Last Friday night, the graduate students of Rosemont’s publishing and creative writing programs gathered to celebrate the American Library Association’s (ALA) slate book awards for children’s literature, children’s illustrated books, and young adult novels, including the Caldecott, Printz, and Newbery awards. We also announced the winners of Rosemont’s mock awards.
For the mock awards, we nominated, read, evaluated, and chose winners in each of the same categories, and compared our results to the ALA’s winner list, announced earlier in the week. Nancy Kotkin, a degree candidate seeking a MFA in creative writing and a MA in publishing, led the awards process. She worked with Cathy Fennell, Executive Director of Library Services at Rosemont, and formed three committees. Each committee spent the winter break reading dozens of books. They also met and debated over which books should win the prizes in each category.
Our winners were:
Winner: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat *
Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke
Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato
Remy and Lulu by Kevin Hawkes & Hannah Harrison
Winner: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laura Halse Anderson
Threatened by Eliot Schrefer
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson ^
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Winner: Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julia Lamana
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos & David Teague
* Winner of the 2015 Caldecott Medal
^ Winner of the 2015 Printz Award
Before the announcements were made, the library displayed many of the nominated books so that the faculty and students could flip through them.
According to the participating committee members, the award selection process was challenging and involved much more than just flipping through a pile of books. Nancy Kotkin said, “I came to appreciate how difficult it was to look at the whole pool of books, narrow it down, and make objective decisions. Books are art, and it was difficult not to project our own aesthetic preferences into the evaluation process. Ultimately, I came to fully appreciate how supportive librarians are of books and their patrons.”
Students and faculty, including those not focused on children’s and young adult literature, were stunned to learn that there were no cash prizes associated with the awards. While it might not be difficult to imagine that an award would increase sales, I don’t believe that the students present last Friday night understood the significance of winning a Caldecott, Printz, or Newbery award. Anita Silvey, the editor of Children’s Books and Their Creators, an overview of twentieth century children’s books, former publisher of children’s books at Houghton Mifflin, and former editor-in-chief of The Horn Book Magazine said, “As a publisher, I knew how important the awards were. You could have a book that eked out sales of 2,000 copies when it was published sell 100,000-200,000 in a year after winning the award.”
In a 2012, The Record published an article on its web site, Books: Newbery and Caldecott Prizes for U.S. Children’s Literature Awarded, which stated, “Within hours of the prizes announcement, Dead End in Norvelt and A Ball for Daisy were both in the top 50 on Amazon.com and both out of stock.” The increased sales don’t just peak for a brief period of time, but rather the books earn a longer self-life. They often become part of secondary school curriculum. Of the books awarded the Newbery Medal from 1922 through 2015, all but three are available on Amazon today. Of the three titles not readily available—Tales of Silver Lands (1925), Daniel Boone (1940), and Rabbit Hill (1945)—two of them are available as used books or through a third-party vendor. More than ninety-seven percent of the titles are still in print. Think about the sales of these books over the years!
The Caldecott, Printz, and Newbery Awards, unlike the National Book Awards, are open to every book that fits the specified criteria. Per the requirements of the National Book Awards, publishers are required to pay a $135 entry fee per title nominated, plus agree to pay all of the travel costs for the author to attend the finalist ceremony. Publishers must also agree to “contribute $3,000 toward a promotional campaign if a submitted book becomes a finalist ($750 for presses with income of under $10 million).” This makes it difficult for small presses to nominate any of their titles, let alone multiple ones. In contrast, because the nominations are wholly objective and open to any book that meets the basic requirements (publishing date, citizenship of the author/illustrator, etc.) the Caldecott, Printz, and Newbery are truly unbiased awards.
Students and faculty alike walked away with a deeper appreciation for the awards, how books were nominated, and how the winners were selected. They learned about the inherent value of the awards, not only for an author’s or illustrator’s reputation, but also for the publisher’s sales. Thank you to all who participated!
Pick up an award-winning book today!