Awards That Went to the Wrong Books


Alison Morris - March 10, 2009

There are now almost 200 comments on my post from last May in which I asked you to name the books that are loved by everyone but you, and I’m still in awe of the fact that so people clearly needed that confession outlet! It’s been so much fun to read your comments on that post and see how many of you are THRILLED to learn that you’re not the only ones who hated such-and-such bestseller or doesn’t understand the hype about so-and-so. Your relief is palpable! And wonderfully entertaining! So keep those comments coming.

Since confessing seems to provide such relief to so many of you, though, I thought I’d open another vein here and ask this: What award winners really aggravated you, in this or in any year?

I KNOW there are a lot of you who have gripes about specific books or specific authors having won or having NOT won this award or that award in 2008 or in 1997 or… ever. And of course you do! No matter how good any awards committee might be, they aren’t you. They don’t necessarily have your taste, your viewpoint, your take on things. You’re one person, with opinions, many of which you may have been stifling for some time now…? Hmm…? You couldn’t BELIEVE that the Newbery committee would find something of value in X. Or you were horrified that the Nobel committee overlooked Y. You’re still shaking your head over the fact that 15 years ago your favorite local author failed to win your state’s biggest literary prize and your favorite children’s non-fiction author has repeatedly been passed over for a Sibert. If so, purge those complaints here, where you can even do so anonymously! 

I’m convinced you’ll feel better if you just get these gripes off your chest. (Especially when you see others chime in with their agreement.)

18 thoughts on “Awards That Went to the Wrong Books

  1. Miri

    It often seems to be that Newbery goes to a book by an author who had a better previous book. Specifically, Coraline would’ve been a better Newbery book than The Graveyard Book (I’m a huge huge Gaiman fan, but I found it disappointing – too disjointed – whereas Coraline is pitch-perfect, incredibly well written, and thought-provoking). Likewise, I much preferred Laura Amy Schlitz’s A Drowned Maiden’s Hair to her Fair Masters! Sweet Ladies!. (A Drowned Maiden’s Hair had actual, y’know, plot. I like that in a book.)

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  2. C.

    I thought that ‘Masterpiece’ by Elise Broach should have been at least a Newbery honor book if not winning the award this year. I thought it had more ‘direct’ kid appeal and was very well written. The two main characters, James and Marvin, were wonderful.

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  3. Mary Ann Rodman

    I am still recovering from THE SECRET OF THE ANDES beating out CHARLOTTE’S WEB for the Newbery. As someone recently noted, the honor books (which CHARLOTTE was) seem to be the books that live on, or that kids seem to gravitate to. I loved CHARLOTTE as a third grader and think it is THE one book I would take to a desert island. And I was horrified to discover (after 20 years of marriage) that my husband has never read it! If he weren’t such a great guy otherwise….!!!

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  4. Jane

    I totally agree about “Masterpiece” – so disappointed! I loved reading it and have encouraged younger readers to read it. Jane

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  5. Reader

    In my opinion, Kathi Appelt was too aware that she was writing beautiful prose in THE UNDERNEATH, which just spoiled it for me. Seems like a strange complaint, but there it is. It made the writing feel affected instead of heartfelt.

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  6. Reader 2

    Reader #1 – I hear ya! And I completely agree. And I didn’t find the prose beautiful, either. I just felt throughout like I was sold a story, rather than reading one. And then the book got so much attention – my feeling was that the Emperor had no Clothes. But that’s just me. I know that other people loved it. Happily, if we don’t like a book, there is bound to be another great book we DO love.

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  7. Reader 3

    I am totally with you other Readers! I can’t even imagine a child liking “Underneath” (I couldn’t even finish it). I would love for a fun, happy book to win something! Something like “Penderwicks,” “Dragonfly Pool” or “Julia Gillian (and the Art of Knowing)” (which I thought was WOEFULLY under-celebrated! It was up with “Masterpiece” of my favorite books of 2008).

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  8. Monica Edinger

    Just to say I’m just about done reading aloud The Underneath to my 4th grade class and they are loving it. So there are 16 children who like it. (One, without my knowing it, took it out of the library and finished reading it soon after I started, she liked it that much.)

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  9. Susan

    Oh, don’t get me started on The Underneath! “The tree, the old tree, the beautiful tree, the aged tree, the tree that had seen this, the tree that had seen that, the tree that could never forget that other thing, the tree that dreamed of whatsits and sang of whosits. That tree. That tree …” I rarely agree with The Printz award. The White Darkness? AT ALL? Much less being given instead of to the Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian! I haven’t read Jellicoe Road yet, but where was The Hunger Games on that list?

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  10. Lauren Downey

    I still don’t understand 1981. Jacob Have I Loved beating out A Ring of Endless Light? Completely agree with Susan about The Hunger Games. Speaking of the Printz, while I love American Born Chinese, it’s no Book Thief, The.

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  11. Reader 4

    Totally agree with The Hunger Games’ painful omission. How about Peter Sis winning the Sibert for The Wall? Despite his brilliance, it is not a kid-friendly book by any definition.

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  12. Miri

    Reader 4, I totally agree about The Wall. Not kid-friendly, but oversimplicized at the same time (its definition of communism, for instance… and the complete lack of recognition that things aren’t perfect in the West, either). AND, Henry’s Freedom Box, from the same year, was gorgeous, but the book design should have been enough to preclude it from the Caldecott – half the time the text was hard to read because it was in black font on top of cobblestones or the like.

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  13. TeeLee

    The Hunger Games should have won something for sure. Also The Penderwicks is so wonderful. And for younger kids what about TumTum and Nutmeg?

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  14. Bev

    After reading it a second time, I am still amazed that Shackleton’s Stowaway won nothing. It’s an incredible story, told very well.

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  15. RebelReader

    Agree about the Underneath–reading this was like having to eat your peas!! I forced myself to read it because of all the attention from so-called literary experts!

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  16. SamR

    I love many Pinkwater books, but I think both Lizard Music and The Neddiad in particular should have been at least honor books.

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  17. Kathi Appelt

    All right, say what you will about my prose, but do we have to attack peas? I love peas. Spring peas, green peas, sugar snaps, and my faves . . . black-eyed peas. Let there be peas. xoK

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