Sunday was a pretty great day. This happened:
And simultaneously this happened:
And yes, the Patriots won the Superbowl and there was much rejoicing in New England! Then my library closed for Monday because there was another 8-12 inches of snow headed our way. For some schools Monday was the fifth snow day in a row since school hadn’t been open since last Monday before the bigger storm Tuesday. I think there are even schools closed today. It’s a crazy amount of snow in only a week!
This left me snuggled on my couch Monday morning drinking coffee and eating peanut blossoms watching the live stream of the ALA Youth Media Awards with my cat on my lap. Not a bad way to start the day.
The Youth Media Awards are the fancy foil stickers you see on books that will soon live in the “Newbery Winners” shelf of your public or school library. There are a good number of awards and some of them are more recognizable to non-librarians. Newbery and Caldecott you probably have heard of and are awarded for the best book for children (usually a middle grade book) and best illustration of a picture book, respectively. Then there is the Printz award – which is like the Newbery for teens – awarded for “excellence in literature for young adults.” They are others such as a series of Coretta Scott King awards for books about the African American experience, the Schneider family book awards which honor books about children with disabilities, the Pura Belpre for Latino and Latina authors and illustrators, and more. There’s a whole bunch and all of the honorees and winners are so well deserving!
I hadn’t even watched the live stream before and it was really fun. It was like a combination of the Super Bowl and the Oscars for youth book nerds. I had a great time following other librarians and book people tweeting about it, too. The president of ALA Courtney Jones retweeted one of my tweets and I felt that excited feeling you get when someone cool and famous notices you, or so I imagine. I’ve never really had anyone famous notice me before. Also, it’s funny how I get so giddy when I get to interact with a cool librarian or YA author . . . and then realize no one else outside our little book bubble of a world knows who these people are. Oh well.
I will admit to not having read too many of the books honored this year. But I did read Grasshopper Jungle which received a Printz honor and loved it. I was a little sad that Lies We Tell Ourselves didn’t win anything because it was really great. I also recently read Celeste Ng’s novel for adults, Everything I Never Told You, and thought it was beautiful and sad and so well written. It won an Alex Award for books written for adults but that have teen appeal. Such a great book! To go off on a little tangent here, I love how she incorporates her mother’s 1968 Betty Crocker Cookbook into the story. I grew up learning how to make cookies from my mom’s 1972 Betty Crocker cookbook and it has a very special place in my heart. I think the chocolate chip cookies were on page 54 or 55 and had many years of greasy, be-cookied fingerprints on those pages. I remember finding this gem of sexism in the book (same as in Celeste Ng’s mothers’) and thinking it ridiculous: The man you marry will know the way he likes his eggs. And chances are he’ll be fussy about them. So it behooves a good wife to know how to make an egg behave in six basic ways.
Of course it IS ridiculous but it gave me some insight into how life was for my mom growing up before and during the Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation Movements. It makes me very grateful for her and the way that she told me I can be whoever I want and if I want to still make cookies that’s okay. My mom’s way of getting out of making cookies is to say that she’s not very good at it and that my sister and I are better. Every Christmas she makes dozens of our family’s traditional Serbian cookies and other desserts, but she always says our chocolate chip cookies are better. It’s very cute.
Anyway, back to the awards. In some ways, our country has been having a series of discussions about race this year. There were shootings in Ferguson and New York and Cleveland and many other places, the We Need Diverse Books campaign picked up, and the Oscar nominees disappointed in terms of racial representation.* So in light of the fact that a lot of us are talking about the state of racial issues and racism in the U.S. I was happy to see that the award committees of ALA honored and awarded some really wonderfully diverse books. Not in a “oh we had a lot of ‘racial’ stuff happen this year so we better nominate diverse books’ way, but in a ‘yeah, this books are great and they speak to those who can be voiceless or unheard’ sort of way. Or at least that’s what I’m hoping. Take a look at the list and see how many writers of color and other minorities such as LGBTQ writers and disabled writers are represented. It doesn’t mean that the state of children’s and teen books today is perfect but recognizing and celebrating diverse talent in high profile awards is a really good step.
I was also happy to see more graphic novels and comics represented in the awards. I’ve really become a big fan of comics and graphic novels other the last few months. I had liked some graphic novels before but am really liking them now. And the sequential fun of comics is great. I happened to have This One Summer home with me this weekend and read it after it got Printz and Caldecott honors. I was surprised at the Caldecott honor since it reads more “teen/YA” to me. I suppose you could make a case for it being a bridge-type book from older elementary to middle school or high school. It does have some f-words and mentions teen sex and pregnancy, so be aware. It’s really wonderful and the illustrations are quite incredible.
Did you watch the Youth Media awards and have opinions? Or are you looking for some great recommendations? Check those out. It’s a good place to start!
*I think I’m going to go see Selma tomorrow since it’s my day off. I’m really glad it’s still in some theaters.