Honoring This Year’s ALA Youth Media Awards, and Remembering Winners of Yesteryear

On Monday the 2017 #ALAYMAs (or American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards, for the uninitiated) were announced. Also affectionately known as the Book Oscars or Librarian Oscars, these awards amaze, frustrate, and excite people every year, as we predict who will win, cry over our favorites being snubbed, go huh? when a book we never heard about hits it big, and shrug when the most obvious choice of all gets the win.

Awards are about recognizing the cream of the crop, and, theoretically, naming what will be deemed modern classics or the new canon in the future. Do they stand that test of time? Sometimes. Here are some of the biggest YA award winners and honorees that were announced this week, paired with counterparts from yesteryear that are well worth a read—or a reread. And for the full list of amazing honorees and winners for children’s and YA titles, visit the ALA’s press release here.

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award
This award recognizes an early career author of African or African American descent who is already someone worth watching.

2017 Winner: Nicola Yoon, for The Sun Is Also a Star
Inaugural winner, 1995: Sharon Draper, for Tears of a Tiger. The committee clearly had a finger on the pulse of YA. More than 20 years later, Draper is still going strong, having won other ALA awards since then.

William C. Morris Award
This award has strict criteria—it’s for a first book ever, and it has to be a YA book. Many winners and finalists already have successful careers (amazing considering the award has only been around since 2009).

2017 Winner: Jeff Zentner, for The Serpent King
2010 Finalist: Malinda Lo, for Ash. Can you believe this activist and author has been active in YA for less than a decade?

AILA Youth Literature Award
The American Indian Library Association’s literary awards are not announced at the YMAs, but they’re no less exciting. They are awarded in even-numbered years.

2016 Winner: Tim Tingle, for House of Purple Cedar
2012 Winner: Adam Fortunate Eagle, for Pipestone: My Life in an Indian Boarding School. Until the mid-20th century, Native children in the United States and Canada were forcibly removed from their homes and taken to residential schools to be “civilized.” This is a memoir of just one of those schools.

Stonewall Award/Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Young Adult Literature Award
This award recognizes books with outstanding LGBTQIA+ content. Morgan and Romans are both longstanding members of ALA and champions for libraries.

2017 Winner: Meredith Russo, for If I Was Your Girl
2014 Honor: David Levithan, Two Boys Kissing. Fittingly for such an award, this book has to do with winning a world record and takes an interesting approach to storytelling, being narrated by a Greek chorus that represents modern gay history.

Pura Belpré Medal
Named after a New York librarian, this award recognizes excellent portrayals of Latinx people in YA and children’s literature. This year, no YA titles were recognized.

2016 Winner: Margarita Engle, for Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
2004 Winner: Julia Alvarez, for Before We Were Free. Alvarez is one of those talents who writes books for all ages. This book, which takes place in 1960 and is based on true events, tells you what it would be like if you were to grow up just as a dictator rises to power.

Schneider Family Award
This award honors the disability experience, in its broad definition of mental, physical, cognitive, and neural conditions, and recognizes books that do the same.

2017 Winner: Emery Lord, for When We Collided
2011 Winner: Antony John, for Five Flavors of Dumb. YA, just like adolescents themselves, loves music. The heroine of this book, who is deaf, is no exception.

Margaret A. Edwards Award
This one is like a lifetime achievement award for living YA authors. To prove their longevity and long-lasting relevance and resonance, all books cited in the award must be at minimum five years old.

2017 Winner: Sarah Dessen, author of books including This Lullaby
2003 Winner: Nancy Garden, author of books including Annie On My Mind. Garden is often hailed as the mother of queer literature for teens. Her seminal novel is recognized for bucking the trend of having teens come out as gay or lesbian and then die in tragic accidents. (Really. That was a thing!).

Excellence in Nonfiction Award
The name really says it all, doesn’t it?

2017 Winner: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, for March: Book Three
2014 Finalist: Chip Kidd, for Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design. Adults know Kidd for his mesmerizing book covers for the biggest names in adult lit, like Oliver Sacks and Haruki Murakami, but it’s teens he created this master class for.

APALA Award for Literature
Like AILA, the awards from the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association are not announced at the YMAs, but they should be added to your TBR nonetheless!

2017 Winner: Stacey Lee, for Outrun the Moon
2003 Honor: Tanuja Desai Hidier, for Born Confused. If you were too young to read this when it came out, you may have heard about it when its belated sequel, Bombay Blues, was released in 2014. Or, you know, you could just read both of them now.

Printz Award
Ahh, the Newbery of YA.

2017 Winner: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, for March: Book Three
2007 Winner: Gene Luen Yang, for American Born Chinese. I don’t know if this guy did very well after winning this major award for his breakout novel, but I heard something about a MacArthur something or other…

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