Comics Shine in ALA Youth Media Awards

Roller GirlFor the second year in a row, comics made an impressive showing in the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards! The winners and honorees for 2016 were announced early yesterday morning, and six graphic novels or memoirs were among the books recognized across all award categories.

In ALA Award terminology, Honor Books are those that did not win the top prize in their category, but which the award committee nevertheless wished to recognize — a shortlist of sorts. These five comics were named Honor Books in the designated categories:

  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (Newbery Honor)
  • Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers (Mildred L. Batchelder Honor for books originally published abroad in a non-English language)
  • Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown (Robert F. Sibert Honor for nonfiction books)
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery as told to Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley, illustrated by PJ Loughran (Sibert Honor)
  • Sex Is a Funny Word: A Book About Bodies, Feelings, and YOU by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth (Stonewall Honor for LGBT-themed books)

In addition, Liz Suburbia’s Sacred Heart was one of 10 winners of the Alex Award, recognizing “adult books that appeal to teen audiences.”

Finally, the picture book Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh gets a special mention here due to its subject matter. The book won the Robert F. Sibert Medal for nonfiction titles and placed as an Honor Book in the Pura Belpré Illustrator category, which recognizes illustrators “whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.”

Funny Bones is about José Guadalupe Posada, a 19th century Mexican political cartoonist and printmaker who created a series of satirical illustrations called calaveras that featured “skeletons performing various everyday or festive activities.” Today in Mexico, Posada’s calaveras are viewed as lighthearted symbols of Día de los Muertos, but in his time they were biting indictments of the political ruling class under dictator Porfirio Díaz. In fact, Posada’s work so angered Díaz and his cronies that the cartoonist was first run out of his hometown by a local political boss and later arrested numerous times.

Congratulations to all the winners and honorees! We are thrilled to see comics and graphic novels receiving ever more recognition at the highest levels.

Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work in 2016 by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!

Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.