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Big Deal in Big D

I know you have all heard the Youth Media Awards compared to the Oscars, but that has never been how I felt. I mean, we are all wearing convention-wear (sensible shoes and the like), toting bulging cloth bookbags, gripping paper, pen, various electronic devices and  our boarding passes for the post-announcement sprint to Love Field or DFW. Nary a plunging sparkly neckline was in sight. I don’t recall any foreign press either.

But, excitement? Check. Anticipation? Check.

Usually the announcements are held in a gigantic ballroom. This time, it was more like a very large high school auditorium, if you attended a well-funded high school. The audience waits in a very long line. At 7:35, the doors opened and we raced to find enough seats together. There is something about these announcements that makes you want to sit with friends. When it’s all over, you want to be near people you love. If you are mad, you need someone to commiserate with, and if you are happy, you want to have someone to jump up and down with. This year, it was all about the jumping up and down.

You all have no doubt seen the webcast. Missed it? Here it is. There is the musak, the elementary powerpoint, the slow deliberate speech of librarians and the disembodied cheering. The naming of every single publisher and imprint takes forever if you are watching. But if you are there, the time flies.

For me, it’s thrilling. I was making note of the mention of any book Lolly and I had talked about. My husband (who is a reviewer too) was clear down the row from me, but that didn’t stop us from congratulating each other on any bit of clairvoyance. He was listening for books he had reviewed and loved or titles from his time on the Boston Globe-Horn Book awards this year. For me, it was all that and hearing any mention of books from Calling Caldecott.

Right off the bat: Wonderstruck gets the Schneider Family Book Award. All righty then.

I got a chance to get off my rear end right away when Ashley Bryan was named as this year’s winner of the Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award. No one in the library world is more beloved than Ashely Bryan, and the whole room erupted when his name was called. My whooping went on a little longer than necessary.  I suspected my husband had chosen to sit far from me on purpose.

Onto more books…

Underground andThe Great Migration and Heart and Soul. Well, thank you Coretta Scott King committee for the affirmation. (though I was hoping for piles of honor books–y’all know I love honor books)

Well, that was nice. So was hearing Susan Cooper named as the Margaret A. Edwards honoree. Wow. That was a surprise. And a good surprise. More tears. More jumping. More cries of happy surprise and hugging. The next few awards were for books for older readers and I could rest up. But, that crazy smile of joy seemed stuck on my face forever.

I perked up for the Sibert Award, partly because we had talked about some nonfiction books and partly because a good friend was on the committee. Well, well, well. The winner was Balloons Over Broadway! (Calling Caldecott was up to five books and I was pretty excited about that!)

The Geisel Award was next. I knew from my time on that committee how hard it was to predict this one. Oh, my! A familiar title: I Want My Hat Back. Honor. Fabulous choice.

I knew that Caldecott was next. We go 3 for 3 on the honors: Blackout, Grandpa Green, Me…Jane. I am flabbergasted. My mind whirrs as I imagine the Medal Winner. (I figure all my long-shots were out now. I thought, “Daisy.”) And it was. A Ball for Daisy. I thought, “Lolly is screaming somewhere now!” I make a mental note to bone up on my knowledge of gestural drawing so that I can help my students better appreciate Raschka.

After the Newbery announcement–and ridiculous, embarrassing screaming over Jack Gantos’s medal for Dead End in Norvelt (best happy shock of the day for me)–I check my e-mail for happy texts and let it all sink in.

This is a crowd of people who love books. They might have had their favorites, but many have been on committees and have learned to trust the process.

A close friend grinned, “All the right books won.” I could not agree more.



Robin Smith About Robin Smith

Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine and has served on multiple award committees.



  1. KT Horning says:

    Robin, what a great summation of the press conference! Even though I was seated in that long row between you and Dean, I enjoyed seeing it all again through your eyes. And kudos to Calling Caldecott for, well… calling it!

  2. Deb Taylor says:

    You got it just right, Robin!!! The only thing that could have made it better was if we had been near each other when Ashley’s name was called. Then we could have wept together immediately! Great post!

  3. Dorothy Guthrie says:

    I applaud you for describing my exact feelings on Monday morning. I recorded some of the excitement and shared with my students on Wednesday. I wanted them to hear how excited we get about these book awards and told them to show that same level of excitement for reading.

  4. A fitting end to an excellent blog! Can’t wait for next year – thanks Robin and Lolly!

  5. What KT said! Thank you, Robin. I too was in that line with endpoints Robin and Dean and I believe I did a fair bit of embarrassing screaming myself. I have never been so surprised and so gratified — by all the announcements, from Ashley Bryan right up to Dead End in Norvelt. What a wonderful year to be in children’s books. Thanks, Robin, for making it even more memorable.

  6. Ginny Moore Kruse says:

    Thanks for your eyewitness response to the Awards announcements, Robin! I could picture being right there with you!

  7. And I wish you had been there when Ashley’s name was called, especially. It set the table for an amazing hour. Missing you, Ginny.

  8. What a treat Calling Caldecott was. Do it again! Do it again!

  9. Allison Hammond says:

    Thanks for saving us a virtual seat at the awards presentation and letting us tag along! I felt more invested in the outcome because of the the targeted discussions on Calling Caldecott. I appreciate the positive tone of your posts and my enthusiasm was heightened by yours . I felt so in-the-know as our chosen were chosen. My only suggestion: start earlier so we can participate all year long!

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  1. […] The ALA Youth Media Awards were announced Monday. (Robin Smith over at the Horn Book composed a great write-up on what it’s like to be in the room when awards are announced, something I’ve yet to […]

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