Category Archives: Best Books

2019 ALA Youth Media Award Results

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.

Newbery Award:

Merci Suárez Changes Gears book cover

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

Honors:
book of boy book coverThe Night Diary book cover
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

Printz Award

the poet x book cover

Winner: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Starred reviews – 4: Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ
Best lists – 4: Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ

Honors:
Damsel book covera heart in a body in the world book coverI, Claudia book cover

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!

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Awards and Best Books and Stars, Oh My!

On Monday, January 23 various sections 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. I look forward to the Youth Media Awards every year – not much can get me out of bed that early in the morning, but the excitement just can’t be beat!

Part of why I started tracking starred reviews and best books was to try to read likely contenders, so let’s see how this year’s winners and honors stack up!

Newbery Award:

girlwhodrankthemoon

Winner: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Starred reviews – 5: Booklist, Bulletin, Kirkus, PW, SLJ
Best lists – 5: Booklist, Bulletin, Kirkus, PW, SLJ

Honors:
freedom_over_meinquisitorstalewolfhollow
Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan
Starred reviews – 5: Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ
Best lists – 3: Horn Book, Kirkus, SLJ

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly
Starred reviews – 5: Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ
Best lists – 5: Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Starred reviews – 5: Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ
Best lists – 3: Booklist, Kirkus, SLJ

Printz Award

march_book_three
Winner: March, Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; Illustrated by Nate Powell
Starred reviews – 5: Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ
Best lists – 5: Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ

Honors:
asking_for_itpassionofdolssascythesun_is_also_a_star

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill
Starred reviews – 1: SLJ
Best lists – 1: SLJ

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
Starred reviews – 5: Booklist, Bulletin, Horn Book, PW, SLJ
Best lists – 4: Booklist, Horn Book, PW, SLJ

Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Starred reviews – 5: Booklist, Bulletin, Kirkus, PW, SLJ
Best lists – 3: Kirkus, PW, SLJ

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Starred reviews – 5: Booklist, Bulletin, Horn Book, Kirkus, PW
Best lists – 5: Booklist, Bulletin, Horn Book, Kirkus, PW

Caldecott Award

radiant_child
Winner: Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe
Starred reviews – 4: Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ
Best lists – 4: Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ

Honors:
leave_me_alonefreedomincongosquaredu_iz_takthey_all_saw_a_cat
Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol
Starred reviews – 2: PW, SLJ
Best lists – 2: Horn Book, PW

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Starred reviews – 4: Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, SLJ
Best lists – 4: Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, SLJ

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
Starred reviews – 5: Booklist, Bulletin, Horn Book, Kirkus, PW
Best lists – 4: Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, PW

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
Starred reviews – 3: Booklist, PW, SLJ
Best lists – 2: Booklist, SLJ

Some notes of interest:

  • Many of the titles with 5 starred reviews were honored this year, but none of the titles with 6 starred reviews were!
  • As usual, when there were 5 starred reviews, the Bulletin was the journal most likely to have abstained. In the case of March, Book Three I’m pretty sure they never even reviewed it although I would have to double check to be sure. This was a little more spread around than sometimes though – Kirkus didn’t star The Passion of Dolssa; SLJ didn’t star The Sun Is Also a Star or Du Iz Tak?; and Horn Book didn’t star Scythe or The Girl Who Drank the Moon.
  • Typically the starred reviews are the widest net of excellence, narrowed down into best books and then the awards only honor a handful of titles. However, Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol did not receive a starred review from Horn Book, but did make their Fanfare (best of the year) List.
  • Asking for It (1 star and list) and Leave Me Alone (2 stars and lists) are our annual reminder that starred reviews and best lists are far from perfect predictors and that the committee members read far more widely than most of us are able to do!

I read fewer books in 2016 than I have in quite awhile, but still managed to have read several of these before the awards. Trying to read up for the Mock Printz I participated in meant I read The Passion of Dolssa, Scythe and The Sun Is Also a Star; we picked The Passion of Dolssa as an honor book, but I thought all three were excellent. I listened to Wolf Hollow crying my eyes out at times and just finished the lovely The Girl Who Drank the Moon which I was halfway through at the time of the announcements. I haven’t really looked at any of the Caldecotts yet which is maybe not surprising since 11/12 of 2016 I was focused on teens!

Had you read any of these ahead of time? Which ones did you love? What books will you now be championing to readers yourself since they didn’t get awards?

I also encourage you to check out the many other awards that were announced at the Youth Media Awards – there are many other wonderful awards that focus on diverse titles or other formats that are well worth your while. You can see a list of some of them in my Award Winners spreadsheet.

Stay tuned for a post in the next week of 2017 titles that are already accumulating stars – maybe next year’s winners and honors will be among those! Happy reading!