Posted by WCPLtn
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
No, not Meryl Streep. Not these awards, anyway. If you’re reading this blog, presumably you have an interest in and/or some knowledge about children’s literature, or you’ve heard about the hysterically witty and charming woman who writes a quasi-regular blog for the Williamson County Public Library website. Either way, I’m glad you’re here.
Much like the entertainment industry, there are literally (HA! See what I did there?) a plethora of honors that are awarded each year in the field of Kid Lit. I’m not going to make this article an exhaustive list of the aforementioned youth book awards, so I have narrowed it down to three: the Randolph Caldecott Medal; the John Newbery Medal; and the Volunteer State Book Award.
The first of these is the Randolph Caldecott Medal, which has been awarded annually since 1938 to the preceding year’s “most distinguished American picture book for children.” It is awarded to the illustrator by the American Library Association and is named for Randolph Caldecott, a 19th-century British illustrator. The two sides of the actual medal are derived from Caldecott’s illustrations: one side depicts a section of the front cover of The Diverting History of John Gilpin; the reverse is based on Caldecott’s illustration for “Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie,” from the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence.” Additionally, the committee acknowledges several worthy runners-up each year, and those recipients are referred to as Caldecott Honor Books. A random sampling of some past Caldecott winners includes some of my personal favorite children’s
books: Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1964); The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (1986); Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes (2005); and This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (2013.) The entire list of Caldecott winners since its inception can be found at the American Library Association website, www.ala.org/alsc/caldecott, and all Caldecott books can be found in their own section in the Children’s department at WCPL. Oh, and here’s an awesome bit of news, hot off the presses (see what I did there?): the 2017 Caldecott Medal winner was just announced over the weekend at the ALA’s Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta, and the award goes to . . . Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe.
The John Newbery Medal is another kid-lit award which is also bestowed annually by the American Library Association, and the Newbery Medal recognizes the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” Named for John Newbery, an 18th-century British publisher of juvenile books, the Newbery Medal was proposed by noted American publisher and editor Frederic G. Melcher in 1921, hence making it the first children’s book award in the world. The medal was designed by American sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan and depicts a man, presumably an author, giving his book to a boy and girl.
For a book to be considered for the Newbery, it must be written by an American citizen or resident and must be published first or simultaneously in the United States, in English, during the preceding year. Much like the Caldecott Medal, the selection committee awards a variable number of citations to runners-up, and those are referred to as Newbery Honor Books. Most Newbery winners appear on recommended reading lists for elementary and secondary schools, and they also have their own section at WCPL. The list of Newbery Medal recipients since 1922 can be found at www.ala.org/alsc/newbery, and the Newbery Honors winners are listed there as well. The 2017 Newbery Medal winner, also just announced at the ALA conference over the weekend, is The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill.
Last but not least in this list of literary luminaries (mercy, say that three times fast) is an award with some local flavor, and that is the Volunteer State Book Award. The VSBA, as we librarian types refer to it, is sponsored annually by the Tennessee Library Association and the Tennessee Association of School Librarians. Every year, schoolchildren from across Tennessee are asked to read books from a list of nominations. The VSBA has four divisions: Primary (Kindergarten-2nd Grade), Intermediate (grades 3-5), Middle School (grades 6-8) and High School (grades 9-12.) In the spring, students who have read or listened to at least three titles from the slate of nominees are allowed to cast their vote for their favorites. Those votes are then tabulated and sent to the Tennessee Library Association, and the book with the most votes statewide wins the award. Here at home in Williamson County, many teachers and school librarians from WCS (Williamson County Schools), FSSD (Franklin Special School District), and many private and parochial schools use the VSBA list as their recommended reading over the summer. The lists of current and past nominees can be found at www.tasltn.org/vsba .
So there you have it, friends—truckloads of fun book suggestions for the kiddos, and for yourself. Happy reading!