Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A not very thorough but personal look at the ALA awards

Congratulations to all the winning and honor ALA books. I'm sure someone will blog a detailed and unbiased analysis of the results, but here's my utterly personal view of some of yesterday's choice moments.

1) My editor, Cheryl Klein, edited TWO of the winning books:

A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce took the William C. Morris award for a debut YA novel

and Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi and translated by Cathy Hirano took the Mildred Batchelder award for the "most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States."

I love it that Cheryl and Arthur A. Levine Books seek out translations and first time authors.

2) Last year, I psychically blogged about the Newbery winner, Neil Gaiman, after I heard him read from The Graveyard Book at the National Book Festival last fall. Unfortunately and non-psychically, the Festival's bookstore had long lines and thus I have no book. Here's what I said:

The session with Neil Gaiman was underway when I found the Children and Teens Pavilion, but I could've told you who was speaking without even entering, because the audience overflowing the venue was....20-somethings in funky hats and cool clothes. They absolutely didn't mind that he wasn't promoting an adult read like American Gods, but The Graveyard Book, his novel with a 14-year-old protagonist. He read a funny excerpt in which the boy seeks the help of a long-dead but still highly verbose poet. Gaiman is a natural dramatic reader. He never veers into camp, he never shortchanges a word or a pause, and he has complete confidence in his material. He took questions, and his answers were perfectly encapsulated stories, one of them involving an ancient human elbow bone. My favorite line: when talking about why he doesn't outline, he says he loves to find out what happens, except that three-quarters of the way in, he sometimes feels like "he's jumped from a plane and must knit himself a parachute on the way down."

3) I'm tickled that Marla Frazee, who is illustrating my friend Liz's next book, took a well-deserved Caldecott Honor for A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever. I got to hear her speak about its creation at the SCBWI conference in L.A. last August and have been a fan ever since.

4) My book club, DC Kidlit, chose to read honored books We are the Ship and The Underneath this past year. Because of them, I don't feel like quite such a loser in the "have I read it yet?" department. We're meeting this Sunday to discuss all the books and I can't wait to hear everyone else's personal take on everything.

Because it is, isn't it? Personal. That's what makes this business great and what makes people tear their hair out. I, for one, love the excitement.


  1. Wow. Didn't realize Cheryl had edited those books! And how lucky are you to have heard Neil Gaiman read? And double yay for Marla!

  2. Your editor is a rock star, sister!!!

  3. Personal looks are better than thorough ones, I say, any day.

    Yes, Cheryl does seem to have a bit of rock-star in her.

  4. I loved being able to watch the webcast this year. The last few years, I wasn't able to get in. NOTHING is as good as being there in person for the press conference, though. All those book-nerds in one place really makes for nice atmosphere. A lot of the committees wear special hats or t-shirts or something, too, which is fun.


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