The comics medium itself won big at the 2015 Youth Media Awards, announced February 2 at the American Library Association’s midwinter conference in Chicago. Cece Bell’s graphic memoir El Deafo (Abrams/Amulet) was named one of the two Newbery Honor Books, while This One Summer (First Second), a coming-of-age graphic novel by cousins Jillian and Mariko Tamaki received both a Caldecott Honor and a Printz Honor.
Dan Santat won the Caldecott Medal for a picture book —The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (Little, Brown)—but the comics community can still claim Santat as one of its own: Santat is also the author of Sidekicks, a graphic novel published by Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine in 2011.
A complete list of winners and honorees [can be found here]
This One Summer has the distinction of being the first graphic novel to receive a Caldecott and a Printz Honor, Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, also published by First Second, won the 2007 Printz Award. This One Summer was a PW Book of the Year in 2014, and topped the 2014 PW Comics World Critics Poll.
“It’s kind of shocking to win,” said Jillian Tamaki, who drew the graphic novel, during a phone interview with PW. “You don’t set out to win things when you start to work on a book. This is a great pat on the back, something we all need.” She said while she was grateful to receive recognition for children’s and teen visual literature, “We never set out to hit a certain demographic, or format, picture book or children’s book—those decisions are kind of made for you by the publisher. We pride ourselves on the fact that anyone can take something away from our books.”
Writer Mariko Tamaki is also thrilled by the recognition, saying that it’s “great for comics to be included in the world of literature. It’s a great step for comics and for our publisher who really believed in us.” Both cousins were quick to praise librarians for supporting their works over the years. “Librarians keep an eye on readers and literature, Mariko said, “not just what’s hot and what’s not but what readers want, what’s out there and they work to connect that with readers.”
Jillian added, “Librarians are truly wonderful. They fight the good fight, supporting kids’ reading and social issues. Our books can deal with sex, political issues, and sometimes inappropriate relationships, but librarians have always been very supportive of us. It’s not a world I thought would have embraced us when I started drawing comics.”