- Virginia Johnson
Every year the American Library Association gives awards for the best new books for children and young adults. Probably the oldest and most famous of these prizes are the Randolph Caldecott Medal, given for illustration, and the John Newbery Medal, given for children’s literature. This year, life stories and family stories feature prominently in the prizes.
The 2012 Newbery Award-winning young adult novel, Dead End in Norvelt, is set in the 1960s. Norvelt, Pennsylvania—named for EleaNOR RooseVELT--was created by the federal government in the 1930s as a place for laid-off coal miners to live. By 1962, Norvelt has become the author’s small-town hometown…a place for spending his 12th summer getting into trouble in all kinds of interesting and often funny ways. Jack Gantos has written something here that blends fiction with autobiography for a really entertaining and memorable read.
Newbery Honor-winner Inside Out & Back Again, by Thanhha Lai, recalls how the author’s family left war-torn Vietnam in 1975 and came to be resettled in Alabama. Like Gantos’ book, the author shares her memories by blending truth with another medium--this time poetry. The poems tell emotional stories of learning a new language, dealing with bullies, and, of course, homesickness.
The second Newbery Honor book takes readers to a bitter reality of daily political oppression. Josef Stalin ruled the Soviet Union with an iron fist, and his image was everywhere, including the school hallway where the nose on his sculpture accidentally gets broken by 10-year-old Sasha Zaichik on the day he is supposed to join the government indoctrination group, the Young Pioneers. To make matters worse, Sasha’s father, whom he believes to be a loyal Communist Party member, has been taken away in the middle of the night for questioning by the authorities. Breaking Stalin’s Nose, written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin, recreates those frightening times as seen through a boy’s eyes.
The winners for children’s illustration are considerably more light-hearted. The 2012 Caldecott Medal was awarded to A Ball for Daisy, illustrated and told by Chris Raschka without any words at all. This story of a dog enjoying her playtime with a new ball and what happens when it gets lost relies on bright and lively illustrations to convey the tale. Caldecott Honor books included: Blackout, wherein family time is rediscovered when the power goes out, illustrated and written by John Rocco; Grandpa Green, a story about great-grandfather’s intriguing topiary garden, illustrated and written by Lane Smith; and Me … Jane, a picture book about young Jane Goodall, illustrated and written by Patrick McDonnell.
Besides the Caldecott and Newbery awards, other prizes were given for top-ranking children’s literature, including:
The Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:
Where Things Come Back, written by John Corey Whaley
The Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
The Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:
Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom, written and illustrated by Shane W. Evans
In addition, Susan Cooper was awarded the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. She is best known for her The Dark Is Rising fantasy series. Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse, was named winner of the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award, which recognizes an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children's literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site.
For a complete list of American Library Association award-winners in more print and media categories, check their Web site.