The Biebs and Ivan Connection: My (Serious) 2013 Newbery Insight

For the sake of clarity: this post is about making the connection between two very talented people from different spheres (Katherine Applegate and Justin Bieber) and how social media has contributed to the buzz about those talents.  It is not a post about calling into question these people’s talents (even if Justin Bieber isn’t your cup of tea, he writes songs, plays several instruments and is a pretty dang good singer while bouncing around on stage).

I do not think Katherine Applegate won a Newbery because of Twitter.  I think she won one because she is extremely, undeniably talented.  Same thing with Bieber: I don’t think he wins awards because of Twitter.  I think he wins them because he is also talented.

While anyone can, of course, disagree with my opinions on what constitutes talent, I want to make it clear that this post is about observing a tremendously positive, exciting change in the way readers are celebrating books for young people on social media.  I think Twitter has changed the level of excitement about the Newbery in a very good way.  I do not think Twitter had anything to do with the fact that a very deserving book – The One and Only Ivan – won the Newbery.  No matter the state of technology when it was published, Ivan would have won.  I really believe that. So…

Stay with me on this one.

So in November, Oprah interviewed Justin Bieber and commented that he is like no other celebrity in history because of social media.  Essentially she says (and quite smartly, I think) that Biebs can’t really be considered on the same level as Elvis or The Beatles or even Michael Jackson because of the role that Twitter played in his rise to success.

Y’all, I think the same thing happened to The One and Only Ivan this year.  It’s a Newbery game changer.

I don’t have Photoshop. Can you tell?

To my knowledge, this is the first time there has ever been a real concentrated rallying around a particular Newbery contender on Twitter.  Sure, there have been predictions and fan favorites and things, but nothing like what Mr. Schu and Colby Sharp started; from Twitter chats to vlogging to hashtagging ’round the clock, I’d say there was a definite Ivan movement. In 2011, there certainly wasn’t a Moon Over Manifest movement as no one had read the dang thing.  And while I remember tons of buzz around When You Reach Me for the 2010 prize, I don’t think there was the kind of mobilization that there was with Ivan. And in January 2009, only the really cool kids were on Twitter.

To further my point, has a Newbery award winner ever thought of a blogger(s) immediately after hearing the news of winning the award?

And has a Newbery award winner ever thanked a Twitter community or blogger(s) in their acceptance speech?  Not that I know of, and I’ll betcha my little blue bowler hat that’s gonna happen come Chicago.

It’s the future, folks. Let’s celebrate with this song from The Jetsons movie that, when I was eight years old, considered THE MOST ROMANTIC THING OF ALL TIME.

 

um….(2013 ALA Youth Media Awards gasps and more)

BEST THING EVER.

That was Jon Klassen’s Twitter reaction to pulling a total Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen style Caldecott move by snagging both an honor and the medal at the ALA Youth Media Awards this morning.  As Uncle Jesse would say “Haaaave Mercy!”

Shannon Ozirny: Psychic

Now I know tons of people made actual predictions that came true, but I would just like to point y’all back to a little tweet I busted out 12 days ago:

That’s right.  Now, Three Time Lucky only got a Newbery Honor, but this makes me at least 1/2 psychic.

Freaking Out

This was my very first time attending the awards.  It was 14 hours ago and I still kinda feel like this.  It was beyond exciting.

I think the biggest thrill was Beverley Brenna winning a Printz Honor for White Bicycle.  I thought the name sounded familiar, and after some quick Googling, I confirmed that she is from Saskatchewan!  Me too!

Things That Make You Go…Gasp!

There were some particularly cray moments this morning for reals.  Gonna bust out the bullets for this one:

  • No Printz love for The Fault in Our Stars.  How does a book with a million starred reviews and a Time review quote of “Damn near genius” get jack?  Beats me.
  • No Illustration Honors for the Pura Belpre. Zip.
  • No Schneider love for Wonder.
  • An Artemis Fowl book got an Odyssey award.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t said the words “Artemis Fowl” since about 2009.

Me Being an Idiot

The funny thing about conferences is that you are so busy running around and squealing when you run into people that you forget to eat.  This happened to me on Saturday.  Then I hit the sauce a bit and repeatedly called Kirby Larson “Clare.”  As in Clare Vanderpool.  Kirby is seriously the most gracious, upbeat, kind, wonderful person you will ever meet so she didn’t seem to mind at all, but STILL.  At least I was confusing her with another amazing Newbery talent and wasn’t calling her Francine Pascal or Lauren Conrad.

#1 Pal Award

Finally, a big shout-out to my ride or die pal Travis of 100 Scope Notes for hassling me (in a nice way) to get back in the saddle with my blog.  I bounced the majority of my tweets off of him this weekend and also about 93% of the content of this blog post after the ceremony, so if you’re digging it, you can thank him.  Travis followed me on Twitter back in the day when I had about 60 followers and he, along with the indefatigable ray of sunshine that is Mr. Schu, have been so supportive and made me feel utterly welcome at my first ALA conference back in Anaheim.  If it weren’t for the good people at Random House and the amazing Kate McClelland and Kathy Krasniewicz Memorial Scholarship that I won last year, I’m not sure that I would have made it to ALA and made some great friends.  So good stuff all around.

And in my perennial efforts to bring Jay-Z into everything, I give you this music-less tribute to Jay-Z’s favorite headwear, the Yankee cap.  I’m sure if anyone took it from him, he would go loco on them Klassen style (the best part is the random dudes they intersperse where you’re all “That’s not HOVA.”)

How Liar & Spy Relates to One of My Darkest Secrets

 

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead. Random House Children’s Books (Wendy Lamb Books). Release Date: August 7, 2012. Reviewed from ALA ARC.

I want to begin this review by making a confession:

I own an Insight From the Dalai Lama calendar.  You ever wonder who buys those for 75% at the bookstore?  It was me.  I admit it.

It is one of those page-a-day rip-off style ones with a new quote for each day. Except for the weekends – there is only one quote/page for Saturday and Sunday.  I guess the Dalai Lama needs some time off too.

What does this have to do with Rebecca Stead’s new book?  Two things.

First, I was incredibly eager to see if Liar & Spy was going to live up to the Rebecca Stead of When You Reach Me.  Like everyone else on the planet, I fell deeply in love with that book and Stead’s writing style.  To me, Stead is the Dalai Lama of children’s books. Her prose are at once deep and moving but always optimistic and full of love.  She writes with such economy and clarity.  If Stead’s words had a body, I think they would look like the Dalai Lama: smiley, comfy and a just a little bit kooky (have you heard the Dalai Lama laugh?  It’s a bit kooky.  But enjoyable so).

I worried that this mix of loveliness and faith that permeated When You Reach Me was a bit of a fluke, and Stead was going to come out next with a dystopian adventure set in Norse mythology or something.  Or that her next book would just be WYRM 1.0.  But Liar & Spy isn’t WYRM 1.0.  It’s just as good.  It might even be better.

The second reason I bring up my Dalai Lama calendar is because I believe owning one is highly embarrassing. Isn’t it just one step away from owning a Chicken Soup For the Soul book? I mean, really. And I don’t just own the calendar, people.  I save some of the quotes and put them on my fridge. I take them down before I have company, much like a murderer would hide the arms and legs of her latest victim before having a friend over for sushi and Mad Men.

I bring this up because it relates to one of the themes I found particularly intriguing about Liar & Spy, which is the theme of lying to oneself.  I can’t get into detail without blowing the lid off Stead’s now-signature surprise awesome endings, but both main characters – Georges and Safer – have trouble coming to grips with aspects of themselves.  That’s really all the plot synopsis you need. This “coming to grips” theme usually makes up the whole plot of a middle grade book: kid can’t come to grips with the fact she has an absentee parent, kid can’t come to grips with the fact he is partly some sort of magical beast or wizard or whatever, kid can’t come to grips with the fact he is a horn growing out his butt.  You get the idea.  But the brilliance of Liar & Spy is that figuring out our protagonists’ weaknesses compromises the book’s big climax/revelation – it’s not the whole dang show.  And that is cool.

Others have done much better Lia & Spy reviews wherein they don’t divulge personal oddities and/or affection for the Dalai Lama.  Travis Jonker has a great one over at 100 Scope Notes and Betsy Bird included it in her recent post on 2013 Newbery predictions (my money is on her money that it is going to be a Random House vs. Random House kinda year).

To end this post, I think we should all enjoy this moment of the Dalai Lama not understanding a joke about pizza.