The John Newbery Medal, popularly known as the Newbery, is a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), which is a division of the American Library Association (ALA). It’s awarded to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”, and for the first time ever, the recipient was a graphic novel.
image via harper collins
Jerry Craft’s New Kid, which is about an African-American boy adjusting to a new middle school, took away the Newbery this time.
image via an unlikely story
Undefeated, illustrated by Kadir Nelson and written in verse by Kwame Alexander, won both the Caldecott Medal (given to picture books) and a Newbery Honor.
image via ALBUQUERQUE Journal
Only a few years ago, librarians were debating whether a graphic novel would qualify to win a Newbery Medal, because the prize description says, in part:
“The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc. may be considered when they make the book less effective.”
It’s great to see unconventional books take away prizes which are normally stringent with their distribution, and when the representative authors are discussing relevant issues alongside immense talent, it makes it all the more inspiring to see them win.
Even though it’s been mentioned that the description seemed to weigh against graphic novels, New Kid apparently was judged to have both the text and illustrations work together to tell the incredible story of young Jordan and won the hearts of the judges to eventually claim the well deserved title.
featured image collage via befunky
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Guts, Telgemeier’s latest book from Scholastic Books, puts you in Telgemeier’s shoes as she works through her fears and anxieties. It tells the story of Raina and her mother getting a horrible case of food poisoning. Even though they get better, Raina starts feeling very anxious about getting food poisoning again. This fear gets worse and worse, interfering with her life at school and with friends, and ultimately Raina discovers ways to manage and work through her fears.
While her memoirs certainly target a younger demographic, her candid look at how fear has affected her life is sure to resonate with anyone who knows the struggle of growing up and learning to navigate the weird, unpredictable world. And much like Smile, Telgemeier’s expects Guts to fly off the shelves. Ellie Berger, Executive Vice President and President, Trade Publishing at Scholastic Books said of Telgemeier’s appeal:
Raina’s readership is wide ranging in age and appeals to all genders. The books’ accessibility and relatability are at the core of what makes Raina’s stories so popular.
“It takes guts to face your fears,” Telgemeier says in the trailer for Guts.
Are you looking forward to reading Guts? Have you read any of Telgemeier’s other work? Let us know on Facebook and Instagram!
Featured images via American Libraries Magazine and Amazon
For those unaware, middle-grade fiction is fiction aimed at readers between the ages of eight and twelve whereas YA, or Young Adult, is fiction aimed to readers who are thirteen to eighteen. See? Simple enough.
Not so. There’s a lot more that goes into books than the ages of their readers, so we have to get specific here. Lucky for us, Master Class defines both middle-grade and YA fiction using these useful bullet points, so those will be our foundation:
The characteristics that middle-grade fiction tends to share are:
They contain no profanity or graphic violence.
Romance is limited to crushes and first kisses.
Protagonists are roughly between the ages of 10 and 13.
Middle-grade novels are typically between 30,000 and 50,000 words long and voiced in the third person.
Characters typically react to what happens to them within their immediate world with a focus on friends and family.
The protagonist (and narrator) generally do not delve too much into self-reflection but instead focus on real-life situations.
The characteristics that young adult fiction tends to share are:
Profanity and graphic violence are permissible, reflecting the maturity of the reading group.
Romance is allowed, but not eroticism.
Protagonists are typically between 15 and 18 years old, reflecting the age of the reading group.
Young adult novels are generally 50,000 and 75,000 words, though fantasy does tend to exceed that length.
Young adult fiction is typically focused on how the main character fits in the ‘grown-up‘ world beyond their family and friends, reflecting on events and analyzing their meaning. to better understand themselves, their journey, and the world they are coming into
Because of the amount of self-reflection and internality, YA novels are often told in the first person from the protagonist’s point of view.
Keep in mind that the points above aren’t hard and fast rules. Something can be YA and not hit all the points, something can be middle-grade are not hit all the points too. The long and short of it is they have to hit most of them.
Let’s face it, kids can take that type of profanity. Maybe you won’t find that in a children’s book written by Dr. Seuss, but I could see you finding that ‘language’ in Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
The violence isn’t bloody and the only person who dies, Professor Quirrell, is off-screen in the book (not in the film, and I love it for it). There is no romance in the book. Harry’s much more concerned with safety and family.
At 76,944 words, the book is a little long for middle-grade, but, again, the rules listed above are not hard and fast ones.
Plus, since the eleven year old Harry Potter most certainly reacts to what happens to them within their immediate world with a focus on friends and family and doesn’t stop to ask, “Was knocking out that troll really the best thing I could do?”, than I’d say the first Harry Potter book is most certainly middle-grade.
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Same goes for Chamber of Secrets. It’s a straight up mystery novel and Harry wants to find out who’s petrifying these poor children. Oh no! It was the bad guy all along, who’s still around thanks to his evil diary and the help of a giant snake! Heck, even though Ginny is obsessed with Harry, sending him a singing valentine. Harry just finds the whole thing embarrassing!
Image Via Harry Potter Wiki – Fandom
While Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban still has Harry’s concerns mostly focused outwards and features no romance, but things are getting dicey. That man who’s a prisoner? He didn’t actually do it, and at the conclusion of the novel he hasn’t been proven innocent to the general public. Overall, the book is much more serious than the previous. The characters, such as Lupin and Sirus, are more ambiguous than the previous.
With Harry being fourteen, in the middle of what a typical middle-grade and YA protagonist is, we see Harry in his transitional phase as the series progresses to being a YA novel. Technically the book still might be middle-grade, but with a 107,253 word count I’m comfortable calling it YA because things are right on the cusp.
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Things aren’t on the cusp in Goblet of Fire. Although there’s no profanity, there are some high intense situations involve a dragon and another involving mermaids and while there is no gore, an innocent boy by the name of Cedric Digory dies for absolute no reason. Romance is now front and center.
Harry finds himself smitten with Cho Chang from Ravenclaw and is jealous of Cedric Diggory who asked her to the Yule Ball before he had worked up the nerve while his best buddy Ron becomes oh so jealous that Victor Krum attends the ball with Hermione.
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Harry is fifteen, young for a YA protagonist but still a YA protagonist. Harry’s not really on a mission to find out who put his name in the Goblet of Fire, he’s more concerned with social expectations. He’s looking into himself, most certainly, even if the book isn’t first person.
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Order of the Phoenix has Harry dealing with the fact the Ministry of Magic doesn’t believe that He-Who-Has-No-Nose is back. As a result, he starts getting rebellious. His angst-ridden interior very much has a YA voice. I don’t know about you, but this book gives me real Hunger Games vibes with Harry’s whole “I’m going to rebel” shtick even after a professor who loves the color pink and cats tortures him.
On the romantic side, Harry goes on his first date and has his first kiss. Both of which are with Cho, but those don’t go well. She’s still grieving her loss. Speaking of internal conflict, Harry’s dealing with the call to action to fight He-Who-Must-Not-Look-Human.
I’d call it YA.
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Plus, that’s not even mention how Sirius bites the bullet in the end because of his murderous cousin.
Image Via Harry Potter Wiki – Fandom
Come Half-Blood Prince we have Ron dating Lavender Brown to make Hermione, and Harry getting on board with dating Ginny. Also typical of YA book, Henry has to look inwards: Does he want to put his friends and girlfriend in danger?
No, and that’s why his relationship with Ginny ends. It’s a very personal reason to end a relationship, and thus is why I’d call this book YA.
Plus, given that Snape becomes the most sympathetic before doing the most heinous thing in front of Harry, different things are getting ambiguous and thus adding to Harry’s internal conflict.
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In Deathly Hallows we get the conclusion to the series and the conclusion to all of these character arcs. Along the way, we see jealousy when Ron is influenced by the locket and thinks harry might just end up with Hermione, which means there’s a ton of internal conflict for both Ron and Harry. What should Harry do? Send his friend away, or try to resolve the situation? This only add to the fact that this is Ginny’s brother, and Harry misses Ginny like nobody else except a man head-over-heels.
With the conflict right at their doorstep, Harry, while he cares about them, focuses less on his friends and more on how to defeat He-Who’s-Name-Sounds-Like-Moldy-Wart.
Plus, Harry realizes how those around you can surprise you. Remember Snape, the sympathetic guy turned villain? Well, he’s the hero of this story who only killed Dumbledore because it was all apart of the plan. Also, things get a little gray when it turns out Snape was in love with Harry’s mom far before Harry’s Dad, James, came along.
Despite the fairy tale epilogue, this book I’d still call YA given it has Harry realizing how he can stand as his own person and do what he feels is right.
Image Via Amazon
All in all, I’ll say whatever everyone else has said: The series grew up with its readers
But I don’t want to end it there. With the debate ongoing about whether or not how much or how little The Chronicles of Narnia is YA or how much or how little The Giver series is YA, the debate of what the Harry Potter series hasn’t ended just because one of the best articles you’ve ever read has been published.
Thus, I have to ask: does it even matter? On Harry Potter’s 20th anniversary, Voxwrote that “[Harry Potter] was a global sensation that everyone had to read, even adults…in a post- Harry Potter world, it is taken for granted that YA is universal”.
Image Via VJ Books
At ThrillerFest 2019, F Paul Wilson was asked why he decided to write middle-grade fiction. His response was simply: after he went into Microsoft Word to check and see how many active and passives sentences he had. While on there, Microsoft also told him his reader level. “Didn’t have to change my style,” he noted, but it was helpful knowing the reading level when it came to marketing the book.
Image Via Fatherly
However, the best summation of middle-grade and YA came from R. L. Stine, who noted that, “The main difference between middle-grade and YA is ten dollars.”