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Youth Media Awards prove great writing and art aren’t just for adults

Recently, the American Library Association (ALA) made its annual awards for books (paper, picture books, and audio) aimed at age groups from small children to teens. Even though adults aren’t the intended audience, parents and grandparents can’t help but be impressed with these books, too.

Let’s take a look at a few specific books. Since there are so many categories and books awarded winning place and mentions in every category, I’ll also tell you how to find a comprehensive list on-line.

The prestigious John Newberry Award went to When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller, the story of Lily and her family who move in with her sick grandmother. A magical tiger appears to Lily and offers a bargain to the child. The tiger can make the grandmother well, he says, but at what cost? If you think stories about such bargains can’t have new life, you’d be wrong. The Grandmother starts a story with, “Long long ago when tiger walked like man . . . “ and I defy anyone not to be captured by that line. One critic plays on the title with the assessment that this book “roars to life.”

A Newberry Award honorable mention also has a compelling and true premise: BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford. The combination of poetry divided into the six sides of the crate Brown uses to ride to freedom and the illustrations on the sides of the crate combine to make an impact on the reader. Although this is classified as a picture book, that’s somewhat misleading considering the extensive and sophisticated poetry. Recommended reading ages on this one are 10 to 15 years.

Yet another Newberry Mention book is We Dream of Space, aimed at a middle school audience. The book has three narrators, Cash, Fitch, and Bird, who in 1986 were awaiting the launch of the spacecraft Challenger, the one with the teacher aboard that blew up shortly after launch for those who don’t remember. (It’s definitely one of those events where you recall where you were when you heard it. Me? Having lunch at Paddy McGee’s with my friend, Joyce.) All three of these teens have behavioral or emotional issues and “only one thing in common – their science teacher.” Determined to encourage an interest in science, she divided her class into groups, each in charge of a spacecraft, each given a

mission. Cash, Fitch, and Bird’s lives changed in unexpected ways as a result.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal for a distinguished American Picture Book for Children went to We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, aimed to educate and inspire children aged three to six. The focus is on the Native American struggle to protect and preserve water sources from abuse and pollutants. The focus, of course, is on the compelling illustrations but the text is powerful, too. “Water is the first medicine. It connects and protects us all.” The book lends a sense of responsibility and urgency to preserving an essential part of life.

All these books (and more) are available at the library. These few books only scratch the surface of the youth books honored by the ALA awards. There are twenty-two categories. I suggest that it’s worthwhile to Google “ALA 2021 Youth Media Awards.” (The link itself is too long to put into a print article. But this Google search will take you right to it.) You’ll be able to locate about any book in any category either at or through our library (MeL for example).

Why not see which books catch the attention of the young people near you? Any of our librarians would enjoy helping.

See you at the Library!

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