When I was a newly minted middle-grade reader I had one easy trick for finding a great book.
Do you remember Cover To Cover? All through second, third, and probably fourth grade I was entranced as elementary school teacher/ artist John Robbins sketched scenes from Newbery winners while the calm voiced narrator read scenes from the book guaranteed to hook even the most reluctant reader. After the Egypt Game episode there was a near riot in our school library over who got first dibs at the checkout desk.
Robbins’ endorsement and the shiny Newbery sticker (awarded each January by the American Library Association’s Association for Library Service to Children Division) assured we’d found a great read.
But what about books beyond the Newbery?
Every year there are hundreds of fantastic middle-grade books that miss out on a Newbery award or honor. Thankfully many of these great books are recognized by other organizations or entities. And these days with internet access award lists are just a click away.
Here at the Mixed-Up Files we strongly support recommendations from great children’s lit blogs and each year dozens of outstanding bloggers are selected as judges for the CYBILS Awards. From upper YA to early picture books you can find finalist list of great books. Last year’s middle-grade fiction winner was Ultra by David Carroll. Next year’s awards will be announced, as always, on Valentine’s Day—so keep an eye out.
Still searching for a good book? Nearly every state has book lists or awards and many (or most) seem focus on middle-grade books. Some standouts are Texas’ Bluebonnet Award and my personal favorite, Vermont’s Dorothy Canfield Fisher award.
Did you know children’s lit’s stellar magazine The Horn Book sponsors annual book awards—coupled with fantastic acceptance speeches open to the public? Last year’s fiction award winner was decidedly YA but many years there are plenty of middle-grade offerings.
Another less obvious for young readers, but incredibly prestigious, book award is the (aptly named) National Book Award. From the wide ranging long list announced in early fall to the short list of five frontrunners to the gala banquet where the final winner is announced, year in and year out the award for Young People’s Literature, selected by writers and leaders in the children’s lit community, goes to an outstanding selection. Middle-grade books like last year’s winner, Cynthia Kahdota’s The Thing About Luck, to 2012’s Goblin’s Secrets by William Alexander to Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out & Back Again from 2011 and 2010’s Mockingbird by Katheryn Erskine middle-grade work consistently stands tall in this open field. Plus, in years past, CSPAN has broadcast the awards banquet live– watching some of children’s literature’s heroes arrive on the red carpet and accept the trophy is the next best thing to being there.
I also love specialty awards like the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards for books that engage children in thinking about peace and justice and the Amelia Bloomer Project that collects the best feminist books written for children each year. There are even great awards for books of particular genres – whether canine (the Dog Writers’ Association of America’s Maxwell Medallion ) or criminal (the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Awards)
What is your favorite “not-the-Newbery” children’s book award?
Tami Lewis Brown hasn’t won a Newbery medal (yet) but she’s been dreaming about those shiny golden stickers since second grade.