If you could change any rule . . .
Let us say that the gods have decreed that you shall now be The Supreme High Muckety-Muck of the American Library Association, hitherto allowed to command your librarian minions throughout the Americas. Let us say that in your infinite wisdom you have decided to use this power for only good, and not evil. Now you are seated at the great High Table of Librarianitude. Your faithful hoards await your simplest command, you need only utter it.
The question before you then is this: You have the power to change any rule pertaining to the Youth Media Awards. You can change only one. So what do you do, what DO you do?
This is a game I like to play with myself from time to time. We all have things we’d like to change, but short of acquiring High Muckety-Muck status, the likelihood of actually getting any of the following changed is strictly in the realm of the fantastical. Today, I think I’ll just break my own rule of “only one” and play around with different scenarios for the heck of it.
Here are some of my top choices:
– Create a graphic novel award. More specifically, an award for “illustrated novels”. Because of you just say “comics” or “graphic novels” then you leave yourself wide open for future librarians having to parse semantics as they relate to books with different degrees of illustration. Would a book like Hugo Cabret count? Would Diary of a Wimpy Kid? Use the term “illustrated novels” and all is well. That just leaves the name of the award. I’d propose either The Selznick or The Bell (alternate name: “The Cece”).
– Create a poetry award. Because, quite frankly, it’s weird that we don’t have one. Really very weird. The only thing I can figure is that the sheer lack of poetry in a given year written for children and teens might contribute to folks thinking that such an award shouldn’t be around. But the Pura Belpre Award got over that problem by initially coming out every other year. Surely the poetry award could do the same. But what to name it? I know she doesn’t strictly do children’s poetry, but she’s done enough of it that I think The Giovanni has a lovely ring to it. The Nikki Giovanni Award for Children’s Poetry. How is this not a thing?
– Change the age range on the Newbery. Of course, even as I write this, there’s a children’s book out this year that is clearly in the 13-14 year-old age range that I’m stumping for. Still, I feel like the Newbery age range criteria of “up to and including fourteen” is a relic of the pre-Printz Award days. I have heard the defense for this age cap, one being that books that fall in the range of my own beloved frontrunner would be lost come award season. Entirely possible. That’s why we should consider the idea to . . . .
– Create a middle school award. Pity the middle school books. Occasionally they do very well for themselves (see: this year’s Newbery Award winner) but a lot of the time they fall between the cracks. And considering all the middle school/junior high librarians out there, wouldn’t it be nice if there was an award out there for them?
– Create a Batchelder-like award for foreign illustration – We have a great award for translation, no question. But year after year the most beautiful imports pass by, unnoticed. Think of books like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. I’d be willing to settle for a generalized “import” award. Australia. England. Mexico. South Africa. It would all be up for grabs. Now at this point folks might say that we have entirely too many awards. All right, then. Why not consider getting rid of one or two?
– Remove the Carnegie Medal. This is probably the most contentious proposal listed here. I’m sure the Carnegie has its supporters. However, it’s a bit of an unfair game. Of the twenty-five winners since the award was established in 1991, fourteen of those have been Weston Woods. Indeed in the last ten years Weston Woods has won eight times. Initially I think there was more competition for the award. These days, it’s mostly how I learn about the newer Weston Woods releases. That said, I’m fairly certain that someone who has served or is serving on the Carnegie committee is reading this. If so, please tell me straight out why this is an important award. Failing that, fans of it please rally behind your flag. Don’t mince words. Explain why it should stick around for the rest of our natural born lives.
Those are my particular fantasy changes. We all harbor them from time to time. How about yourself? What would you like to mess with, if given the ultimate supreme power to do so?
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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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