We’re just a few days away from the most important announcement in the world of children’s literature. Awarded every year by the American Library Association, honors like the Newbery and Caldecott Medals are highly coveted by kid lit authors and illustrators. And while libraries all over the country have organized mock awards programs in recent months where participants choose their favorite books as possible Newbery and Caldecott winners, not much has been heard about the other top prizes that will bestowed early on January 28. School Library Journal editors and contributors took a stab at naming a few titles that might just win one of these—lesser publicized, yet still highly sought after—Youth Media Awards.
The Coretta Scott King Awards are given annually to one outstanding African-American author and to one African-American illustrator of books for children and young adults who demonstrate an appreciation of African-American culture and universal human values.
“Two possibilities for the Coretta Scott King illustrator award—for their sheer stunningness and timeliness—are Shane W. Evans for his We March (Roaring Brook), and Kadir Nelson for his artistic representation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech (Random),” effusively says Joy Fleishhacker, former SLJ book review editor and frequent contributor.
For the author award, Daryl Grabarek, editor of SLJ’s Curriculum Connections newsletter and SLJ’s “Touch & Go” blog, has great hopes for Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s No Crystal Stair: A Novel in Documents, Based on the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Carolrhoda). “This stunner is a lens onto New York City and African-American history, but so much more, including a look at feisty individual whose life was changed by his books, and whose work in turn, helped others realize their dreams,” she says.
Already a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner, it could be a shoe-in for a Coretta Scott King—and possibly even a Newbery, Grabarek notes.
The Odyssey Award is given to the producer of the best audiobook for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States. Phyllis Levy Mandell, SLJ managing editor and Multimedia Review editor, has her heart set on the audiobook versions of Libba Bray’s The Diviners (Listening Library) or Laura Amy Schlitz’s Splendors and Gloom (Recorded Books). Both titles are serious contenders, she says.
The Pura Belpré Awards are presented to one Latino/Latina writer and one Latino/Latina illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in outstanding works of literature for children and youth.
Shelley Diaz, assistant editor of SLJ’s Book Review anticipates that narrative award will go to either Guadalupe McCall Garcia for her Odyssey retelling, Summer of the Mariposas (Lee & Low) or Margarita Engle’s novel in verse The Wild Book (Houghton Harcourt), both past Belpré winners. Diaz adds, however, that The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano (Scholastic), written by Sonia Manzano (best known as Sesame Street’s “Maria”) might surprise everyone.
The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal is awarded to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in the United States in English.
SLJ Executive Editor Rick Margolis and Contributing Editor Rocco Staino both think that Steve Sheinkin’s Bomb (Roaring Brook) could take this top nonfiction award. Barbara Kerley’s Those Rebels, John & Tom (Scholastic) also made Staino’s contender list.
Mahnaz Dar, editorial assistant of SLJ’s Book Review, is going the slithery slimy route, choosing Nic Bishop Snakes (Scholastic) for the Sibert. “Bishop also deserves some kudos for his dedication—he was actually bitten several times while photographing his subjects,” she says. “How many nonfiction writers can boast about bite marks in the service of their craft?”
The Schneider Family Book Award is presented to an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.
The title that automatically comes to mind when discussing this award, hand down, is Wonder by R. J. Palacio (Random), Grabarek says. An SLJ Best Book of 2012, the touching middle grade novel has tugged kids’ heartstrings since its publication date. Grabarek also chose it as her school library’s book club pick; now there’s a waiting list read it, with more copies on order. “The writing and characterizations are superb, and there’s a lot here for kids to ponder and talk about—which they’re eager to do,” she argues.
Staino also says Jepp, Who Defied the Stars (Hyperion) by Katherine Marsh might have a shot.
The Stonewall Book Award recognizes works with exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.
Diaz and Dar are in agreement when it comes to the novel that will dominate this category: A. S. King’s Ask the Passengers (Little, Brown). “It captures the voice of a smart, sensitive teen perfectly,” says Dar. Diaz adds, “This novel is not only about romantic love, but loves of all kinds: for your family, for your friends, for even strangers. Most importantly, it’s about loving yourself, even though you’re still not sure who that self is yet.”
Other SLJ favorites for the category include two debut works, E. M. Kokie’s Personal Effects (Candlewick) and Emily M. Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post (HarperCollins). Chelsey Philpot, SLJ’s associate editor of Book Review, is crossing her fingers that the latter will pull ahead for the win.
The Theodore Seuss Geisel Award goes to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States
Mo Willems usually walks away with this prize, and his Let’s Go for a Drive! (Hyperion) just might take it again this year, staffers say. But there are a few fervent fans for beloved author/illustrator Kevin Henkes. “I can’t think of a more charming introduction to reading than Penny and Her Doll. Penny is an endearing, appealing character whom children will adore,” shares Dar.
Fleishhacker can’t decide between the two. “I really like both of these titles for their solid writing, the way that the artwork and the narrative work in harmony to tell the story, their originality, and the way that they are both entertaining and extremely accessible for beginning readers,” she says. “Both of these titles will encourage and stand up to repeated reads—certainly an essential element for a beginning reader.” Diaz hopes that the dark horse, Sonya Hartnett’s pitch-perfect Sadie and Ratz (Candlewick) will be the last easy reader left standing.
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