Monday, December 07, 2009

Who Will Win the Shiny Gold Medal?

I'm attending the ALA (American Library Association) midwinter conference in Boston this January (ALA....where you winter in Boston and summer in New Orleans), and I'm pretty excited (although I have a deadline for an article that is fast approaching). The midwinter conference is very different from the annual conference (which is in DC this summer! Score!). It's primarily a business meeting for committee members, so you don't go to the typical informational sessions and seminars that you would attend at a regular conference. Still, there are the publisher exhibits with their advanced reader copies (thanks to Betsy Bird's publisher preview posts, I have a list of books for which I will be scavenging) and, most of all, the announcement of the Youth Media Awards!

The Youth Media Awards consist of the two most distinguished awards in American children's publishing, the Newbery and the Caldecott, newer awards such as the Printz and Geisel, and very specific awards such as the Schneider Family Award and the Pura Belpre Medal. The big winners will be announced on January 18 (unfortunately, I won't be able to attend the announcement in person, but getting a cheaper flight home won out over attending the awards announcement).

The winners are always kept secret until the announcement (only the committee, the winners, and the publishers of the winners' books know of their respective wins), but that doesn't keep librarians, teachers, and other children's literature fans from guessing! There's been a lot of speculation this year, and far be it for me to not jump in. I have never correctly guessed the winners, but that doesn't stop me from trying!

(Previous years' picks-The Wednesday Wars and Penny From Heaven-have been named Honor books, so I've been close. But no cigar.)

These picks are all for the Newbery. I'm never a good judge of the Caldecott, so I won't even bother. Frankly, my record shows that I'm not a good judge of the Newbery either, but I have a stronger grasp and knowledge of titles in that age range.

A Season of Gifts

Uh-oh. There seems to be some controversy over the Princess Kickapoo story line.

When You Reach Me

Lots of buzz on this one. I will confess that I'm not head-over-heels in love with this book as many are. I liked it enough, sure. Wouldn't be surprised if it won, but anyone can name books that had a lot of buzz for the Newbery, but failed to earn even an Honor citation.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

I adore this book. I love this book like others love When You Reach Me. I reviewed it for School Library Journal and it ended up on SLJ's Best of 2009 list. It has received a ton of attention and I couldn't be happier. However, some say that it lags in places and have other criticisms. So we'll see. If it won, I would be thrilled.

The Magician's Elephant

Beautifully written. I don't think this is DiCamillo's year (this might not even be fiction's year-will explain later), though.

Anything but Typical (by Nora Raleigh Baskin)

This book is on order, so I don't have a link for it yet. It's an affecting story of a preteen boy's struggle with autism. At times funny and heartbreaking, this book had an effect on me long after I read the last page. However, I've read some criticisms about certain aspects of the author's portrayal of autism.

Those are my top fiction possibilities. However, some are saying that with this year's strong crop of exceptional nonfiction, a nonfiction title might walk away with the prize. The last time that happened was 21 years ago, for Russell Freedman's Lincoln: A Photobiography. Which nonfiction title might break this dry spell?

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Winning the National Book Award's Young People's Literature prize is not a guarantee that you will win the Medal, much less the Honor (see: The Penderwicks). However, this marriage of Colvin's testimony to Philip Hoose's fantastic writing may earn it a shiny gold medal on its cover.

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don't You Grow Weary

I saw this mentioned on the Heavy Medal's Mock Newbery discussion list. I think it's a terrific book, but I need to reread it again (I read it for Jefferson Cup, so I'll be rereading it anyway).

Good, good titles.

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