Sexual Harassment and Post-ALA YMA 2018 Thoughts (not necessarily at the same time)
Before we begin discussing yesterday’s Youth Media Award announcements, it would be positively ludicrous if I were to say anything on this blog without first directing your attention to an event that almost eclipsed the Award announcements altogether. If you have missed the current #metoo movement within the children’s and young adult literature industry, then I will break down the order in which you can catch up. While you could argue precisely where to start and where to end, the most necessary articles are as follows:
- Read the survey by Anne Ursu on sexual harassment in the children’s book industry
- Read the preceding SLJ article Children’s Publishing Reckons with Sexual Harassment in Its Ranks
- Read the comment section of that same SLJ article
- Read the Gwenda Bond article #metoo #ustoo Change Starts Now: Stand Against Harassment in the YA/Kidlit Community
Talking amongst friends the other day, one of them pointed out that until this point there’s been no space for this kind of a conversation about harassment and assault. The SLJ article has provided this space and because people (mostly women, but some men too) have kept it bottled up for so long, this discussion can feel overwhelming and shocking to those of us who haven’t witnessed it firsthand. I’ll admit that of all the men named so far, of all the accusations, in the last eleven years I’ve been a librarian I only knew of one (David Diaz). The reasons for my ignorance had more to do with my own inability to see what was happening than anything else. I’ve never experienced what these other women have gone through, but I want to show my support and help any way that I can. Like many bloggers, I don’t know what my role is yet, but I hope I can help.
Much of this was on the minds of the people sitting down in front of live feeds or in the big auditorium in Denver to watch the ALA YMA announcements. Now the ALA Youth Media Awards are the top honors in the field of children’s books and YA books each year. And it appears that I chose a heckuva year not to do my usual pre-game/post-game commentary. But first, some context. As I may have mentioned before, no awards exist in a vacuum. And unless you’ve been living under a very hospitable rock, you may have noticed that change is afoot in this country. Now the committees of the literary awards aren’t choosing their books to make some kind of a statement. On the other hand, they don’t have the luxury of living under rocks, and they can see precisely what the world is like right now. Parts of the publishing industry has risen to meet the demands of the reading public to address the state of America in 2017, and that means that the awards are a part of that.
That’s the context. I knew that going into the announcements yesterday. What I did not expect was the direction they’d go in by the end.
Let’s start at the beginning of the morning and work our way forward. Here’s the official announcement in case you want to compare notes.
Schneider Family Book Award
This may have been where the surprises started. When Allen Say’s Silent Days, Silent Dreams won the top award, I can’t have been the only person surprised. Ever since the copyright claims against the book (as well as other objections) I just assumed it was out of award contention consideration. The other two books were unknown to me, though between You’re Welcome, Universe and, later, Hello, Universe (the Newbery Award winner) it was a good year for universes.
The Andrew Carnegie Medal for excellence in children’s video
Does not appear to exist anymore. It did last year. I’d be curious to know where it might have gone. Will it be back?
The time it took up has already been adequately filled, however. In case you missed it the AILA and APALA and AJL awards will be in the main event next year. What might those be? You’re looking at the American Indian Library Association’s Youth Literature Awards (2018 winners available here). And next year, you may be seeing a lot more of them (woot woot!). Thanks for the heads up, Debbie.
Stonewall Book Award–Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award
Was given entirely to YA books. This is not uncommon, though it is indicative of a trend in 2017 awards.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Award
The big news about this award this year is the fact that ALSC has begun a conversation about changing the name of the award. On Saturday, June 10th it was on the 2018 ALSC Board of Directors Agenda and Documents under Document 29 “ALSC Awards Program in Context of Strategic Plan.” I don’t know how the discussion went but when the announcement was made that Jacqueline Woodson had won the award, I did wonder if she would receive an award of an entirely different name by the time June rolls around for ALA Annual. It could happen!
Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults
This was enormously gratifying. I can’t be the only one who feels that recipient Angela Johnson needs a new bout of publicity to highlight her books.
May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award
You might recall that I chaired last year’s committee (we selected Naomi Shihab Nye, who is slated to speak at Western Washington University and the Whatcom County Library System so get your tickets here). Debbie Reese was selected as the 2019 speaker. Not since 2010 has there been a speaker who wasn’t an author (at that time it was K.T. Horning). I think it is easy for us to forget that part of the reason the award is so interesting it that it opens it up to anyone who has made a significant contribution in the field of children’s literature. Not just authors for once. Congrats to Debbie for the honor.
YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
Hooray for Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman! I thought it might have a Newbery chance (no go) but at least it got the top nonfiction award in YA publishing. Now if someone could just bloody endow this award so that it had a nice succinct name . . .
Mildred L. Batchelder Award
Ah. And here I began to become a bit sad. Not that I had anything against the winner (they sold The Murderer’s Ape as YA so I never got a chance to read it) and I was very pleased to see that kooky little book You Can’t Be Too Careful! on there, but where was my beloved Bronze and Sunflower? I thought the translation on that title was so sublime. It was surprising how few of the books that appeared on my 31 Days, 31 Lists: Translation list came up. Ah well. You can’t win ’em all.
Michael L. Printz Award
Ah. Here we go. This is the moment when the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I wished I had my old friend Peter Sieruta to give me some context in terms of Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down. If Peter were here I could ask him if a Printz Honor title has ever been a Newbery Honor at the same time. Then Peter could tell me to stop being silly and to look up the information myself. I’m kidding. Peter would instantly know the answer. But since he’s not here I decided to do the legwork. The Printz has only been around since 2000, after all. So I headed over to see and the answer is an unequivocal . . . yes. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt won Printz and Newbery Honor awards in 2005. And back in 2003 Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion had a very good year, getting a Printz Award, a Newbery Honor, and a National Book Award (quite the trifecta). So there you go. It has been done, though not in at least 13 years.
Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement:
I freaked out about this. Eloise Greenfield was an inspired choice. And hey, maybe this will lead to a bunch of her books being re-illustrated and republished. I can dream, can’t I?
Coretta Scott King Book Awards
Oh, man. Where to start? Well, when we heard that Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson had won the King Author Award winner, maybe that should have been a clue to keep a closer eye on that title. Meanwhile, Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut just started sweeping up. A King Author Honor here. A King Illustrator Honor there. You know how I feel about that book, but the fact that it comes from such a small independent publisher was just the icing on the cake. And better still, Before She Was Harriet: The Story of Harriet Tubman, illustrated by James E. Ransome, written by Lesa Cline-Ransome, got some love too! Surprisingly the only time we heard Ekua Holmes’ name today was once for the Illustrator Award. I suspect she may make up for that in 2018.
Pura Belpré Awards
I did warn my co-workers near my workplace that I might make funny noises as I listened to the webcast. Still, they might not have been fully prepared the end zone dance I displayed when I heard that La Princesa and the Pea got the Illustrator Award. I’d already been hopping when I found that All Around Us illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia, written by Xelena González (on my Most Regret Not Reviewing books of 2017 list) got an art Honor. Yay, small presses and great books! And the author awards were entirely good, though I was particularly touched to see local author Celia C. Pérez and The First Rule of Punk on the Honor list as well.
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
To my shock and horror, I completely missed reading this year’s Award winner. Gah! How did I manage that? But lo and behold, a Calkins Creek title (have you noticed that ALA was very good to small presses this year?) waltzed away with the top award. Good thing I had Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix, Grand Canyon, and Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask about Having a Disability under my belt. But… wait… no How To Be an Elephant? Aw, man. And what was that Sea Otter book?!? How did I miss that too? To the library!
Theodor Seuss Geisel Award
There had been, this being a weird Newbery year, some speculation that maybe Laurel Snyder could get a Newbery Honor for Charlie and Mouse. I was just pleased to see it get a Geisel, alongside my pet favorites King & Kayla and Snail and Worm Again (which almost makes up for the fact that the previous Snail and Worm didn’t get anything . . . almost). Oh! And how cool was it to see Noodleheads See the Future on there? I freakin’ love that book. Folktales for modern kids! There’s nothing else quite like it.
I love how they announce the awards every year. They read off the number of Honors (and everyone gasps, no matter what the number is). Then it’s this exquisite torture as you try to keep track in your mind of the books that have NOT been mentioned. As they recounted the winners I had to keep mentally checking things off the list. When they were ready to announce the winner, however, I knew it had to come down to one of two books. Either Wolf in the Snow would win and After the Fall would get nothing OR After the Fall would win and Wolf in the Snow would get nothing. Since Dan Santat already won for Beekle I felt pretty happy with the win (though an Honor for him would have been cool). And Cordell has never won anything Caldecott-wise before. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Looking forward to that speech, that’s for sure.
For fun, I just went through my Newbery/Caldecott Predictions of 2017. In March of 2017, my spring edition predicted Wolf in the Snow. Still, it wasn’t until I wrote my Final Prediction Edition back in January that I mentioned Big Cat, Little Cat or Crown. The only place I ever mentioned Grand Canyon was on the Calling Caldecott blog, so it was gratifying to see that I was onto something there. I just didn’t think it stood a chance. Of the winners, the only true surprise for me was A Different Pond, illustrated by Thi Bui. A Capstone book! Well, I thought Capstone should have gotten honored for Here I Am years ago, so this felt right. I liked the book a lot, but felt I was biased towards it since I used to live in the Twin Cities and felt homesick reading it.
Remember how I didn’t mention a single Newbery contender in my spring prediction edition post of 2017? Did you wonder why that was? If so, I cleared it up in the subsequent posts. In my summer post I used other people’s recommendations because I just couldn’t find anything Newbery worthy. In the fall edition I was a little better, but it didn’t change much for the Final Prediction Edition. But the crazy thing is, I wasn’t wild about any of my choices. I liked them. I’d have been happy to have them. But nothing struck me to my core, the way that my Caldecott picks did. Throughout the year I kept talking to librarians and over and over we had to agree. 2017? A weak Newbery year. They happen sometimes. It’s nobody’s fault. There just isn’t much to do about it.
Now a weak Newbery year can be an awesome thing. Because when the middle grade fiction doesn’t come through, that opens the door for other kinds of books. Could be graphic novels. Could be poetry. Deep in my secret heart of hearts I had an abiding wish that maybe, just maybe, this year’s list would be FULL of nonfiction titles! It takes a special kind of committee to recognize the talent of nonfiction (there’s a reason that a true Nonfiction book has only won the Gold once) and there was some really great Nonfiction in 2017. Maybe that would be this committee. Maybe! Whatever the case, we were all set for something truly fun. A Wild Card Year.
But see, that’s the thing about Wild Cards. They can be so unpredictable that you just don’t know what they’re gonna do. And this year, the committee decided to fly in the face of every Mock Newbery in the country (seriously, if you have a committee that called all these wins then you may need to look into a full-time clairvoyance gig) and present us with two YA books, one picture book, and one middle grade for the win.
The young adult titles were the ones that really struck me dumb. I had hoped fervently for Jason Reynolds to win something this year with Patina. It never in a million years would have occurred to me that Long Way Down had any Newbery chances. Taken alongside Piecing Me Together I remembered that the Newbery Award goes to the age of 14. So I headed over to Heavy Medal and lo and behold they were good at covering their bases. They talked about both of those books as possibilities! However, they missed Crown, and that’s understandable. I missed it in my prediction posts too. Honestly, it wasn’t until I read Monica Edinger’s piece Thoughts On Newbery that I realized what I’d missed. Of course it was a contender! That language. There’s nothing like it.
Some folks have expressed sadness that the Newbery went so YA this year, but that’s what you get in Wild Card years. As for the winner itself, I know many fine and outstanding people who love that book. It wasn’t for me but that’s just fine and dandy. I look forward to Ms. Kelly’s upcoming speech and raise a glass to her fabulous win.
In fact, while I’m thinking of it, let’s put the two big winners in context. I’ve already written at length about how Wolf in the Snow speaks to the world around us today. This book is entirely about the “other”. Characters are literally placed in bubbles that are separate from one another (sometimes by the gutter of the page) until compassion overwhelms fear and they learn to see past differences. So how does Hello, Universe speak to the world in 2018? You could go in a lot of different directions, but the one I prefer to examine involves the big, blonde, boy bully. He feels a true sense of entitlement, stomps on anyone he sees as different, is completely unnerved by strong girls who won’t fear him . . . yeah. Can’t imagine how that has anything to do with the world we’re in, hm?
Heck, I raise a glass to all you guys. The big publishers and the small. The folks who’ve won multiple awards multiple times, and the people who have toiled for years and only just now won. The debuts. The old-timers. I’ll see you all in New Orleans. Bring your fancy digs. It’s already turning out to be a hell of a year, and we’ve only just hit February . . .
Filed under: Newbery / Caldecott Predictions
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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