It's been quite a week in the KidLit world. First, the good news: the American Library Association awards (among them the Newbery, the Printz, and the Pura Belpré) were awarded. It's always an exciting event, made even more thrilling by live-tweeting. I guess that the winners are contacted on THE MORNING itself--so their reactions are always fun to read about. ("I was making my bed when...")
The big prize is the Newbery. This year it went to Erin Entrada Kelly for Hello, Universe. I have to admit I have yet to read it, although I did read her debut, Blackbird Fly, when I was a Cybils judge in 2016. (And you can read my thoughts here.)
Erin Entrada Kelly is of Filipino origin, and it is great to see the number of diverse voices being featured in MG and YA. In fact, the Newbery winner and all the Newbery Honor books were by writers of color. Another star in the firmament is Angie Thomas, author of The Hate You Give, which is rightly being touted as a great and important book. Angie won the William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens; Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States; and was an Honor book winner for both the Coretta Scott King Book Awards recognizing African American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults; and the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults.
I mentioned the Cybils Awards above. This is an award given by book bloggers, so it's more meat and potatoes than foie gras, but I can attest that it's fun to be part of a judging panel, and that the books chosen, though maybe not as high profile as the ALA's, are always tremendous reads. As luck would have it, the awards are announced on Valentine's Day. This year's Middle Grade Fiction award went to Alan Gratz for his novel Refugee, which is very timely.
The dark part of the week has been taken up with the reports of sexual harassment and abuse in the kidlit world. On February 7th Anne Ursu, best known as the author of Breadcrumbs, wrote a piece on Medium titled "Sexual Harassment in the Children's Book Industry," which was a call to action to combat such abuses. (Required reading, in my view.) The piece was picked up by the School Library Journal, which wrote a companion piece, and in the comments names were named--several high-profile male writers and illustrators were called-out for their treatment of women. As of this writing, Jay Asher and David Diaz have been banned from the SCBWI, and several have lost agent representation. I hope this means that our industry does mean business in rooting out this abuse and preventing it from happening again.
One thing I really hope is that our conversations remain respectful, even when they are difficult. And may we have many more wonderful books to celebrate in the future. Keep the faith and keep on writing, friends!