In a former life I was a Children’s Librarian. Books written for kids is still one of my most preferred genres when seeking out books to read (much to my wife’s constant bewilderment). And while the UNC Press has published two recent titles for kids (“The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales” and “Taffy of Torpedo Junction“) neither of them won the coveted Newbery Award for Children’s Books for 2009.
What did win was a fantastic book by Science Fiction and Fantasy writer Neil Gaiman. “The Graveyard Book” is something of a departure for the Newbery Award — it’s a dark tale filled with an ancient league of assassins who are after an orphan child who was raised in a graveyard after the murder of his parents. Not exactly your standard bedtime reading (although neither are many of the original Grimms Fairy Tales for that matter) but in the hands of Neil Gaiman the story is both compelling and entertaining. (And, not only is Neil Gaiman an incredibly cool dude, but he’s also been blogging for longer than just about anyone I know)
The Caldecott Award, named for Randolph Caldecott, a Victorian-era author best known for his illustrations, was also just awarded. Illustrator Beth Krommes was given this year’s award for her illustrations of Susan Swanson’s book “The House in the Night.” Back in May of 2008 Elizabeth Bird wrote about the book her School Library Journal blog saying:
“I’m talking about a jaw-dropping, kick-you-in-the-pants, douse your cigar hussy of a beautiful picture book. The kind that works against your book-loving instincts, tempting you to rip out the pages and frame them on your wall. That kind of book. The first time I saw an ad for The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson and Beth Krommes I wanted it. Generally scratchboard art doesn’t appeal to me, but there’s something different about this title. Gentle bedtime reading, consider this a book that is designed to illuminate a child’s dreams.”
Congratulations to Mr. Gaiman and Ms. Krommes!
(A Vaguely Related Fact: Randolph Caldecott once lived across the street from what is now the British Museum. In 2006 my wife had no idea why I stopped in my tracks less than a block away from the museum to take the above photograph)