In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The best?

Dear Annie,

I am proud to report that my record for never predicting the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott medals will stand untarnished for another year.

Awards, award committees -- oy!

I'll start with the good news.  Note the little silver circles on the covers of Sleep Like a Tiger and Extra Yarn:
They both won Caldecott Honors for best illustration: Pamela Zagarenski is the artist for Tiger; Jon Klassen for Yarn.  Annie and Aunt regulars will note that guest blogger Clara was eloquent on the subject of Extra Yarn just one post ago.

Jon Klassen also won the Caldecott Medal for This Is Not My Hat.

page from This Is Not My Hat
It's dark, funny, and an understandable choice for the top illustrator honors, even though I personally think Sleep Like a Tiger would have been a better one.

Then we get to the question of literature.  Sigh.  Wonder, which was my complete favorite, didn't win any awards: not a Newbery medal or honor, not even a mention in the category of books about disabilities (the American Library Association gave out lots of awards today: Newbery and Caldecott are the most visible).

The One and Only Ivan
, by Katherine Applegate, is the 2013 Newbery Medal winner.  If the author sounds vaguely familiar, it's because over the course of five years in the late '90s she wrote the 54 books in the
Animorphs series.  One assumes she took a bit more time with this one.  It's the story of several animals -- including a gorilla named Ivan -- who live in neglect in a shopping mall zoo.  Ivan is depressed.  An older elephant dies from an out of control foot infection -- but first she elicits a promise from Ivan to look after the newest arrival: a baby elephant.  Working with the young daughter of the mall custodian, Ivan paints pictures which eventually gain enough attention for the plight of the animals that they end up in a zoo in much better circumstances.

I have to go back and re-read this one.  It's got lots of lovable animals in it -- a plus for many young readers.  But I remember feeling that it fell into a genre of kids' books which presents suffering as a necessary preliminary to enlightenment/happiness. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo is similar.  These are definitely love-it-or-hate-it books.  I come out on the negative side: they feel heavy-handed in their morality and depressing in their action.  But there exist people I respect who are moved by them.  (See a thoughtful Heavy Medal Blog entry here.) My heart sinks to think of the significant number of very good books that came out this year -- not just Wonder.  And this is the best the ALA can offer kids?

Those great books from 2012 -- and of course many more from years past -- are still there, of course, waiting to connect with readers who will love them. 

And as for awards -- there's always next year...




  1. Deborah,
    I come out on the side of loving The One and Only Ivan and recommended it on my blog, but agree that it wasn't Newbery-MEDAL worthy. Where oh where is Wonder? Every adult and every fifth grader LOVES it. LOVES it! Too much early praise? Probably. Bah! Wonder should have won with TOAOI getting an honor. IMHO!

    Fingers crossed for the CYBILS. I was a first round judge for MGF. I'm confident! There were excellent finalists.


  2. I loved loved loved Ivan! Loved it so much that I wrote a gushing, semi-coherent review of it (linked to my name on this comment) and offered to buy it for any of my facebook friends for themselves or their children! I'm sorry you didn't feel the same incredible connection to the book that I did.