Last Monday, the American Library Association announced its annual Youth Media Awards at its Midwinter conference, held this year in Dallas. The 2012 John Newbery Medal went to author Jack Gantos for Dead End in Norvelt (FSG), a semiautobiographical story set in the town of Norvelt, Pa. The Randolph Caldecott Medal went to Chris Raschka for A Ball for Daisy (Random House/Schwartz & Wade), a wordless picture book about a dog and its beloved red ball. And the Michael L. Printz Award was given to first-time author John Corey Whaley for Where Things Come Back (S&S/Atheneum), about the disappearance of a teenager and the possible reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; Whaley also won the William C. Morris Debut Author Award.
Other top honors went to Melissa Sweet, who won the Robert F. Sibert Award for Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade (Houghton Mifflin), and Josh Schneider, who received the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for Tales for Very Picky Eaters (Clarion). The Coretta Scott King Author Award went to Kadir Nelson for Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray), and the Illustrator Award was given to Shane W. Evans for Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom (Roaring Brook/Porter).
Lifetime achievement awards were given to author, illustrator, and storyteller Ashley Bryan, who received the Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award, and to Susan Cooper, who won the 2012 Margaret A. Edwards Award.
Several titles that had performed well in mock polls leading up to the awards—including Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay for Now, Anne Ursu’s Breadcrumbs, and Franny Billingsley’s Chime—didn’t receive medals or honors, surprising some in the publishing and library worlds. Caldecott favorites like Nelson’s Heart and Soul and Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back didn’t take home that prize, but won awards in other categories. Of the 12 medals and honors awarded by the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz committees, only three went to women this year.
PW spoke with the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz to find out where they were when the ALA called with the news, and what was going through their minds when the phone rang. Gantos said that while he knew the awards were being announced that morning, he had no idea whether he might get a call. “They keep that information locked up in a vault somewhere,” he said. “And when the phone rang, I looked at it, and I said, ‘Okay.’ And you hope it’s not your mom calling.”
Raschka, who’d previously won the Caldecott Medal for Norton Juster’s The Hello, Goodbye Window in 2006, found his missing cellphone just in time to catch the call from the Caldecott committee. “I kind of hyperventilated for a while,” he said. “Then I made my cup of coffee and thought about the coming months. I hardly know what to say. It’s such a wonderful honor by thoughtful people.”
Whaley, meanwhile, was on the road to Dallas from his home in Louisiana when the Printz committee called. He had just learned that he had won the Morris Award for Where Things Come Back and had decided to make a last-minute trip to Midwinter to accept that award; 40 miles outside of Dallas, he got the second phone call. “I was already reeling from the Morris announcement, because that’s such a huge honor,” he said. “Complete, complete shock is the best way to describe it.”