The Youth Media Awards were held a couple of weeks ago at the ALA Midwinter Convention. As a librarian I am always excited when this list comes out, there are always books that I have missed along the way, and of course I am always thrilled when a book that I have loved that year wins.
The Newbery Award is one of the oldest book awards around. Many childhood favorites have either won the gold medal or received an honor. It is interesting to note however that sometimes the popularity of the honor books outlasts the winners of that particular year. The last few years, I have been disappointed with some of the committee’s choices in that regard. It has felt like they picked books they think kids should read, not necessarily ones kids will love and enjoy. But this year’s committee did an outstanding job of not only choosing excellent books, but also ones that kids will love.
The Winner – New Kid by Jerry Craft
This book was an awesome choice. Although there have been graphic novels in the honors category the last few years, this is the first one to actually win the award. While most librarians understand and appreciate the importance of graphic novels, there is still that shared feeling among educators and parents that it is not ‘real reading’. I’m hoping that one winning the award will help to change that thinking.
I don’t read a whole lot of graphic novels, it not being my thing, but I really enjoyed this one. It was funny, and heartwarming and quite simply perfect. Jordan just felt like such an ordinary middle schooler, just trying to make his way through life and through middle school. It is hard to navigate middle school for many kids, but it is especially hard when you have to go to a school that is so different from the realm of your experiences. There is a wonderful spread of pictures that shows how Jordan gets to school on the bus and how he changes his appearance and demeanor as he travels through different neighborhoods to get to school.
Although Jordan struggles to fit in at his new school, he does eventually find his niche. For the most part the teachers and students are kind and supportive, although there are some instances of bullying, and subtle aggressions that kids will sympathize with. There is no huge overarching plot line, this is simply the story of a kid’s first year of middle school and all that that entails. Well done.
Honor – Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker
You wouldn’t know it from the title but this is actually a very heartwarming story about families and friendship. Yes there are some scary parts, but the main message of being yourself, keep going even when things are tough and how important family is overrides all of the scary parts.
I also loved the format of the book. There are two stories sort of going at the same time. A group of young foxes goes to see an old story teller to hear some scary stories. The story teller then tells the main story of two foxes, Mia and Uly and all of their struggles to survive. Mia is quite the spunky little fox and quite clever, getting herself out of some pretty sticky situations. Uly has a deformed foot, and struggles to just get about, but when he is chased from his den, he does find a way to survive. When the two of them finally meet, they struggle together to be reunited with their mothers and become friends along the way. I loved how the two stories eventually intersected at the end as well. Yes, some of the things that happen to the two young foxes are quite scary, but it isn’t really all that bad in the big scheme of scary stories.
Don’t let the title scare you away from sharing this book with the young foxes in your life. It is such a wonderful and heartfelt story.
There are two more books that won an honor in this category. I hope to read them soon and get reviews up. But in case you are interested in who won:
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams