Children's writing

The Cybils

The 2009 Cybils winners were announced on Sunday. The Cybils are Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards. The reading public nominates books, and the bloggers choose the winners.

Cybils winners automatically go on my Recommended Reading list. I tend to think these are the real cream of the crop, that of all the kidlit awards out there–and there are heaps–these are top shelf. “Why?” you ask. Well, I’ll tell you.

On one end of the kidlit award spectrum you’ve got the Newbery/Printz/Caldecott bunch of awards. These are chosen by American Library Association members. Librarians have studied literature in ways the reading public and kids have not. Their tastes and sensibilities are different as a result. Though I find I share a lot of their sensibilities, I know that the public and kids sometimes don’t. Some kids cringe at the mention of a Newbery-winning book; they automatically think it’s going to be hard, boring, educational, or somehow good for them. They’re often right.

Elsewhere on the kidlit award spectrum you’ve got various regional and genre awards. These often limit nominations to specific subjects or authors from specific places and are selected by smallish groups of people with a common interest or purpose. The competition doesn’t seem as big.

And then there are the Cybils. Anybody can nominate a book. This opens the door to every single children’s book out there, whether it’s fine literature or just a flipping good read. But the Public doesn’t get to choose the winners, and thank goodness for that. The Public awards are called “Bestsellers,” and call me a snob if you must, but in my opinion, the Public doesn’t always have the best taste. They are too influenced by hype, flash, fads, trends, and being part of something big, whatever it may be. It’s the old Ayn Rand mediocrity-of-the-masses phenomenon.

The Cybils take the nominations of the Public and filter them through kidlit bloggers, some of whom may be librarians, all of whom read widely in the kidlit field. They’ve seen all the hype before, time and time again. They are so saturated in old hype that new hype runs right off them.

The end results are books the public and kidlit pros and semi-pros like. In other words, the results are, quite simply, good books.