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>Got the Horse Right Here

>What interests me most about the new William C. Morris award for new YA writers is the presentation of a shortlist from which the winner will be chosen. While standard procedure for some children’s book awards in other countries and for our own National Book Award, this is a new twist for ALA.

I’m of two minds but mostly I like it. The announcement of contenders allows librarians–and kids–the chance to invest themselves in the process and thus the award. It also allows for two chances of outrage, joining “they didn’t even nominate X” to “they picked Y?!,” that second chance currently the only one available to Newbery, Printz, etc. watchers. Outrage is good for an award and has kept the Oscars going for decades. (Go see Slumdog Millionaire, by the way.)

On the other hand, I’ve talked with NBA finalists and winners who hate the whole horse race aspect of the thing, disliking being put into competition with their peers and, frequently, friends. The thinking seems to be that literature is meant for better things and finer feeling. We all know that the Oscars are essentially a sham, driven by politics and money as much as by sincere regard for a film’s achievements, and are happy that, whatever their failings, the ALA book awards are largely free from such pressures. (Yup, they are.) The knowledge that one of a certain five books is going to win an award makes the whole publisher’s-dinner drama (that’s not a post in itself, it’s a chapter. Of my memoir.) at ALA more suspect than usual, yes? Luckily, the stakes are small.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >publisher’s dinner drama– what?

  2. GraceAnne LadyHawk says:

    >One of the reasons I do like this is the limited nature of the award, aimed at first YA novels.
    I confess getting a copy of a first novel, especially a first YA fantasy novel, usually makes my heart sink. This year, however, there were some brilliant ones.

  3. Lucy Pearson says:

    >As you probably know, the Carnegie Greenaway Medals in the UK release their shortlists (and indeed their longlists, which are nominated by CILIP members). They also operate a shadowing scheme whereby children are encouraged to read all the nominated books and to discuss their merits. I’ve been involved in several such shadowing groups and the fact that there is a list of books to discuss makes them really successful. After all, there’s not much fun in debating a fait accompli!

    You’re right about the usefulness of drama! Every year the chosen winner meets with cries of ‘What?!’ from at least half the shadowers, and the consequent arguments about why it should / shouldn’t have won inspire even more lively analysis of the merits of all the books.

  4. >The thing about these awards is that even when there’s no official shortlist, you can read the listservs and see the consensus and it’s not a surprise when the book wins.

    But then sometimes it IS. And I sort of loved the collective “WHAT?” that went out when Higher Power of Lucky won…

  5. >Oh — how pleasantly surprised I am to see A Curse Dark as Gold make this shortlist! I really enjoyed it, and felt it was being forgotten in the awards shuffle. Hooray!

  6. >I second Brooke’s comment.

  7. >The draw back to shortlists, as we have found in Australia over the years, is that books that don’t get shortlisted are frequently consigned to the dustbin of publishing history. Many schools and libraries, have, over the years, simply bought the shortlist holus bolus and many other fine, but overlooked titles, have been, well, overlooked. Simply put, a shortlisting guarantees reprints and excellent sales; not being shortlisted can be a bit of a (perceived) disaster. (Remember, we’re a MUCH small country/industry than the US, so this may not end up being a side-effect of the Morris shortlist.)

    This is why the CBCA brought in the Notable Book Lists about 10 or so years ago, but the preference for the shortlist remains. So while shortlists do have all that good stuff about people getting invested in the shortlisted titles and running competitions and discussions and so on about which books will win, they do also have a definite downside.



  8. >I think when I die, I am going to leave money to fund an Old Farts Children’s Book Award. The author must be over 65, have at least 15 books out, and been mainly overlooked for the major awards.

    Who might be in contention? Natalie Babbit, Eve Bunting, Bruce Coville.

    Let’s hear some more. . .


  9. >Oh, Roger, will you really write a memoir? Please? Publish it posthumously if you have to, but the prospect of reading it fills me with delight.

    The shortlist: I liked Curse and Graceling very much, so I shall look for the other three.

    From a librarian who is always pleased to read your posts

  10. ChristineTB says:

    >Well said, Jane.

    Well said!

    I’m finding myself wondering about the “grown-up” boycott myself. Count me in as one of the first contributors.

  11. >”free from such pressures” Nope they’re not.

  12. Roger Sutton says:

    >Care to elaborate, Anon.?

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