Monday, 18 January 2016
Picture book wins the Newbery! by Malachy Doyle
Let's hear it for Matt de la Pena, Christian Robinson and Last Stop on Market Street. It's the first picture book in donkey's years to win the Newbery Medal, which is awarded to the author for the 'most distinguished contribution to American literature for children'.
Congratulations to Christian Robinson, the illustrator, for also getting a Caldecott Honor Award for the same book.
But picture books always win the Caldecott, because they're for 'the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children'...
Whereas picture books, as opposed to illustrated books for older children or longer works of fiction, winning the Newbery are as rare as hen's teeth. None this century till now, as far as I can see, and precious few before that.
So isn't it wonderful to see a book for 3-5 year olds beating all the big hitters of children's and young adult fiction just for once! Doesn't it give us in the picture book community, particularly us writers, one great lift!
I wonder will it ever happen in Britain? Because the parallel prizes here (and similarly the most prestigious) are the Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway Awards.
The Greenaway goes to the 'outstanding book for children in terms of illustration'. So, generally, picture books. And, until now, awarded only to the illustrator - though that's about to change due to the sterling work of Sarah McIntyre, who also successfully campaigned for the illustrators of nominated Carnegie books to be included in the Carnegie listing.
Nevertheless - the Carnegie Award goes to the 'outstanding book for children.' So couldn't that, just once in a blue moon, be a picture book for young children? But how many times has it been, in the eighty year history of the award? Never, unless I'm very much mistaken.
Are picture books not as good as longer books for older children, I wonder? Are they just not as well written? Can they only be outstanding 'in terms of illustration'? Not in terms of the writing, or in terms of both writing and illustration together?
Shouldn't it be possible that the 'outstanding book' of the year in Britain, at least once in a very blue moon, is one for young children, as it is on this occasion in America? Shouldn't it be possible, in fact, that a picture book for young children could win both the Greenaway and the Carnegie (as A Monster Calls famously did, in 2012, for Patrick Ness and Jim Kay?) Now wouldn't that be something to celebrate?
Anyway, let's hear it for Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson! Let's hear it for picture books!