Apparently awards season is gearing up! Who knew? Well okay, the School Library Journal’s Mock Newbery blog Heavy Medal did, as did Elizabeth Bird, the good people of Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, and probably those squirrels living in the tree outside your kitchen window. Everybody but me, in other words, but hey, I’m catching up! My learning curve is shortening!
It makes me happy that Betsy Bird’s latest round of Newbery speculation still gives major props to Kate Milford’s debut novel THE BONESHAKER. I wuvs that iddle biddy MG book, as I’ve said previously – it’s a tasty serving of steampunky goodness, and nothing would make me happier than for reality-bending Kate M. to walk away with a shiny new sticker for her book’s cover.
Of course some awards get more attention and advance speculation than others – the Newbery. The Caldecott. The National Book Award. The Printz. I know, I get it, they’re the biggies. Today, however, on this specific day, for no particular reason, I want to see some speculation on one of the awards that (for whatever reasons) doesn’t have as high a profile as the BigBigBig awards. Maybe you’ve predicted it because of the generally irreverent tone of my blog posts! Or perhaps you just read the title of this post! Yes, it’s the Sid Fleischman Humor Award, given out by SCBWI for exemplary writing for children in the genre of humor.
I love that this award exists! It’s the only award of its kind! Woohoo! Finally some love for the laughmeisters of the world. And a glance at the list of previous winners will show that SCBWI isn’t just interested in honoring cheap and easy laughs. I’ve read most of the books on that list (and the ones I haven’t are currently in my TBR stack), and books like ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NOT and CLEMENTINE have great emotional and intellectual depth right alongside those giant dollops of hilarity. I love DIARY OF A WIMPY KID as much as the next person, but I wouldn’t describe it as a book that explores the emotional truths of humanity with any real seriousness. I would describe every Fleischman winner I’ve read that way, though.
It’s probably not a massive shock that my fiction is more occupied with absurdity than solemnity. I love this blog post by Francisco X. Stork about his tendency to put his characters in rather grim circumstances, specifically the part where he wonders if he has it in him to write a book that’s airy and light-hearted. I, on the other hand, wonder the opposite. I’m pretty skilled at goofy, but I don’t know if I have the chops to write something with the gravitas of THE LAST SUMMER OF THE DEATH WARRIORS, for example.
However, I really like Mr. Stork’s statement that no matter how serious a book is, it should also mix in a measure of humor, hope and love, and I would say the reverse is true as well. No matter how good a book is at invoking chuckles, it should also mix in a measure of brains, heart and thoughtfulness. Funny, serious, whatever – hope and love are universally relevant, right?
So! Here I am predicting next summer’s Sid Fleischman Humor Award. Or maybe I’m just advocating for my fave candidate. Humor, intellectual depth, emotional resonance, and impeccable craft – my vote goes to 8th GRADE SUPERZERO by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. In fact, I feel quite happy to push Gbemi’s fantastic debut forward as a candidate for the Newbery! It’s a wonderful, wonderful book.
Huh. So…I ended up rejoining the Newbery conversation after all. Okay, sure. No reason why it can’t win both, right?
Yours in bold prognostication,