Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

In putting together library collections, we often rely on tools like award lists to inform and justify our selections—to assert that a particular book is ‘worthy’ of purchase and circulation. This is especially true for  international YA with its paucity of available and updated subject guides.

In previous posts, I looked at a variety of prizes such as: international YA awards (like the Batchelder Awards, the IBBY Honor List, and The White Ravens), general YA awards (like the ALA Alex and Printz Awards), genre awards (like the René Goscinny Comics Prize), and region specific prizes (like the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Lit and the Davitts for Australian mysteries).

However, what are the consequences of depending on these lists to represent international YA in the library – how comprehensive are they, and do they cover a range of topics and/or popular reading?

There has been some research into the disjuncture between what is award winning and what is popular amongst children and young adults. Ujie and Krashen (2006) found that Newbery or Caldecott award winners often circulated considerably less in the library than bestselling or popular titles (pp. 33).

So what does this mean for international YA in the library?

Broadly speaking, this has 2 impacts:

  1. Genre books like manga and graphic novels are most often always left off these lists (except for genre awards like the Goscinny) – in spite of their extreme popularity with international teens, especially manga in Japan and graphic novels in Europe
  2. Popular ‘light reads’ like humor or fantasy are often similarly left off in favour of more serious tomes on war and violence that tend to get labelled with ‘the best’ labels in far greater number — note the large number of WWII award winning YA novels for example

So my recommendation for international YA…?

Commit to going beyond award lists. They are great starting points but do not capture all the variety of popular reading world wide. Instead compliment award lists with publishers’ catalogues (I have linked some good ones in the toolbar on the right under the archives section), librarian booklists and corresponding subject guides (like Susan Stan’s The World Through Children’s Books (2002) which, while it doesn’t explicitly focus on YA titles, does include a good number as Stan defines ‘children’ up to the ages of 16) to get a more complete picture of international YA.

Because award list do tend to recognize what they define as ‘the best’…and leave out the rest.

And coming in my next post…international YA booklists.



  • Ujie, J. and Krashen, S. (January/February 2006). Are Prize-winning Books Popular among Children? An Analysis of Public Library Circulation. Knowledge Quest. 34(3), 33-35.

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Picture 1Named after Africa’s first Nobel Laureate, the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa honors exceptional literature written by African citizens in the Pan-African diaspora. Awarded by the Lumina Foundation in Nigeria, the Wole Soyinka Award is given out every two years — and the most recent winner, Zahrah the Windseeker, is a YA novel of speculative fiction set in West Africa by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, an American writer originally from Nigeria.

An interesting thing about this award is the parameters of who it honors. It is a new award only begun three years ago in 2006, but in the planning stages before the award was announced, there was debate whether the award should be given only to African residents – or those in the Pan-African diaspora who have African citizenship. Eventually it was settled that it should be open to all those citizens in Africa and throughout the diaspora to better represent a range of African viewpoints and talents worldwide. This is an interesting precedent to consider when defining ‘international’ literature. Though a title like Zahrah the Windseeker, or the previous award winner (and also YA title) Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta, were originally published in the United States, the ‘audience’ that they speak to is much broader then simply a North American one.

In researching this topic I have come across a variety of opinions of what ‘international’ should mean: strictly those titles published abroad; titles published abroad + those written domestically by an ex-pat writer about their home country; or the broadest spectrum including all these titles + titles written by Canadian or American authors about a different country. Though I think it is important to try and capture as much literature from this first category as much as possible (especially as this type of international book tends to be in the smallest numbers on our shelves), seeing the scope of Wole Soyinka Award has made me reconsider the parameters of what ‘international’ is. Because in spite of being published domestically, these novels are not just written for a domestic audience – they are also written for an African one.

Wole Soyinka Award winners and shortlist:

Zahrah PBeevrythigngood

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kite-runnerbook-thief-2The Alex and Michael L. Printz Awards are awarded every year by YALSA to honor noteworthy children’s and young adult literature. The Alex and Printz Awards, however, do not specifically recognize international titles, but global YA titles have often appeared on these award lists – especially in recent years.

The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that YALSA has identified has having special appeal for YA readers. In 2004, the Alex Awards honored two international books – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (published in the US but set in Afghanistan) and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (published originally in France but set in Iran around the time of the Islamic Revolution).

The Michael L. Printz Award nominates one book a year as an ‘exceptional’ work of YA literature, and honors four additional titles as ‘honor books.’ The current 2009 Printz winner, Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road is from Australia and other international books recognized by the Printz Awards include Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (also from Australia), an honor book in 2007, and Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton (published in Canada but set in sub-Saharan Africa), which was an honor book in 2005.

It is notable that these titles are, for the most part, books published in the US, Canada or Europe — and set elsewhere. Many of these tiles  are written by authors who grew up in these countries as children – like Satrapi writing about Iran or Hosseini about Afghanistan – but it interesting again to see both the prominence of these more ‘Western’ international books (or categories #1 and #2 of international YA that I have defined here) and the continued notoriety and attention given to international books that deal specifically with war, genocide, and mass violence. This includes a title like the The Book Thief – a WWII story narrated by Death himself and centred around Nazi book burning and the attempt to preserve knowledge through this fire.

But this is not always the case with the Alex or Printz Awards. In 2001, the Prinz Award nominated a very different type of international title as an honor book – Louise Rennison’s hilarious and confessional tale from the perspective of a teen girl, Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging (from the UK).

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rose-blancheThe Hans Christian Andersen Award is presented once every two years by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) to both an author and illustrator who had made a mark on children’s publishing over their lifetimes; as such, the award is often called the ‘little Nobel prize.’ In 2008, Jürg Schubiger from Switzerland was named the winner of the 2008 Hans Christian Andersen Author Award and Roberto Innocenti from Italy the winner of the 2008 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration—Innocenti won notoriety in North America for his graphic Holocaust picture book, Rose Blanche (1985).

The René Goscinny Prize (named after the comic creator of Asterix) is awarded annually at the Angoulême International Comics Festival to encourage new and upcoming international comic artists; previous winners have included Jean-Philippe Stassen from Belgium for his graphic novel of the Rwandan genocide, Deogratias, in 2000. The Angoulême International Comics Festival also awards a prize, the Fauve d’Or, for best comic book. Previous winners of this prize include Fax from Sarajevo by Joe Kubert, a non-fiction documentary-style graphic novel about the siege of Sarajevo that won in 1998.

The Angoulême prizes and the Hans Christian Andersen prize do tend to favor more more established authors and illustrators (except for the René Goscinny Award), and entries from European countries are most prominent. As well as the IBBY selections for the Hans Christian Andersen Award cover the whole spectrum of ‘children’s litertaure’  — with some works like Inncoenti’s Rose Blanche being very appropriate for young adults, while other works are more targeted to very young children. Yet, these award lists are excellent ways to become aware of international picture books and graphic novels—both of which are very popular items in the library and bookstore right now.


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logoredThe Australian ‘Sisters in Crime’ Davitt Awards shortlist for 2009 have been announced and here is their shortlist (from Teenage Fiction for All Ages) for best teen mystery/crime fiction by an Australian female author:

As with many international YA, availability is an issue. Aside from the 2 titles that I have noted above (Genius Squad and Three Wishes), I had to link to the WolrdCat entries for the other titles.

But, Genius Squad is available on the Kindle — maybe this is the solution for making some international YA more accessible? International YA goes digital?

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wr2009Compared to the Batchelder Awards, which honor between 1 to 4 books yearly, the IBBY Honour List and The White Ravens cover a far greater range of books, countries, languages and literary diversity. The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) produces the IBBY Honor List every two years and honors authors, illustrators and translators from its seventy member countries. The 2008 honor list has sixty-nine recognized books, fifty-two illustrators, and forty-eight translators. The White Ravens, awarded annually by the International Youth Library, had two hundred fifty titles in thirty-two languages from forty-eight countries in their 2009 honor list (The White Ravens, 2009). Yet, broad as these award lists are, accessibility of the items can be a very real issue for North American libraries.

The International Youth Library (IYL) in Munich, Germany, selects the best and most noteworthy newly published books from around the world each year—designating their picks the ‘The White Ravens.’ They then compile these selections into a ‘White Ravens Catalogue’, which the IYL presents each year at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy. Unlike IBBY, their selections are not on a strictly one to one basis (i.e. one book from each country) but rather reflect ‘the best’ of the range of books that IYL has received over the year and whether or not they find the selections innovative and worthy of ‘special mention’ or compatible with ‘international understanding’—two special designations that they attach to certain titles (International’s Children’s Digital Library, 2009).*

This year, for example, The White Ravens featured eight selections from Australia—4 young adult titles, 4 children’s selections—which covered a range of topics from self-mutilation to schizophrenia, the Outback to the Easter bunny, and traditional folklore to Arthurian fantasy. Yet, exciting as this range of titles is, the accessibility of titles honored by the White Ravens – even from Australia – is often a problem in North America.  Despite there being no translation barriers and widespread availability of many Australian books in Canada and the United States, I was unable to find an easy (and affordable) way to buy or borrow any of these particular titles in North America despite the fact that one of these selections, Finnikin of the Rock, was authored by Melina Marchetta—whose earlier YA novel, Jellicoe Road, won the Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature.

Picture 1

Similarly, I tried to find an easy way to obtain some of the sixty plus books currently honored by IBBY—but to little avail. IBBY does have several excellent resources for collection building available through their organization and website, such as their current virtual exhibit, “Books for Africa, Books from Africa,” (above) that features African books for children and young adults that IBBY has identified and reviewed—along with providing publisher information for the African publishing houses (IBBY, Books for Africa, 2009).

As in the catalogue of the Honor List,  IBBY produces a full listing of the contact information for each author, illustrator, translator and publishing house that has been nominated in the list (IBBY Honor List, 2008). Yet, short of placing small book orders from individual publishers, these titles remain wonderful reading suggestions but not necessarily practical solutions for incorporatinging international YA into North America on a large scale. The problem again, as with books in translation, seems to still echo what Gretchen Schwarz said that, “finding [international YA] titles is easier than obtaining books….” (1996).

However, IBBY and the White Ravens do offer a range of titles that surpass the Batchelders not only in number, but also in scope and diversity of topics. The White Ravens have an excellent breadth of titles with some surprising results such as an environmental non-fiction book for young adults, Planeta tierra planeta vida. Pasado, presente y futuro de la vida sobre la tierra (Planet Earth Planet Life. Past, present, and future of life on earth) from Colombia, and a novel about human trafficking and female subordination, Lālāī barāy-i duhtar-i murda (Cradle song for a dead girl), from Iran. The White Ravens are missing selections from countries with large publishing systems like India or South Africa, and there are few selections from Latin America or sub-Saharan Africa; but, overall, the White Ravens do represent a diversity of topics and cultural perspectives.

The IBBY Honor List also offers an expanded worldview of the global publishing industry—offering titles from Bolivia on videogames, virtual reality and dinosaurs [Trapizonda: Un video juego para leer (Trap Zone: a videogame to read)], a Slovenian version of Cinderella (Pepelka), and a South African action adventure in Afrikaans (Thomas @ Aqua.net). However, due to the small number of selections per country, IBBY is not able to offer the same diversity of audience (many IBBY member picks are for very young chidlren only) or topics that the White Ravens provide. But IBBY does provide an exceptionally wide range of selections from a diversity of member countries.

This broad country representation is central to IBBY’s belief, as an organization, of the importance of “provid[ing] insight into the diverse cultural, political and social settings in which children live and grow” (International Children’s Digital Library, 2009).  This commitment is underwritten by IBBY’s non-governmental status and official place with UNESCO and UNICEF as a policy-making advocate of children’s books and literary, including its dedication to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. This political commitment to steadfast representation from its member nations does differ from that of the Batchelder Awards, which are more about competition and regarding certain types of literature than equitable representation. In fact, in 1978 and 1993 no Batchelder Awards were given due to the committee’s operating belief that “in a year that the committee is of the opinion that no book of that year is worthy of the award, none is given” (Batchelder Award, About the Award, 2009).

Overall, selections from the White Ravens and IBBY Honour List may be difficult to obtain, may not be available in English, and, for the IBBY Honour List specifically, may tend to group children and young adult materials together indiscriminately; yet, the scope and breadth of topics in these awards are more reflective of the greater range of opinions and lifestyles of international children. There is war and mass violence impacting many developing nations, but there is also video games and dinosaurs and this diversity should be reflected in any award winning list.


*books NOT borders note: IBBY will only select one book and one illustrator per member country to honour biennually, though it will honour multiple translators in the case as Spain where it honours both Spanish, Catalan and Basque translators.



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The Batchelder Awards are amongst the most popular and widely utilized awards for international YA – especially in North America, due in large part to the general prominence afforded the American Library Association (ALA)’s list of yearly awards (including the Batchelders, the Alex Awards, the Printz Awards and others). The Batchelder Award is awarded annually to the 1 children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States (Batchelder Awards, 2009). The award is also given to the American publisher who published the book in translation.

The Batchelder also nominates 1 to 3 ‘honor books’ and publishers each year for their noteworthy achievements. The Batchelder Awards are named after Mildred L. Batchelder, a former executive director of the Association for Library Service to Children, and 30 year member of the ALA who believed that the promotion of international books in translation could better foster understanding and acceptance across national and cultural borders (Batchelder Awards, 2009).

The ALA established the Batchelder Award in 1968, but prior to 1994 the award was only given solely to the American publisher of the book in translation — not to the book or original author. This precedent of awarding American publishers was part of an effort to support and encourage the publication of books in translation that can be a costly and time-consuming process for publishers—issues that still result in a lack of books in translation (Batchelder Awards, 2009). As noted by educator Gretchen Schwarz in 1996, “finding [international YA] titles is easier than obtaining books…[e]specially [because] books in translation may never come out in paperback, and they go out of print very quickly.” The scarcity of titles that Schwarz’s comment refers to is also found in recent publishing statistics: in a 2006 review of Publishers Weekly and other publishing resources, authors Maczka and Stock estimated that at any given time, the number of translated titles on US shelves may account for only 2-6% of total books (pp. 49-54).

Given these challenges, what books and publishers are the Batchelder Award honoring? This year’s award was given to Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. for Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, by Nahoko Uehashi and translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano (click here for my review of Moribito). This title was originally released in Japan in 1996, and was later made into a successful Japanese anime in 2007 (Anime News, 29 April 2009).

This is the 2nd time in 2 years that a Japanese novel has won this award—in 2008, Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe also won the Batchelder. Brave Story is about a 10 year old boy who tries to change his destiny by undertaking a magical journey. Like Moribito, Brave Story was very successful in Japan upon its original publication and spawned a popular anime film (Anime News, 16 January 2008).

However, prior to Moribito and Brave Story winning in 2009 and 2008 respectively, the 27 previous Batchelder award winners and honored books of the past 10 years (since 2000) have almost exclusively been from Europe, save for 2 winning entries in Hebrew from Israel—2001 Batchelder winner Samir and Yonatan and 2004 Batchelder winner Run, Boy, Run. Beyond this, representation from Europe disproportionately favors Germany and France, which have 8 nominations/wins each since 2000. Furthermore, since the awards inception in 1968 there has been only 1 Spanish language entry (a 1994 win for The Apprentice by Pilar Molina Llorente) and one Turkish entry (a 1995 honor book for Sister Shako and Kolo the Goat by Vedat Dalokay).

Given these oversights, it is useful to remember that ‘the best’ that the Batchedler recognizes is very culturally and linguistically defined.

It does not cover international countries that originally publish in English such as Australia, India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and many others.

It also does not cover a broad range of countries or regions.

Since the award’s inception in 1968, only the following countries have been nominated or received the ultimate prize (# in parentheses indicates how many times the country has been nominated and/or won the award):

* Denmark (2)
* France (10)
* Germany (23)
* Greece (3)
* Holland (6)
* Israel (5)
* Italy (2)
* Japan (4)
* Norway (2)
* Russia (1)
* Spain (1)
* Sweden (5)
* Turkey (1)

No countries from Latin America, Africa or Asia (save Japan) have ever been nominated — and Germany has won and/or been nominated 23 times since 1968 — or roughly 35% of the time.

Given these oversights, as well as the Batchelder Awards lack of range within language and country groups (of the 5 times that a Hebrew language book has won or been honored, 4 of those books have been the work of author Uri Orlev), I think that any library should use this list as a good starting—not ending—point to compiling a list of great international YA.



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I just came across this link from Publishers Weekly about a new Arabic-language children’s book prize , the Etisalat Award for Arab Children’s literature, that is due to launch in November 2009 during the annual Sharjah World Book Fair.

The Publishers Weekly article features an interview with Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, founder of the upcoming prize, and head of the new Arabic publishing house Kalimat. Sheikha Bodour names many reasons for why she has chosen to initiate this prize – to better foster a culture of parents reading to their children and to encourage the growth of children’s publishing in the Arabic-speaking world – but one reason that I found particularly interesting was her desire to have Arabic  children see themselves in their books.

As she notes, “there is a large trend in the Arab world to translate books from other cultures into Arabic…[h]owever, there also needs to be some homegrown books that are written and illustrated by Arabs who will be able to interpret the world the way an Arab child sees it. I set up my own publishing house precisely because of this reason. I wanted my books to portray Arab-looking children, with dark eyes and dark hair.”

I think this is one of the great benefits of a variety of books in our libraries. We want to be able to offer a range of reading materials so that children and young adults can read about different places and cultures, yes, but also so that they can see themselves in the pages too.

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