The ALA Youth Media Awards in January are like the Oscars to school librarians. We read voraciously, root for our favorites, and make sure they are on our order lists so that we can share them with students the minute the awards are announced. This year, I was pleased that my favorites were chosen for the major awards. I am incredibly impressed with all of the books this year and especially happy with how far we've come in recognizing diverse titles, authors, characters, and events that intimately touch the lives of many of our students. Even better, I was able to read many of them through our Sora App. One reason I love our OverDrive collection is that the books are available for our students in less than 24 hours, which is in deep contrast to the month it may take to go through our purchasing process for print titles.
The Caldecott was awarded to illustrator Kadir Nelson and author Kwame Alexander for The Undefeated. This children's picture book is full of exquisite oil paintings portraying the accomplishments of many heroic black Americans and is an empowering tribute to those who paved the way for so many of our students. This book needs to be experienced in it's digital form as a read-aloud on an interactive white board and celebrated for its brilliance. The sheer poetry of the words and pictures brought me to tears. Borrowing the book through OverDrive it is easily displayed to encourage discussion with your entire learning community on how to integrate engaging and thought-provoking books into the curriculum
When I originally learned of Jerry Craft's New Kid, the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Award, I was conflicted on whether to read it in print or digital format. As it turns out, I think I enjoyed it more deeply as an eBook. New Kid is excellent because of the graphics as the art gives us a deeper insight into Jordan's thoughts. The honesty that is portrayed through both the words and images are so realistic that I found myself really examining the graphics more closely. Craft's depictions of the microaggressions experienced by Jordan and the truths he reveals on each page allow middle learners to really identify with the authenticity of the characters.
We also had the opportunity to celebrate Native American culture when the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal was awarded to Fry Bread: A Native American Story written by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. This book, for our youngest readers, shares the connection between food and culture and the traditions of indigenous people across North America. The book itself is "is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference."
Congratulations to all the winners of these prestigious awards; however, the true winners are our students who can finally read books where they find themselves, as well as their families, friends, and neighbors accurately portrayed and celebrated on each and every page. Offering these amazing books in a variety of formats means we just may be able to turn each of our students into the voracious readers we have so long been trying to cultivate thanks to the authors and illustrators who are so courageously sharing their stories and celebrating our differences.