January marks the start of awards season. It began on January 9th with the Golden Globe announcements. Screen Actors Guild and NAACP Image Award nominations have already been announced. Oscars nominations voting begins on January 27th, followed by the announcement February 8th, and the ceremony on March 27th. Mixed in between all of these dates are a myriad of other awards activity. But the MOST exciting of all the awards season’s events comes on Monday, January 24th at 6:00 a.m. PDT. That event is, of course, the YMAs! Wait… what’s that? I hear you saying. You don’t know what the YMAs are? Well, dear reader, please let me explain.

The YMAs are the American Library Association Youth Media Awards. As you can guess from the name, the YMAs are awards for materials created for children and teens. Two awards announced at this ceremony are the well-known Newbery and the Caldecott Medals. The YMA announcements are big stuff, if you are a children’s librarian, at least. “Mock Awards” are held to try to guess who will win. As with other awards, there are always those who are excited because their choices won, and others who question the judge’s selections. Here are some of the frontrunners for this year, as chosen by librarians and others across the country. Some of the mock selections are even voted on by children. So, please remember, I happen to be a children’s librarian, and indulge me as I go into more detail about the various awards. 

John Newbery Medal:

This is an especially auspicious year for the Newbery Medal because it is their 100th anniversary. Librarians and others have been celebrating this fact all year. There are special totes, T-shirts, and face masks you can purchase to mark the occasion. There is even a hashtag: #Newbery100. Did I mention these awards are big stuff to children’s librarians? 

The Newbery Medal is the first award in the world to recognize children’s literature, and it remains one of the most well-known. It is awarded to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children,” along with other criteria. In addition to the main award medal, other runner-up titles receive Newbery Honor Medals.

Randolph Caldecott Medal:

While the Newbery focuses on authors, the Caldecott Medal recognizes illustrators. There have been years, however, when a book has received both awards. The Caldecott was established in 1937, fifteen years after the Newbery. There will undoubtedly be 100-year celebrations in honor of it in 2037, so mark your calendars! Randolph Caldecott was an English illustrator in the nineteenth century, whose works greatly influenced children’s book illustrations. Authors who also illustrate their books are eligible for consideration. A Caldecott Medal Awardee’s illustrations must not only be exceptional, the pictures should also help in telling the story. 

Coretta Scott King Awards:

The Coretta Scott King Awards “commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.” There are categories for both outstanding African American authors and illustrators. The first book to receive the award happened to be a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. titled, Martin Luther King, Jr.: Man of Peace by Lillie Patterson. Books do not need to be about the King family, though, and most have not been.

Mildred L. Batchelder Award: 

The Mildred L. Batchelder award was established to recognize books originally published in a foreign language, then translated into English and published in the United States. Batchelder was a children’s librarian who viewed it her life’s work “to eliminate barriers to understanding between people of different cultures, races, nations, and languages.” The award is granted to the book’s publisher and must have been published in the past year.

Odyssey Award:

The complete name for this award is “Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Publication.” You can see why the name is usually shortened, I’m sure. If you are a fan of audiobooks, this is a great one to check out. The award is presented to the producer, not the author of the selected title(s). To be honest, there are books that are better in the audio version. If you have not tried listening to audiobooks with your child, I highly recommend it. This award can be for either children’s and/or Young Adult titles. 

Pura Belpré Awards: 

Like the Coretta Scott King Awards, there are awards for both authors and illustrators that are Latinx. The award celebrates the Latino cultural experience. While initially just a children’s award, in 2021, a Young Adult Author category was added. Pura Belpré the first Latina librarian at New York Public Library.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal: 

If you’re interested in distinguished informational books for children, the Sibert Awards are the place to start. The author, author/illustrator, co-authors, or author and illustrator named on the book’s title page are the recipients. Informational books are defined by the award as those that are “written and illustrated to present, organize, and interpret documentable, factual material.” 

Schneider Family Book Award: 

The Schneider Family Book Awards honor books for children or adolescent audiences that embody “an artistic expression of the disability experience.” Dr. Katherine Schneider donates $5000 to be presented to the recipient. We are offering a virtual program in February, which will highlight some books about this topic, titled “A Parent’s Guide to Books on Tricky Topics.”

Stonewall Book Award 

This is the first book award, founded in 1971, for LGBTQIA+ books. Under the Stonewall Book Awards umbrella, there are two adult awards and one youth award, fully titled the Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award. One thing that is unique about this award is that they solicit nominee suggestions from the public. 

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award 

At first glance, beginning reader books may seem quite simplistic. I’m thinking back to the “Dick & Jane” books of my youth. However, there are many very well written books in this genre these days, and this award is to recognize the best of the best. Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was an early author of these types of books.

The YMAs offer additional awards each year, including ones specifically for young adult audiences and even one for educational digital media such as websites, apps and DVDs. Next month, I’ll be blogging about the winners of this year’s awards. In the meantime, if you’d like to check last year’s awards, visit the American Library Association Youth Media Awards list in the JCLS catalog. If, like me, you want to be among the first to know the winners and to reserve the books, please join me virtually to watch the livestreaming event. Do remember, it’s at 6:00 a.m. though, the joys of being in the Pacific Time Zone. I’d be happy to be joined by fellow children’s book geeks! Until this Monday…