The Post-YMA Roundup

Now that it's been a few days since the (newly branded) Youth Media Awards were announced, it's time to look back with fresh eyes and share a few of my thoughts on the results of a year of hard reading by each committee. Let's start with the graphic novel love:

It seems to me that people are very much impressed by the inclusion of graphic novels in the two big awards this year. I am one of those people. I won't lie, though, I figured it wouldn't happen for a while. The way the criteria are written for the Newbery, while open to interpretation, does make it difficult to justify graphic novel inclusion at times. In my year on Newbery (Flora & Ulysses), I know people were surprised that a book with graphic novel elements would be considered at all, and then now, a year late, a full graphic novel has been honored. 

I was debating with a number of people over the weekend about whether or not there is a need for a new graphic novel award. I don't think that would help, but we can get into a whole other discussion of ghettoizing literature through the creation of more categories at another point in time. What I am super happy about is that a precedent has been set, and now future committees can't make the excuse that it's not possible to consider a graphic novel. I have always argued for reinterpretation of the criteria, or perhaps an expansion of the criteria to more explicitly allow graphic novels in many different awards.

I will admit I was very surprised about This One Summer being a Caldecott Honor, and I'm sure there will be much debate over the content vs the art in this one. It is one that I adore, and I'm glad that it has been honored. I think people are most surprised because we often forget that Caldecott can award books created for readers up to the age of 14. But since it has such a history of picturebooks being the winners (with the exception an illustrated novel in the the year of Hugo Cabret), I guarantee that people just didn't even consider it due to the oft-used YA categorization of the book. But I do think it is very important to give recognition to formats we don't always consider within certain awards, and this, I hope, will start that trend.

Within the Printz list, there were two books with LGBT content, a book that was just bizarre and had people arguing ceaselessly about its eligibility, and a graphic novel, again! Talk about a fantastic lineup of books! I know And We Stay had some initial mixed buzz, but I found it to be a rather fascinating book. You can read my review of it here. You can also see my reviews of The Carnival at Bray and This One Summer, by clicking on their titles. I didn't have a chance to review Grasshopper Jungle officially, but I have been shouting about it from the mountain tops since I read the bound galley in 2013.

Even the two lifetime achievement awards not specifically tasked with awarding a person of color, were presented to non-white authors. I'm thrilled I had the opportunity to meet Sharon draper the day before she got the Edwards award. And although I don't know much of the work of Donald Crews, I can't wait to go look for more from him now. Also, incredibly, the winner of the Virginia Hamilton Award was in the audience, serving on another award committee: Deborah D. Taylor! How cool is that?!

Diversity in other areas outside of the specific awards was also incredibly exciting to see this year! There was a Pura Belpre book honored by the Caldecott committee (Viva Frida); there were two authors of color and a book about and written by someone with a disability in the Newbery list; there was a memoir on the Sibert honors list, and a picturebook won the Stonewall for Children and Young Adults. This was a year where, I believe, committees very consciously read with diversity and broad representation in mind, and it shows.

I know not everyone is happy about everything, and there are books that many thought would show up, but which did not. But the awards are never supposed to be about making everyone happy. They're supposed to be about honoring exceptional, distinguished, and excellent work... according to each year's committee. That's what makes the process exciting, because opinions and worldviews change each year with each new group of jurors. And that's what I love, because I can't easily predict winners. 

But I shall sign off now and try to read the books I didn't know about before thanks to the efforts of the committees this last year. Go out and read, it's a great way to expand your mind!!



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