Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Newberys, Caldecotts, and a Whole Lot More

It may not have the cachet of the Oscars or the Golden Globes, but for children's books authors and illustrators one of the most eagerly awaited events of the year is the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association, when announcements are made of the winners and finalists for a number of awards.

The best known of these are the Newbery Medal, which goes to the author of "the most distinguished contribution to children's literature," and the Caldecott Medal, which goes to the illustrator of "the most distinguished American picture book for children." (There are "honor books" -- or runners-up -- for each award.) This year's Newbery Medal went to Neal Gaiman for his novel, The Graveyard Book. Gaiman, a well-known writer of fantasy and graphic novels for adults, showed he could write for children as well with his imaginative novel of a young boy raised by ghosts. The Caldecott Medal went to Beth Krommes, the illustrator of The House in the Night, a dreamlike book with a poetic text by Susan Marie Swanson.

There are a number of other awards bestowed as well, with some books winning multiple honors. One of those multiple winners was a particular favorite of mine: We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. This beautifully written and magnificently illustrated book won the Coretta Scott King author award, was a runner-up for the Coretta Scott King illustrator award, and was the winner of the Robert F. Sibert medal. The King awards are given to outstanding African American authors and illustrators, and the Sibert medal is for the most distinguished "informational book" for children.

A complete list of the various award winners can be found at the ALA's website.

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