The 'Academy Awards' of Children's Literature

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By Ruth Anne Champion, Children's Materials Coordinator, Collection Management Department

What’s that book with the shiny medal on the cover?

Each year the American Library Association (ALA) presents many awards for distinguished books and media published for children and young adults. The awards range from the oldest, the John Newbery Medal, awarded to an author for distinguished writing since 1922, to the more recently established Theodore Seuss Geisel award for beginning readers, first awarded in 2006. Starting in 1970, the Coretta Scott King Awards have been awarded to African American authors and illustrators who communicate the African American experience. In addition to awards for writing and illustration, the Odyssey Award is for the best audio book and the Andrew Carnegie Medal is for an outstanding video production.

Extra Yarn CoverYou can see the range and diversity of the awards to be presented on the ALA website.

The 2013 awards will be announced in Seattle, Washington, on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. (Eastern Time). You can be among the first to know the winners by attending the live webcast of the 2013 award announcements at the Central Library in the Children’s Department Night Room. It has been said that this event is the "Academy Awards" of children’s literature. That may be true, but you won’t see any evening gowns; only hundreds of book enthusiasts, many with their bags packed and ready to travel home.

Have you ever wondered how a book gets to be an award winner? Book awards are the consensus of a committee. For each award, a committee is formed by members of the different divisions within the ALA. For the "major" awards, like Newbery and Caldecott, committee members are appointed by division leaders or elected by members. They read and reread hundreds of books throughout the year and share suggestions with each other via electronic communication. In the fall they nominate serious contenders. This becomes their discussion list for the midwinter meeting. They follow a process where they discuss the books, eliminate non-contenders, discuss the books again, eliminate more, and vote until they have a winner. If you are reading this on Friday, January 25 or Saturday, January 26, those committees are deep in that process right now!

Winning authors, illustrators and publishers are called on Sunday or Monday morning, and it’s all a big secret until the Monday morning announcements.

Sleep Like a Tiger CoverTwo awards given by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) are named for Margaret Edwards, a pioneer in Young Adult Services who worked at the Pratt Library for more than 30 years. You can find more information about the awards by following these links:

The Caldecott Award is for the "most distinguished American picture book." It was first awarded in 1938 and this year’s award will mark the 75th anniversary. There’s no way to guess the winner; I can only wonder if my favorites, like Extra Yarn by Mac Burnett and Sleep like a Tiger by Mary Logue will end up with a shiny medal on the cover. I can't wait to find out!

Ruth Anne was a member of the 2011 Caldecott Committee and the 2005 Newbery Committee.

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