Last Monday, when most of us were off work, the American Library Association (ALA) announced the best books, audio books and videos of the year at its annual mid-winter meeting in Boston. Having attended several of these in person, I can tell you that the air is electric. It’s almost like attending the Academy Awards or an NFL playoff game. Everyone is rooting for their favorite. The committees that selected the winners are grinning from ear to ear, like they have the best secrets. (Which they do!)
There are many sites that list the best books, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I will direct you to ALA for the list. Note that there are many awards, not just the Newbery and Caldecott. This year YALSA added a nonfiction award. When you are ready to order from the award winning books, most book jobbers have already prepared a wish list. All you have to do is mark which books are appropriate for your library. I did notice that one of the jobbers identifies the Newbery Award Winner, When You Reach Me, as Young Adult. It is not YA. It is certainly acceptable for an elementary school. We are very conservative in Southern California and I would not be afraid to put it in my K-4 schools. (You will want to buy some new editions of A Wrinkle in Time to accompany it.)
In addition to ALA awards, I also look at the journal awards for best books. These include Publishers Weekly, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbons, Booklist Editor’s Choice, Horn Book Fanfare List, Kirkus Best Books for Children, Booklinks Lasting Connections, and of course, School Library Journal.
I also look to see what my colleagues think: Michael Cart, Patty Tjomland, Peggy Sharp, Judy Freeman and Kathy Baxter. Many of these literature consultants post their best lists on the book jobber websites. For example, you can see my Books and Boys list on Follett Titlewave under Expert Picks (under tab Essentials). PermaBound and Bound to Stay Bound are among many other book sellers who have lists from BER speakers or other literature experts. Check with your favorite jobber to see. If not, ask that they add them.
Finally, there are Notable Lists from ALA. Most of these are books and media that don’t win the “big awards,” but are certainly worthy of purchase. However, if a book/media won an award, it automatically becomes a notable as well. Many of these might even be your favorites. Let me close today with my favorites that didn’t make the final cut of ALA's Top Winners.
Some of my favorites for YA: If I Stay by Gayle Foreman, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Great and Only Barnum by Candace Fleming and Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson.
For Middle Grades: Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Perry, Burn my Heart by Beverley Naidoo, Sparrow Girl by Sara Pennypacker and Tsunami by Ed Young.
For Primary Grades: Chicken Little by Rebecca and Ed Emberley, Birds by Kevin Henkes, Pigs Make Me Sneeze by Mo Willems, and Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems. Be sure to pair Naked Mole Rat with Capstone's nonfiction title, The Naked Mole Rat by Jody Rake.