What do an artistic gorilla and a thieving fish have in common? They’re the protagonists in two of the top children’s books published in 2012. The American Library Association announced yesterday that Katherine Applegate’s fanciful novel The One and Only Ivan won the Newbery Award and Jon Klassen’s picture book This Is Not My Hat won the Caldecott for its illustrations.
I’ll have to confess here that I’m not a fan of either This Is Not My Hat or Klassen’s previous picture book I Want My Hat Back. I do, however, admire one of the Caldecott Honor books he illustrated, a charming and cheerful story by Mac Barnett called Extra Yarn. The tale of a child bringing color to her drab world appeals to me so much more than the premise of a stolen hat, even when enhanced with illustrations deemed oh-so-clever.
This just illustrates the nature of such prizes. A picture book can have fabulous illustrations but a lackluster plot — and, unfortunately, the opposite occurs, as well, often causing the book to go out of print quickly. And while the committee has been criticized often in recent years for its selection of the Newbery Medal, I’m intrigued by the premise of The One and Only Ivan and can’t wait to open its pages.
A slew of other titles, some of which I’ve written about this year, have earned awards, as noted on the American Library site. What do you think of this year’s winners?