Book awards. Phooey.
Whining isn't going to change the selection process, but I'm whining anyway. When books win awards, they're read by a much wider audience. Libraries with limited resources buy these books. My point is that I'm chagrined by these choices that often waste the reader's time and the taxpayer's money. But not always.
Cases in point:
"When You Reach Me" by Rebecca Stead won the 2010 Newbery Medal for the "most distinguished contribution to American literature" for children. When I read the book a few months ago, I was so unimpressed that I set it aside as a book I wouldn't choose to recommend.
From the book jacket: "This remarkable novel takes place in the real world but holds a fantastic puzzle at its heart. 'When You Reach Me' is an original, and a brilliant and profound delight." It was a Junior Library Guild Selection. The people who think so highly of this book know more than I do about literature for young people.
We just happen to disagree about the value of the book. It reminded me of "The Time Traveler's Wife," which I also didn't like and was a best-seller.
"Going Bovine," written by best-selling author Libba Bray, won the 2010 Printz Award for the book, "which exemplifies literary excellence in Young Adult literature." When I received a review copy, I set it aside as a book I didn't want to read, much less review. I'd read "A Great and Terrible Beauty" by Bray and wasn't interested in reading more. According to the book jacket, "Going Bovine" is "a dark comedic journey that poses the questions, Why are we here? What is real? What makes microwave popcorn so good? Why must we die? And how do we really learn to live?" Solely because it won the prize, I slogged through all 480 pages -- and wished I hadn't.
Ideally, a prize-winning book would draw our attention to a title we otherwise might have missed. We read the book and are enriched.
Moving from the extreme negative to the extreme positive, "The Lion and the Mouse," illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, won the 2010 Caldecott Medal for the best illustrations in a children's book. This is one of most glorious picture books I've ever seen. If a child could own only 10 books, this should be one of the 10. The book, a retelling of Aesop's Fable of the lion and the mouse, is wordless. The illustrations speak eloquent volumes. For children ages 2 and up.
I can't account for the award choices. I can advise you to look before you buy.
Reach Fran Hawk at firstname.lastname@example.org.