The Phoenix Award: Quite Possibly the Least Known Award in Children’s Literature
When I was a mere slip of a lass learning my library rules like a good little MLIS student, I decided that I needed a thorough grounding in the great children’s books of yore. So I made lists. Lists and lists and lists of different kinds of children’s books to read. There was a Newbery list. A Caldecott list. A dystopian children’s literature list (and this was in 2002). And there was also a Phoenix Award list.
The Phoenix Award does not get a lot of attention in a given year. I think I can explain why that is. You see, unlike other awards that are just gaga over the shiny and new, the Phoenix Award rewards the musty and old. The award is bestowed annually to, “a book originally published in English twenty years previously which did not receive a major award at the time of its publication.” Previous winners have included everything from Weetzie Bat to Howl’s Moving Castle to The Devil’s Arithmetic.
Sadly, the official page for the Phoenix Award is badly out of date. To see the most updated list you’ll have to turn to Wikipedia, of all things. There you will find a truly fantastic list of great children’s books.
Bestowed by the Children’s Literature Association, I would like to see a phoenixlike rebirth of this award once more. When it is bestowed the press is positively silent. Blogs do not discuss it. Twitter remains mute. Even reliable listservs like child_lit rarely note its passing. I say, revivify it! It serves a magnificent purpose, after all. Think of all the children’s books you love that never got their due. Alabama Moon. A Drowned Maiden’s Hair. The Lost Conspiracy. Here Be Monsters. Each one, a beauty. Each one, someday eligible. Were they to win they would at last receive some kind of belated due.
While we’re at it, let’s give some attention to the aforementioned Children’s Literature Association. Here we have a group that should be better known to the greater online children’s literary community. They are fantastic individuals and they deserve greater notice. Academia and blogging have never been natural companions, but it seems to me that only good could come from an official ChLA blogger, should such a thing come to pass.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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