When you’re reading this, a lot of us will be heading or preparing to head to Chicago for ALA Midwinter. There are many things to be excited about during Midwinter–meetings, exhibits, seeing friends.

But not a lot actually meets the level of excitement, that the Youth Media Awards. This will be my first YMAs in person! I’m so jazzed. So I thought I’d take a moment and reflect on my favorite winners of past YMAs. Honestly, I could go on for pages and pages about this, but I’ll just do a quick overview because y’all are packing or flying.  My very favorites of the Caldecott Medal, Newbery Medal, and Printz Award Winners:

I know this is everyone’s favorite, but it’s totally mine. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. It won the 1963 Caldecott award. This book was written over 20 years before I was born, but I adored it as a child. I remember asking my mom to read it to me over and over and over again. And it holds up. I use this one in storytimes often, and I’m lucky enough to live near the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi and have seen some of the original art. It’s as gorgeous as you think it is.

The View From Saturday by E.L. Konisburg won the Newbery Medal in 1997. This is one that I was wild about as a child. I was 9 years old when this book came out, and I was part of a program in my school that was similar to the Academic Bowl Team. Well, not entirely similar. But it felt similar. My fourth-grade self resonated with this one DEEPLY. I actually have not read this one as an adult. A part of me is terrified that it won’t hold up. But it will, right? Because Konigsburg? This is the first time in my life I remember being aware that the Newbery medal is something that was actually awarded, and that the seal didn’t just magically appear on books in my school library. I remember my school librarian telling us that this book had won and being very excited because I had read it and loved it so much. Maybe it’s time for a reread?


The Printz Award is a little different. It’s a much newer award. The first Printz was awarded in 2000. I wasn’t really aware of the existence of the Printz until college library school, but I quickly became obsessed. I actually wrote my master’s project on the Printz. In doing so, I read many Printz and Printz Honor titles. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, the 2009 winner, is my favorite, and continues to be my favorite Young Adult title of all time. I understand that my approach to this book was different. I was an adult the first time I read it, upon the recommendation of a colleague at my library, unlike the other two titles, which I came to as a child. But this book, like the other two, changed me and stayed with me. Marchetta is now one of my favorite authors. I’m fond of telling friends that if she wrote ingredients lists on the side of cereal boxes, I’d have them shipped over from Australia to read.

That’s the thing I love about award winners, and all books. Remember this when you’re putting award seals on books next week and when you’re teaching classes about the Caldecott and Newbery and when you’re excitedly handing your tweens and teens the Printz Honor book you’ll know they love: these are the books that will stay with them forever. And we get to be a tiny part of that.

Our cross-poster from ALSC today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with kids ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

Join YALSA with LIVE streaming video of all the YMA announcement, presented jointly by the YALSA Blog and The Hub. Along with the video, we’ll also be offering quick polls and pulling Twitter hashtags like #printz and #alexawards. You can log in to the live session with your Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or OpenID username (which will include your avatar), or just jump right in.

YALSA Blog manager mk Eagle (username pandanose) will be offering transcriptions of all the announcements, with live video from The Hub blogger Jessica Pryde. Coverage begins at 7:30 central on Monday, January 23.

I guess I am a little spoiled and maybe a tad complacent. In November, I had the chance to sit for two days at the ALAN conference and listen to the best and the brightest in the field of YA literature talk about books and reading. Chris Crutcher, Sherman Alexie, E Lockhart, and Laurie Halse Anderson and dozens of others spoke about their own writing. Breakout sessions focused on reading motivation and the use of YA literature in classroom and libraries. Several YALSA leaders were in attendance and on the program including Bonnie Kunzel, Mary Arnold, Ed Sullivan, and Michael Cart.

Why am I waxing nostalgic now? Well, it seems that YA literature takes a back seat sometimes within ALA. As I prepare to attend the Midwinter meeting, I am reading all about the awards press conference in the recent news releases and online newsletters (AL Direct, January, 2007, and the latest issue of American Libraries, for instance), Newbery and Caldecott get top billing. I understand that. They have been around since 1922 and 1938 respectively. However, not to mention the Printz, ALEX, and Edwards awards as part of the ceremony seems to me to consign the YALSA awards to a less important category. Maybe I am guilty of assisting this slight. I will occasionally define the Printz as the YA Newbery. That’s wrong, and one of my New Year’s resolutions is to promote the YALSA award winners even more in presentations, articles, and speeches.

Adolescent literacy is at the forefront of our attention in education right now. It seems to me that ALA should be hyping what it does to keep teens immersed in books and reading. Instead, it elects to focus on the past and is, therefore, ignoring a golden opportunity to promote one of its prime initiatives in the battle against aliteracy. Highlighting YALSA awards would bring some national attention to the field of YA literature which (IMHO) is the best hope we have of creating teens who read for pleasure and who become lifelong readers and learners.

However, this does not help remedy the slight within my own professional organization. YALSA is one of the fastest growing groups within ALA and yet we take a back seat at the awards ceremony. Our winners do not appear on The Today Show (according to the ALA PIO, the show is not interested in adding the Printz winners). Last year we were encouraged by YALSA to show up Tuesday morning in New York and carry signs about the Printz. We need to do more this year. What can we do to bring this to the attention of our leadership in the organization? Why is our leadership not interested in making a moe concerted effort to get Printz winners on the show?

First, as many of us as possible need to communicate our displeasure to those in charge. Send letters to ALA Direct, American Libraries, and to the leadership of ALA. At Midwinter, be sure to talk to our leaders about the need to make YALSA awards visible. Here are some key email addresses for you: the email address for letters to the editor of American Libraries: americanlibraries@ala.org. The Director of ALA’s Public Information Office (PIO) is Mark Gould, mgould@ala.org and the CEO of ALA is Keith Fiels, kfiels@ala.org Attend the press conference and make some noise for the YALSA winners if you are planning to be in Philly.

Letters are one place to begin. We need to go further. The psters for Printz did not generate a great deal of sales. Show your support this year with a purchase of the bookmarks and ask one of your library vendors if they will produce a poster each year with cumulative lists of Printz winners. How about some professional books about using the Printz winners in school and public library settings? (and we do have one coming: the Official Guide to YALSA Awards is scheduled to be published by YALSA with Neal-Schuman in June 2008. It’s been edited by Tina Frolund and has sections on Alex, Edwards and Printz). How about using our votes to speak as well? Look at the candidates running for ALA Board. Think about endorsing those who are YALSA members and/or who support YALSA’s initiatives. Dora Ho, the 2008 local arrangements chair for our annual conference, is one of the YALSA people running for ALA Executive Board.

YALSA should share the spotlight with ALSC when it comes to the awards presentation. Make your voices heard. It is time to demand more from our professional home. Instead of sitting us at a separate table, ALA needs to invite us to sit at the head table at the banquet.

Posted by Teri Lesesne

Yesterday, Charlie Gibson interviewed Marcus Zusack about his new book, THE BOOK THIEF. During the interview Gibson lavished praise on the book, never mentioning the fact that it was a books for YAs OR that Zusack had just received a Printz Honor for his last book. While I am grateful for the media coverage, I wish there were some way to let those who “handle” the talent know about YA and its awards. I am certain that had Zusack won a Newbery or Newbery Honor, it would have been mentioned. How can we get out the word?

Posted by Teri S. Lesesne

It has been disappointing to see the Printz Award virtually ignored by the media who manages to cover the Newbery and Caldecott. I did note that USA Today and some other papers at least noted the winner of the Printz, but nowhere I have I seen interviews with John Green about LOOKING FOR ALASKA.

I wonder how to catch the interest of the media. After all, they seem to focus only on the recent spate of censorship cases. Why not a focus on the great new award winning books and the readers that are being nurtured by their availability? I wonder if ALSC could assist YALSA here and request that the Printz winner be included in the press events? I know we are the new kids on the block, but the Printz deserves some more recognition.

BTW, thanks to the hardy YA folks who stood outside the Today Show window and waved copies of ALASKA! Maybe more of us can plan a trip to the Big Apple for next year?

Posted by Teri Lesesne

Of course the Awards Press Conference is an incredible event. However, the ripples after the awards are announced provide plenty of drama as well. You can see John Green’s reactions to hearing his book, LOOKING FOR ALASKA, won the Printz Award at his blog site. John was walking with his family in New York when he received the phone call from Michael Cart and the Printz Committee. How wonderful it is to be able to see the reaction–almost like being UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL.

Posted by Teri Lesesne