By Jan Pease
What’s up with all these children’s book awards? According to the American Library Association website, “The eyes of the publishing world will turn to Dallas at 7:45 a.m. on Jan.23, 2012, when the American Library Association (ALA) announces the top awards in children’s and young adult literature as part of the ALA Midwinter Meeting, January 20 - 24. The ALA Youth Media Awards honor children’s and young adult authors and illustrators, as well as producers of children’s audio and video materials. Known worldwide for the high quality they represent, the ALA Youth Media Awards are selected under a cloak of secrecy by national judging committees composed of librarians and other children’s literature experts. The ALA will announce 18 awards, including the renowned Caldecott and Newbery Medals, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and Printz award. The books honored serve as a guide for parents, educators, librarians and those interested in providing children and teens with the very best reading and viewing materials.”
The awards that are most familiar are the Newbery and Caldecott medals. Each year since 1922, the Newbery Medal is awarded by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children's books published the previous year. In 1937 an award for most distinguished picture book of the year, named in honor of the nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph J. Caldecott, was established. During the early years, the Caldecott winner was chosen by the Newbery committee, but since 1980, the Caldecott Award has its own selection committee.
The Coretta Scott King Award is another well-known award announced during the ALA midwinter conference. The Coretta Scott King Award is presented to African American authors and illustrators for outstanding contributions to literature for children and young adults. The Coretta Scott King Award is given to encourage the artistic expression of the black experience via literature and the graphic arts including: biographical, social, historical, and social history treatments. The books are selected because they promote an understanding and appreciation of the black culture and experience. The Award is further designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue his work for peace and world brotherhood.
Because the Litchfield library is building a young adult collection, I’ve become more aware of the Printz Award. The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a Topeka, Kansas school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association. The award is sponsored by Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association.
I’m also a fan of the Theodore Seuss Geisel award, given in honor of our beloved Dr. Seuss. The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is given annually to the authors and illustrators of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year.
Besides the ALA awards, which are chosen by library professionals, readers’ choice awards are a remarkable source for lists of books to read. Minnesota’s own readers’ choice award is the Maud Hart Lovelace Award, given in honor of that well known Minnesota author. The after school and middle school book clubs have been reading the nominated books, and will vote on their favorites in March. Iowa also has a children’s choice award, and information may be found on the website for the Iowa Association of School Librarians. Readers’ choice award books may not be the most distinguished titles of the year, but they are books that are read and enjoyed by young people.
I try to purchase all of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Geisel medal winners for the Litchfield collection, and also consider the winners of the Printz and Coretta Scott King awards for purchase. I also add all of the Maud Hart Lovelace nominees each year. If you are looking for a list of recommended books, the award winners are a good place to begin. Just ask at the children’s desk, and we’ll provide you with a list that will take you well into the New Year. I’ll see you at the library!