Thursday, January 29, 2009

The ALA awards -- So What Do You Think?

Are you pleased? Surprised? Disappointed? Going "huh?" because those books weren't on your radar or you don't understand how such-and-such could possibly have won? Or lost?

If you need a link to the complete awards, it's here.

As for the above reactions, I often run the gamut, even in the same year. For me, this year's Newbery, Printz, and honor books are a mix of "I knew that" and "Huh?" Not as in "How did that book ever win?" but as in, "No matter how much I read, there's so much more I never get to."

First, the Newberys. I haven't read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and must confess the title (though not the author's name) is totally new to me. I now have it on hold at the library. Two of the honor books, The Surrender Tree (poems by Margarita Engle) and After Tupac and D Foster (Jacqueline Woodson) are also brand-new to me. Savvy (Ingrid Law) was not at all an unexpected pick, and I'd have dropped my teeth if my pick for the medal, The Underneath (Kathi Appelt), had been passed over. Though Waiting for Normal (Leslie Connor) didn't make it in the Newbery category, I'm happy to see it as the mid-grade Schneider Award winner. Trouble (Gary Schmidt) I consider conspicuous by its absence. And oh how I wish a Penderwicks (Jeanne Birdsall) book would place. I shall have to be content with The Penderwicks' National Book Award a couple of years ago -- and I am, I am.

I must say the Printz list includes a lot of "I tried it, but it wasn't for me" books. I'm not familiar with the winner, Jellicoe Road (Melina Marchetta), but I haven't been able to get into any Octavian Nothing books (though I wish I could), Nation (Terry Pratchett), or anything Margo Lanagan. Currently, the only book I've both read and enjoyed in this category is the Printz Honor book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (E. Lockhart). I wonder where The Adoration of Jenna Fox is. I wonder where The Hunger Games is, though I suspect it was too plot-driven to place. And again, I'm looking in vain for Trouble, which, like many Gary Schmidt books, overlaps the two categories. One book that I'm eager to get hold of is A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce, winner of the first William C. Morris award for a first YA novel. So far, my library system hasn't bought this book. I'll bet they will now.

Well, my record hasn't changed: My all-time Newbery-picking score still stands at One. While I do tend to get at least one honor book right most years, I've only managed to pick the medal once. That was way back when Lois Lowry's The Giver won.

So, now that the news has had a few days to settle -- what do you think of the awards? How often have your predictions been right? What are some of your favorite winners -- from any year -- and why? What books do you feel should have won that didn't? What books do you think are "the most distinguished contributions to children's (or YA) literature"?


Anne Spollen said...

I was looking for The Hunger Games, but no such luck. Is there a link anywhere that shows what the criteria is for these books? Just wondering, since I seem so far off base so often (or they are, not sure)

PJ Hoover said...

I normally pay little attention to awards as it all seems so subjective.

But for the first time in my life I actually read the Newbery book before it won!

Vijaya said...

I was disappointed not to see The Adoration of Jenna Fox on any of the lists, but that's okay.

I love my favorite books, whether or not they get awards. And yes, it is subjective. Given all the wonderful books, how difficult it must be to pick just ONE.

Marcia said...

Anne -- You can find the criteria on the ALA site. Just click on the award names in the left column, and you'll go to the main page for that award and see the titles of a bunch of sub-pages. One will be a criteria page.

PJ -- Subjective like this whole business, you mean? :) I think I manage to read the winner before it wins about 50% of the time. Okay, maybe a little less.

Vijaya -- I know, I love my favorite books whether they place or not, too. If I were a librarian I'd love a chance to serve on one of these committees. Or at least I think I would. I could give a year to that. And I'm sure I'd find out just how difficult it is.

Unknown said...

I was disappointed that The Hunger Games didn't receive anything. Like you, I've never heard of Jellicoe Road and I haven't read the Graveyard Book, but it sounds intriguing. As for Trouble, I didn't finish the book. Nothing happened for the longest time and I eventually grew tired of waiting for the story. Loved Wednesday Wars and liked Lizzie, but Trouble wasn't as good.

Marcia said...

Thanks for stopping by, Paul. The G. Schmidt book that I didn't care for was Lizzie Bright. Other than that, GS is just about my favorite author right now.

Tabitha said...

I've read and loved Saavy, but haven't read anything else. There's just so much out there to read, and I always feel like I'm behind. Now I have more to add to my list, though The Graveyard Book was already on the list. I just didn't manage to read it. :)

Like you, I hadn't heard of Jellicoe Road, but I have read another book by the author: Saving Francesca. That's a fun YA.

I was sad not to see Chains on the list, though I can't remember the age group. That's an amazing book.

Mary Witzl said...

Reading this post -- and other posts about YA and MG literature -- I feel so ashamed and ignorant. I do NOT read enough kids' books -- or YA -- despite the fact that all three of my kids AND my husband are avid YA and MG readers. I can't account for this -- I really love reading! -- but clearly I have to do something about it. At least I've heard of five of these -- and I have firm plans to buy or acquire at least three.

Anne Spollen said...

Thanks for the link, Marcia! I didn't even know it existed.

Their criteria is terrific - the problem is it makes me even more perplexed as to why they chose the books they did.

Marcia said...

Tabitha -- I'm with you -- so many books, so little time. I feel like there are so many more published than there used to be, despite the fact that my nightstand pile is no shorter. There are so many more I never even heard of, and like you, I feel behind. I agree about CHAINS. That would have been a worthy pick.

Mary -- You must find it tough to read as much as you'd like to -- I'm sure we all do. And just like we've been saying, no matter how much you're reading, it seems like there's so much you're missing. I try to enjoy each book and not get suckered into thinking, "Okay, I've gotta read this pile chop-chop so I can get another pile . . ."

Anne -- I have to actually spend the time reading the criteria. I know where to find it, but that's about as far as I've gotten!