The American Library Association (ALA) announced their 2013 Youth Media Awards this morning, and I must say, I’m pleased as punch. Before I jump into a wee bit of nerdy children’s-book-loving praise, let me remind my readers who may be in the dark that these awards encompass the well known Newbery and Caldecott winners, among many others.

Why are these important awards to keep up with? What if you’re not a children’s literature critic/lover/scholar? Because these are the books that will stay on library shelves year after year after year. These are the books that booksellers will stock alongside the series fiction and super trendy “stuff.” These are often the books that will be taught in schools down the road. How many times have you pulled a book off a shelf only to think, “Oh, it won an award. Must be good.”? These are the books that the professionals are deeming worthy and notable. It’s wise to pay attention because you might disagree with those awards committees….

Okay, spiel over. I’ll not comment on most of the winners/honors, so if you’d like the whole list, see the official 2013 list at the ALA website. There are some titles that I need to check out further–some possible red flags for my readers–but overall, I’m thrilled with this year’s lineup. THRILLED.

This year, what I so much appreciated about the Newbery Committee’s selections was well-rounded-ness. We’ve seen a slew of historical fiction winners targeting middle grades over the years, and this year, a historical fiction title did NOT win the award–the winner’s more of a realistic fiction/talking animal/fantasy-type. I know I should label it more precisely, but it really resists labeling. In addition to that, the book that won–The One and Only Ivan (see my review)–is so accessible to so many. Rather than landing at the upper end of the age spectrum (14), it falls squarely in the middle: 3rd grade and up, I’d bet (and could be read aloud to younger readers as well). Sophisticated themes, but written in an approachable fashion. Both boys and girls will enjoy this book. 

I just reviewed Bomb (my review) and thoroughly enjoyed it; apparently, so did the Newbery committee. A book that is again sophisticated and complex, but which a wide variety of readers will enjoy. To boot, it’s NONFICTION!! Guys and gals will enjoy this one, too, although I’d bet more boys will be picking this one up unprompted than girls. It hits the middle school and up age bracket. The Newbery folks weren’t the only ones showering love on Bomb: it also won the Sibert medal for Informational Books and the YALSA Best Nonfiction title. With good reason! It’s a great book.

I’ve not read Three Times Lucky, so I’ll not comment on that Newbery honor, but I have read Splendors and Glooms (my review), the remaining Newbery honor. It is most definitely a fantasy novel and is truly splendid and gloomy. Some of my more sensitive readers may be troubled by parts of this book, but I’m delighted to see such an intricate fantasy title win in an awards category so often dominated by historical fiction.

The Caldecott Award goes to the best picture book each year; I’ve not read this year’s winner, but I was absolutely delighted to see one of my favorites from earlier in the year–One Cool Friend–get an honor. I’m a big fan of David Small’s (the illustrator), and this book is wonderful. I listed it as one of my 2012 Picture book favorites (which also included Extra Yarn, another Caldecott Honor this year). I guess I’ll have to do an official review of it now!

An award that many folks aren’t aware of is the Theodore Geisel Award. I’ve mentioned it before because I’m an easy reader junkie (that’s what happens when you were raised with Little Bear, Frog and Toad, and George and Martha). The Geisel Award, in honor of Dr. Seuss, is given to the best easy reader book of the year. Elephant and Piggie, who are practically idols in my house–Mo Willems, are you listening? Idols, I tell you–anyway, they won an honor again this year with our latest fave, Let’s Go For a Drive. (which is hilarious, as usual). One of my favorite picture books of 2012, Up, Tall, and High, won the Geisel this year–and it is indeed a terrific early reader, perfect for those kids just beginning to read. Last year, one of my complaints was that the winner was really too old for this bracket. This year, all the books fall nicely into that easy reader level while still providing a great picture of the range within this seemingly narrow band. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons isn’t my style, but it “works.” We LOVE Rabbit + Robot around here. LOVE. IT. Super excited to see it get the recognition it deserves. I think I need some pizza with hardware on it now….

But I digress. I’ve realized that I’ve been remiss this fall in actually reviewing some of the books for these younger age ranges, so I’ll have to make up for that.

And finally, one of my all-time favorites of the year, hands down, was Code Name Verity (my review). So, so, so, so glad the Printz Award Committee (sort of the Newbery for teens) gave it some love and an honor (I would have preferred it to win, but, well, you can’t have it all, can you?).

Cover images thanks to goodreads

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