Cheap shot? Maybe. But it's hard to resist a good cheap shot. Here's the story:
I was in the auditorium for the live announcement of the American Library Association Youth Media Awards this Monday morning. A huge crowd - HUGE - had assembled to hear the big news in person, to hug each other when our favorites win or to engage in wild speculative gossip about WHAT that committee could POSSIBLY have been thinking when they chose THAT book. It's so fun. My favorite part is when the number of honor titles for an award is announced, and you hear a ripple of excited murmurs roll through the room - and then an immediate collective giggle at what geeks we all are.
This year, the Geisel Award for "the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year" was awarded to David Adler and Sam Ricks for their book Don't Throw It to Mo!. There is a (slightly erroneous) perception that this beginning reader award has more or less belonged to Mo Willems ever since he started writing his Elephant & Piggie books - so when this title was announced, I leaned over to Andria Amaral sitting next to me and whispered, "That's so funny! They didn't throw the Geisel to Mo!" As I straightened up, we could hear the whole auditorium making the same connection - pockets of muted laughter stirring through the audience. God I love librarians.
I ran into Jon Scieszka a little later. He said he couldn't wait to tease Mo about it. "And he'll pretend he has no idea what I'm talking about."
Cheap shot or no, "Don't throw it to Mo" works pretty well to sum up a slate of awards that went to some unexpected choices. For example, as Todd Krueger pointed out, Don't Throw It To Mo is a series book, and not the first in a series, which is unusual for Geisel choices. Many award committees did great work surveying the whole field, and not just the frontrunners. Let's have a look at some highlights, in order by how they were announced on Monday: