Terry Pratchett and other fantasy authors score at this year's ALA Awards

Michael Ann Dobbs

On Monday, the American Library Association announced the winners of dozens of book awards. The most famous of these are the Newbery and the Caldecott awards for children's books and the Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature. They also include the William C. Morris award for best book for young adults by a previously unpublished author, and the Margaret A. Edwards Award and Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, both for "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature,"

And this year, both fantasy books and authors took home a lot of prizes.


This year's Newbery Medal went to Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan, the tale of a painting gorilla who transforms himself through his relationship with a baby elephant. While some people argue that talking animal stories in worlds without magic are somehow "realistic," we all know that animals don't talk — though gorillas do paint.

Two of the Newbery Honor books will also be of interest to genre readers: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz is a gothic fantasy for the tweens out there, complete with witches and creepy puppets. Lots of creepy puppets. Non-fiction book Bomb: The Race to Build-and Steal-the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheink, may not actually be science fiction, but will appeal to your kid who wants to be a scientist when he or she grows up. Bomb also won the Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, so consider it both factually accurate and a great read!

The Printz Award Winners are traditionally books that take on serious adult topics in teen literature. So it may be a surprise to hear that it went to Nick Lake's new book In Darkness. Lake is the author of Blood Ninja, a series of books about vampire ninjas. And yet, In Darkness is a serious book, about a boy trapped in a collapsed hospital during the 2010 Haitian earthquake. While trapped, Shorty has visions of Toussaint l'Ouverture, the leader of Haiti's slave revolt. Less straight-up fantasy and more genre-bending slipstream, it's still a book that reduces readers to tears. Slipstream seems popular at the Printz committee, as the list of Honor books included Terry Pratchett's Dodger, a novel that blends fictional characters and real-life Londoners.


Seraphina a book we loved, when it came out last year, won the William C. Morris Award for best YA book by a previously unpublished author. The committee was won over by Rachel Hartman's exquisite prose and intricate world, just like we were.


This year's Laura Ingalls Wilder Award winner was Katherine Paterson, who is most well known for her book about the joys of loving and creating fantasy, Bridge to Terabithia. Among her many realistic fiction books, are a couple of fantasy books, including a retelling of the Parsifal tale and a fantasy book for middle graders, The Flint Heart.


Perhaps most excitingly, the Margaret A. Edwards Award went to fantasy author Tamora Pierce, for the books in her Tortall universe. The awarding committee stated, "Pierce's books and characters have been influencing both readers and writers of fantasy since their inception." She was specifically awarded for The Song of the Lioness and Protector of the Small series, both of which are about girls becoming knights in medieval fantasy realm. We're guessing this is because the committee didn't have time to read the rest of her books, since the other 17 are just as good.

If you've got kids who like fantasy (or if you like children's fantasy books yourself) last year was a great year, and it's always great when the critics recognize that.


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