March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Cynthia Kadohata’s ‘Thing About Luck’ Wins National Book Award for Kid Lit

Cynthia Kadohata and Caitlyn Dlouhy

The winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, Cynthia Kadohata and her longtime editor, Caitlyn Dlouhy. (l. to r.) Photos by Chelsey Philpot.

Last night, Cynthia Kadohata scored the 2013 National Book Award in the Young People’s Literature category for her novel The Thing About Luck. About 700 members of America’s literati packed New York City’s Cipriani Ballroom for the gala ceremony.

Author E. Lockhart, in presenting the award to Kadohata, reminded the audience, “You are here because once upon a time you fell in love with a book. And it was most likely a children’s book.”

“Incredibly fulfilling” is how Cynthia Kadohata described winning the award, for her middle-grade novel about a Japanese American girl who works to help her family during a wheat harvest in the Midwest.

In School Library Journal‘s review of the book, Allison Tran wrote, “Kadohata expertly captures the uncertainties of the tween years as Summer navigates the balance of childlike concerns with the onset of increasingly grown-up responsibilities.”

Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou received the 2013 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

Before the awards ceremony began, the attendees were brought to their feet as the Nobel Prize-winning Toni Morrison presented the 2013 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community to Dr. Maya Angelou, author of the oft-banned, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Morrison said of her longtime friend and legend, “Her example is not one of survival; it truly is one of triumph.”

Angelou graced the room by singing part of a Negro spiritual, and thanked the National Book Foundation and attendees: “It’s a blessing that you’ve decided to be a rainbow in my cloud. I’m grateful to you.”

Additionally, E.L. Doctorow received the 2013 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Upon entering the event, Kadohata and her fellow finalists Kathi Appelt, Tom McNeal, Meg Rosoff and Gene Luen Yang walked a glamorous red carpet, where cameras flashed and reporters bombarded the the authors with questions.

McNeal was accompanied by his wife Laura McNeal, who was a 2010 finalist for her book Dark Water (Knopf, 2009). Also on the red carpet were the judges for the category that included librarian Lisa Von Drasek, curator of the Children’s Literature Research Collections of the University of Minnesota. The chair of this year’s committee was Lockhart, a finalist for the 2008 kid lit National Book Award for her novel The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion).

“I am incredibly grateful to the panel of judges,” Kadohata said after her win. “It means a lot to me that people who know books were involved in the selection.”  The other judges were authors Deb Caletti, Cecil Castellucci, and bookseller Peter Glassman.

Recipient of the 2013 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters E.L. Doctorow and Young People’s Literature judge panel chair, E. Lockhart.

Appelt and Yang had been finalists in previous years and have served as judges. Both said felt that the National Book Foundation’s decision to have a long list of ten books, which was narrowed down to five, was a good idea, and gave books in their category more visibility.

Kadohata adds this award to her 2005 Newbery Medal for Kira-Kira (2004) and her 2007 Jane Addams Peace Award for Weedflower (2006, both S & S).

The other winner of the evening were James McBride, The Good Lord Bird (Riverhead) for fiction; George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (Farrar) for nonfiction and Mary Szybist, Incarnadine: Poems (Graywolf Press) for poetry.

The Red Carpet at the 2013 National Book Awards