Graphic Novels Break Through at the 2020 Youth Media Awards

It was a big day for graphic novels, with award recognition far beyond Jerry Craft's Newbery win for New Kid.

Maybe now skeptical parents, teachers, and administrators will understand: Reading graphic novels is real reading. As a matter of fact, it is reading of award-winning, critically acclaimed material.

At Monday’s Youth Media Awards, Jerry Craft’s New Kid became the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal. Craft also won the Coretta Scott King Author Award for the book. But Craft’s victories were only part of the story: The format is finally getting mainstream recognition. 

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, was named a Printz Honor book. In awards other than the Big Three, graphic novels continued to collect accolades. The Asian/Pacific American Awards honored two graphic novels: Stargazing by Jen Wang won for Children’s Literature, and They Called Us Enemy, written by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, and illustrated by Harmony Becker, won in the Young Adult Literature category. Surviving the City by Tasha Spillett (Nehiyaw-Trinidadian), illus. by Natasha Donovan (Métis Nation of British Columbia) was an honor title in the YA category of the American Indian Youth Literature Awards. In Waves by AJ Dungo and Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe won Alex Awards. Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka won the Odyssey Award for best audiobook.

Graphic novels had been named Newbery Honor titles in the past, namely Cece Bell's El Deafo in 2015 and Victoria Jamieson's Roller Girl in 2016.

Read: 'New Kid' Makes History as First Graphic Novel To Win Newbery; Caldecott Goes To 'The Undefeated'

One of Craft’s hopes is that his award can “legitimize” graphic novels as a format.

“I know that there are still schools and librarians who confiscate graphic novels or say that they are rotting your brain or they’re not real books. A real book is like a steak dinner, and graphic novels are like doughnuts. You’re not getting any nutrients from there,” Craft said a few hours after the award was announced. “I definitely would like for those teachers and librarians and parents to say, 'Oh let me try a couple. Wow, Hey, Kiddo is unbelievable,' or the character development in Raina’s books or Victoria Jamieson. So many people [are] doing wonderful work.”

Those fellow graphic novelists were overjoyed with Craft’s barrier-breaking victory.

“A graphic novel **WINS** THE NEWBERY FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!!!!! @JerryCraft, my hat is off to you!!!!! #alama #graphicnovelsFTW,” Telgemeier tweeted.

Krosoczka wrote, “Jerry Craft has worked tirelessly for years to get his books out there. It has been an honor to know him and astounding to celebrate New Kid’s Newbery win today.”

That gold sticker on New Kid will help make that point, according to some librarians.

“I've observed people discouraging their kids from reading graphic novels because the parent doesn't think they are ‘real’ books,” says Rita Meade, a public librarian in Brooklyn and a children’s author. “Not only is this incorrect, but you can actually see the kids deflate after being so excited about reading whatever graphic novel they picked up. The awarding of the Newbery to New Kid helps make the argument to skeptical people that graphic novels are a ‘legitimate’ book format that helps kids digest important and sometimes complicated topics. Plus, they are just fun and engaging to read, and there's nothing wrong with that.”

Not everyone saw it as a total victory. Matisse Mozer, young adult librarian at Los Angeles Public Library's Jefferson Branch, was torn.

"The Newbery and [Coretta Scott King] wins show that not only do graphic novels have literary merit but that their messages rival those presented in any other children's fiction," said Mozer. "But at the same time, New Kid plays it safe."

Mozer found the story "mundane" and wonders if its win will do enough for the format. 

"While New Kid might pull graphic novels away from being lumped in with more fanciful fare, it doesn't reflect the full scope of what graphic novels can do," he said. "The parent who respects New Kid and gives it to their child might not see Gene Luen Yang's recent Superman Smashes the Klan as worthy, when it's in fact a meditation on 1940s racism, and the intersection of the Asian American minority experience with the menace of the KKK.

"So...New Kid winning? It's a good start."

Read: Jerry Craft Breaks Barriers with Historic 2020 Newbery Win

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The American Indian Youth Literature Award
Honor book Surviving the City by Tasha Spillet (Nehiyaw-Trinidadian) and Natasha Donovan (Métis Nation of British Columbia) is also a graphic novel!

Posted : Jan 29, 2020 01:32



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