The 2015 Newbery Committee filed into the packed hall at Chicago’s McCormick Convention Center on Monday morning wearing t-shirts that proclaimed “Trust the Process.”
This is a profession not prone to trusting the process (as you’ll know if you’ve ever been through an ALA Council meeting) and there’s inevitably a lot of second-guessing after the awards are announced.
But I have to say that I do trust the Awards process. I trust that Children’s and Young Adult librarians KNOW the criteria. We “get” what a distinguished book is. We listen to all the discussions and read all of the reviews and read and read and read. Then, in our heart of hearts we wish, we pray, we hope. Is it any wonder that on the morning the awards are announced, we scream, we whoop and we cry?
My personal reactions to the Newbery and Caldecott winners, below.
John Newbery Medal
The Crossover, Kwame Alexander, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, (also a Coretta Scott King Honor Book)
It was easy for me to “trust the process” in this case because I love this book. In the video below, Kate DiCamillo, last year’s winner, and I picked our favorite books, new and old, to read aloud for a film that went to Paris for the IFLA conference. I sprung my ARC of Crossover on Kate, because I couldn’t get enough of its engaging sustained voice and juicy language that begs to be read aloud. An added benefit is its high interest subject matter. The conversation we had was organic, not scripted and illustrated how great books bring us joy (pick it up at time stamp 21:43. Note: the galley cover shown in the video is different from the final).
I think I was screaming the loudest when this book was announced. I have been an evangelist for “graphic format” or comics and am thrilled that one of the best books of 2014, comic or otherwise was recognized. The text is a cross between Judy Blume and Baby Mouse with a little Joan Bauer thrown in. Its a school story, a friendship story, a family story about a girl who just happens to be deaf.
Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson, Penguin/Nancy Paulsen (also winner of the Coretta Scott King Author Award, a Sibert Honor and of the National Book Award for Young Peoples Literature).
Not sure there is much to more to be said about Brown Girl Dreaming as it leaves with a Coretta Scott King Award, a Sibert honor as well as a Newbery honor after already winning the National Book Award. The only negative is that all those shiny seals now obscure the exquisite cover. On each reading it is richer with meaning and the story strengthens like tempered steel.
Some thought this was the dark horse of the group (the only best books list it appeared on was NPR’s), but it’s been on my “best pile” all year. It is a great read aloud with subtle humor and compelling illustrations. Dan Santat has brought a sweet but not saccharine child-centered world to life. It was a big year for great picture books (six honors!), making this a thrilling AND unexpected surprise.
I am huge fan of this author/ illustrator team since Skim (Groundwood, 2010), came out. A coming-of-age graphic novel with mature content, Skim made the Bank Street Best Books of the Year list by the “skin of its teeth” due to passionate advocacy in the face of some opinions that the content was too mature for our audience of fourteen and under.
There IS going to be controversy regarding this title. It DOES have mature content. The Caldecott Committee selected it as one of the best illustrated books of the year. There is an assumption that “picture book” is defined as an illustrated book that is 32 pages long and for elementary school students, but the Award is for a book “for children”and ALSC’s “scope of services” is ages 0 to 14. This book isn’t for every kid in that age range but it certainly is relevant for some. I trust the process.
And as I look at the rest of Caldecott Honors, there is not one that doesn’t make my heart doesn’t swell as I imagine gathering them in my arms and sharing them with children.
The Science Fiction selection is The Martian by Andy Weir (RH/Crown), which also won an Alex this year and was a Feb. 2014 LibraryReads pick. It is currently being adapted as a movie, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Jessica Chasten and Kirstend Wiig, scheduled for release this November.
Jo Walton, generally considered a fantasy and science fiction writer (she won both a Nebula and a Hugo in 2011 for her book Among Others) was selected in the Women’s Fiction category for My Real Children, (Macmillan/Tor). About a woman living two parallel lives, Lev Grossman, reviewing it in PW said, “My Real Children has as much in common with an Alice Munro story as it does with, say, Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. It explores issues of choice and chance and destiny and responsibility with the narrative tools that only science fiction affords, but it’s also a deeply poignant, richly imagined book about women’s lives in 20th- and 21st-century England, and, in a broader sense, about the lives of all those who are pushed to the margins of history.”
For valuable readers advisory hooks, be sure to check the list for the readalikes (and watchalikes) for each pick. In the case of My Real Children, they are:
Life After Life, Kate Atkinson, (Hachette/Little, Brown)
Sliding Doors (Miramax Films, 1998, dir. Peter Howitt)
The Time Travelers Wife, Audrey Niffenegger (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Also released, the RUSA Notables selection of 26 titles in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Many have already appeared on the dozens of best books lists for the year, including the one that was on nearly every list, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, (S&S/Scribner). The other top favorite, Marilynne Robinson’s Lila, however, did not make the RUSA cut.
The committee also managed to find some gems that have not appeared on other lists.
The Enchanted, Rene Denfield, (Harper) —
“Death row inmates await escape through execution in this weirdly gorgeous tale.”
The Crane Wife, by Patrick Ness, (Penguin) —
“A thoughtful exposition of love, in all its endless varieties.”
Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris, Eric Jager (Hachette/Little, Brown) —
“Political intrigue that starts with a murder and ends with a throne.”
Graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier tweeted her excitement about today’s ALA Youth Media Awards, “Graphic novels can win the most distinguished American book award, it’s official. The game is ON. I am so happy.”
Graphic novels have won major ALA awards before (Brian Selznick won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for The Invention of Hugo Cabret), this is the first year that one graphic novel took home both a Caldecott and Printz Honor. This One Summer, by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, (Macmillan/First Second), is a graphic novel, qualifying it as a “picture book for children” (Caldecott). Since it is written for children ages 12 to 18, it also qualifies as a young adult title (Printz). In addition, El Deafo, by Cece Bell, (Abrams/Amulet) won a Newbery Honor.
Even more significant, just months after the formation of the We Need Diverse Books campaign, the medalists and honorees represent a wide range of backgrounds.
Among the six nominees for an Edgar in the Best Novel category, one stands out as a pleasant surprise. Although it contains elements of suspense, Wiley Cash’s This Dark Road to Mercy (HarperCollins/ Morrow; HarperLuxe). is not primarily a mystery.
It was a LibraryReads pick last year, with the following recommendation,
“Cash’s second novel is as good as his first [A Land More Kind than Home]. In this story, we meet Easter and her sister Ruby, who have been shuffled around the foster care system in Gastonia, North Carolina. Then their ne’er-do-well father whisks them away in the middle of the night. I was on the edge of my seat as I followed the girls’ tale and hoping for a safe outcome.” — Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus, OH
The full list of nominees in the Best Novel category:
“A body has been found in an elderly recluse’s field, neighbors are fighting over fracking, and meth labs and heroin dealers have settled deep in the woods of Officer Henry Farrell’s Wild Thyme Township. Bouman’s prose reveals not only the beauty of northeastern Pennsylvania, but also abject poverty and despair. A startling debut rich in setting and character with an intricate plot that will stay with readers after the last page.” — Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ
The Life We Bury, Allen Eskens, (Prometheus/Seventh Street Books) — Best First Novel
“In this well-crafted debut novel, Joe Talbert has finally left home, but not without guilt over leaving his autistic brother in the care of his unreliable mother. A college assignment gets the young man entangled in a cold case, racing to clear the name of a Vietnam veteran. Characters with layers of suppressed memories and emotions only add to the suspenseful plot. Looking forward to more from this Minnesotan author!” — Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI
World of Trouble: The Last Policeman Book III, Ben H. Winters, (Quirk Books) — Best Paperback
“Still the last policeman, Detective Hank Palace tirelessly pulls together clues from crime scenes and interrogates witnesses to find his missing sister. Winters paints a believable picture of a world awaiting its end thanks to an asteroid on a collision course. A great series for mystery and science fiction lovers, as well as anyone looking for a pre-apocalyptic tale without a single zombie.” — Jenna Persick, Chester County Library, Exton, PA
The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day, (Prometheus/Seventh Street Books) — Mary Higgins Clark Award
“This first novel about two broken people is a psychological thriller like the best of Alfred Hitchcock. Amelia Emmet is a professor desperately trying to recover from a gunshot wound, and Nathaniel Barber is a student struggling to come to grips with his mother’s death and a lost love. Their journey, told in alternating chapters, is riveting and full of surprising discoveries. Highly recommended.” –Mattie Gustafson, Newport Public Library, Newport, RI
The new NPR Morning Edition book club wrapped up today with a discussion of the first selection, Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Hector Tobar (Macmillan/FSG; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample; Oct), picked in December by bookstore owner and author Ann Patchett.
The book, which has hit the lower rungs of the NYT best seller list as a result of the section, is also one of five finalists for the NBCC Nonfiction Award, announced yesterday and has been made into a movie, titledThe 33, starring Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche and Gabriel Byrne. Currently in post-production, the release date has not yet been announced.
The next title in the club will be announced soon; we will let you know when it is.
Appropriately, since he has featured so authors on his show, now that The Colbert Report is ending, Stephen Colbert’s final guest was the winner of National Book Award in fiction, Phil Klay (The Report‘s final episode is actually tonight, but it does not feature a human guest).
Klay’s book Redeployment, (Penguin Press; Penguin Audio; Thorndike, OverDrive Sample) is a series of short stories about serving in Iraq. He chose to portray the war through fiction, he told Colbert, because it made him feel less constrainted than nonfiction would have, “I don’t think I could be, in a weird way, as truthful as I wanted to be in trying to chase down the experiences I was trying to articulate on the page.” To that, the master of “Truthiness” lit up and deadpanned, “You can be more truthful by making things up?”
The UK’s Folio Prize, now in its second year, announced its longlist and it certainly lives up to its name, with a field of 80 fiction titles selected by the Folio Prize Academy, a group of writers and critics whose members read like a who’s who of literary fiction super stars.
The Prize was created in response to the 2011 Man Booker Prize shortlist, considered by some in the UK book scene as more “readable” than “literary.” Here is the entire 2011 Man Booker Prize list (long, short, and winner), in case you want to speculate on which titles triggered the debate.
Given the fuss, the Folio Prize longlist is remarkably similar to this year’s Booker longlist and includes the winner, Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Also included are many of the titles that appeared on this year’s National Book Awards fiction longlist, but not the winner, Redeployment by Phil Klay.
The Folio shortlist will be announced on Feb. 9 and the winner on March 23, 2015. Last year’s winner was George Saunders for Tenth of December.
As the Washington Post reports, this is not happy news for the founder of one of Modiano’s long-time U.S. publishers, David Godine, who tells the Post, “Money is what this business is all about, There is no venality that exists more than the venality that exists after the Nobel Prize is awarded.” He also notes that the company has done well with Missing Persons, one of the few books available in the U.S. at the time of the Nobel announcement, adding, “if you’re going to read a Modiano, that’s the one to read.”
Most libraries are showing holds on the winner of the National Book Award in Fiction, Phil Klay’s Redeployment, (Penguin Press; Penguin Audio; Thorndike, OverDrive Sample)
Holds are likely to increase when Klay gets the Colbert Bump on Wednesday (which is the next to last day of the show. Here’s hoping Colbert continues to cover books when he takes over David Letterman’s chair on the Late Show in January).
Responding to Daniel Handler’s “joke” at the National Book Awards about her being allergic to watermelon, she notes that she does indeed have an aversion to watermelon, a fact Handler knows because they have been friends for years.
By bringing it up, though, Handler reminded the audience of the way watermelons have been used to ridicule African Americans. “In a few short words, the audience and I were asked to take a step back from everything I’ve ever written … By making light of that deep and troubled history, he showed that he believed we were at a point where we could laugh about it all. His historical context, unlike my own, came from a place of ignorance.”
Jacqueline Woodson, in an interview with the Guardian, says she is “trying to figure out how to think about” Daniel Handler’s comments at the National Book Awards last week.
Finding a good moderator for an awards event seems to be challenging. Many were hopeful that Handler would bring the right mix of humor and respect to the National Book Awards this year. Unfortunately, he kicked off the event with tired comments about the lack of glamour in bookish events, saying the National Book Awards are “like the Oscars if nobody gave a shit about the Oscars.”
Most of the rest of his “humorous” comments were weak, but the lowest point occurred when, after Woodson gave a moving acceptance speech for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen), Handler made a strange racist comment that Woodson is “allergic to watermelon.” Earlier, he mentioned that one day he hopes to win a Coretta Scott King Book Award.
Marine and debut author Phil Klay won this year’s National Book Award in fiction at a ceremony in New York last night for his short story collection, Redeployment, (Penguin Press; Penguin Audio; Thorndike, OverDrive Sample).
Covering the event, NPR noted that it was “packed as much with jabs at Amazon as with jazzy entrance music.” The video of the full event, hosted by Daniel Handler is below (be patient, it takes a while to load, then it requires you to register and the actual event doesn’t begin until 20 minutes in to the video).
In nonfiction, the winner is a familiar name in publishing, Evan Osnos son of Peter Osnos, former Washington Post reporter and founder of Public Affairs (now an imprint of Perseus), for Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, (Macmillan/FSG, Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample), based on his reporting on China for the New Yorker.
Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen; Listening Library; OverDrive Sample) won the award for Young People’s Literature. Woodson has won many ALA awards for her work, including 3 Newbery Honors, a Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King Medal and 4 Honors.