ALA Youth Media Awards: A Closer Look

One of the most satisfying things about being a librarian is when book awards are announced, or best book lists are released, and I realize we have most (if not all) of the most notable books being published already in our library collection.

The ALA Youth Media Awards were announced on Monday; I wanted to take a few minutes to take a closer look at some of the award-winners that are appropriate for our grades 9-12 high school library collection.

Although the Newbery and Caldecott Medals get most of the press (congratulations to Jack Gantos and Chris Raschka, the winners of those awards, BTW), the award I am most interested in is the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. The winning book and four honor books this year are:

  • WINNER — Where Things Come Back, written by John Corey Whaley, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Seventeen-year-old Cullen’s summer in Lily, Arkansas, is marked by his cousin’s death by overdose, an alleged spotting of a woodpecker thought to be extinct, failed romances, and his younger brother’s sudden disappearance.
  • Why We Broke Up, written by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman and published by Little, Brown and Company. Sixteen-year-old Min Green writes a letter to Ed Slaterton in which she breaks up with him, documenting their relationship and how items in the accompanying box, from bottle caps to a cookbook, foretell the end.
  • The Returning, written by Christine Hinwood and published by Dial Books. When the twelve-year war between the Uplanders and Downlanders is over and Cam returns home to his village, questions dog him, from how he lost an arm to why he was the only one of his fellow soldiers to survive, such that he must leave until his own suspicions are resolved.
  • Jasper Jones, written by Craig Silvey and published by Alfred A. Knopf. In small-town Australia, teens Jasper and Charlie form an unlikely friendship when one asks the other to help him cover up a murder until they can prove who is responsible.
  • The Scorpio Races, written by Maggie Stiefvater and published by Scholastic Press. Nineteen-year-old returning champion Sean Kendrick competes against Puck Connolly, the first girl ever to ride in the annual Scorpio Races, both trying to keep hold of their dangerous water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.

The William C. Morris Award is given for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens. This year’s winner and four honor books are:

  • WINNER — Where Things Come Back, written by John Corey Whaley, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Congratulation to John Corey Whaley for the two-fer! (see the description above)
  • Girl of Fire and Thorns, written by Rae Carson, published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. A fearful sixteen-year-old princess discovers her heroic destiny after being married off to the king of a neighboring country in turmoil and pursued by enemies seething with dark magic.
  • Paper Covers Rock, written by Jenny Hubbard, published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. In 1982 Buncombe County, North Carolina, sixteen-year-old Alex Stromm writes of the aftermath of the accidental drowning of a friend, as his English teacher reaches out to him while he and a fellow boarding school student try to cover things up.
  • Under the Mesquite, written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, published by Lee and Low Books. Throughout her high school years, as her mother battles cancer, Lupita takes on more responsibility for her house and seven younger siblings, while finding refuge in acting and writing poetry.
  • Between Shades of Gray, written by Ruta Sepetys, published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group USA. In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother, and brother are pulled from their Lithuanian home by Soviet guards and sent to Siberia, where her father is sentenced to death in a prison camp while she fights for her life, vowing to honor her family and the thousands like hers by burying her story in a jar on Lithuanian soil. Based on the author’s family.

Another honor that I pay close attention to is the Alex Award, given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. As a high school library, not only do we serve last year’s middle school students, we also serve next year’s college students, and our collection includes many titles intended to challenge older readers as they prepare for their lives beyond high school. This year’s Alex Award recipients are:

  • Big Girl Small, by Rachel DeWoskin, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • In Zanesville, by Jo Ann Beard, published by Little, Brown & Company
  • The Lover’s Dictionary, by David Levithan, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens, by Brooke Hauser, published by Free Press
  • The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, published by Doubleday
  • Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, published by Crown Publishers
  • Robopocalypse: A Novel, by Daniel H. Wilson, published by Doubleday
  • Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward, published by Bloomsbury USA
  • The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures, by Caroline Preston, published by Ecco
  • The Talk-Funny Girl, by Roland Merullo, published by Crown Publishers

Titles already in the CA Library collection are indicated in red; other titles will be considered in the coming weeks.

The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults, ages 12 – 18, each year. This year’s winner, and four finalists, are:

  • WINNER — The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery, written by Steve Sheinkin, published by Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press. An introduction to the life of Benedict Arnold that highlights not only the traitorous actions that made him legendary, but also his heroic involvement in the American Revolution.
  • Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science, written by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos, published by Clarion Books. Traces the panoramic story of the sweet substance and its important role in shaping world history.
  • Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition, written by Karen Blumenthal, published by Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press. Chronicles the history of Prohibition in the United States, discussing how what began as a movement to heal social ills, became a burden to ordinary citizens and a boon to criminals.
  • Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way), written by Sue Macy, published by National Geographic Children’s Books. Combines text with vintage photographs, advertisements, cartoons, and songs to examine how women have used bicycles throughout history to improve their lives.
  • Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein, written by Susan Goldman Rubin, published by Charlesbridge. Follows the life of Leonard Bernstein from his childhood in Boston to his first experience conducting the Philharmonic Orchestra in New York at the age of 25.

The Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults honors an author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. This year’s winner is Susan Cooper. Her books include: The Dark Is Rising Sequence: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; and Silver on the Tree.

Congratulations to all the winners!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *