YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction and Morris Awards

Monday morning, after the Youth Media Awards, I attended the YALSA Award Ceremony for Excellence in Nonfiction and the Morris Awards for books by a first-time author.

I love that YALSA announces the Finalists for these awards ahead of time — so they can get speeches from everyone and do an awards ceremony the same day that the winner is announced.

Here are my notes from the speeches:

YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award

Shane Burcaw – Laughing at my Nightmare

(Video speech) He’s 22 years old. Blown away when he found out he was a finalist.
Has Spinal muscular atrophy.
Humor and positivity are keys to dealing with his disease.
Laughing is the best way to overcome.

Candace Fleming – The Family Romanov

She was worried about the story – might as well be another planet for her readers.
Conflict: 3 separate revolutions, each extremely complicated.
Had planned to focus on Anastasia – decided she was boring, so expanded her focus to the other children – they also weren’t that interesting. They were naive and cloistered.
Nicholas and Alexandra were more interesting, but they were adults.
Then expanded focus again to revolutionaries.
She saw a movie where the characters kept asking, “But who is interested in Russian History?”
This award tells her, “You are.”

Emily Arnold McCully – Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business – and Won!

Why Ida Tarbell? She was a defender of democratic values when they were challenged.
She was the only woman muckraker.
The author tried to squish it into 32 pages, but the story was too big.
Ida Tarbell saw the cost of the oil rush to ordinary people and the environment.
Science taught her to always look beneath the surface of things and verify.
The issues that led to muckraking are back.
She went after the story and told it true.

Steve Sheinkin – The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights

His brother-in-law loves conspiracy theories – told him first atomic bomb was tested in Port Chicago – but that led him to the true story.
Heard from a man whose father was in the mutiny. Loves getting this story out.

Winner: Maya Van Wagenen
Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek

She’s the child of a historian, so knows the power of truth and primary sources.
Always wanted to be a writer.
Found the book before 8th grade — Her mother’s idea was to try the ideas and write about it.
Learned the kind of popularity Betty Cornell talked about was based on being a good friend and reaching out with compassion and understanding.
Greeting the world with your head held high will never go out of style.
None of this would have been possible without books and librarians.
Middle School Librarian was a light to the students there.
Has turned to reading nonfiction because it tells teenagers that their story is part of a much bigger fabric of history, and each one plays a unique part.

Morris Award, Honor Books:

Jessie Ann Foley, The Carnival at Bray

She’s a high school English teacher, here in Chicago. She loved librarians before she was nominated for this award, and now even more so!
Librarians help teens find books that speak to them.
“That is part of the beauty of literature: You discover that your longings are universal longings… You are not alone.” (A quote she read while writing this.)
She kept in tough scenes so girls who have gone through that would not feel alone.

E. K. Johnston – The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim
due to weather, she isn’t here.

Len Vlahos – The Scar Boys

Central theme: The power of music can give anyone confidence, friends, even save a life.
Music can be an intensely personal experience, but is more appropriately a shared experience.
Music, like math or physics, is a universal language.
Math and physics are the foundation for music.
Music makes us feel something viscerally
Magic dust sprinkled on math and physics
Resonance – sound or vibration in one object produced from sound or vibration in another.
Perfect metaphor for librarians
Immensely skilled at finding the right book and putting it in the right hands.
Finding the perfect book to resonate with that reader and amplify the content.
“School librarians are my heroes.”
Writing is a solitary process, publishing is not.
Librarians help the work of writers resonate far beyond the walls of our institutions.

Leslye Walton – The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

She’s a teacher.
Wrote it with little hope than anyone would actually read it.
Didn’t write it as a YA book. She might have wanted to protect them.
When she was a teen, she experienced isolating grief, and hung out in the local library to find people (in fiction) who were grieving like she was.
There is beauty in sorrow.
I hope it makes someone feel less alone and more alive.
And that there is life beyond that sorrow.
Librarians, you are saving the lives of readers everywhere.

Winner: Isabel Quintero – Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

“To quote someone very dear to me, ‘Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!'”
Started by reading “I Too Sing America” by Langston Hughes
Offended by someone who asked if her laborer parents were surprised that she is an intellectual.
Now she’s a professor of composition.
She thinks about her parents who had tough jobs when they came to America and worked to make sure their children had a different life.
She thinks about fat girls, pregnant girls, and gay teens.
The only option for a daughter of laborers is to think — because that’s what her parents have taught her to do.
It helps when you have a community of people doing the solitary thing together. (Her creative writing group)
“An honor and a privilege to be here, but that was to be expected, given who my parents are.”

Inspiring and lovely speeches! I always love the Morris Awards, because the authors are happy to be published, let alone to receive recognition. Makes me want to go home and Write!

Youth Media Awards 2015!


Hooray! I got a front row seat for the Youth Media Awards announcements that happened on Monday!


As you can see, I had a great view — though I spent most of my time tweeting the winners, rather than taking pictures.

The announcements of all the awards are on the ALA website, so I will just give some general impressions and link to the books I’ve reviewed.

The energy in the room can’t be described! These people who ignored the Super Bowl the night before (Well, I did.) and don’t even turn on the Oscars (Well, I don’t.) were energized and excited to find out who wins the Children’s book awards. We got up early and came through the snow and waited in line to be there, and speculation was high.

I’ll talk about the announcements in the order I remember them happening. It all starts with the Alex Awards — a list of ten adult books with strong appeal for teens. This list contains several I’ve been meaning to read, but none I actually have read.

One of the fun things about the announcements is that all the committees are there. Most committees bring some sort of prop to celebrate their top choice. Here is the Odyssey Award committee celebrating their choice of Horse, by Christopher Myers:


I didn’t notice if they did, but they could have thrown their props again when The Crossover won the Newbery Medal and a Coretta Scott King Honor.

I’ll go with some general impressions first.

It seemed like a lovely day for the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign. The Wilder Award went to Donald Crews. The Edwards Award went to Sharon Draper. The Arbuthnot Lecture Award went to Pat Mora.

The Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement went to Deborah Taylor, a librarian whom I know from Capitol Choices, and a wonderful choice.

And Graphic Novels! El Deafo, by Cece Bell was a Newbery Honor Book, and, most surprisingly, This One Summer was both a Printz Honor Book and a Caldecott Honor Book.

I was especially happy about El Deafo after hearing Cece Bell speak in the Graphic Novel Author Forum on Friday night. It couldn’t happen to a nicer person! I have read El Deafo and have already written a review, which I’ll post soon.

A Caldecott Committee member whom I happen to know said, “The criteria is for ages up to 14. If they want to change the criteria…” Others have expressed indignation that a book for teens would win a Caldecott Honor, but the criteria indeed say nothing about “picture books” needing to be targeted to younger readers.

Before the awards, people I talked with felt that there would be great indignation if Brown Girl Dreaming did not win the Newbery, though one friend said that the writing in The Crossover is actually better. Yet when it came down to it, no one was indignant. I think that’s because Brown Girl Dreaming did win the Coretta Scott King Author Award, while Crossover won an Honor. In the Newbery, those positions were switched — but the fact that both were represented in both awards shows that those are just two darn good books.

And this completely puts to rest the idea that the Newbery committee might set aside books by African-Americans, thinking the Coretta Scott King Award will take care of them.

The one thing that made me sad was not seeing The Farmer and the Clown up there among the Caldecott Honors. I do love Marla Frazee’s work.

I hadn’t read as many of the contenders as usual this year, but many of those I had read were also my own personal favorites.

My review for The Crossover will be posted soon.

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson, won the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, and a Sibert Honor (for children’s nonfiction).

The Noisy Paint Box, by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPré, won a Caldecott Honor.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (review upcoming), won a Caldecott Honor.

Viva Frida, by Yuyi Morales, won a Caldecott Honor and the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award.

How I Discovered Poetry, by Marilyn Nelson, won a Coretta Scott King Author Honor.

My favorite children’s nonfiction book of the year, A Boy and a Jaguar, by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Cátia Chen, won the Schneider Award for younger readers.

Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust, by Loic Dauvillier, illustrated by Marc Lizano, color by Greg Salsedo, translated by Alexis Siegel, won a Batchelder Honor.

Finally, my much-loved Waiting Is Not Easy!, by Mo Willems, won a Geisel Honor.