Know Your Awards?

Elizabeth Bluemle - January 14, 2010

As the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards announcements zoom ever closer — Monday, January 18! — we in the children’s literature field are speculating, buzzing, debating the relative merits of our own favorites, and predicting those we think might carry away the gold and silver. (Scroll down to see all the ALA medals and descriptions of what types of literary excellence they reward.)

Does it matter which books win? You bet.  An informative article by Elizabeth Cosgriff in Open Spaces Quarterly Magazine lays out some of the information about how the big awards, especially the Newbery, do not offer monetary prizes as such but reap rich rewards for their authors, whose award book sales increase exponentially and whose award-winning books’ shelf lives improve considerably. (She mentions the grim statistic that the average in-print life of a children’s book is 18 months.) A Newbery or Caldecott award can take a quiet book and catapult its sales into the tens, even hundreds +, of thousands of copies. (I’d be interested to know what effect the Honor medal has on sales.) Authors who win the major awards are also hot tickets on the paid speaking circuit—often a writer’s bread and butter.

In December and January, libraries and schools all across the country hold Mock Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz discussions in anticipation of announcement Monday, declaring their own winners. It’s fascinating to see which books rise again and again to the top of the lists, and which dark horses emerge as surprise contenders.

We’d love to hear from groups who have held mock award discussions. Which books won? Which books did you lobby hard for that didn’t make it? What are you hoping to hear on Monday?

Although most people are aware of three or four of the major awards, the ALA actually offers 16 different youth media awards (15 if you don’t count the Alex Awards, which are given to adult books with crossover teen appeal). Since some awards have higher profiles than others, I thought I’d list the ALA Youth Media Awards that will be announced on Monday morning, along with the ALA’s description of each award. Click on any award name to visit the ALA’s web pages for each award’s history and a complete listing of past winners.

Complete List of ALA Youth Media Awards:

Alex Awards—The Alex Awards are given to 10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year’s published books.

Mildred L. Batchelder Award—This award, established in Mildred L. Batchelder’s honor in 1966, is a citation awarded to an American publisher for a children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country, and subsequently translated into English and published in the United States.

Pura Belpré Award
—The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

Randolph Caldecott Medal—The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of 19th-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the ALA, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children’s Video—The Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children’s Video honors outstanding video productions for children released during the previous year. The annual award is given to the video’s producer by ALSC, through a Carnegie endowment.

Margaret A. Edwards Award
—The Margaret A. Edwards Award, established in 1988, honors an author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, that have been popular over a period of time. It recognizes an author’s work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world.

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award—The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, established in 2004, is given annually (beginning in 2006) to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year.

Coretta Scott King Book Awards—Designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards annually recognize outstanding books for young adults and children by African-American authors and illustrators that reflect the African-American experience. Further, the Award encourages the artistic expression of the black experience via literature and the graphic arts in biographical, social, and historical treatments by African-American authors and illustrators.

Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award for New Talent—The award is established to affirm new talent and to offer visibility to excellence in writing and/or illustration which otherwise might be formally unacknowledged within a given year within the structure of the two awards given annually by the Coretta Scott King Task Force. These books affirm new talent and offer visibility to excellence in writing or illustration at the beginning of a career as a published book creator.

William C. Morris Debut YA Award—The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first given in 2009, honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrates impressive new voices in young adult literature.

John Newbery Medal
—The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production
This annual award will be given to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.

Michael L. Printz Award—The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. The Printz Award has been honoring the best in young adult literature since 2000.

Schneider Family Book Award—The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal—The Sibert Award honors the most distinguished informational book published in English in the preceding year for its significant contribution to children’s literature.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Award—This biennial award, a bronze medal, honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. Newly established, 2010 is the first year of this award. The award will honor the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year. The award winner will be announced annually at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media Awards, with a shortlist of up to five titles named the first week of December. The award will be presented at ALA Annual Conference. (Thanks to Jeanette Larson for alerting me to this new award! It hadn’t yet made the ALA’s main youth awards page. SO glad to see fine nonfiction getting more recognition!)

The Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement
This award was established to recognize an African American author, illustrator, or author/illustrator for a body of his or her published books for children and/or young adults who has made a significant and lasting literary contribution. The Award pays tribute to the late Virginia Hamilton and the qualit
y and magnitude of her exemplary contributions through her literature and advocacy for children and youth, especially in her focus on African American life, history and consciousness. The first award will be given in 2010. (Thank you to, the source of the beautiful photo at right.)

Aren’t the medals beautiful? It’s lovely to see them all in one place.

To reiterate: we’d love to hear from groups who have held mock award discussions. Which books won? Which books did you lobby hard for that didn’t make it? What are you hoping to hear on Monday?

11 thoughts on “Know Your Awards?

  1. Margaret Miles

    If you’re in the mood for pre-award-fever doggerel, I managed to fit all the awards (combining the King awards) into a couple of verses, in a guest post on the blog at (scroll down to January 12th). I’ve always vowed never to take off “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” but the mood of the moment got the better of me. Thanks to ShelfTalker for the starred reviews lists; another useful source for trying to predict the award winners!

  2. Elisabeth

    The Children’s Librarians of the (Maryland) Eastern Shore, for the first time, held a mock Newbery discussion earlier this week and the medal went to When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. We also chose two honor books: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly and The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice.

  3. Elisabeth

    The Children’s Librarians of the (Maryland) Eastern Shore, for the first time, held a mock Newbery discussion earlier this week and the medal went to WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead. We also chose two honor books: THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly and THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY by Kathryn Fitzmaurice.

  4. Tess Riesmeyer

    Beginning with Books Center for Early Literacy held our Mock Caldecott yesterday. The medal went to The Lion & The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. Our honor medals went to Higher! Higher! by Leslie Patricelle and Redwoods by Jason Chin. I lobbied hard for Moonshot by Brian Floca. Still hoping to hear it announced on Monday.

  5. Donna

    The North Suburban Library System in northern Illinois held a mock Sibert discussion in December. The librarians who attended selected WRITTEN IN BONE by Sally Walker as the winner and CLAUDETTE COLVIN: TWICE TOWARDS JUSTICE by Phillip Hoose and THE FROG SCIENTIST by Pamela Turner as honor titles.

  6. Richard W. Jennings

    The problem with all awards, whether spelling bees, lotteries, high school track meets or the power of the ALA is that by definition the vast majority of potential contenders wind up losers. So for most authors, today is a crummy day. I hope our week gets better. — RWJ


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *