Archive for February 24th, 2014



Sam with Horn Book editor-in-chief Roger Sutton after panel discussion at Simmons College in Boston on Thursday, Feb. 20.

by Sam Juliano

The past week’s spotlight event was staged on the fifth floor penthouse of the management building at Simmons College in Boston on The Fenway, just a stone’s throw away from the famed baseball stadium.  Or maybe just a bit further than that.  The 90 minute panel discussion “Why did that book win?” was moderated by longtime Horn Book editor-in-chief Roger Sutton.  His co-panelists included executive editor Martha Parravano, Lesley University children’s literature professor Julie Roach and Kirkus Reviews book critic Vicky Smith, all of whom vigorously promoted a spirited discussion centering around the recent awards given out by the American Library Association.  Ms. Roach expressed gleeful surprise that children’s author extraordinaire Kate Di Camillo’s profusely illustrated Flora & Ulysses won the Newbery Medal despite the general aversion to books that veer away from the generally all-prose format.  A subsequent question from the audience later on addressed the confusion that sometimes emanates from the indecision of whether to honor words or pictures in a book that is seemingly divided equally, as was the case with the Caldecott Honor book Bill Peet: An Autobiography in 1990.  Mr. Sutton pointed to a similar perception in 2008 when Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the Caldecott Medal despite the marked division of prose and pictures.

While Ms. Smith was delighted with Brian Floca’s  Caldecott Medal triumph for Locomotive (“the author is no longer a bridesmaid”) there was some disappointment with some of the omissions, a sentiment that prompted Sutton to quip that the title of the discussion should have more in tune with “why certain book’s didn’t win?”  Sutton bemoaned the failure of Kirkpatrick Hill’s Bo at Ballard Creek to achieve recognition in the awards process, while Ms. Perravano was amazed and disappointed that Cynthia Kadohata and Julia Kuo’s National Book Award winner The Thing About Luck didn’t figure in the final Newbery line-up.  The panel addressed the matter of certain books that win the subsidiary awards (Pura Belpre, Coretta Scott King) but fail to win Caldecott or Newbery mention because the perception is that they have their own category.  This has always been the mind-set of the Oscars, where a nomination or win in the animated film and/or foreign language category always always results in being passed over in the major categories.  One spirited questioner talked about the specific perceptions and expectations of certain books aimed at a minority audience, and how those perceptions might be different among a more general reading audience.  Another commenter, an artist and designer, appeared to intimate that some of the committee members should have a more artistic background, and that such a reform would result in different books winning the awards.  This was not a position that others in the group (myself included) shared, and the panel and another commenter with an artistic background argued against such a narrow qualification. (more…)

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