Thoughts on Book Awards (and stuff)

I intended today to write a post about the ALA awards that were announced yesterday. But today was one of those days where life interfered with blogging. As I write that I realize it sounds a bit pompous. Sort of, “Oh, I’m just too busy and important for this little blogging thing.” Which is not what I mean. Neither do I mean that my real life interfered with blogging as I hate the pretension that blogging is somehow fake or less worthy than other endeavors. I guess what I mean is just that it was a day where a lot of other pursuits took my attention and distracted me from this particular pursuit.

There was a lot of birdwatching. There was a morning teatime. And an afternoon teatime. With lots of reading at both. We read poetry and books about owls and books about Benjamin Franklin.

There was some discussion of factors and prime numbers. There was less school than planned since it was an unusually warm January day and I wanted to let the kids spend a lot of time outdoors.

I kept thinking I’d have time to sit down and write. But there was bread to bake. And some unexpected laundry to do due to spilled hot chocolate on “pink blanky” during teatime number one and a great deal of mud from the outdoors adventures. There was some painting to do in the guest bedroom we are in the process of renovating/redecorating.

There were altogether too many emails to write. And a fair number of phone calls for work.

Then after dinner and bathtime there was more laundry from a vomiting child. (Who is now snug in bed sleeping.) And of course more books to read.

I sit here wondering why I even still feel compelled to write this post. Do I think that there are readers who are waiting with bated breath for my thoughts on the ALA awards? No. I could easily choose to do something else with these few spare minutes. Some might saw something more worthwhile. The truth is that I enjoy this time and this endeavor. It’s slightly therapeutic. Or cathartic. It’s worth my time.

So…the ALA awards. The winner of the 2012 Caldecott is A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka, a book I haven’t read. I have read the three Caldecott Honor Books: Blackout, Grandpa Green and Me…Jane and liked them all, especially Grandpa Green. The winner of the 2012 Newbery is a book I haven’t even heard of, Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. One thing that pleased me was that the books all seem more like things kids would actually like than just books adults think are really great and that kids should like. Dead End in Norvelt sounds kind of wacky but intriguing enough that I put it on hold at our library. The other two Newbery Honor Books sound more to me like beautiful books that adults think kids should like. One, Inside Out and Back Again, sounds like something I would really like but I’m not sure about kids, at least my particular kids. I should probably be careful about making those assumptions though. I remember thinking the same thing about Good Masters, Sweet Ladies! when it won the Newbery but then being really surprised at how much John enjoyed reading it together. Good books are good books for a reason.

I’ve been more aware of book awards this season between the Cybils and now the ALA awards (there are many more ALA award categories that you can see at their website). I’ve come away with two impressions. One is that there are an awfully lot of great books out there for kids and young adults. It’s amazing to me how little overlap there is between the Cybils shortlist and the Caldecott winners. And I know there are a lot of other awards I don’t know about and that probably chose different top books. I think this says more about the quality of children’s literature than any lack of consensus in the kid lit community. Second, I’m struck by how subjective it is to pick a “best” of anything, much less a book. There is great depth and wide variety in the field. I do wonder how the judges choose. Is it more important to write a book that kids love or one that somehow is innovative and pushes the boundaries? How do you define excellence other than “I know it when I see it”?” It’s an interesting process that I wish I knew more about.

However, regardless of whatever other choices the ALA judges made they made the absolute best choice for the Edwards lifetime achievement award. They gave it to Susan Cooper who is the author of The Dark is Rising series my all time favorite series from childhood. To let you know both how much I love these books and what a book geek I am I’ll tell you that we went on our honeymoon to Cornwall because of them. So in my mind the ALA awards were right on the money this year.



4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Book Awards (and stuff)

  1. It’s kind of interesting that in my own journaling, I’ve been thinking about pursuing an interest I’ve had for a while – the idea of writing a children’s book, but before I sit down to actually do that, I’ve been asking myself similar questions to what you were asking about judging kid lit: who is the audience? how important is it to push boundaries? As in perhaps any creative pursuit, there’s an argument for just going with what you know/”who you are” and there’s an argument for the study of your field’s history. I tend toward the latter, and now I feel challenged to look at all of the past Caldecott and Newbery Award winners – something I’ve never consciously tried to do.
    On a final note, I think Cornwall has merit unto its own beyond Susan Cooper, great author as she is: Land’s End, King Arthur/Camelot, palm trees, coves & cliffs, a seal refuge, golfing, late sunsets, The Halzephron Inn.

  2. Well, *I’m* always waiting with bated breath to read your thoughts on anything you feel like musing on, in any case! I love your posts, whether you’re giving a glimpse of the kind of homeschooling I hope to have with my own kids when they’re older, suggesting great books and resources, or sharing thoughts on any other topic that crosses your mind. So, your posts are providing a thoroughly enjoyable few minutes for at least one other person besides yourself 🙂

  3. Pingback: Collage Friday::Trials and Thanksgiving | Hope Is the Word

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