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Posts Tagged ‘Alex Awards’

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.

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References:

  • 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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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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