What's the Geisel Anyway? A New Blog Takes a Look at This Unique Award | Guessing Geisel

Three former Geisel award committee members launched a new blog, Guessing Geisel, to explore the history, criteria, and future of the medal named in honor of Dr. Seuss.
Guessing Geisel authors

Past Geisel Award committee members and authors of the new Guessing Geisel blog (from left to right): Amanda Foulk, Amy Seto Forrester, and Misti Tidman.

Ten years ago, in 2006, the first Geisel Award was presented to Cynthia Rylant and Suçie Stevenson for Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas. The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award "recognizes the author and illustrator of a book for beginning readers who, through their literary and artistic achievements, demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading.” The difference from other awards that recognize only the author or only the illustrator is clear—the Geisel Award goes to both. Why? Because in books for beginning readers, the text, illustrations, and design must all support the reading experience in order for the book to succeed. If a new vocabulary word is introduced in the text, beginning readers need a clue to decode that new word in the illustration. In Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas, when Henry likes “their checker games and their rocking chairs and their walking canes,” each of those items is featured in its own spot illustration on the page as a hint to readers. Henry and Mudge

The very first Geisel Medal winner.

The Geisel Award recognizes a book for beginning readers, defined in the manual as text “directed at readers from pre-K through Grade 2." That’s a fairly narrow and specific age range when compared to the range of readers, listeners, and viewers for other awards. That’s because in this case the experience of the intended reader is absolutely critical to the evaluation. Geisel Award winners are meant to create a satisfying experience for children who are learning to read independently. A Geisel Award winner must “engage children in reading” from the first page to the last. Jon Scieszka’s autobiographical work, Knucklehead, describes his difficulty in relating to the unnaturally clean and well-behaved family in the early readers he encountered in school. The book that did capture his imagination? The wacky and wonderful Go, Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman. The Geisel Award is given to books that “demonstrate creativity and imagination.” The books selected by each committee honor the legacy of Theodor Seuss Geisel’s playfulness and respect for young readers. Beginning readers deserve to have the hard work of independent reading rewarded with engaging, creative stories just as much as any other age group. In many ways, the award criteria allows the committee to cast a wide net. Past Geisel committees have honored nonfiction and picture book titles, as well as traditional fiction stories in the beginning reader format. On the other hand, some of the criteria are very specific, such as the page limit. The award manual states that "there must be a minimum of 24 pages. Books may not be longer than 96 pages.” Why 24 and 96? The manual doesn’t provide any further insight. However, most beginning readers are at least 24 pages and most books shorter than 24 pages aren’t meant for beginning readers (think board books). And 96? One theory is that this stems from the physical process of printing books. Titles are generally bound in eight-page signatures—the typical picture book is six or eight of these signatures. Twelve signatures, or 96 pages, might comprise a longer beginning reader book, perhaps one that is made up of four distinct stories. This 96 page limit is also a reasonably good line of demarcation between the upper end of beginning readers and their longer and more complex cousins, intermediate chapter books. Many of the other criteria fall under the umbrella of intentional design. In other words, is the book purposely designed for emerging readers to have a successful, engaging, and fun reading experience? This includes the use of white space, font choice, placement of text and illustrations, presence of visual context clues, and a plot with great page-turning dynamic. Although these elements may seem small, they make a big difference for young readers who are still training their eyes and brains to track and decode words and sentences. By calling attention to excellence, the Geisel Award shines a light on what is possible and recognizes the incredible achievements of authors and illustrators serving this audience at a critical time in their reading life. It’s thrilling to see so many talented creators taking up the challenge, making deliberate choices to meet the needs of our youngest readers. Stay tuned to the brand new "Guessing Geisel" blog for regular posts exploring the award criteria. We'll also be writing several columns here at SLJ throughout the year as we discuss contenders and try to guess what titles might take home the prestigious medal. Below you’ll find a few of the titles we’re excited to read this year. This list is just speculation, as we have no way of knowing what the real committee is considering. What titles are on your Geisel radar?   Amy Seto Forrester is a children's librarian at the Denver Public Library. She has been an SLJ reviewer since 2013 and served on the 2016 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Committee. Amanda Foulk is the K–12 specialist at Sacramento Public Library, CA. She served as chair of the 2016 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Committee; Misti Tidman is a children’s librarian at the Licking County Library in Newark, OH. She has been an SLJ reviewer since 2009 and served on the 2016 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Committee.
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tracy bryan

Hi Amy! Do you know if Indie authors and Illustrators are ever considered for this award? More specifically, can these type of creators be included in awards such as this, or is it just for traditionally published authors and illustrators?

Posted : Jun 11, 2016 03:13

Amy Seto Forrester

Hi Tracy, Great question! Indie authors and illustrators can definitely be considered for this award as long as they meet the award criteria. You can find more information on the ALSC website: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/geiselaward/geiselawardapplicationprocess Best, Amy

Posted : Jun 29, 2016 08:18



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