Thursday, January 14, 2016

Sticker Shock

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. 

Monday morning was euphoric. The children's book community came together to celebrate and support the winners. Huge dramatic things happened. Records were set. Everyone was abuzz. I was excited to see what the next day would bring.

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. 


  1. I must say I was really pleased with Lynn Neary's interview on NPR. It was as long as the ones that used to be on the Today Show and so much more knowledgeable. For one thing, she got everyone's name right unlike the interview on the last Today Show segment in 2008. Of course, I do wish that there would be more about the awards on old media --- advocated fiercely for it after that 2009 Today Show snub and am still hopeful. John Shu is certainly advocating hard for an appearance on The Ellen Show.

    I thought there were some more interviews around with Matt over the last couple of days? Need to go see.

    All that said, you are absolutely right about wanting more.

    1. Monica- I agree completely about the NPR interview. It was lovely and well done. Last year, nearly everyone who found out about the Caldecott (who wasn't in the children's book world) told me they found out through NPR.

      Who would have thought, after watching those Today Show spots, where they got the names of the winners wrong, and appeared to not have even read the picture books, let alone been aware of the creators' reputations, that the only thing worse would be not seeing them.

      John has done an incredibly admirable job in rallying the children's book world and lobbying for an appearance. Part of why I wrote this post was my disappointment that no one seems to be listening, despite pleas from hundreds of people, many of them giants in our community.

      The Nobels and the Pulitzers are always front page news. I can only hope that one day the Newbery and Caldecott will be too.

    2. And, can you imagine a spot with Kwame Alexander and Dan Santat last year? How fabulous that would have been!