When great things happen to great writers who are also my friends

HUZZAH! HUZZAH! HUZZAH!

The National Book Award Finalists have been announced. The finalists in the Young People’s Literature category are:

Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith
(Henry Holt)
Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
David Small, Stitches (W. W. Norton & Co.)
Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped (HarperTeen/HarperCollins)

I am super, super excited about this list for a bunch of reasons.

First, Deb Heiligman is one of my oldest and dearest friends and I am so happy about the attention CHARLES AND EMMA has received I am in tears, when I am not dancing. YAY DEB!!!!!!!!!!!

Second, it’s about time Rita Williams-Garcia got some more attention for her work!

Third, I think it is wonderful to have three non-fiction books on this list!

I do have a question. Was David Small’s book (which I bought and LOVE) published as children’s literature or was it published as an adult title by Norton? Why do I care? Because if it was David’s intent to have this book seen as an adult title (which I certainly think it qualifies as) I wonder if this award might narrow the market, or make booksellers and librarians think it should only be shelved in the children’s section.

Personally, I think it is an excellent example of a cross-over title. Do you think it matters if it is an adult book crossing into the children’s market or a children’s book crossing into the adult section?

What do you think of this list?

18 Replies to “When great things happen to great writers who are also my friends”

  1. I was perplexed by the selection of “Stitches” as well. I felt it was an adult title. An editor once told me that she defines YA as a book told from the perspective of a teen/young adult but an adult title (that happens to be about growing up) is a book told by an adult about his or her experiences as a teen. It’s not a perfect definition by any means. But “Stitches” is a graphic memoir about growing up and it was marketed as an adult title, not published by a YA publisher.

    I wonder if there is some sort of bias against graphic novels at play? “It’s got pictures so it must be for kids!” (That makes it sound like young people’s literature is a ghetto of books though…)

  2. I’m wondering about STITCHES too. I saw David speak at Kepler’s Books. It definitely wasn’t a teen event or audience. As far as I know its an adult book. But yay for all the nominees!

  3. And here’s the word from the publisher:

    “We always intended to submit Stitches in the young people’s category,” confirmed Erin Sinesky Lovett, Norton’s assistant director of publicity. “We knew it would appeal to a YA audience as well as an adult audience.” She added that because Small had never written for an adult readership before, the graphic novel could be seen as a “transitional” work, building from his distinguished background as a children’s book writer and illustrator, and observed that the story was “age-appropriate” for teen readers who grew up on Small’s earlier work.

        1. But they didn’t sell it as YA. They sold it as adult, and it really *is* an adult book. A beautiful, heart-wrenching piece of true art that deserves recognition, but by placing in the young readers group, the jury did two things–bumped another title written for specifically for young readers and essentially said that an adult book is inherently better than one written for teens (although I doubt this was their intention, it’s what I’ve heard from friends in the literary fiction world).

          1. I don’t know enough to know if it’s the publishers who submit it in a category, and/or whether the judges decide and/or can move things around between categories. Judging by what that lady said, it was the publisher who made the decision. But she could just be putting a spin on it.

            But I’m not disagreeing with your point about how few places there are on the list, which doesn’t even split non-fiction from fiction, as it does with books for adults.

          2. As I understand it (would be most happy if someone with more knowledge would correct or affirm this) the publisher chooses which category to submit the book.

            The NBA suffered an embarrassment of categories a while back … was it in the late 1970s? There was even a cookbook category at one point. Clearer heads prevailed and the number was reduced to the current four.

            Perhaps the growth and growing sophistication of children’s literature will lead the NBA to split out non-fiction.

            I will leave the pros and cons of a separate category for graphic novels to people who know more about these things than me to debate.

  4. Where is Marcelo?

    I think the absence of Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork is extremely disappointing and a huge surprise to me. They really missed a chance to raise the profile of a rare, hopeful, extraordinary book full of so much heart and thought by excluding that one. I expect it to win a Printz. I hope.
    -jarrett

      1. Re: Where is Marcelo?

        If you ever feel it I recommend listening to the CD/audio version read by Lincoln Hoppe. It’s really beautiful. I read the book when it first came out and found that listening to it was just as rewarding. In fact, I thought this second “reading” revealed even more depth to the book.
        -jarrett

  5. Ohmygod. This is amazing news. Yay for Deb. Thanks for posting it. I’m beyond thrilled. Don’t tell anyone, but there are tears in my eyes. Awesome. I have to phone home and tell my wife. She’ll be as thrilled as I am. How wonderful.

  6. I’m sitting on my library system’s mock Printz committee this year and we ruled “Stitches” out because we thought it was published as adult. I wonder if its addition to this list will become problematic for librarians who’ve already put it in their adult collections.

  7. Jumped by Rita Garcia Williams

    I love by Rita Garcia Williams and while I enjoyed Jumped (my reluctant readers love this book), I totally loved Every Time a Rainbow Dies by RGW because Thulani reaches beyond his reclusive self to aid Isa and then continues to try to get to know her, even as she keeps putting up barriers. He won’t take no and befriends her and finally loves her. A great realistic, urban, romantic read!

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