I did two full Javits Center days at Book Expo this year, and swore I wasn't coming back on Saturday, when the show opens to the general public and the signing lines GET REAL.
But I did. I skated in quietly on Saturday to see who won the Boston Globe / Horn Book Awards. These awards are less well-known than the big ALA awards, but to some they are more prestigious. The committees that award them are small and thoughtful and savvy.
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith won the top Fiction award, and anybody who has read it will 1) agree with that choice and 2) try to remember the last time such a funny and deeply weird book won so high an award. I stayed up til after 2am reading it on my iPad in a dimly lit hotel lobby in Philadelphia. It's that good.
I will venture to say that the Boston Globe Horn Book Award might not be the only big award this year for this book. Ha - "Not since James Joyce's Ulysses has a book so preoccupied with spooge won so much critical acclaim." That'll be the tagline for the movie rights auction. That's yours for free, Smith.
Boxers & Saints by Gene Yang won an Honor for Fiction. Also a bold choice, as this is a twinset of graphic novels. Although it is a twinset of graphic novels that has won just about every award it is eligible for - you teach those Boxers to dance and I swear it would win a Tony too. I have placed multiple copies of Boxers & Saints in an 8th grade classroom of by and large reluctant readers, and these books - about the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1899! have been read to ribbons by those kids.
In a year of superlative picture books, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown won top honors. I was on the Cybils Fiction Picture Book committee this year and we looooved Mr. Tiger. One of my fellow committee members wrote the most beautiful, informed breakdown of its brilliance I have ever seen. At the Awards announcements, I totally annoyed Peter by making him draw a Mr. Tiger in my autograph book next to his signature. I am sorry, man. But I have my reasons.
Shaun Tan's Rules of Summer won an honor in this category. I just the other day reviewed the app of that book, for School Library Journal's Touch and Go blog. I said, "The title itself implies sunlit, child-governed anarchy, exploration, arbitrary tests of fearlessness—a world in the process of being interpreted anew through a child’s eyes. And in this app, what they see is mind-blowing." The book is LUSCIOUSLY printed - if you can get your hands on it, do.
Later that day, in another part of the forest:
That's Jen Downey, author of the tantalizingly titled The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand, playing Book Title Charades at the NYPL Kids Author Carnival, a BEA-adjacent event at which the adults were - finally - purely peripheral. Tim Federle emceed the charades - I guess they thought he'd be a ringer if they let him act out titles.
Caroline Carlson (ooh second Mostly Honorable Pirates book is coming soon!), Chris Healy (when Milo heard that the third Hero's Guide book is available, he whipped his head around and gave me such a stinkeye! Ok! I'll bring it home for you!), and Matt Cody (Supers of Noble's Green and MAN I like those covers) were un-self-conscious and enthusiastic Charadesters. I have photos and/or video of all of them. FYI.
There were almost 40 authors at the event, and they all leapt (in some cases literally) into the activities that were planned for the kids.
There was Pictionary too - this is Laurel Snyder drawing clues to The Secret Garden, which the kids got RIGHT OFF. Smart cookies, these kiddos. Her book Seven Stories Up is SO good.
Was that it? That was it. Now we're home. Milo is sitting in a tiny uncomfortable chair giggling over Lish McBride's new book Firebug. Ezra will not be parted from Guts & Glory: The American Civil War, a nonfiction book by Ben Thompson, creator of Badass of the Week, where I have just spent an entertaining half hour giggling over Queen Tamar of Georgia. Oh, Tamar. You murderous huzz.
There are a few books I wish I'd gotten my hands on. Evil Librarian, for obvious reasons. Lies We Tell Ourselves, about race and love during the time of school integration. Jim Averbeck's middle grade mystery adventure A Hitch at the Fairmont, which I have already read and very much enjoyed, Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian, and Greg Neri's Knockout Games. I think I can get them all on Edelweiss or Netgalley, but it is dang difficult to booktalk a new book while holding up an ereader.
My short list is so long I can't even think about it. So I am going to start with the new collection of stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales. Just as soon as I hit Publish on this post!