This week was big in the children's book world. Enormous. The American Library Youth Media Awards were announced on Monday, January 11th, giving out nineteen awards which included the Newbery, Caldecott and Printz.
Tuesday morning made me sad. Sadder than I want to admit. I picked up four major newspapers. Two omitted the announcement entirely. One buried it halfway through the lifestyle section and devoted three paragraphs, that were clearly all from the press release. And one put a few paragraphs in the back of the children's section, again mostly from the press release.
Now compare that to the Oscars.
NPR devoted three minutes of original reporting to it, which was a lot more than most, and for which I was grateful. Most of the articles that I saw that were original and well written came from trade journals, which were great but probably unlikely to be seen by the general public.
Not one talk show, of the endless numbers of shows out there who interview people and celebrities- had even a few minutes to spare to talk to these wonderful, witty, and charming award winners. Or even to talk about them. If you're aware of one that did, please let me know.
Yet, there was plenty of space for celebrity news and gossip.
Last year I was really crushed. I was on the Caldecott committee. Not everyone in my life could really wrap their head around what that meant, but I assured them it was important enough that it would be in the newspaper the Tuesday after the announcement. I said this for months during all the time when I was too busy reading and working on the Caldecott to have time for anything else. It's important enough, it will be in the paper, I kept saying.
Tuesday came. The Newbery Medal winner happened to be a local author (which was terrific, don't get me wrong) but resulted in my local paper, a major award-winning metropolitan newspaper, devoting their two paragraphs about the awards to him and ignoring the Caldecott completely. They didn't even have room for one sentence announcing the winner in an extremely newsworthy year when the Caldecott broke several records. The next day at work, all I heard was questions and doubt. It must not have been important enough. It wasn't there.
A Caldecott Medal winner once told me they received about nine press calls on the day of the award announcement. At the time I thought that was a lot. Nine calls.
But is it a lot? Think in broader terms. How many calls and interview requests does an actor who wins an Oscar receive? How about a quarterback who just won the SuperBowl? I'm willing to bet it's more than nine.
What's wrong with making our heroes and role models people who are talented writers, artists and book creators? Why are we telling our children that they have to read if we are not modeling and celebrating the importance of reading in our society? What kind of examples are we setting?
I'm hoping next year that Tuesday morning brings a ray of hope.
If you saw an article from a major newspaper that featured original reporting and did more than quote a few sentences from the press release, please put a link to it in the comments to cheer me up. In fairness, some papers wait until their Sunday editions to do more in-depth stories.
In the meantime, I hope you read these great stories from Publisher's Weekly about the Caldecott, Newbery and Printz winners.