February 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

‘Goblin Secrets’ Joins a Select List of Fantasy Winners of the National Book Award

“This is surreal and thrilling!” debut author William Alexander exclaimed after winning the National Book Award (NBA) for Young People’s Literature Wednesday, November 14 for his book Goblin Secrets (S & S, 2012), about a boy who joins a theatrical group of goblins.

“I was just getting used to calling myself a novelist,” Alexander told SLJ during the star-studded 63rd NBA ceremony, held at Cipriani’s on Wall Street in New York.

The award caps a whirlwind month for Alexander that began with the October 9 announcement of his selection as an NBA finalist, followed by the birth of his daughter, Iris Octavia, on October 29.

Alexander was joined by fellow finalists Carrie Arcos (Out of Reach, S & S, 2012), Patricia McCormick (Never Fall Down, HarperCollins, 2012), Eliot Schrefer (Endangered, Scholastic, 2012), and Steve Sheinkin (Bomb: The Race to Build―and Steal―the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, Roaring Brook/Flash Point, 2012).

Hosted by political commentator Faith Saile, the event, which some call the “Oscars of the book world,” was attended by author Stephen King and National Public Radio host Terry Gross, among other luminaries.

Gary D. Schmidt, who himself was a National Book Award finalist last year for his novel OK for Now (Clarion, 2011) presented Alexander with the award. Schmidt was chair of the judging panel that included Susan Cooper (Magic Maker, Candlewick, 2011), Daniel Ehrenhaft (Americapedia, Walker, 2011) Judith Ortiz Cofer (The Poet Upstairs, Piñata Books, 2012) and Marly Youmans (The Curse of the Raven Mocker, Farrar, 2003)

Alexander noted that Goblin Secrets is one of just a few fantasy titles to have won the Young People’s Literature prize, along with The Farthest Shore (Atheneum, 1972) by Ursula K. LeGuin in 1973, The Court of the Stone Children (Dutton, 1973) by Eleanor Cameron in 1974 and Westmark (Dutton, 1981) by Lloyd Alexander in 1982.

“We now have proof that other universes exist,” said Alexander, who received a $10,000 cash prize and a bronze sculpture.

Check out our red carpet photos on Flickr (Hit “Show Info” tab for captions)

Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.



  1. […] it won the National Book Award for young people’s literature, partly because of articles like this one from School Library Journal that pointed out how unusual it is for this award to go to a science fiction or fantasy title. As I […]