ALAMW14-logo-300x564Every January, the American Library Association holds their Mid-Winter Meeting.  Tradition dictates that it be held in a frigid clime, so Philadelphia was chosen.  (In a bit of uncanny foresight, the next three sites will be: Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta.)

The Mid-Winter conference is the smaller, more laid-back version of the Annual show (traditionally held in blistering locales, like Las Vegas).  It offers the same diverse programming, but publisher events are not as splashy.  What it does offer are the annual library awards, chosen by various committees, all staffed by passionate and literate librarians behind closed door sessions.

If you recall your childhood, you probably remember your school librarian promoting books which had won the Newbery and Caldecott medals.  (You probably also remember that most of those Newbery books were “good for you”…not that interesting to read, and kind of boring.)  The Newbery is awarded to the best Children’s novel, while the Caldecott goes to the best illustrated children’s book.

As the geek diaspora became cool and acceptable, many of those kids who were bookworms became librarians, and those librarians began selecting books that were damn good.

Also, ALA began supporting “round tables”… special interest groups of librarians.  These round tables then began organizing, and one of the best ways to promote your message is to give out an award or issue a reading list.  There are awards for best African-American authors and illustrators.  An award for the best book focusing on disabilities.  Best books for teens.  Best audio books.  Lifetime achievement.  And so on…  (Here’s the scorecard for this year.)

There isn’t a specific award for graphic novels, although they are eligible for most of the awards, and have won the main award in many categories (Printz, O’Dell, Geisel).  As librarians acquire new graphic novels for their patrons, publishers produce new titles to meet demand.  Librarians become savvy, publishers figure out the medium, and soon what was once an outsider genre or medium (like murder mystery or science fiction) becomes mainstream.  (I’m still hoping for a “Westing Game” graphic novel…)

So, what love did the librarians in chilly Philly show graphic novels this year?

Well, there weren’t any major winners.  Most of the graphic novels lauded this year were runner-up titles, what ALA refers to “honor books”.  That’s not a bad thing, as almost every library will rush to acquire these titles for their library collections.  It’s actually a great thing for GNs, as the titles listed below competed with thousands of other books.  These are mainstream awards, and they show that graphic novels can be just as entertaining, worthwhile, and exceptional as books without pictures.

Following the order listed on the press release from the ALA, here are the graphic novel titles:MrWuffles

** Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:


Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named: […] and “Mr. Wuffles!” written and illustrated by David Wiesner and published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

David Wiesner has won the Caldecott Medal three times (and this is his third “honor book”), most notably for his wordless masterpiece “Tuesday“.  (That’s his acceptance speech, where he cites Lynn Ward as an inspiration.  Go ahead and read it.  And read the book as well, it’s quite amazing!)  He writes fantastical picture books, similar to those by Chris Van Allsburg, but with fewer words and bigger pictures.

This book is about a cat who makes a plaything of a tiny UFO.  To solve their predicament, the aliens must make allies with the local insects.  Like his other work, it’s mostly wordless, except for the alien dialogue, depicted in iconographic word balloons.


It’s charming, humorous, and has a nice message at the end!


** Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:
Three King Author Honor Books were selected: “March: Book One,” written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell, and published by Top Shelf Productions; […]

If you are a regular reader of this website, you already know about this book, the first volume of Congressman John Lewis’ biography as a civil rights activist and statesman.  The book has been featured all over television, hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and been listed on numerous “best of” lists.


** Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences:


“Relish,” written by Lucy Knisley and published by First Second, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership […]

Lucy Knisley loves food. The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, this talented young cartoonist comes by her obsession honestly. In her forthright, thoughtful, and funny memoir, Lucy traces key episodes in her life thus far, framed by what she was eating at the time and lessons learned about food, cooking, and life. Each chapter is bookended with an illustrated recipe—many of them treasured family dishes, and a few of them Lucy’s original inventions.


** May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award recognizing an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children’s literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site:

Brian Selznick will deliver the 2015 lecture.

Author and illustrator Brian Selznick graduated from Rhode Island School of Design intending to be a set designer for the theater, but a stint at Eeyore’s children’s bookstore in New York City changed his mind and his first book was published while working there. He left to pursue a full-time career in children’s book illustration, but he still designs theater sets and is a professional puppeteer. Among his award-winning works are illustrations for two Sibert Honor Books and a Caldecott Honor Book. His groundbreaking “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” was awarded the 2008 Caldecott Medal.


** Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children:


Four  Sibert Honor Books were named: […] “Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard,” written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate and published by Candlewick Press; […]

This conversational, humorous introduction to bird-watching encourages kids to get outdoors with a sketchbook and really look around. Quirky full-color illustrations portray dozens of birds chatting about their distinctive characteristics, including color, shape, plumage, and beak and foot types, while tongue-in-cheek cartoons feature banter between birds, characters, and the reader (“Here I am, the noble spruce grouse. In a spruce grove. Eatin’ some spruce. Yep.”). Interactive and enjoyable tips bring an age-old hobby to new life for the next generation of bird-watchers.

9780763645618_1And finally, a shout-out to Rainbow Rowell, winner of two honor awards for “Eleanor & Park”.  I discovered her about five years ago, when she was a blogging columnist for the Omaha World-Herald.  That blog occasionally delved into geeky matters like Buffy, so I followed that blog.  She also wrote really well.  Then I bought her first novel, “Attachments”, about a love affair between a newspaper columnist and an IT watchman in the wild west of early 1990s email.  The system flags her emails as suspicious, he starts reading, then can’t stop, and, well, it really should be a movie.

Then came “Eleanor & Park”, a young adult romance set in 1980s north Omaha.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

I read an advance copy.  Then I warned her about attending her first BookExpo America signing… Fueled by a brief blurb in USA Today, the line was rock-star long (I think only Grumpy Cat had one longer).  Bloggers like myself fell in love with the book instantly.  (Although I think I’m the only one who actually experienced the book firsthand as a teen.)  Then, in the fall, she wrote “Fangirl“, set at the University of Nebraska.  It’s a “new adult” novel, for twenty-somethings trying to find their place in the world.  And it’s even geekier than “E&P”!

Cover by Noelle Stevenson

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fanfiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

So, I’m excited for her success, because she’s an awesome writer, and it’s cool and fun when the rest of the world discovers what you already know!



  1. You seem to have omitted this year’s Newbery Medal winner, FLORA AND ULYSSES, which author Kate DiCamillo has described as a love letter to comics. The book is about a squirrel that gains super powers and is a hybrid of tradional prose with comics segments. It’s a delightful book and definitely deserves the attention.

  2. Scott,
    Noted. I checked each title online, but only had the brief previews to judge.
    It seemed mostly to be a chapter book, so I overlooked it!

    Her “Bink & Gollie” books are also borderline-comics.
    She is a talented writer, and I hope someone (Francoise Mouly?) encourages her to try writing an actual graphic novel!

  3. Hey Torsten,
    Thanks for posting this! I left the show late Sunday ahead of the awards and was betting on at least The March picking up an award. Though there isn’t currently an award in the library market dedicated to the GN category, it’s quite telling when you begin to see gn titles showing up across the board. More traditional publishers are producing better quality stories that continue to sell in even greater numbers to the overall book market.
    Congrats to all the winners!

  4. “(I’m still hoping for a “Westing Game” graphic novel…)”

    That would be amazing. Someone please take my money for this.

  5. I should add that while there isnt a formal ‘award’ for the graphic novel category in the library world, there are two organizations within the library world who play a significant role in the growth of the market. They are the YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee, and the Texas Library Association’s Maverick Committee. Each year, these people create a highly regarded list of recommended graphic novel titles which are used as buying recommendations throughout the library and educational markets. Though these are officially considered recommended lists having your title on that list is pretty much equal to an award as the selection process is quite intense. These librarians take this stuff very seriously.

    Go here: and here:
    to learn more.

  6. We’re about halfway through “Flora and Ulysses” at the house. It has a lot of references to comics but is less illustrated than “Fortunately, the Milk” or the “Arnie the Doughnut” chapter book. I like it but, it has yet to impress me on the same level the “Bink & Gollie” books did when we read them. Those were some of my favorite kid reads in the past couple of years.

  7. John, thanks! Hope to see you in Vegas! (Librarians. Vegas. The mind spins!)

    I’m working on the GGNfT post! (Got to find links for each title. Darn those pesky librarians for selecting so many great books!)

    Whoa, Nellie! I didn’t know that the Mavericks had posted their list! Yup… quite a few overlaps with YALSA. Just don’t tell the kids these books are good for them!

  8. BTW, not to take anything (at all) away from Caldecott Award winners, my editor explained to me that this award for best art is only given to books by American artists. (It has something to do with how the award was originally set up.)

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