07 April 2008

Choice Words on the Children’s Choice Book Awards

As the Oz and Ends staff has been tracking, the Children's Book Council recently changed how it operates to become more marketing-oriented. Part of that effort has been to move Children's Book Week, a tradition since 1919, from November into May.

Another new initiative is the Children's Choice Book Awards, with children invited to vote online to determine the winners. This new honor grew in part out of the CBC's 34-year-old Children's Choices program. However, the shortlists of nominees also reflect popularity as measured by bestseller lists.

There are two types of awards. One is for recent books in three age categories: grades k-2, 3-4, and 5-6. These nominees "were determined by the IRA-CBC Children's Choices program."

The other type of award designates children's favorite author and artist for the year, and the CBC website says:

These finalists were compiled from a review of bestseller lists, including those prepared by BookScan, The New York Times and USA Today.
The awards thus appear to represent two sides of the CBC's efforts, and of publishing culture in general: highlighting quality, as chosen by dedicated readers and reviewers, and rewarding popularity, as determined by sales to the public. Of course, books can be both excellent and widely read.

It will be interesting to see which type of Children's Choice award gets more attention in the press. I suspect that the strange energy of celebrity will bend attention toward the individual book creators, even though they don't need extra sales as much as little-known but good books do.

Miscellaneous further thoughts:
  • Both the 3-4 and 5-6 categories include titles in comics form: Camp Babymouse (also a Cybils nominee) and Beowulf: Monster Slayer.
  • There are several nonfiction titles among the nominated books, particularly for the older grades: one third of all those titles. But none of the nominated authors or illustrators is known primarily for nonfiction.
  • The "favorite authors" category includes Jeff Kinney, who both wrote and illustrated The Diary of a Wimpy Kid; that book's illustrations are crucial to its appeal.
  • The "favorite artists" category includes Brian Selznick, who both wrote and illustrated The Invention of Hugo Cabret; that book's text is crucial to its appeal.
Maybe in future years the children's-book field will have to come up with separate awards for authors, illustrators, and author-illustrators.

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