Sunday, February 8, 2015

ALA Awards; or, Putting my money where my mouth is, edition 2014

There are a lot of awards - I do a bulletin board display of as many as I can find in April. However, for collection development purposes, there's really only two I look closely at. Cybils, because the combination of literary quality and child appeal means the majority of the books will circulate well and ALA's awards because they are the best-known and people (even if it's other staff and librarians) will ask for them.

I didn't make it to the awards ceremony this year, although it was in Chicago - it's a two-hour train ride and I didn't feel like shelling out for a hotel room (or getting up early enough to take a train that would get me there in time). I like the excitement of the awards, but I have never been an indiscriminate award buyer. I feel that the majority of titles are chosen for literary quality and/or appeal to teachers and librarians. That's not necessarily a bad thing; child appeal isn't part of the criteria for most of these awards and books that adults are passionate about and booktalk will turn out to have sometimes surprising appeal to children. ALA awards do what they are intended to do quite well and the committees this year picked a great slate of stellar books by the criteria they were given.

But in my small library, with my small budget, I can't afford to purchase books that don't pull their weight and circulate off the shelf. I have limited time to handsell titles and things that would normally be assigned by teachers; well, kids are unlikely to show up asking for since our school libraries are so strong. We also have lexiles to contend with, although I rarely look at them when making purchasing decisions it's a consideration.

  • Crossover by Kwame Alexander
    • I looked at this for Cybils but was skeptical that it would circulate in my library. Only a couple sports authors are popular and novels in verse only if they're a very specific subject will circulate. I still am skeptical, but since it won the Newbery in addition to other awards I have to purchase it. Who knows, it might surprise me!
  • El Deafo by CeCe Bell
    • Purchased. This has gone out 4 times since I bought it in September, so not super popular, and I disagree with all those who compare it to Telgemeier, but I'm not sorry I purchased it. We have a large deaf population in and around our town and it's worth it to reflect the experience of these kids and for other kids to be able to understand their lives a little better.
  • Brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
    • Purchased. This has gone out 5 times since I purchased it in October and is currently checked out. It has a GREAT cover, which really helps and I put it into fiction. I don't want to fictionalize Ms. Wilson's experience in any way, but this type of book will only see the kind of circulation it has if it's in the fiction section. I am also really, really pleased to see a diverse book win a mainstream award.
  • Beekle by Dan Santat
    • I love Santat but I admit I was surprised that he won. I purchased this and it has gone out 14 times since May and is currently checked out.
  • Nana in the city by Lauren Castillo
    • I loved this but there were a lot of new books I didn't get b/c I spent so much on replacements - I'll move it up to the next order list, which will be March.
  • Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary Grandpre
    • Two other libraries in my consortium own it, so unless someone requests it I will not purchase - you are probably all well-aware of my feelings about picture book biographies.
  • Sam and Dave dig a hole by Jon Klassen
    • This was interesting, but not something I see being a big favorite with kids. Too surreal. However, a couple classes did a big thing with the Caldecotts last year and a lot of kids got really obsessed with Extra Yarn so I purchased this for them and it has gone out 8 times since October and is currently checked out.
  • Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
    • This is a picture book biography I can see being popular since it really has very little to do with the actual subject and is attractively illustrated. However, it's not something I feel the need to fit in to my tight budget. 2 other libraries in my consortium own it.
  • The Right Word by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
    • I love Sweet's illustrations, but I really, really cannot handle picture book biographies, especially ones about obscure figures from history. Rather than go into a rant, I am just moving on. I will not be purchasing this. 7 libraries in my consortium own it, 5 of those being school libraries, it's circulated 1-2 times in the public libraries and 0 in the school libraries.
  • This one summer by Jillian Tamaki
    • This was a real surprise - has a teen book ever won a Caldecott? This is not the type of graphic novel that my teens will check out (the only thing other than superhero comics and manga they will read is Faith Erin Hicks and Courtney Crumrin) but I do plan to read it myself and four libraries in the consortium own it.
  • You are (not) small by Anna Kang
    • In the picture books. Has checked out 12 times since we bought it in July. I am planning to make a binder (or, rather, have a volunteer make a binder) of picture books for beginning readers and this will be on there).
  • Mr. Putter and Tabby turn the page by Cynthia Rylant, Waiting is not easy by Mo Willems
    • I feel kind of meh about these super long-running series. Mr. Putter and Tabby aren't super popular here; Elephant and Piggie are. I don't really see them as award-winners. I'm happier with the Cybils list this year in this area.
I am....not happy with the Sibert this year. Only ONE science-themed book? I have many rants on this subject, but I am not going to share them here. Just...I am disappointed and I think this is one of the reasons STEM is difficult - if teachers and librarians don't value the great STEM books, why do they expect kids to take an interest?
  • The Right Word by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
    • Moving on...
  • Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
    • Still making up my mind about this one. It is definitely teen and this kind of serious history is a hard sell for my teens who only use the ya nonfiction for browsing type reading - celebrity biographies and memoirs like A Child Called It and Soul Surfer are popular, but this kind of scholarly work is more likely to sit on the shelf.
  • Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell
    • Josephine Baker is an awesome person, but WHY did they have to make it a picture book biography?? 6 libraries own it, 4 of them school libraries. Will not purchase.
  • Brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Wilson
    • Discussed above.
  • Separate is never equal by Duncan Tonatiuh
    • Previously looked at for Cybils. If I lived in a different area I might consider it, but I find his art to be extremely inaccessible for people unfamiliar with its history or origins. 1 library owns it. I will not purchase.
  • Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy
    • Well, one is better than nothing (I'm looking at YOU NCTE list) and this is indeed an awesome book. Gone out 4 times since we purchased it in October and just went out again.
Coretta Scott King
  • Brown Girl Dreaming, Crossover
    • Repeats from above
  • How I discovered poetry by Marilyn Nelson
    • Triple whammy of poetry, teen, autobiography. 3 libraries in our consortium own it, 2 are school libraries, none of them have checked out. Pass.
  • How it went down by Kekla Magoon
    • Two libraries own it - I trust the judgment of our cataloger who buys teen fiction and she didn't purchase it.
  • Firebird by Christopher Myers
    • Gorgeous, but not enough actual dancing pictures in my opinion. However, four libraries in the system own it and I am considering purchasing it when I have the budget available.
  • Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell
    • Discussed above.
  • Little Melba and her big trombone by Frank Morrison
    • I absolutely refuse to buy any books about jazz ever again. I don't think anyone in this town even knows what jazz is. I have two that check out occasionally - Squeak Rumble Whomp Whomp Whomp and Charlie Parker Played Bebop and I do not need any more. Only 2 libraries own it.
  • When I was the greatest by Jason Reynolds
    • I was confused by this because the list I was reading said Jason Alexander, and then I realized that someone had transposed the Newbery winner. Anyways. Same thing with this on teen fiction. 3 libraries in my system own it.
Pura Belpre
  • Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
    • Discussed above.
  • Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Guevara
    • I wasn't real impressed with this one and I already bought a lot of fairy tales, but I'll go ahead and get it, especially since I have a couple families who have recently gotten interested in bilingual stories.
  • Green is a chile pepper by Roseanne Thong
    • Purchased. Has gone out 12 times since I bought it last February. Not super popular, but we had it checked out for storytime and outreach for a long time.
  • Separate is never equal by Duncan Tonatiuh
    • Discussed above.
  • I lived on butterfly hill by Marjorie Agosin
    • I looked at this because I liked the cover, but I don't think it will circulate. 2 libraries own it and no, it's not circulating.
  • Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes by Juan Felipe Herrera
    • I looked at this, but this won't circulate - I need individual biographies. 1 library owns it.
  • A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz
    • Only 2 (school) libraries own it. I placed it on hold to look at it.
  • Rain Reign by Ann Martin
    • I was skeptical about this because her books so often seem depressing and I'm kind of tired of the "genius/quirky child on the spectrum" trope, but quite a few libraries have it and it's checked out at about half, so I'll get it for the Wonder fans.
  • Girls like us by Gail Giles
    • A handful of libraries have this but the circulation does not look good. Too close to adult for my teen area, which skews young. Pass.
  • I'll give you the sun by Nelson Jandy
    • We own it. It's gone out 7 times since we bought it in September and is currently checked out.
  • And we stay by Jenny Hubbard
    • I'll recommend this to our teen selector - I think it could be reasonably popular.
  • Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
    • No one in my system owns this. I am ok with that.
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
    • Quite a few libraries have this one, but it looks like very low circ. I am ok that we passed on this.
  • This one summer by Mariko Tamaki
    • Discussed above.


Katherine Roy said...

Hi Jennifer,

Katherine Roy of Neighborhood Sharks here! Your post just came up in my alerts account and I found it fascinating to read your thoughts into this year's ALA awards, both what you agreed with and what you didn't, and how that impacts what you choose to purchase for your library. I'm also delighted that you like my book and that it's circulating well in your system! GREAT point about the STEM stuff. Could I ask you a couple of questions about that and your opinions about picture book biographies via email? If not, no problem, and thanks again for your post!

All best,


Jennifer said...

Sure, you can email me at jeanlittlelibrary(at)gmail(dot)com

Elisa Bergslien said...

I find these posts just fascinating.

I have to say that I was really surprised about The Noisy Paint Box. I (and my kids) liked Josephine but I don't see it having huge kid appeal.

And I loved The Right Word but totally recognized that it was because I am both a word lover and a totally dug the art. I wanted it for me, not because I thought the kids would like it.

And I am glad to see Neighborhood Sharks get some love.

I am going to have to see if I can get some circulation numbers out of our library. I really want to see how they compare.

Jennifer said...

I was just looking at SLJ and discovered that there is a recent biography of Josephine Baker for middle grade/teens. I'm excited! She's such an awesome person, but I can't get behind it as a picture book biography.

I'd be interested too! This is just my small library and small consortium, so it would be interesting to see how these titles go in other libraries.

Nina said...

Jennifer: Jacqueline "Woodson," not "Wilson."

I'm curious why you think the Crossover, as a novel in verse, won't circulate if Woodson's did?

Jennifer said...

Ack, where was my brain? Fixed.

My patrons who like novels in verse aren't interested in sports and vice versa for my sports fans. I'll probably try to get them to read across genres though, using the format or subject as a draw, whichever they're interested in.