The universe of American children’s book awards just got a little cozier. Although they’ve been around since 1968, 2003, and 2006, respectively, until this year, the Sydney Taylor Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the American Indian Youth Literature Award have not been included in the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards press conference, held annually at ALA’s midwinter meeting. But on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, that changed.
Big deal, you say. Who cares about a press conference? But to librarians serving youth around the country, the YMAs are the biggest deal of the year. It’s when the Newbery and Caldecott, the oldest American children’s-lit awards, are announced, as well as the Coretta Scott King Awards for African-American literature, the Pura Belpré Awards for Latinx titles, the Stonewall Awards for LGBTQ books, and the Schneider Family Book Awards for excellent depictions of disability. So the exclusion of the other three awards—for outstanding Jewish, Asian/Pacific American, and Native American literature—has meant that these three important awards have been pushed to the back of the media bus.
By finally giving these awards (each administered by a separate ethnic affiliate of the ALA) space at the podium, ALA has taken a real step toward inclusion. And judging by the excitement in the room as waiting librarians—not to mention children watching via a live feed—learned that All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah, by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, and Sweep, by Jonathan Auxier, had won the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and that Drawn Together, by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat, and Front Desk, by Kelly Yang, had won the Asian/Pacific American Awards, it’s a thoroughly welcome one. (As the American Indian Youth Literature Award is biennial, awarded in even years, it was not announced. Awards for YA literature were also announced.)
Unfortunately, that step was just a baby one, as only winning titles in each category were announced. Also honored as Sydney Taylor silver medalists were picture books Through the Window, by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mary GrandPré, and A Moon for Moe and Mo, by Jane Breskin Zalben and illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini, and novels All Three Stooges, by Erica S. Perl, and The Length of a String, by Elissa Brent Weissman. And APALA named two honor books: Grandmother’s Visit, by Betty Quan and illustrator by Carmen Mok, and The House That Lou Built, by Mae Respicio. Here's hoping ALA rectifies this lapse next year.
There’s plenty of room up front. Vicky Smith is the children’s editor.