Big awards news this week, right? Oh no, I’m not talking about the Golden Globes. (I liked Avatar a whole bunch, but I still find something totally uninspiring about its big win.) I mean the American Library Association Youth Media Awards.
Chances are, unless you work in publishing, you didn’t follow the big announcements for the Caldecott, Newbery, and other awards. Lucky for you, you have our local bookstore owners, librarians, and (ahem) bloggers to remind you when they are decided. Hopefully, those reminders will be persistent—even if you don’t have kids, these books are often terrifically good reads.
You can find the complete list of winners here, and when I was reading it, a couple of things popped out at me. First, the winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for picture books: The Lion & the Mouse, illustrated and written by Northern Westchester’s Jerry Pinkney. Kudos to him! I had the chance to interview Mr. Pinkney and his wife for an article in the September issue about local children’s book authors and illustrators. I could’ve filled the whole article with just his quotes. Something he told me at the time, that didn’t make it into the final article, about why he gravitated towards children’s books in the first place: “One of the things I find so fascinating is how in many ways children’s illustration doesn’t follow trends. In institutional or editorial or advertising art, you can see something and peg it to a period; there’s a certain look of a certain time. Children’s books aren’t like that.” If you look through the illustrations in The Lion and the Mouse, they certainly have that timeless, classic look to them.
Pinkney is also a walking, talking supporter of libraries, so it’s fitting that the ALA chose him to honor. When we were talking about finding inspiration and avoiding creative blocks, he said: “I tend to not like the Internet, by the way. The library here has been incredibly supportive over the years and they’ve helped me a lot in finding those things that are challenging for me to find. I learn the most through books. That feeds directly into the writer’s/illustrator’s block—you can see me warming myself up to the subject with the exercise of doing the research. I try to find pictorial reference, but often I can’t. But text will turn up more. There’s more you can mine from written text because you can breathe your own impressions into it.”
Pinkney isn’t the only notable ALA winner this year. The John Newbery Medal, for “most outstanding contribution to children’s literature,” went to When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Everyone I know has been raving about what a great YA novel it is—but, then again, you knew that already. Our friends over at the Voracious Reader in Larchmont recommended that to us for our “Summer Reading” article way back in June. So, give Westchester a pat on the back. Our local experts know how to pick ’em. In fact, Francine Lucidon at the Voracious Reader is still a champion of When You Reach Me. “It’s a timelessly classic great read,” she says. “Masterfully written, with a clever story that makes you smack your forehead at the end and want to go back and read it through again, When You Reach Me was a front runner before it even hit the shelves. The buzz around this amazing book built and continued to build as we got to share it with more and more readers. It’s a great book for middle readers, and also for sharing as a family.”
“I’m also delighted at the Printz Award [for Young Adults] for Going Bovine by YA Superstar Libba Bray,” she says. “It was a delight to host her at our store this past holiday season. The book is a dazzling road-trip story of a sixteen-year-old slacker diagnosed with Mad Cow Disease. Part Douglas Adams, part Don Quixote and all Libba Bray, the wildly engaging story makes you laugh out loud while touching on all the big important questions. This one holds a special place in my heart as the anti-hero is encouraged by Dulcie, his endearing punk-rock angel with neon pink wings, to find answers to those
questions in the very short time he likely has left. A beauty!”
Anybody read anything else on the ALA list? Did you find it to be overrated/underrated? Let me know in the comments.
Jerry Pinkney photo by Myles C. Pinkney