from The Eyes and the Impossible
written by Dave Eggers
illustrated by Shawn Harris
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2023
Winner of the 2024 John Newbery Medal
“for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature”
You can access the complete list of all winning titles here.
Last Monday, January 22, 2024, the American Library Association announced its most prestigious awards in children’s literature. Every other year, I tuned my radio, logged in to the ALA home page, or most recently, set up my computer to live stream the announcement.
Sometimes I was at my desk at work. After I retired, I tuned in from Florida, where I was vacationing. I compared the list of books I loved with the list of winners and immediately sought out the ones I hadn’t read. That list was short. Sometimes I loved a book so much that I just knew it would win an award. Sometimes I was even right.
This year, the announcements flew under my radar. Actually, I didn’t even turn on my radar. I caught the winners’ titles as a news announcer made a “by-the-way” comment. It’s a good thing ears can’t blink. I believe I would have missed it.
I reserved the Medal winner right away.
The Newbery Award is given to the author of the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature. It is named for John Newbery, (1713 -1767) the Father of Children’s Literature. When he noticed a lack of appropriate literature for children, Newbery decided to do something about it. He published and wrote over 200 books. Two are notable. A Pretty Pocket-Book (1744) is called the first children's book and The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes (1765) is a Cinderella variant. Newbery was a bookseller, too. He marketed his books with toys and bright colors. He was not only the first writer of children’s books, he was the first to make the endeavor profitable. And both titles are still in print. (Verified 1/28/24)
The winning book must be published in English in the United States during the preceding calendar year. Some other criteria the committee considers include
theme or concept
accuracy, clarity, and organization of information
artistic portrayal of characters
artistic portrayal of setting
appropriateness of style
The Caldecott medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association. It is given to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children and named for Ralph Caldecott, a nineteenth-century English illustrator. According to Gleeson White, an art critic in the mid to late 1800s, [Caldecott] “studied his subject as no one else ever studied it ... Then he portrayed it simply and with inimitable vigor”
With criteria identical to the Newbery, the winning Caldecott book must also exhibit excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.
The 2024 Caldecott Medal winner is Vashti Harrison for her book Big. Her main character is teased for being too big. Even though she uses her words to explain how others have hurt her feelings with their words, she comes to understand that she is just fine as the size she is. A good lesson, subtly stated, for us all, whether we are the hurt-er or the hurt-ee.
So I’m a week late in reflecting on what makes good and lasting literature. My list of “want-to-reads” has grown, but in a very good way.
I just finished The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride. You can find my comments at the end of last week's post. So far it has been named Amazon’s Best Book of 2023, Barnes and Noble’s Book of the Year, and has won two awards from the National Jewish Book Council, The JJ Greenberg Memorial Award for Fiction and the Miller Family Book Club Award. The reserve list is long at most libraries, but well worth the wait.
-—Be curious! (and curl up with an award-winner)