The results are in, and this year’s roster of American Library Association awards yielded a number of surprises. Children’s booksellers shared their thoughts on the winners named in Monday’s announcements.
Several praised the Caldecott committee for “pushing the envelope” by awarding the medal for the year’s most distinguished picture book to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, an 533-page illustrated novel—it’s the first time that the Caldecott has ever been given to a novel. Elizabeth Bluemle, co-owner of Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vt., predicted, “There will be a lot of discussion as to whether it’s a true Caldecott winner. It’s not a picture book in the way that we like to think of a picture book, but the argument can be made that it works as a picture book, in that the words and art work together. It does break new ground in how a book is made, and I think it’s great that it was recognized.”
Marnie Johnson, co-manager of Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, Minn., has sold 148 copies of Hugo Cabret to date, and she reordered another 20 copies on Monday. In fact the book has been a bestseller nationally since its March ’07 publication; it was a National Book Award finalist, a Quill Award winner, and a New York Times Best Illustrated Book, and has been published in 25 foreign editions.
“We all love Hugo Cabret,” said Laura Moline, manager of Adventures for Kids in Ventura, Calif. “We’ve sold lots of copies for all different ages. I was wondering if a book could win the Caldecott and the Newbery in the same year—that’s what we thought might happen. It’s so much an illustrated book and it’s also so much a novel. It’s something different; it’s something new.”
Several librarians phoned Valerie Koehler, owner of Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop, on Monday, asking her, “Can you believe they picked a novel for the Caldecott? Can you do that?” Her response? “As long as it fits their parameters, as an illustrated book, that’s fine. It’s thrilling when [the winner] is something we can get behind."
As far as the Caldecott Honors, Debbie Brooke, children’s buyer at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., said she was “thrilled” to see Knuffle Bunny Too on the list, and she called First the Egg a “charming little book.” Bluemle said she was surprised that Shaun Tan’s The Arrival hadn’t gotten a nod either in the Caldecott category or in the Printz, as had been speculated on some listservs.
A Newbery Surprise
The choice of this year’s Newbery winner, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, was unexpected by many booksellers, because the book just hadn’t been on their radar screens. A few that we spoke with felt that the book is aimed more at the institutional market than the retail market. Koehler said, “I don’t know if kids will pick it up but it’s the kind of book that teachers will be able to run with. I don’t think it will have a huge customer appeal.” Johnson at Red Balloon Bookshop said she hadn’t even seen the book, but ordered 28 copies on Monday. “I’m curious to get it in stock, read it, and know more about it,” she said. Johnson called the pick a “definite surprise,” adding, “At least [it shows] the awards aren’t commercially motivated, that books really are judged on their literary merits, as opposed to what would sell.”
Bluemle had thought Good Masters! might win an award, “but I didn’t expect it to win the Newbery—maybe the Sibert. I love books set in the Middle Ages or Renaissance,” she said, “and it’s been getting good buzz on some of the listservs I read.” Brooke at R.J. Julia didn’t have any copies in stock, but said that several customers had already called, looking for first editions.
Moline was pleased with all three Newbery Honor titles. “I loved Elijah of Buxton. [Christopher Paul Curtis] is one of our favorite authors, and this might be my favorite of all of [his books]. We are all big Gary Schmidt fans. And Jacqueline Woodson is always good.”
Geraldine McCaughrean’s novel The White Darkness winning the Printz for best young adult book drew a rave from Bluemle. “She’s just a fabulous writer and it’s so exciting for her.” Bluemle did admit she was “a little sad” that Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian didn’t get at least an Honor. “I thought the book was worthy of it, but maybe the committee thought its winning the National Book Award had given it enough attention.”
In commending the selection of The White Darkness, Moline at Adventures for Kids in Ventura, Calif., said she was always pleased when awards committees don’t ignore books that came out earlier in the year. “[The White Darkness] was exciting and a good mystery,” she said. “I felt frozen the whole time I was reading it.” Scott at Bookworm, on the other hand, had “never heard of it before today.”
Back in Print
To meet demand, Candlewick went back to press on Monday for 73,000 copies of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, according to publicity manager Laura Feczko. Eight thousand copies, which had already been on order, are being air-freighted from Singapore, for delivery in late January or early February; the new shipment will be printed domestically, with a delivery date of early spring. That will bring the in-print total to 93,000 copies.
Scholastic had sold more than 200,000 copies of Hugo Cabret before the award, and an eighth printing was already on order. “Because the book has been selling so well this past year, we have been watching stock closely and were in a very good stock position, fortunately,” said trade v-p of publicity Tracy van Straaten; plans for additional printings have not yet been set.
Bluemle at Flying Pig said that overall she considered this year’s announcements “a great list,” adding, “These are all really solid books that booksellers and librarians have been talking about for a long time. And it’s nice to see some smaller presses get some attention, too.”
With reporting by Claire Kirch and John Sellers.