On Monday, January 28 various sections and affiliates of the American Library Association gave out some of the biggest awards for children’s and young adult books from the previous year at the Youth Media Awards. Due to some unfortunate weather here in the Midwest, my program that was originally scheduled during the Youth Media Awards presentation was rescheduled and I got to watch live after all!
Some new awards were added this year – the American Indian Youth Literature Award (awarded only in even years so no new announcement this year); the Asian/Pacific American Literature Award, and the Sydney Taylor Book Award. When this was announced last year, I started adding these awards to my Award Winners spreadsheet so I knew they traditionally had named honor books. To my surprise, during the ceremony only winners were named and when I went to the links mentioned in the live webcast, I found the Sydney Taylor Awards had indeed named honors and notables as usual. I couldn’t locate the Asian/Pacific American Literature Award information for this year (it’s up now), but eventually found the honors via Twitter later in the day. I was disappointed to not see the honors included in the ceremony. An ALA representative has since responded to the criticism citing time constraints as the issue and noting the involvement of representatives from the affiliate organizations in the choice to only recognize the winners in the ceremony, but I still think it was the wrong decision. These awards deserve equal recognition – if they’re including honors for other awards, include the honors for these and trim time from the opening remarks or call for shorter blurbs or make the ceremony longer and adjust the conference schedule accordingly. I understand that some of these aren’t easy changes to make, but doing the right thing here is worth the effort.
Here’s a link to the press release with winners for all of the many awards named and the honors for most. My spreadsheet has been updated with this year’s information. Much gratitude goes towards the many, many committee members for each of these awards who serve without compensation and dedicate uncounted hours to reading and evaluating and discussing the books.
I’ve also added a link on the right to my spreadsheet of the 2018 Best Books lists from the six journals I track. Some year, I’ll finish that in time to help predict award chances, but this was not that year. Since I track Newbery and Printz contenders based on starred reviews, let’s see how the 2019 winners and honors fared with stars and best book lists.
Winner: Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
Starred reviews – 5: Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ
Best lists – 4: Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ
The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Starred reviews – 3: Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus
Best lists – 4: Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, PW
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
Starred reviews – 3: Kirkus, PW, SLJ
Best lists – 2: Kirkus, SLJ
Winner: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Starred reviews – 4: Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ
Best lists – 4: Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ
Damsel by Elana K. Arnold
Starred reviews – 2: Booklist, SLJ
Best lists – 1: Booklist
A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti
Starred reviews – 4: Booklist, Bulletin, Kirkus, PW
Best lists – none
I, Claudia by Mary McCoy
Starred reviews – 2: Booklist, Kirkus
Best lists – 2: Booklist, Kirkus
Some notes of interest:
- I feel like I heard a fair amount of surprise online for Merci winning, but with 5 starred reviews, 4 best lists and being named a Kirkus Prize Finalist, this shouldn’t have been that big of a shock.
- No one was surprised when The Poet X was announced – it’s been rolling through awards season picking up more and more acclaim. It was already the Teen Walter Award Winner, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Fiction Winner, the National Book Award Winner, and a Kirkus Prize Finalist. On Monday it not only picked up the Printz medal, but was also named an Odyssey Honor and the Pura Belpré Author Winner. That book is going to be covered in award stickers!
- For only the second time, the Printz committee didn’t pick a full slate of honor books (they’re allowed up to 4) and what they did pick were some under the radar titles that hadn’t been getting tons of chatter. Booklist was the only journal to give stars to all three honors, but interestingly they didn’t star The Poet X!
- As of the end of December there were 196 books with 3 starred reviews or more. Not all of those 196 were eligible for either award, but even reducing that number based on eligiblity, I would never be able to read all of those in year and keep up with other pleasure reading. So, assuming you’re choosing from those 196 books to try and predict awards, combined with buzz, chances are that you would have read the Newbery books. For the Printz though, you would only be at half of the books named. I’m in awe of the number of books committee members must read (and re-read for the final discussions!) to come to these decisions.
I haven’t read any of the 2019 Newbery and Printz books yet although The Poet X is currently on my bedside table and Merci Suárez Changes Gears will be my next audiobook listen. I have read a smattering of the books honored by other committees. The award I was most delighted with was Sadie winning the Odyssey. That audiobook was amazing and destroyed me in the best possible way. When they had named the Odyssey honors, I sat at my desk quietly chanting “Sadie, Sadie, come on, be Sadie” and actually cheered when it was announced.
So that’s a wrap on this year’s awards. Stay tuned, 2020 contender talk will be coming soon!