Thursday, July 30, 2009

Notable Children's Books in 2009

I regularly review some of the major children's literature awards on this blog. This has included the Newbery & Caldecott awards (USA), the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals (UK) and the Children's Literature Book Council Awards (Australia). While it's wonderful to consider the merits of the medal winners each year, the reality is that there are many other wonderful books that never win prizes. Parents and teachers obviously want information on more than just a handful of wonderful books published each year. This has been recognised by a number of organizations promoting children's literature and as consequence some publish a list of 'notable' books each year.

Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) notable books

For example, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) publishes a list of notable books (here) from the 'Newbery', 'Caldecott', 'Belpré', 'Sibert', 'Geisel', and 'Batchelder' award and honour books. They also list notable Children's Books that have also received American Library Association awards, such as the Coretta Scott King Award, Michael L. Printz Award, and Schneider Family Book Award. They include awards for literature as well as non-fiction. The ALSC defines notable books as those that are:
Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children's books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children's interests in exemplary ways.
Since 1996 they have also listed notable videos for children (here).

Jellicoe Road

Lists of this kind are a helpful resource to help identify books that don't necessarily win the top children's literature awards around the world. For example, 'Jellicoe Road' written by Australian author Melina Marchetta won the Michael L. Printz Award that is for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. This book was first published in 2006 in Australia as 'On the Jellicoe Road' but was first published in the USA in 2008 with a slightly changed name.

The book tells its story through strong characters with authentic voices. Like Marchetta’s other young adult novels (e.g. Looking for Alibrandi, 1993), 'Jellicoe Road' is an exploration of relationships and family traditions. The main character Taylor Markham is making the transition from troubled teenager to independent young woman. She struggles with the the memories of her past. The book uses a dual narrative that allows the parallel telling of how Taylor reluctantly leads the students of the Jellicoe School in secret territory wars against the Townies and the Cadets. The book evokes strong images of the Australian landscape through a story full of suspense, emotion, romance, humour and tragedy.

Children's Book Council of Australia

Each year the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) publishes a list of 100 notable books. Once again, the purpose in doing this is to recognise the many fine books that are published each year but which don't necessarily receive the recognition they should, simply because they are not shortlisted in the annual CBCA Children's Book of the year awards. The limitation of awards and shortlists is that by definition they are 'short'(!) and so fail to capture the full range of wonderful books published each year.

Shaun Tan's 'Tales from Outer Suburbia' is one of 102 (!) books that have made the list of notable books in 2009. As the CBCA awards have not been announced yet this book, like all others on the list, could still become a winner or honour book in 2009. Irrespective of the award outcomes, inclusion on the 'Notable list' offers greater profile for a larger number of excellent books. You can download the CBCA 2009 Notable list (here).

Related links

All previous posts on children's literature awards (here).

All children's literature posts (here).

'Children's Literature Assembly' Notable books (here).

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