Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Illinois Reader's Choice Awards

I really got behind this year.  That's what happens when you only read the books that interest you and have no assigned reading.  When I was in the glamorous, jet-setting world of children's librarianship, I read the Monarch List, Bluestem List and Caudill List.  This year-nothing.  I did read a couple of them by accident, like The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, but for the most part I ignored the lists and read more YA.  It's not a bad thing, but I'm not getting a well-rounded reading education this way.

As for the glamorous, jet-setting world of children's librarianship, I think I might be romanticizing it because I have been gone too long.  When I look back on it now, I see myself in darling dress outfits, resembling something from the latest Kate Spade line, with cute glasses and pearls, singing to my story time and taming them like Mary Poppins, while reading them Mo Willems books and they all giggle politely and we move on to perfectly ordered crafts where no one eats the glue.  I'm pretty sure that is not at all how my career went down, but I'm going to hold on to that dream for a little while longer.

Back to the award lists.  There are four reader's choice awards in the state of Illinois:  Monarch, Bluestem, Caudill and Abraham Lincoln.  Let's take a closer look.

The Monarch Awards began in 2002 for readers in grades K- 3.  These books are mostly picture books, but do include some beginning readers and easy chapter books.  It's the quickest list to read and gets your momentum going.  Click HERE for the 2014 list.

The Bluestem is the newest award on the block and it is going through some growing pains.  The first list came out in 2011, and it was meant to bridge the gap between the easy Monarchs and the increasingly mature Caudills by targeting children in grades 3-5.  Since the other awards are established, those books are typically only two to three years old, but since the Bluestem is new, there are those nominating very old books for that list, and they are also nominating books that have already won Caudills, or are even currently on the Caudill list.  It's a weird little list right now, but hopefully it evens out and starts to have an identity of its own.  For the 2014 list click HERE.

The Caudill is the most popular Illinois Reader's Choice Award and it is aimed at students in grades 4-8.  It recently celebrated it's 20th birthday and has awarded well known books like The Hunger Games, The Giver, and Holes.  It's a children's literature sweet spot.  However, the books have been leaning more junior high lately, leaving those 4th graders out in the cold, hence the creation of the Bluestem.  I really think that once the Bluestem takes off, the Caudill will become a grades 6-8 award.  Click HERE for the 2014 Caudill List.

And finally we have the Abraham Lincoln Awards for high schoolers.  I never bothered with these when I was a fashionable, sophisticated children's librarian, but now that I read YA with a vengeance, I've found that I've already read half that list.  The great thing about the Lincoln is that readers even have a say over what goes on the list.  At least five books that make the final reading list are reader selected, unlike the other lists which are run by a panel of librarians that I suspect push slow, morality driven books on readers in hopes that it beats a lesson into their precious heads.  (Sorry, I hate a preachy book, and the Caudills tend to be a 50/50 mix of entertaining books and absolute lesson-driven dribble.)  For the 2014 Lincoln List, click HERE.

As you know, I like to make grand reading resolutions on this blog, many of which are complete hogwash and I forget about once I see that there is a new Anna Godberstein novel that I must read.  So, I am setting a very attainable goal this time:  5 books from each list.  Totally easy!  Let's check out my progress so far:

Monarchs-I haven't read one of these yet, but it will honestly take me longer to put five of them on hold than to read them.  Check back soon for a Monarch update.

Bluestems:  Since some of these go way back, I'm actually half way there.  I read Because of Winn-Dixie only a few summers ago, and I know that I read Number the Stars in school.  I don't reread war books, so I'm going to count my adolescent reading of that novel.  I am also pretty sure that I read Knights of the Kitchen Table, which is old enough to drink by the way, and not the best choice for this list.  Jon Scieszka is brilliant, but he has better stuff.

Caudills:  I've got one:  Okay for Now.  It's sneaky book because it looks meaningful, but it's hilarious. Then there's Wonder, which is on my to-read list, plus it's a Caudill and Bluestem, so bonus!  I'll have to think about what else I'll read, but I will get my five books in.

Lincolns:  5 books-check!  I'm done!  Every Day, Cinder, The Night Circus, Divergent, Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  Even though I've technically made my goal, there are some others that I would love to read like Ready Player One, Everybody Sees the Ants, Wintergirls, and the forbidden (for me by my hubby) The Fault in Our Stars.  What I once ignored is now my favorite award.

Book award season is just starting in Illinois.  The 2013 winners will be announced next month and these new lists will keep me busy.

What lists will you be reading?

Happy Reading!

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