it’s a book party
Stacked with all your favorite
A picnic of
words + sounds
in leaps + bounds.
from: How to Read a Book
by Kwame Alexander
art by Melissa Sweet
HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2019
Each January, The American Library Association announces its Book and Media Awards. Most important of those are the Newbery and Caldecott. For a complete list of the current winners, look here: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia Scroll down on the left side to click on the different awards.
The Caldecott and Newbery Awards, are each chosen by dedicated groups of fifteen knowledgeable and practiced librarians. The Newbery Committee also includes a consultant, and a staff liaison. The decisions of these committee members come with a heavy dose of responsibility, and no monetary reward. Members apply and are chosen by distinguished panels. Committee members agree to volunteer their service for a two year term.
Volunteers’ libraries need to agree, too, since the obligation involves hours and hours of reading boxes and boxes of books. I’ve heard former members of the committees describe their experiences as daunting, exhausting, and exhilarating.
The Caldecott Medal, named for Randolph Caldecott, a 19th century artist whose humor appealed to children, has been awarded since 1938. The award is given yearly to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
This year’s Caldecott Award Committee selected The Undefeated, illustrated by Kadir Nelson and written by Kwame Alexander. Although Kadir Nelson has won two Caldecott Honor Medals, this is his first Caldecott win. Look here for examples of his remarkable work. https://www.kadirnelson.com
The Undefeated speaks the unspeakable. Published by Versify, a new imprint of HoughtonMifflin: "[The book] highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes. … [T]his poem is a love letter to black life in the United States."
Julie Roach, this year’s Chair of the Caldecott Committee said, “Through color and composition, Kadir Nelson’s daring visuals erupt off the page. They challenge our emotional capacity in this layered journey of heroes.”
The Newbery Award is named for John Newbery, (1713 -1767) the Father of Children’s Literature. When he noticed a lack of appropriate literature for children, he decided to do something about it. He published and wrote over 200 books. Two are still notable, A Pretty Pocket-Book (1744), called the first children's book and The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes (1765), a Cinderella variant. He 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.
This year for the first time, a graphic novel took the Newbery Medal. Jerry Craft’s New Kid, according to Krishna Grady, Chair of the Newbery Medal Committee, “[is a] distinct, timely, and honest story [that] respects children and gives its readers a glimpse into what it means to be other.” The committee chose this book as the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children in the 2019 publishing year.
Jerry’s comic strip, “Mama’s Boyz,” was distributed by King Features Syndicate from 1995 to 2013. He’s been working on picture books, middle-grade novels and graphic novels ever since. In his own words, “… I set out to create something that I would have fun doing, and I had an absolute blast!” In his new, award-winning book, he describes how a new black kid feels in a mostly white middle school. And he does it with humor.
Truth is, I’ve never read a graphic novel. I’ve read my share of comic books, Archie and Veronica was my favorite. I’ve read the first four or five books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinny and a few Captain Underpants titles by Dav Pilkey. Those aren’t really graphic novels, though. I just finished Kate Hannigan’s first book in her new series Cape, an action-packed story about three girls who discover their super powers. In this one, they help foil a Nazi plot. Like Diary and the Captain, it is also told partly in graphic novel style. So I’ve cut my teeth on those. I’m ready for New Kid.
In this day and age of uncertainty underlined with fear and hatred, I’m proud that the American Library Association chose two books that feature African American subjects for their most prestigious awards. The Newbery is written and illustrated by an African American and the Caldecott, illustrated (and written) by two African Americans.
Well done! and Congratulations to all!
-—stay curious! (and well-read)