Posts Tagged ‘awards’

In case you’ve forgotten your middle grade math, the headline translates to Valentine’s Day plus Graphic Novels equals True Love Always. Admittedly a little silly, but this was the year the graphic novel panel essentially agreed on the winners out the gate. That can either be viewed as a unified affirmation of what was good or, more cynically, that there was only one clear choice in each category surrounded by fluff that made the decision inevitable. The truth is probably located somewhere in between.

But first, a little business. If you haven’t done so already, got check out the winners of this year’s Cybils Awards.

Now, there’s plenty I can say about some of the choices in the other categories, most of it surprise about the number of books that weren’t on my radar, but I was on the Graphic Novel panel this year and will contain my comments, briefly, to our selections.

In the elaborate (not) process I use to determine my rankings, I actually had a tie between Anya’s Ghost and Level Up. I would have been happy to have either book as the winner, but here’s the thing about Anya’s Ghost that gives it the edge for me: I had a hard time articulating what it was about it that made me like it so damn much. I understand the mechanics of storytelling, sequential narrative, illustration, and the sort of stories that I like but in the end I was at a loss to articulate it. I felt bad for the publisher, First Second, who sent me an advance copy of the book practically a year ago because I felt like I owed them a review on my blog. I still do, as far as I’m concerned, and maybe I can finally do that. Not today, not here, but soon.

In short, Anya’s Ghost felt like the most complete graphic novel, most satisfying in terms of narrative arc, balance of humor and seriousness, light and dark, and was the most novel-like of the entries.

In the middle grade category things were a little more interesting. For me, mind you. Two of the books I felt sort of disqualified themselves because they didn’t belong in the graphic novel category at all – Wonderstruck is very clearly a middle grade book and should not have even made it to the first round judges, similarly Nursery Rhyme Comics was an anthology and a picture book for older readers, but not a middle grade graphic novel. These personal disqualifications should not be taken as a knock against their quality – indeed, I would have loved to see Nursery Rhyme Comics considered in the picture book category as a finalist – but it did not belong, thus narrowing the field.

A third book, Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, wasn’t even mentioned as a possible finalist in the category by any of the other panelists. I can’t speak for the others, but I found elements of this book troubling at the content level. Throughout the process I have deliberately kept myself from seeking out other reviews so as not to pollute my opinions, but I hope to work this all out in a review and then see what others have said.

With three titles eliminated all that was left was to decide between was Zita the Spacegirl and Sidekicks. The short answer here is that Zita had a lot more going for it in terms of humor and adventure, and by comparison Sidekicks felt slight. The best I can articulate, it was a little like putting any generic comic book adaptation of a Cartoon Network show up against Jeff Smith’s Bone books. With that in mind it wasn’t hard to decide that my first pick was…

Nursery Rhyme Comics.


Yes, despite the fact that I don’t think anthology comic collections should be considered graphic novels (any more than a short story anthology should be considered a novel) it was, by far, a much better quality product. But in the end I had no desire to defend or attempt to justify a variance in my own personal criteria when I was going to vote strongly against Wonderstruck if necessary. And as an aside, even if I did consider Wonderstruck a graphic novel I don’t think it had a solid enough word-image connection, as emotionally compelling, or a strong enough sequential narrative to put it above Anya’s Ghost. I know people think Selznick has invented this great hybrid of storytelling but, really, those of us who have studied film know a storyboard when we see one.

And there you have it, my brief explanation of how the Cybils Graphic Novel Awards shook out from my personal perspective. I don’t know if any of my fellow judges have any plans to discuss their view of the process but if so I’ll happily update this post with links to their examinations. I will say, this was the most unanimous, least contentious judging panel I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.

Andrea, John, Sarah, Emily, (and fearless leader Liz) it was a pleasure and an honor working (briefly) with you all!

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How often is it that you finish a book, put it down, go to the computer to check on news of the world and find that the book you just put down was one that was nominated as a finalist for the National Book Award in young person’s literature?


Having not read them all, nor understanding how to handicap this award, I have no idea whether it was a mere coincidence or if somehow I was attuned to the celestial spheres of synchronicity and was reading the winning book.  But it’s an odd feeling, I’ll say that much.  Especially since the book was sent to me for review and I knew nothing abut it when I picked it up.

I’m not quite ready to review the book yet, and out of fairness to the other titles I’m not going to mention it by name here (email me if you really want to know which book it is), but I must say that I’m a little confused about how titles are chosen for this award.  Normally you don’t find a middle grade book with animals in the world up against a YA title about an unrepentant alcoholic up against a Revolutionary War slave narrative. I’m not saying these titles aren’t deserving, only that I find the selection odd.

And what a crazy panel of judges!  Daniel Handler (chair), Holly Black, Angela Johnson, Carolyn Mackler, Cynthia Voigt. I have to admit, I’m now sort of interested in reading them all before the awards are announced on November 19th.

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That time of year again, when folks from all over the blogosphere begin tossing their favorite hats into the ring for consideration of the Third Annual Cybils Awards!

For those unfamiliar, the Cybils are the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers literary awards.  The great thing about the Cybils: anyone can nominate a title (one title per person, per category) and that makes for some pretty long lists by the time nominations close, which is on October 15th.  More details here.

Yours truly is once again hanging out with the graphic novels crew and am looking forward to seeing what crops up this time.  Once the nominations close I’ll post my collected nominees in each category and we’ll see if all my taste is in my mouth (where my foot often ends up).

Folks, honestly, if you haven’t checked it out, please, do so.

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How can you not love an award for children’s literature that sounds like it was named after a person with multiple personality disorder?

Yes, it’s Cybils season and the second round of finalists were posted this morning. This is the one yours truly has been waiting for because it includes the nominees for the graphic novel category, of which I am a judge.

When heard that the graphic novel announcement wouldn’t come until today I was a bit worried, what with the ending residency at school and all. Turns out my fears were baseless as I have read (and in some cases reviewed elsewhere) all but three titles with only one title a total mystery to me. Like God in a Far Side cartoon making snakes out of clay, this should be a cinch.

Or will it? With so many great titles on the list I suddenly realize that I’m going to have to pit them against each other in no-holds-barred cage matches to determine which truly deserves favor over the other. I may even have to get out my graph paper and comparison charts (again, borrowed liberally from What Color Is Your Parachute) in order to figure out the winners by points.

Of course I alone will not make this decision, I am merely one of a panel of judges. How will the collective see things? Will we go toe-to-toe over our personal convictions or will we bend gently in each others breezes until a consensus is borne? Will we fight doggedly against the obvious or will we, like an ALA panel, allow for the rise of mediocrity in compromise (anyone feeling Lucky?)?

We shall see. In the meantime if you haven’t checked out all the Cybils stuff, or are curious to know what the heck I’m talking about, check it out. Winners for all categories will be announced on Valentine’s Day, a blogger’s heart and a box of virtual chocolates for the writers and illustrators we honor.

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