Monday, January 22, 2007

In Which Brooke Returns from the Dead to Prattle On About the ALA Youth Media Awards

Okey-dokey, so I kinda dropped out of the kidlitosphere for a while there, but I have a good reason for doing so: The Evil Demons of Morning Sickness. Yea, verily -- I am expecting a baby in July (this would be #3 for me). This week is one of the first that I've been able to withstand the aroma of garlic, ginger, eggplant, and salsa. Posting on a blog was one of those little luxuries that fell by the wayside in the name of settling dramatically on a couch, putting a lily-white wrist to my fevered brow, and moaning for hours on end.

But I'm back now, with a passle of Forgotten Books with which to regale you all. In the meanwhile, let's get down to business about the ALA Youth Media Awards:

I've Got a Lot To Say About The Newbery Medal

This is the biggest, baddest, oldest kidlit award of 'em all, and this year the winner and honor medals were all bestowed on white female authors who wrote novels with white female protagonists.


And the committee that picked these was comprised mostly of . . . ? (cough)

Aww, but I'm being persnickety. I'm very happy with the winners -- this is the first time in my career as a children's librarian that I've read all of the Newbery winners ahead of time -- and they're all quite excellent (two of them, Rules and Hattie Big Sky, made my personal list of favorites for 2006). You won't go wrong putting them in the hands of any young reader . . . unless that reader happens to be a boy.

The winner:
The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
I read this over Christmas, having felt a bit of sixth-sense buzz about it. It came as no surprise to me that it won the Newbery -- it's a book worthy of the award, and I'm happy to see the committee choose a book that's a solid middle-grade read.

However -- my Inner Critic thought it a tad oversentimental, and that the character of Brigitte wasn't fleshed out enough. In the grand tradition of The Tale of Despereaux, this is an occasion when I feel that the Newbery was given to a slightly overrated book. But, only slightly. Because I'm a schnicklefritz.

Really -- give this thing a well-deserved read. The residents of Hard Pan, California are worth a visit from any of you, and they will all make you want to move to the desert, write essays about tarantula hawk wasps, and eat chili out of a Fritos bag while searching for your own Higher Power.

The runners-up:
Penny From Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm
Yup, no surprises here. I actually received a postcard from Random House before this book was published -- I'm assuming they got my address from the ALSC mailing list -- to pitch it to me as a future Newbery winner. The book merits the honor, but still. Bleh to hype-generating postcards. This is Holm's second Newbery Honor, making her an official Newbery Bridesmaid (and hopefully, someday a Bride). My only suggestion to Holm: Please, PLEASE do not ever again pose for your backflap author photo wearing a vintage-era strapless prom dress in soft focus! PLEASE!!!

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Yay! I'm always getting lots of requests from kids who want books about Fiesty Young Women on the Unforgiving Frontier, and this is one I'm happy to recommend to all of them. The level of research that went into this baby is astounding. Read it and rejoice in the fact that you haven't ever frozen your hands to a waterpump.

Rules by Cynthia Lord
Ahh . . . this is the book I wanted to see win the Medal. But being a runner-up is pretty good, too. It's a tale of a smart kid realizing what she's capable of, and in that sense it kinda reminded me of E.L. Konigsburg's The View from Saturday. And for bonus points, it has a duckie on the cover, and one of the best references to Frog and Toad are Friends ever.

And, Of Course, the Books That I Wish Had Gotten Some Newbery Action:

A True and Faithful Narrative by Katherine Sturtevant
Yeah, Hattie Big Sky has a wealth of historical detail, but it's got nothing on the life and times of Meg Moore.

Why it Didn't Win: That scene where Meg's in bed, thinking about a man's hands going up her shift. Yup, the kiss of death. Plus, most kids have no idea when the Restoration was.

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Hands down, Turner's Eugenedies is the most fascinating, complex protagonist to hit town this year. (Ooooh, and he's so dreamy.)

Why it Didn't Win: It doesn't stand on its own when read apart from its series, blah blah blah blah blah. I can cite precidence on this count in the annals of Newbery Winners: Lloyd Alexander's The High King. Scary, gory, and absolutely incomprehensible if you haven't read the previous four volumes in the series. And yet it won the Medal. Huh.

Sigh . . . I guess Megan Turner will have to find comfort for herself in her legions and legions of ravenous, worshipful fans . . .

The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes
What? You didn't read it? Go find it now! This book excells in its beautiful, clean-cut portrait of a girl longing for home. More poignant than The Higher Power of Lucky and Hattie Big Sky put together.

Why it Didn't Win: There are no funny parts in this book. Not. A. Single. Joke. But it's a runner-up for the Coretta Scott King Award, which makes me rather pleased. I takes what I gets.

Year of the Dog by Grace Lin
Oh, yeah -- remember this book? This lil' cutie was a breath of fresh air for me back at the beginning of 2006. It changed the way I look at Thanskgiving turkey, Vitamin-C pills, and red eggs. I looooove recommending it to kids new to chapter books who love stories about best friends.

Why it Didn't Win: It's written for kids new to chapter books who love stories about best friends. Also, it used a pretty funky font. Newbery committees always look down on funky fonts. (Or, at least they do in Brookeworld.)

And Now for a Few Brief Comments on Everything Else:

The Caldecott Medal went to David Wiesner's Flotsam. I'm cool with it; I didn't see any other picture books that dazzled me as much as that one. But still -- another Wiesner book?!? That makes three wins and two honors for him. Eh, but I love his books so much, I really don't mind. Dude, it's like even the air around him gets more talented as he walks through a room . . .

I was very happy to see the Printz Award go to Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese, and that Mark and Siena Cherson Siegel's To Dance was a Siebert runner-up. Hooray for graphic novels! Hooray for validation! Bring us more of both!

The only Batchelder winner I'm familiar with is Silvana De Mari's The Last Dragon, but I'm happy it got a bit of spotlight, because more people need to read it. Post-apocalyptic novels with elves and dragons should be on everyone's to-read list.

Also, it's about time that the Zelda and Ivy books got some recognition. I hereby give Mad Props to the Geisel Award committee for a job well done.

And, finally, can I say how relieved I was that absolutely no favors were given to The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane? That book gave me the jibblies. I can breathe easier knowing that fewer children will be required to write book reports about Edward Tulane as a school assignment. Or that there will be teachers required to grade said reports.

(Ahh, there it goes . . . in . . . out . . . in . . . out . . .)


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the link to your blog. And congratulations on expecting #3, and on feeling a little better.

I can't wait to get reading.


Rebecca said...

Congratulations on your good news! Glad you're feeling better now. Yay July!

K and M said...

Great post. I really enjoyed reading about the books, but what was it about Edward Tulane that bothered you so much?

Brooke said...

Oo-er. Have you read that book? It is darn weird, and strangely violent. Plus, a bit treacly. Kind of a ho-hum book in my opinion, but its publication merited a publicity blitz on behalf of the book's publisher. I say: bleh to books that get noticed simply because of a big advertizing budget.

But that's just me. I'm a book snob.

Grace Lin said...

I was really happy with the Newbery awards this year too--thanks for the mention of THE YEAR OF THE DOG; I'm honored you think it could've been a contender (I also like thinking it was fault of the font, too).

Congrats on your upcoming baby!

Brooke said...


Grace Lin left a comment on my blog!!!!! This means that she read it!

(Brooke does a dance.)

Thanks a bunch, Grace!

Grace Lin said...

:) you're welcome!

cynthialord said...

Thank you so much, Brooke!

And congratulations on your baby-to be!