On Monday, January 23, 2012, the Chicago-based American Library Association (ALA) announced Dead End in Norvelt written by Jack Gantos, and published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, had won the John Newberry Medal for the most outstanding work of children’s literature in 2011. The announcement came during the Midwinter Meeting of the ALA, held in Dallas. The award is bestowed by the Association of Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the ALA.
The ALA further announced that the wordless picture book A Ball for Daisy, written (or rather plotted) and illustrated by Chris Raschka, and published by Random House division Schwartz & Wade, had won the Randolph Caldecott Medal. Where Things Come Back, written by John Corey Whaley, and published by Simon & Schuster division Atheneum Books for Young Readers, won the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature.
The plot of the semi-autobiographical Dead End in Norvelt involves the comic adventures of a boy named Jack Gantos in Norvelt, Pennsylvania who is grounded by his parents and compelled to type obituaries for a neighbor. In a telephone conversation with Julie Bosman of The New York Times, the sixty-year-old Gantos explained the plot was inspired by some of his own childhood experiences in Norvelt, a small town in Western Pennsylvania, and that several times he drove down there from Boston, where he now lives, to do research, accompanied by his daughter Mable, who is now fifteen years old, to do research.
Viki Ash, Chairwoman of the Newberry Award Select Committee, noted the humor and charm of Dead End in Norvelt. Gantos previously won the Michael L. Printz Award for Hole in My Life. Another book of his, Joey Pigza Loses Control, was recognized by the ALA with a Newberry Honor, which is sort of like a beauty pageant contestant winning the title Ms. Congeniality or being called an Oscar ® nominee – it’s a nice consolation, but it’s not the brass ring.
A Ball for Daisy concerns a dog that loses her favorite toy, a red ball, in the park. Raschka was inspired to make A Ball for Daisy ten years ago when his son Inga, now sixteen years old, was upset to lose a ball because a neighbor’s dog bit and popped it.
In Where Things Come Back, Cullen Witter is a teenager in Arkansas who, in the summer before he enters his senior year of high school, deals with the carnival atmosphere in his hometown after the reappearance of a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct and the disappearance of his younger brother, Gabriel. Meanwhile, in Africa, a young missionary has lost his faith and is searching for meaning. The two storylines converge in a “harrowing climax,” as the publisher puts it.
The ALSC bestowed a total of eighteen awards at the Midwinter Meeting of the ALA. Two of them were named in honor of Coretta Scott King (1927-2006).
The Chicago Crime Commission has updated the Crime Book, first published six years ago, to reflect how street gangs use social media to plot and perpetrate crimes.