Yesterday in a virtual event the American Library Association announced the winners of their annual Youth Media Awards. To select these books, committees of librarians read hundreds and thousands of books published in the past year. They champion their favorites and select an amazing list of books.
If you are writing for young readers, whether or not you publish traditionally, you should read at least some of each years winners and here is why.
A window on publishing trends
I don’t read the magazines from cover to cover but I do pay attention to Publishings Weekly, School Library Journal, The Horn Book Reader, and Kirkus. Because of these publications, I am aware of many of the trends in publishing. For exampled, books about Korea and Korean-Americans and by Korean and Korean-American authors are getting buzz this past year.
This year’s Newbery winner is When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller. The book draws on Korean folklore and, like Keller, the main character is biracial.
Libraries are a huge market
Another reason to read the winner and also the honor books is because libraries are a huge market. The winners and honor books are the best of the best as chosen by the librarian who do the buying each year.
These aren’t all of the books that they buy, or even all of the books that they buy for young readers, but these are the books that reflect the hearts of the book buyers. Consider why they chose what they chose and that might impact which idea you next develop into a finished manuscript.
Many types of books
The final reason to read these books is that there is such a huge variety. There are awards for the best book and the best young adult book, the best picture book and the best informational book. There is even an award for the best book in translation, a book first published overseas and then translated and published in the US.
The ALA YMA (Youth Media Awards) are a crash course in the American publishing industry and library market. Take a look at this year’s winners and see what you learn.