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Monday, January 14, 2008

Big Surprise: No Big Surprise!

As announced by the American Library Association at the crack of dawn this morning, the 2008 winners of the Newbery and Caldecott Awards are:

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz
(2008 Newbery Medal)


The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
(2008 Caldecott Medal)

These selections were predictable in their predictability (the committee likes ruffle feathers by plucking books from obscurity and the Newbery Award winner this year was no exception to this rule... I can't tell you whether it is a deserving book -- though I'm guessing it is -- because I had never heard of it before this morning).

They were also predictably in their unpredictability (Selznick's extraordinary 500+ page illustrated novel, a favorite for the Newbery, is an unconventional choice for the Caldecott because the award usually goes to a picture book... this may even be the first time the award is going to a novel).

Which is pretty much how the process goes every year. As my pal Alison Morris, the famed bookseller/blogger, lamented recently here, the announcement of the awards triggers an immediate rush of booksellers to their phones to try to get back the very books they returned to the publishers the week earlier for insufficient sales. This will not likely be the case with Selznick's book, which sold well from the get-go.

What does all this this mean for parents who are trying to find good reads to place in the eager and not so eager hands of their kids? Well, look at the winners, but also look beyond...

A whole bunch of other honors and awards were handed out as well, including the award for the best early reader, the awards for the best books incorporating themes of disability and the Corretta Scott King Award. A lot of really interesting and diverse books got props, so check it out. You can read the full wrap up of award winners and their books here.

Plus, many libraries and schools run "Mock Caldecott" and "Mock Newbery" contests, which yield very interesting lists. Google these terms, or ask at your local library.

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