Those interested in the American Library Association’s youth media awards, announced Monday morning, have probably already noticed that Clare Vanderpool, this year’s Newbery Medalist, is a debut novelist, and that Erin Stead, this year’s Caldecott Medalist, is a debut book illustrator. What’s also unusual about this year’s crop of award recipients is how many of them don’t live on either coast. In fact, Midwestern authors and illustrators literally swept the most prestigious of the ALA prizes this year, winning both the Newbery and the Caldecott Medals, as well as the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award.
The 2011 Newbery Medal for most outstanding contribution to children’s literature was awarded to debut author Clare Vanderpool, the author of Moon Over Manifest, who lives in Wichita, Kans. Of the four Newbery Honor Books this year, two authors and one illustrator live in Minnesota: Margi Preus, author of Heart of a Samurai, lives in Duluth, as does Rick Allen, the illustrator of Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, written by Joyce Sidman. Sidman lives in a Minneapolis suburb.
The Caldecott Medal for best children’s picture book was awarded this year to illustrator Erin E. Stead for A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by Philip C. Stead. The husband-and-wife team live in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The 2011 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for most distinguished beginning reader book was given to Bink and Gollie, written by Minneapolis residents Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, though illustrated by a Californian, artist Tony Fucile. DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal in 2004 for The Tale of Despereaux.
Midwesterners did well with the ALA’s lesser-known children’s book awards as well. The recipient of the Schneider Family Book Award for best book for teens embodying an artistic expression of the disability experience is St. Louis, Mo., resident Antony John, author of Five Flavors of Dumb, while the Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award was given to another Missourian, Brian Katcher of Moberly, the author of Almost Perfect. The Stonewall Children’s and YA Literature Award is given to the book best embodying the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered experience.
Milwaukee resident Ann Angel received the 2011 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults for her biography, Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing.
And, while the recipient of this year’s William C. Morris Award, for the best book published for teen readers by a first-time author, was Montana resident Blythe Woolston, for her novel The Freak Observer, its publisher is Carolrhoda Lab, an imprint of Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group in Minneapolis.
Several Midwestern booksellers contacted by PW were, for the most part, reluctant to speculate why authors and illustrators living in the region swept the major awards this year. “We’ve always been aware that we’ve got a great number of excellent authors, right here in Minnesota,” insisted Justine Stahlmann, manager of the Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul. “People really value books here.”
“I don’t know if their voices are more authentic,” said Sarah Bagby, owner of Watermark Books in Wichita, where Vanderpool once worked as a bookseller. “There’s so much talent in the region. Maybe people here take more time to think and reflect.”
Watermark reports having sold “hundreds of copies” of Moon Over Manifest, selling out of the last 40 copies in stock within hours of the ALA’s announcement. Vanderpool, a regular at the store, stopped by to celebrate her win on Monday, and, Bagby reports, signed at least one employee’s book with the statement, “I just won the Newbery Medal!”