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ALA Youth Media Announcement Report

As promised, here’s my view of Monday morning’s YMAs in Atlanta. As a member of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury, my morning started at 6:30 AM, when I arrived at the convention center. Like many of the award committees, my committee was meeting before the 8 AM announcement ceremony in order to call our winners and notify/congratulate them. To my surprise, there were already a significant number of people in line. I repeat, at 6:30 AM. Gotta love that kind of commitment.

early birdsAfter our committee finished making our calls (and in case you are wondering, no, we did not telephone Representative John Lewis directly, but we did speak with his March co-author, Andrew Aydin. All I can say is that he must have had a VERY busy early morning on the phone), we headed into the already-mostly-full auditorium. The main floor was packed, and before the ceremony started, the balcony started to fill up as well. There really is nothing quite like being in the room for the announcements: despite the early hour, there is so much buzz and anticipation and palpable pent-up energy.

I sat down with my committee in our reserved seats and had just a few moments to get my bearings and look around before the ceremony began. When I looked directly behind me, this is what I saw:

lewis seats

I repeat, these seats were Directly. Behind. Me. Representative Lewis didn’t end up using the seats, but just the thought of it was pretty exciting. I was excited because of course our committee had chosen March: Book Three as the winner of the 2017 Coretta Scott King Author Award, but it turned out that I didn’t know the half of it, as before the morning was over, March had won an unprecedented four times: the CSK, the Sibert, the Printz, and the Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award. Every time March was announced as the winner, the crowd became more delighted and more, well, gobsmacked. Clearly we were all starting to wonder if the recognition would stop at four awards — after all, there were still the Caldecott and Newbery announcements to come. It got to the point that when emcee extraordinaire Andrew Medlar began his introduction of the Andrew Carnegie award for children’s video, I thought to myself, Well, that’s one award March won’t win!

One of the joys of being in the room where it happens is seeing the pride and happiness on committee members’ faces when they stand up to receive the audience’s appreciation and recognition. Here’s the Caldecott committee, which like the CSK jury chose Javaka Steptoe’s Radiant Child as its winner, reacting to the crowd’s applause — which was tremendous, and tremendously deserved. (And if the day wasn’t already historic enough, this marks the first time a book has won both the CSK and the Caldecott.)

caldecott committee accepting applause

So, no, putting a stop to our wild imaginings, the Caldecott committee didn’t end up choosing March. I didn’t manage to get a shot of one of the committees who DID choose March (I think it was the YALSA Nonfiction committee, but please correct me if I’m wrong) who, when they stood up to receive the audience’s applause, all raised their right arms high, holding toothbrushes in their fists — a reference to the many times John Lewis went to jail for his Civil Rights activism.

All the committees did exemplary work this year; I’ve never been prouder of our children’s literature community. I can only imagine that librarians, teachers, and others who work with children will return to their libraries and classrooms extra energized this year. Congratulations to the award winners, and to all of us, because as corny as it may be to say, this year’s choices make us all winners. I think about the excellent advice Thom Barthelmess (who, coincidentally, happened to be the Newbery chair this year) provided in his 2014 Horn Book article “Thom’s Rules of Order: Ten Tips for Good Book Discussion.” His tenth “rule” is “accentuate the positive.” He wrote, “Think about books as hot-air balloons. Our job is to identify the one that rises highest, concentrating on those elements that send it aloft.” So I leave you with an image of the Ferris wheel in downtown Atlanta, with the official slogan of the Atlanta Falcons football team in neon in the center. It’s also the message I came away with on Monday morning. Rise up!

ferris wheel rise up

Here’s even more coverage of the announcements from our sister publication School Library Journal.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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Comments

  1. Deborah Taylor says:

    Great Job, Martha!!

  2. Sam Juliano says:

    Quite a glowing and exciting report here. I salute all the committees on this amazing year, one so unprecedented in so many ways.

  3. Robin Smith says:

    Oh I wish I could have heard your phone calls on CSK! I know Ashley is an early riser, so it must have been fun to honor him in both categories.

  4. What entertaining commentary, and so fun to have seen it from my own perspective at the same time. Your committee did a wonderful job, MVP!

  5. Congratulations to you and to all the committees for their hard work!

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