The most prestigious children's book awards were announced this week and the big winner was a title that's anything but obscure: "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman, an author known mostly for his works of science fiction and fantasy for adults.
The announcement of Gaiman as the winner was a surprise to some. Lately, there has been debate about the Newbery Medal winners, with some commentators complaining that the award tends to go to books not widely read and not sufficiently appealing to children. Anita Silvey, author of “100 Best Books for Children,” recently wrote an article ("Has the Newbery Lost Its Way?") in School Library Journal characterizing the Newbery selections as too difficult for most children.
Gaiman himself expressed surprise at the award.
“I had thought that’s nice, there are books that are best sellers and books that are winners,” Gaiman told the New York Times. “Very often, the world of award judges, and I think rightly, use their magical judging powers to try to bring books to the attention of the world that might not have otherwise been noticed.”
"The Graveyard Book" hardly qualifies as one that might not have been noticed. It has already sold 71,000 copies and has been on the New York Times bestseller list for children's chapter books for 15 weeks.
The association also awarded the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children to Beth Krommes, who illustrated “The House in the Night,” a book written by Susan Marie Swanson.
Three Caldecott Honors went to Marla Frazee for "A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever," Uri Shulevitz for "How I Learned Geography," and Melissa Sweet for "A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams."
Kadir Nelson's "We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball" won the 2009 Coretta Scott King Author Award and Ashley Bryan won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, given once every two years to an author or illustrator whose books have made "a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children." Bryan's books include "Dancing Granny," "Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum," and "Beautiful Blackbird."