November 14, 2016

Betting on books: National Book Award contenders for young people’s literature

National Book Award (one of the over 1000 awards we track in NoveList) winners will be announced on Wednesday, November 16. To get you pumped, here's a primer of the finalists for Young People's Literature category – for a look at the adult categories, don't miss this post from my fellow bibliographer, Gillian.

Raymie Nightingale book coverRaymie Nightingale, by Kate DiCamillo

With two Newberys under her belt, DiCamillo is no stranger to big-time honors. While Raymie Nightingale is just as quirky as DiCamillo fans would expect, this tale of friendship among three unlikely pageant contestants gets pretty existential for a children's book – which could be an asset or a liability for the judges.

Main appeal: Quirky and thoughtful

Recommended readalike: The Summer of the Gypsy Moths, Sara Pennypacker

March book coverMarch: Book Three, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Winner!)

This conclusion to Congressman Lewis' 3-volume graphic memoir about his experiences in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s is staggeringly powerful, both in text and art. It holds strong appeal for teens, but it wasn't published specifically for young readers, which may make it difficult to compare to the other finalists.

Main appeal: Powerful insight into recent history

Recommended readalike: The Silence of Our Friends, Mark Long

When the Sea Book CoverWhen the Sea Turned to Silver, by Grace Lin

Another trilogy conclusion, this sweeping adventure based on Chinese folk tales is best enjoyed by those who understand the clever connections to the earlier two books; however, Lin's expressive, detail-rich writing can definitely stand on its own.

Main appeal: Assured, folkloric storytelling

Recommended readalike: The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill


Ghost book coverGhost, Jason Reynolds

Look, I can't hide my bias: this book knocked me out, and if it were up to me, I'd give it ALL THE AWARDS. It's shorter in length than the other finalists, yes, but the narrative voice of troubled young track runner Castle "Ghost" Cranshaw is memorable, authentic, and crafted with astonishing aplomb.

Main appeal: Authentic character voice

Recommended readalike: Kinda Like Brothers, Coe Booth


The Sun is Also a Start book coverThe Sun is Also a Star, Nicola Yoon

Romance is often neglected by award judges, but perhaps the lyrical writing and unusual perspectives in this story of a whirlwind relationship between teens from immigrant families will be enough to overcome genre bias.

Main appeal: Lyrical blend of realism and romance

Recommended readalike: Something In Between, Melissa de la Cruz

*Not American, or wanting to show off another area of your collection? Consider highlighting Canadian books with a display of finalists for the Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards! CCBC winners are announced on November 17.


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