Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Can't Think about Brunch -- I'm Too Anxious about Tomorrow!

Sorry that I have not posted a blog in several days. And many thanks to those who inquired about my absence. I apologize for shirking my duties here. I’ve just been in a post-holiday slump, plus I’ve been trying to finish another (overdue) chapter for the book I’m writing for Candlewick with Julie Danielson from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and Betsy Bird from Fuse #8 fame.

If you’re curious about the kind of stories you'll find in our book, you might like reading Betsy’s recent blog about the time the editor of one children’s book periodical threatened to hit the editor of another children’s book editor over the head with a chair.

Been there, considered it, dismissed the idea.

Editors of children’s book periodicals have notoriously hard heads.


Just before the holidays, I received this e-mail from a book-loving friend:

Is there something wrong with someone who counts down days til ALA announcements instead of Christmas? Oh well. Books have been some of my best friends over the years.

Today, Jonathan of the Heavy Medal blog likens this day to the night before Christmas.

I can identify.

From the time I was a kid, Newbery/Caldecott Day has felt like a holiday to me.

When I was younger, I had to wait till the award news filtered down to our local library. I still remember the librarian telling me that “a book called SUMMER OF THE SWANS won,” but adding that it wasn’t available yet, as the library’s copy was still being processed. She must have seen the disappointment on my face, because a few minutes later she retrieved the book from in back and let me take it out. I was the first person in our library to read the book. I wonder if a copy of the book with “c. 1” on the back pocket still sits on the shelf at Detroit’s Edison Branch Library….

As I got older, I got more involved – and more cunning. On Newbery Day I’d phone the “press room” at the ALA convention and, pretending to be a journalist (think I fooled anyone?) I’d inquire about the winning books myself.

Later, when I grew up and started working full time, I’d sneak away from my jobs with a pocketful of quarters and dimes and call the convention from the nearest pay phone.

For the past twenty years or so, I’ve taken the day off work. I used to stay up late that Sunday night, catching-up on possible winners that I still hadn’t read. Now I stay up late checking the internet for gossip and “leaks.” If the awards are announced very early in the morning, I’ve even been known to sleep in my clothes, so I can rush out the door to track down the winning books as soon as I hear the news (oh don’t worry, I come back and take a shower and change afterwards.) Newbery morning is spent racing around in my car, looking for the winning titles at bookstores, text-messaging fellow book-collectors, and generally behaving like a crazy person.

Things don’t slow down till afternoon. That’s when I go out to lunch, Newbery winner in hand, and sit reading – evaluating whether the committee made the “right” choices, thinking about the books that didn’t quite make it…and even thinking ahead to next year’s winners. I also think about how things have changed over the years…from waiting to hear the news from my local librarians…to seeking it out on my own…all the way till today when we learn the winners almost instantaneously from blogs, tweets, or even from watching the presentation live on the internet.

Thinking back on this, I see how technology has changed from throughout my life. And I see how my own life has changed from year to year.

Newbery Day – like a birthday, like Christmas – is a once a year event and an annual mile-marker in my life.


Will tomorrow be as laid-back as Newbery Day 2008, when I discovered I had already purchased and read the entire Newbery slate (Winner: GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES by Laura Amy Schlitz and Honors ELIJAH OF BUXTON (Christopher Paul Curtis), THE WEDNESDAY WARS (Gary D. Schmidt) and FEATHERS (Jacqueline Woodson) months earlier or will it be as dramatic as 1987 – a year the winners weren’t announced till late afternoon and I drove through a blizzard to the bookstore, dodged cars across a busy street with foot-high snow, then discovered the store was closing early due to the weather and stood outside in the dark and cold, pounding on the wooden door until someone let me in to get a copy of THE WHIPPING BOY?

I dunno.

It could really go anyway. Many blogs are predicting great things for ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams Garcia, KEEPER by Kathi Appelt, THE DREAMER by Pam Munoz Ryan, DARK EMPEROR by Joyce Sidman, COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles, THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos, and several other titles.

Personally, I’ve got a soft spot for a couple titles that didn’t make much of a dent on most Mock Newbery lists: TURTLE IN PARADISE by Jennifer Holm and TOUCH BLUE by Cynthia Lord.

I tend to agree with those who think this year may hold some big surprises. I truly can imagine a book that was on nobody’s radar surprising us all tomorrow morning. One would think that, in today’s techno-tweeting world, that would be near-impossible. After all, hasn’t every literary website and book-blog analyzed every possible title to within a inch of its gold medal? Yet, year after year, the Newbery keeps surprising us. In the past decade alone, half of the winners have been surprises:

2001 : A YEAR DOWN YONDER by Richard Peck. In retrospect, it seems like a foregone winner – the type of book everyone would expect to win – yet I don’t really think it was considered a true contender by anyone before it actually won the prize.

2002 : A SINGLE SHARD by Linda Sue Park. I believe it won a single Mock Newbery in the weeks right before the award, but this pretty-much-under-the-radar-novel surprised most of us when it won the prize.

2003 : CRISPIN : THE CROSS OF LEAD by Avi. Did ANYONE predict this one?

2005 : KIRA-KIRA by Cynthia Kadohata. Completely. Unexpected.

2007 : THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY by Susan Patron. Most overheard comment on the day this award was announced: “The Higher Power of What? By Who?” Definitely a surprise winner.

So, hang onto your seatbelts, as 2011 may be the year for another surprise Newbery.

Caldecott too.

And of course the Printz. Has any book emerged as a true frontrunner for that prize – my second favorite literary award after the Newbery.


Do you have any strong feelings for a completely out-of-left-field winner for the Newbery, Caldecott, or Printz? A book whose title really hasn’t been bandied about much in recent weeks? If so, post your titles in the comments section before tomorrow morning and prove your powers of ESP and/or literary acumen.


ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams Garcia just won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. She joins the following past winners:

1984 / THE SIGN OF THE BEAVER / Elizabeth George Speare
1986 / SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL / Patricia MacLachlan
1988 / CHARLEY SKEDADDLE / Patricia Beatty
1989 / THE HONORABLE PRISON / Lyll Becerra de Jenkins
1990 / SHADES OF GREY / Carolyn Reeder
1991 / A TIME OF TROUBLES / Pieter Van Raven
1992 / STEPPING ON THE CRACKS / Mary Downing Hahn
1993 / MORNING GIRL / Michael Dorris
1994 / BULL RUN / Paul Fleischman
1995 / UNDER THE BLOOD RUN SUN / Graham Salisbury
1996 / THE BOMB / Theodore Taylor
1997 / JIP, HIS STORY / Katherine Paterson
1998 / OUT OF THE DUST / Karen Hesse
1999 / FORTY ACRES AND MAYBE A MULE / Harriette Robinet
2000 / TWO SUNS IN THE SKY / Miriam Bat-Ami
2001 / THE ART OF KEEPING COOL / Janet Taylor Lisle
2002 / THE LAND / Mildred Walker
2003 / TROUBLE DON’T LAST / Shelley Pearsall
2004 / THE RIVER BETWEEN US / Richard Peck
2005 / WORTH / A LaFaye
2006 / THE GAME OF SILENCE / Louise Erdrich
2007 / THE GREEN GLASS SEA / Ellen Klages
2008 / ELIJAH OF BUXTON / Christopher Paul Curtis
2009 / CHAINS / Laurie Halse Anderson
2010 / THE STORM IN THE BARN / Matt Phelan

SIX FUN FACTS about the Scott O’Dell Award:

* Though established in 1982, no prize was given the first two years because no book was deemed worthy.

* Though it seems strange that Scott O’Dell himself won an award that bears his name, this is not the first time this has happened. Laura Ingalls Wilder won the inaugural Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1954.

* Women writers have won twice as often as men: 18 to 9.

* Two O’Dell winning books have gone on to be Newbery winners: SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL and OUT OF THE DUST.

* Two have gone on to be Newbery Honors: THE SIGN OF THE BEAVER and ELIJAH OF BUXTON.

* In this year’s winner, ONE CRAZY SUMMER, the protagonist is shown reading a Scott O’Dell book, ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS.

ONE SCARY FACT about the Scott O’Dell Award:

*Well, scary to me. How can an award for historical fiction be given to book set in my own lifetime??? This year’s winner, ONE CRAZY SUMMER, is set in 1968, when I was nine years old. I guess it’s time to face facts: I am now, officially, old!


A couple weeks ago I started preparing this list of children’s book creators we lost in 2010. Since then, SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL has publishd a list of their own. I'm not sure how much overlap there is, but here goes:

J.D. Salinger, author of the honorary young adult novel CATCHER IN THE RYE (would it have been published as an adult book today?) died January 27 at the age of 91.

Lucille Clifton died February 13 at age 73. She was best known for the “Everett Anderson” series.

Patricia Wrightson (THE NARGUN AND THE STARS; A LITTLE FEAR) died at age 88 on March 15.

Newbery-winner Sid Fleischman (THE WHIPPING BOY; GHOST IN THE NOONDAY SUN) died at age 90 on March 17.

William Mayne, author of the “Earthfasts” trilogy, died at age 82 on March 24.

“Poppy Cats” author Lara Jones died on March 26 at age 34.

The Caldecott-winning illustrator of OWL MOON, John Schoenherr, died April 8 at age 74.

WEDNESDAY WITCH author Ruth Chew died on May 13 at the age of 90.

Joan Steiner, who created the eye-boggling “Lookalikes” books died on September 8 at age…well, she left special instructions saying she didn’t want her age revealed!

Clifford B. Hicks, who created the “Alvin Fernald series” (Amy Carter’s favorite childhood books!) died at age 90 on September 29.

Eva Ibbotson, author of THE SECRET OF PLATFORM 13 and others) left us on October 20 at age 85.

Betty Jean Lifton, whose book CHILDREN OF VIETNAM (written with Thomas C. Fox) was nominated for both the National Book Award and the Newbery Medal, died November 19 at age 84.

Remember the Belgian comic strip cartoon Tintin? Many felt the character was inspired by the Danish actor Palle Huld, who died on November 26 at age 98.

Ruth Park, who won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for PLAYING BEATIE BOW, died December 14 at age 93.

Elizabeth Beresford, who created the British series about the Wombles died on Christmas Eve at age 84. How could she not have become a children’s writer – her godparents were Walter de la Mare and Eleanor Farejon!


Dick King-Smith died on January 4 at age 88. Though he did not publish his first book until age 54, he made up for lost time by publishing over one hundred titles in the years since. He was best known for BABE, THE GALLANT PIG, which was later made into a major motion picture. It must have seemed foolhardy to attempt a story about a pig, in light of the fact that a children’s book classic, CHARLOTTE’S WEB, was already considered the definitive novel with a porker protagonist. But BABE turned out to be highly-praised by critics and beloved by readers – and achieved classic status of its own. The author’s 2001 autobiography, CHEWING THE CUD, was also critically-acclaimed.

To quote the film, if not the book: Well done, sir, well done.


If you’re a fan of the recent Frida Kahlo picture book, ME, FRIDA, written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by David Diaz (Caldecott winner for SMOKY NIGHT), you might be interested in a special “limited edition bound presentation case” for the book.

According to the illustrator, “Each case and its contents are numbered and marked in a unique manner. There are no two alike.” The contents include:

Interior case, front cover, original drawing of Frida, under vellum.

Announcement sheet, and Limited-Edition print of Frida on the Headlands, printed on 100% cotton, archival, acid-free paper.

Original sketch created in preparation for the paintings in Me, Frida, in vellum envelope.

Early manuscript with notes, signed by the author.

Copy of ME, FRIDA, signed by the author, and illustrator.

For more info, here’s where to find out more.


A friend of this blog recently sent me this query:

I have never taken the time (busy librarian that I was)to record my books, so when I want to find a specific title I'm not really sure what shelf it is on.
Space is so precious that I end up shelving books by size. And when I see a
desirable title in a bookstore or book sale I don't often remember if I already
have it, or what edition I have, or what the condition is.

I want an electronic system to keep track. And something that I can take with me when I am out looking at potential purchases. Mind you, I am not a tech savvy person so I need something simple. I have no idea what.

Do you have a suggestion?

I suggested LibraryThing, which is how I record my books, but I am not sure if LibraryThing can be used on a handheld device which can travel to bookstores.

Does anyone know?

And does anyone have any suggestions on how this fellow book collector can keep track of her books?


Fiction is my first love and I spend most of my bookbuying budget in that area.

However, at this time of year, when people are recommending nonfiction books as possible Newbery or Printz winner, I usually do end up buying a couple factual books. And this year I’ve noticed a startling increase in the price of these books.


SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos is $20.00.

And AN UNSPEAKABLE CRIME : THE PROSECUTION AND PERSECUTION OF LEO FRANK by Elaine Marie Alphin, is a credit card busting $22.95!

Stop the madness!

Does anyone know why informational books are so much more expensive than fiction? Has it always been that way, or is this a recent trend?

Also, I’ve noticed that at least one of these books employs a device I’ve never seen before. SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD (which is truly a superb book – probably the year’s best nonfiction for young readers) includes some links to websites for supplementary material. For example, a reference to the music created by enslaved African sugar workers sends readers to a website where they can listen to the music. That is the perfect use for a website link. But I was taken aback to see the following note: “Many of the images reproduced in black and white in this book can also be found in color on the Web,” followed by a list of addresses. What’s the reasoning behind this? Is this a cost-cutting method or what? What’s next – no pictures at all...just blank spaces captioned by web addresses where readers can look at the pictures?


One of the most highly-anticipated young adult novels of 2011 has just been released. I haven’t read ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis yet, but I picked up a copy on Friday due to the buzz I’ve heard.

Fans of dustjackets (dustjacket…a word that will disappear in the World of Kindle) will be intrigued by this one which includes a YA-friendly soft-focus (almost said soft-core) photo on the front with an embossed title:

Remove the dustjacket and the flip side includes a blueprint diagram of the Spaceship Godspeed, the interplanetary vehicle on which most of the novel’s action takes place:

Kudos to publisher Razorbill for utilizing what is often wasted white space to present something new and innovative!


'Twas the night before Newbery, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, except my Mac’s mouse;
Into every book-blog I was desperately peeking,
To see if some Newbery gossip was leaking.
The books in contention sat nearby, barely daring
To hope that tomorrow a gold seal they’d be wearing.
COUNTDOWN counted the hours, with an assist from THE CLOCKWORK THREE.
THE KNEEBONE BOY wondered, “Could the winning book be me?”
SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD thought a medal would be sweet,
While TURTLE IN PARADISE hoped her author would three-peat.
KEEPER was optimistic and kept her hope afloat,
While a dark horse named DARK EMPEROR circled KEEPER’S boat.
SIR CHARLIE thought a posthumous prize might not be a bummer
While three sisters and a DREAMER bet on ONE CRAZY SUMMER.
Perhaps in a store or library, an unknown book sits on the shelf
Never discussed by Heavy Medal, nor considered by yourself.
Yet tomorrow it might just wear that gold seal of approval
While the aforementioned books await “remaindered” removal.
You never know at Newbery time, what book will take the prize
It may be totally expected, it may be a big surprise.
If the books you love don’t win tomorrow, then “phooey” to the choosers
(After all, the books you love can never truly be losers.)

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books. Hope you’ll be back later this week for post-award reflections and recaps!


my only problem said...

I agree about being more excited about this than Christmas morning!
My favorites for the year are 1. A Tale Dark and Grimm 2. Kneebone Boy (sorry Peter) and 3. Moon Over Manifest.

I hope we have a surprise winner!

Doret said...

No I am really kicking myself because I have to work tomorrow. But there are rumors of a snow storm so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

I made my predictions yesterday. I even have a few sleepers

Harper said...

Last year I did well with my Printz picks -- correctly predicted that GOING BOVINE and TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND would be announced. So... this year, two books that I think could sneak their way into the Printz announcements are: THE MARBURY LENS, by Andrew Smith, and NOTHING, by Janne Teller.


I'm so excited for tomorrow!

Daughter Number Three said...

Wow, I feel very out of it. How could I not know that Eva Ibbotson and Joan Steiner had died last year!?

DaNae said...

I am deeply impressed with your level of deviousness in pursuit of Newbery results. How in the world did you manage to get a phone number for the convention?

Lisa Jenn Bigelow said...

I found this post especially enjoyable and am impressed and tickled that after such a lengthy one you even topped it off with a poem!!! I'm a bit disappointed that I'll be doing storytime during the announcements today. I've got to boot those kids out promptly so I can race to the catalog and reserve everything I haven't read yet! (Priorities, priorities.)

Sherry said...

I like SHIP BREAKER for Printz winner.

Teri-K said...

I am so relieved you are back posting. I think it's cruel to keep us waiting so long for the announcement. I'm snowed in, and will have to find something to do while I wait...

my only problem said...

Sherry, you called it on the printz winner!

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jen said...

the back of the dust jacket is usually blank (or white) because it costs money--generally LOTS of money--to print on the reverse side (also known as 4 over 4--4 color over 4color). It's not really wasted space so much as extremely pricey.

Christine said...

Really enjoyed this post.