Saturday, January 8, 2011

Newbery and Caldecott time

It's prediction time!  One of my most favorite times of the year.  Usually, my preditions are of the Oscar variety (I've won my local theatre's Oscar pool two years running), but the ALA awards deserve some attention too.

First of all, in full disclosure I have to admit I have only a slight understanding of what really makes the Newbery and Caldecott selection committees tick.  The Newbery medal is awarded to the "author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".  Now, many people much smarter than me have grappled over this word, "distinguished".  What exactly, makes a book "distinguished"?  The last two year's winners, When You Reach Me, a genre-bending tale of twisted storylines mixed with a historical coming of age novel, and The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman's gothic not-a-ghost story are books that both children and adults responded to with passionate support.  Other recent winners, like The Higher Power of Lucky, strike me as the kind of literature adults think children should be reading, rather than anything they actually are.  The Caldecott medal is a little easier for me to understand.  Again, the official statement offers that tricky word, "distinguished", but spotting a masterfully made picture book is slightly less problematic.  (I tried writing that sentence in the least reductive way possible.  I don't think I succeeded.  Apologies.)  Last year's recipient, Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse, was a win so "in the bag" that the bag was monogrammed.  This year's races for both awards have proved interesting to follow.

2011 Newbery Award
It seems this year I'm in agreement with Elizabeth Bird over at Fuse #8 (and many others, I'm sure), when I say I think Rita Williams-Garcia's One Crazy Summer will take home the prize.  The story of three sisters during the summer 1968 has already been shortlisted for the National Book Award (where it lost to Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird) and just won the Scott O'Dell award for Historical Fiction.  It's one of the only books I allowed myself time to re-read this past year, and one that I simply got lost in both times.  It's an effortless book, which can only mean some fierce effort must have gone into its making.  It also happens to boast one of my favorite book covers of the year; lush, but restrained, and one that just makes you smile, without really knowing why.  There is competition, including the aforementioned Mockingbird, but I just have a feeling about One Crazy Summer.  And that's how predictions usually work out for me.  With a feeling.

While there are, I think, a few books in the running for the medal, there's a whole slew of them in competition for the Honors.  Among the contenders are Sharon Draper's Out of My Mind (another personal pick of mine), Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis' The Dreamer, Maryrose Wood's The Incorrible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling, Laurie Halse Anderson's Forge, Kathi Appelt's Keeper and Susan Campbell Bartoletti's They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group (though this might skew YA).

2011 Caldecott Award

This one I’ll admit is a complete shot in the dark.  This year’s field feels wide open to me, with new Mock Caldecott results yeilding new and surprising winners every day.  I don’t think what’s safe is safe this year.  Which is why I’m clamboring out on a limb and predicting Bink and Gollie, written by Allison McGhee and Kate DiCamillo and brilliantly illustrated by Tony Fucile.  Though it leans on the side of an early reader than a traditional picture book, it still uses illustration heavily in its storytelling.  This story of best friends finds much of its charm in Fucile’s nimble use of body language and scope (I keep thinking of the final image of the goldfish under the pond).

If I’m wrong about Bink and Gollie, and I probably am, any of these honor contenders could very well grab the big golden prize: My personal favorite of the year, City Dog, Country Frog, written by Mo Willems and illustrated by Jon J Muth; A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by Phillip Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead; Art and Max by David Weisner; Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems; Farm by Elisha Cooper; Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown; Dark Emperor by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Rick Allen; and Big Red Lollipop by Rukshanna Kahn and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

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