuriating Just One Day will make you think YA literature is made of horrible mothers. But The Fault in Our Stars, another obvious and worthy contender, is a good remedy for that.

Code Name Verity, the other YA rec I made this year, blew me away most because of its sleight of hand, but wow, the characterization makes it so much more than just tricky. As I've said elsewhere, very little besides the age of the characters makes this distinctly YA. I know we have the Alex Awards for adult-to-YA crossovers, but there's plenty of fodder for an award going the other way, and both this and TFioS are deserving.

More thoughts on Newbery? The One and Only Ivan manages to create a voice for a gorilla that lets readers see what's going on beyond what he understands, without ever sounding gimmicky. Wonder may have peaked early - we've all had lots of time to analyze it, and it does have its flaws - but I still applaud it for going so much further than just telling Auggie's story. I swear it's not pro-Pennypacker bias (I do have a soft spot for Clementine) that makes me cheer for Summer of the Gypsy Moths, a kids-on-their-own story that I think is good for the same reason From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is good. And Jerry Spinelli's Jake and Lily uses just a touch of magical realism to depict late childhood more effectively, I think, than this year's Hokey Pokey. (I'm open to being talked out of that claim.)

And Caldecott? This is Not My Hat reminds me of Officer Buckle and Gloria in the degree to which it lets kids "read" the pictures and know more than the characters. Unspoken does the same for older readers (could it even be a contender for the Newbery?... Maybe not. From the Newbery criteria: "'Contribution to American literature' indicates the text of a book." ). I Have a Dream is amazing in the way Kadir Nelson's work is always amazing - the guy knows how to use light.

Obviously, I'm not on any of the committees; these are reflections on personal preferences, with the occasional allusions to previous works and other external factors. But how cool would it be if any of these won? And how cool would it be to be surprised with something totally new?

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