Episode 43: Two Book Nerds Discuss the 2021 ALAYMA Winners (Part 2)

On this week’s dose of book recommendations, library love and literary enthusiasm, we are joined by a returning guest, my bookstagram friend and fellow book nerd Kris ( @noextrawords ). She originally joined us on episode 22, where we talked about how she became a librarian and discussed our mutual appreciation for middle grade books. We started discussing the American Library Association’s 2021 Youth Media Awards on last week’s Episode 42, and we will conclude that conversation today. The ALAYMA awards include ones you’ve most likely heard of, such as the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, and the Coretta Scott King Award. There are also some awards that you likely haven’t heard of, but should, including the Sydney Taylor Award for authentic portrayal of the Jewish experience, and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. 

Be sure to go follow Kris on Instagram @noextrawords for more book talk. 

You can find all the books we talked about on today's episode below or on my Bookshop (affiliate link).  

Follow me @library.laura or on Facebook

ALAYMA Awards (continued)

Michael L. Printz Award 

For excellence in literature written for young adults.

Everything Sad Is Untrue (a true story),” by Daniel Nayeri, is the 2021 Printz Award winner.  My plan is to  read this in March with a book discussion group, so stay tuned! 

Neither Kris nor I read a lot of YA this year, so we didn't spend much time hanging out on the list of Honor books for this award, other than to mention the following titles: 

Dragon Hoops,” created by Gene Luen Yang, color by Lark Pien. This is the same author who wrote American Born Chinese. 

We also briefly mentioned the William C. Morris Award (for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens) and YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, but didn't dwell on either of these, except to mention that All Thirteen showed up as an honor book in the YALSA category as well. 

 Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production (ALSC/Booklist/YALSA)

The Odyssey Award will be awarded annually to the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.

The Winner of this award was Kent State by Deborah Wiles, which is, according to the Bookshop.org description, a "Masterpiece exploration of one of the darkest moments in our history, when American troops killed four American students protesting the Vietnam War." It's told from multiple viewpoints, and the audio production has 7 narrators in the cast.  

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo was one of the Honor books for the Odyssey Award - I read the print version of this book, as did Kris, but I had listened to With the Fire on High and Kris had listened to the Poet X, so we both have Elizabeth Acevedo's voice in our minds as read. We'd listen to Acevedo read anything. Kris considers her a must-buy author. She recently purchased Woke, which included Acevedo as one of several contributors. Kris didn't love all the poems in it, but Acevedo's were great :) 

Kris has decided that the way audiobooks fit into her life is as a way to re-read and and re-visit books she's read previously. She struggles to pick up new content through audio-only input, but finds it a great way to experience a book she's enjoyed. 

We also discussed some of the other books honored in this category:
Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley - which also received a Newbery honor.(Content warning here for sexual abuse.) Bradley also wrote The War that Saved My Life, the War I Finally Wonand Jefferson's Sons

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” written by Ibram X. Kendi, and adapted for young readers and then narrated by Jason Reynolds. It's the young reader adaptation of Stamped from the Beginning by Kendi.  Kris read Stamped on audio (it was her only non-reread book for 2020) and really enjoyed it. She loves Jason Reynolds as an author and narrator. 

When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed was also honored. It's a graphic novel in print, but the audio version was a full-cast, which is probably one of the reasons why it won. It's a fairly short recording (around 5 hours?) and while Kris and I both read the book, we imagine the audio is very good. We both want to re-read it on audio now! 

Alex Awards 

For the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences

This is a bit of an interesting crossover category. The only book on the list that I had read was The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, which Kris has seen everywhere but not read yet. I do think that's a good candidate for this story, because the main two characters are adults but the rest are children or youth...so it's definitely a bit of a crossover appeal. 

We go on a bit of a rant here about how Young Adult books are a genre not a reading level, and that teens are often academically ready to read most books out there. What they should be looking for instead of an "eleventh grade reading level" is books with higher level concepts. There's a great blog post and podcast episode over at The Read Aloud Revival to this point as well. 

Coretta Scott King Book Awards 

Recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults

Before the Ever After,” written by Jacqueline Woodson, is the King Author Book winner. I wasn't sure when we were recording, but looking the book up tells me that this one is a novel-in-verse (like Brown Girl Dreaming was), so that's exciting to me. It's about the impact of sports on Black bodies, with ZJ's dad being a retired pro-football player. 

The honor books for the Author award included: 

All the Days Past, All the Days to Come,” written by Mildred D. Taylor (which is the last book in the Logan Family's series that begins with Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender - who also wrote Felix Ever After

"Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box,” written by Evette Dionne. 

A book that Kris would have loved to see make the list but it didn't was Loretta Little Looks Back by Andrea Davis Pinkney and her husband Brian Pinkney. It's a novel in monologues -- which might have just invented a new style of novel -- and it was really well done. It's a Black history family narrative that draws on the oral storytelling tradition. It also has a character who has MS.

The Illustrator Awards went to the following books: 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul,” illustrated by Frank Morrison, is the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Book winner. The book is written by Carole Boston Weatherford. 

Three King Illustrator Honor Books were selected:

Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration,” illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, written by Samara Cole Doyon. 

 “Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks,” illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera, written by Suzanne Slade 

 “Me & Mama,” illustrated and written by Cozbi A. Cabrera.

Stonewall Book Award - Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature 

Award given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience. 

The Winner of this award was "We are Little Feminists: Families" which is one in a set of board-books written by Archaa Shrivastav, designed by Lindsey Blakel. 

Other honor books that we mentioned were You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson and Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, which Kris described as "both really good books." 

Schneider Family Book Award

Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience. 

Show Me a Sign,” written by Ann Clare LeZotte is the winner for middle grades (ages 11-13). Kris rated this one as 4.5 stars. At the time of recording, I had not read it. Since then, I read it and it was great. I especially enjoyed learning more about the history of sign languages that were precursors to ASL. 

 Two honor books for middle grades were selected: 

Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!,” written by Sarah Kapit and “When Stars Are Scattered,” written by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. 

I also mentioned one of the honor books for young children, which is "Itzhak: A Boy Who Loved the Violin."  At the time of recording, I had it checked out from the library but hadn't read it. Since then I read it, and it's lovely and informative. 

Kris is planning on participating in the #spooniebookchallenge on Instagram, which was organized by @overbookedlife and encourages readers to include one book a month with disability representation. Kris is going to try to do this challenge using mostly middle grade books, including Get A Grip, Vivy Cohen. 

The Sydney Taylor Book Award 

Presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. 

This award is named after Sydney Taylor who wrote All of A Kind Family, which Kris adored as a child. Taylor was one of the first Jewish authors for children. 

 “Turtle Boy,” by M. Evan Wolkenstein received the Gold Medal in the Middle Grade category. (I have this checked out from the library currently, but haven't read it yet.) 

In the YA category, the Gold Medal is “Dancing at the Pity Party,” written and illustrated by Tyler Feder. Out of all the books on the awards list for this year, this is the ONE book that Kris looked at and decided to buy immediately (rather than get from the library). 

I mentioned enjoying following the posts of a fellow KC Bookstagrammer, Dara over at @notinjersey. She and her family are Jewish and she's been a great resource for helping me pay attention to books with Jewish representation! 

One of the books that was on the notable list for this award was We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis On The Kindertransport by Deborah Hopkinson, which Kris currently has checked out from the library and is finding to be very well done and informative. She also saw The Assignment on the notable list for YA books, which is about a classroom where one side of the debate is assigned the task of defending the Nazis, and the protest that ensued (because this was a terrible idea). Kris described the premise as "chilling" and is interested in reading it. 

The Sydney Taylor award has a lot of great picture books as well, which we didn't get to discussing by name. Check it out! 

Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature 

The award promotes Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage and is awarded based on literary and artistic merit.

The Children’s Literature winner is “When You Trap a Tiger,” written by Tae Keller (which was also the Newbery Medal). We talked about this book more on episode 42. Since the time of recording, I did finish reading it, and it's great. 

The children’s literature honor title is “Prairie Lotus,” written by Linda Sue Park. Kris and I both read Prairie Lotus. Park did a great job imagining what life would be like for an Asian American girl on the prairie. She's been leading up to this book for a while in her writing career, and you could tell it was passionately written. I grew up on prairie stories, so I found that aspect especially enjoyable. 

An award that wasn't included in this year's winners is the American Indian Youth Literature Award, which is awarded biennially (in even-numbered years).  The AIYLA identifies and honors the very best writing and illustrations by Native Americans and Indigenous peoples of North America. 

Kris mentioned a few of the 2020 recipients (Indian No MoreBowwow Powwow, Hearts Unbroken) and Honor Books (I Can Make This Promise and Fry Bread).  We look forward to the 2022 recipients as well. It was also great to see some American Indian representation in books outside of this award category this year. 

So much good representation and intersectionality in kids' literature this year. We are glad to see it, and hope to keep seeing more in the future. 

Other books we talked about on Episode 43 

The View From Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg is one of my friend Leigh Ann's favorite books and I've got it on my shelf right now waiting on me to read it so I can return it to her. 

Kris borrowed We Dream of Space and When Stars are Scattered from her friend who is a school librarian but their school was closed, so she had a bunch of books being unused, at the same time that Kris's local library was closed due to the pandemic. 

Kris bought Born A Crime by Trevor Noah as a young readers edition this week.  

I mentioned having read White Bird by R.J. Palacio (author of Wonder) on audio, not realizing it was a graphic novel. It also had a cast and sound effects and was really great. I then flipped through the graphic novel at a bookstore...a completely different reading experience. 

Kris was at the Awards dinner the year that the Invention of Hugo Cabret won the Caldecott (2008), and that was  big deal because it was not a traditional children's picture book. 

I mentioned that The House in the Cerulean Sea reminded me of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, in that it has a caretaker in a home that's far removed from others who looks out for highly unique children. 

Antiracist Baby came up during our conversation about board books. 

Sick Kids In Love was a nominee for the Sydney Family Award in 2020 and was one of Kris's favorite books from last year. 

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day - Mentioned when talking about having Native Americans as real, developed characters with real languages instead of the tropey, racist stereotypes in some prairie fiction. 

This was such a fun duo of episodes to record. Thanks to Kris @noextrawords for talking about all the books with me. At the end of the episode, we talked about what books from this list we wanted to read next. So, I'll ask you, listeners and readers, the same question: What award-winning book are you going to read next? 

With lots of literary love from my library to yours! 

~Library Laura 


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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