I had the fortune to actually attend the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards (where they announce such awesome book awards as the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz) in Dallas, TX, this Monday. This event is like the Super Bowl for writers, publishers, and librarians, and it was so wonderful to be in a huge room full of people totally invested in recognizing the power of stories to influence lives. Every time a book was announced, whether it be a winner or an honor book, people cheered, and clapped, and whistled, and called out stuff like “Yeah!”, and I felt like I was at a sporting event or a concert, but for BOOKS. It may make be a big book nerd, but it was super fun. The full list of awards announced are here at the ALA web site but below I want to highlight the Michael L. Printz award for best teen fiction and the William C. Morris award for best teen debut fiction.
This has never happened before, as far as I know, but the same amazing book won both of these big awards, and it’s one I recently highlighted on my Top Books for 2011. Here’s what I recently wrote about it: Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley, is a strange one, but its strangeness is why I love it so. This literary novel tells intertwining stories of people searching for meaning and redemption in a messed up world. Cullen Witter lives in a tiny Arkansas town that is experiencing a revival after a birdwatcher claims to have seen a woodpecker long thought to be extinct. But while the townspeople are obsessed with searching for this mythical bird, Cullen is desperately searching for his missing younger brother, who disappeared at the same time. Meanwhile, Benton Sage, a missionary traveling in Africa, becomes disillusioned with his calling and sets up a chain reaction of events that dovetails perfectly with Cullen’s story. This excellent debut novel is both funny and meaningful. I urge anyone looking for something different to give it a try.
Four other books were named as Printz honors:
Why We Broke Up, written by Daniel Handler
The Returning, written by Christine Hinwood
Jasper Jones, written by Craig Silvey
The Scorpio Races, written by Maggie Stiefvater
Also, four other books were Morris honors:
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, written by Rae Carson
Paper Covers Rock, written by Jenny Hubbard
Under the Mesquite, written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Between Shades of Gray, written by Ruta Sepetys
All of these books are available at our library, so read some award winners today!
Some more excellent places to look for good, new reads: