ALA's Newbery, Caldecott winners to be announced Monday
January 14, 2000
By Jamie Allen
(CNN) -- Louis Sachar, winner of the 1999 Newbery Medal for his book "Holes," knows what potential winners for this year's prestigious literary honor are going through right now.
At its mid-winter meetings in San Antonio, Texas, the American Library Association will announce the winner of the 2000 Newbery, and several other awards, on Monday morning. Those that might win, Sachar says, are doing a lot of thinking about not thinking about it.
"That's how I was," says Sachar. "Last year, everybody kept telling me, 'I hear you're going to win the Newbery,' as if they could've heard it from someone. And I just hated hearing stuff like that. I didn't want to think about and certainly didn't want to expect it.
"I tried real hard not to think about it," he continues. "I didn't even want to know when the announcement was going to be, but eventually I found out when it was going to be. People mentioned it in front of me."
There's a reason for such fretting. Winning the Newbery often changes the lives of winners. The medal, honoring the year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children," has been handed out since 1922 and translates to instant sales and recognition.
"It's increased sales of my book probably at least three-fold, maybe more," says Sachar, who sold film rights to "Holes" and is currently working on a screenplay for it. "It's given me new prestige. In the past I was recognized in the field as a popular children's author, but I think there was a percentage of literary critics who didn't take my work that seriously. But I can sense a change of attitude now."
The ALA's mid-winter meetings last from January 14-19, with Monday's awards ceremony the highlight of the event. Leading up to that moment, judges of each award will meet, debate, bicker, and eventually pick winners. Until then, the book industry will hedge its bets on who will experience "new prestige."
There's a number of books in the Newbery category that are receiving high praise from various outlets. The young people's literature finalists at November's National Book Awards, often a measure of what's being considered by ALA judges, were Laurie Halse Anderson (" Speak"), Walter Dean Myers ("Monster"), Polly Horvath ( "The Trolls"), Louise Erdich ("The Birchbark House"), and the eventual winner of the prize, Kimberly Willis Holt ("When Zachary Beaver Came to Town").
Anderson, Horvath and Myers were also listed on the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books' blue ribbon list. A Publisher's Weekly industry poll, meantime, named "Bud, Not Buddy" by Christopher Paul Curtis as "best bet" to win the Newbery, with honorable mentions going to "Dave at Night" by Gail Carson Levine and "When Zachary Beaver Came to Town" by Holt.
"The judges really pride themselves on the secrecy. We beg them to give us a hint, but they don't."
Certainly, you won't learn which books are being considered by the ALA judges from anyone working at the ALA.
"It's like the deepest, darkest secret," says Linda Wallace, director of the ALA's public information office. "The judges really pride themselves on the secrecy. I have not heard any buzz at all. But the judges don't talk. We beg them to give us a hint, but they don't."
There's similar secrecy surround the ALA's other major awards. The Newbery of the art world is the Caldecott Medal, honoring the best illustrations in children's literature. "Crocodile" by Fred Marcellino, "Molly Bannaky" by Alice McGill with illustrations by Chris K. Soentpiet, and "Sector 7" by David Weisner are popular contenders.
The Coretta Scott King Award will be handed out to authors and illustrators of African descent "whose distinguished books promote an understanding and appreciation of the 'American Dream.'" This year the King award will be handed out on the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
The ALA is also introducing a new award to honor the best literature for young adults (ages 12-18). The Michael L. Printz Award is named for a Topeka, Kansas, school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association.
"I don't know why we've never had one award that singled out the best book for teenagers," admits Wallace.
"It has taken awhile," offers Linda Waddle, deputy director of the ALA's Young Adult Library Services Association, "because I think young adult literature hasn't had a really fine presence in the world of literature. It's been complained about. It's said to be a stereotypical problem novel type thing, that people just didn't see the reason for awarding anything.
"Lately," she says, "the books have gotten edgier and gotten more complex, and many of them talk to the older young adults as well as the younger young adults. There is so much interest right now in teens. They're a growing segment in our population. We're looking at problems like they had at Columbine High School, and it just seems like the time had finally come when there was a need for the award."
Among the other events scheduled at the ALA's mid-winter meeting are a chili cook-off to raise money to benefit a scholarship for minorities, and an international librarian conference.
"We've invited a lot of librariarns from Mexico and Latin American countries to come and meet," says Wallace. "It's sort of a librarianship cultural exchange, which seemed appropriate to be doing that in San Antonio."
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