MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The American Library Association announced its Youth Media Awards today in Denver. A long list of authors and artists were honored for works of fiction and nonfiction for kids and young adults. The awards that always draw the most excitement and attention are the Caldecott and Newbery medals, as NPR's Lynn Neary reports.
LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: A gathering of true believers was on hand today to hear the announcement of the awards at the ALA's annual midwinter meeting. Loud cheers rang out as crowd favorites were honored for a range of awards from best newcomer to lifetime achievement. Nina Lindsay, who emceed the event, says some librarians had a lot invested in the winners.
NINA LINDSAY: Sometimes there are controversial titles or underdogs that people have been championing for a long time. So sometimes when you hear the loudest yell in the room, it's the person who feels really vindicated that they've been talking this book up all year long and now it has a sticker on it.
NEARY: That sticker on the front cover of a winning book carries a lot of weight. It can bring with it new respect, and hopefully more sales. It can literally change the course of a career. Erin Entrada Kelly was on the road this morning when she got a message from her editor asking where she was.
ERIN ENTRADA KELLY: And I said, I'm in my car. Where am I supposed to be? She said, someone's about to call you. Pick up the phone. So I was on 95, and I started screaming and immediately turned around and came back home.
NEARY: That's how Kelly learned that she had won the Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature for her book, "Hello, Universe." The Newbery judges said it is a story where Filipino folklore and real life converge. Kelly says the story reflects some of what she herself experienced as a young girl.
KELLY: You know, when I grew up, I was the only Filipino in my school. And it was - you know, I felt very much like an outsider. So that's something that's also really important to me is to write books that celebrate the underdog, that celebrate characters who might be underestimated or who might be - feel like they're alone in the world.
NEARY: Kelly says she's still stunned by the award.
KELLY: It's incredibly overwhelming to know that that little girl that I was, you know, when I was 9 or 10, writing books and feeling like that little alone girl, now has been bestowed, you know, the highest honor in children's literature that you can possibly receive. I mean, it's really hard to put into words what that means for me.
MATTHEW CORDELL: I was speechless. Like, I - for the first time in my life that I can think of I had no words. I couldn't put together a sentence.
NEARY: Matthew Cordell was honored with a Caldecott medal for best picture book for "Wolf In The Snow." It's a story that turns the Little Red Riding Hood tale on its head, though Cordell says that wasn't intentional. It began as a single image.
CORDELL: The picture was a girl in a red coat, and she was standing in a snowy field. And she's looking across that field, very - not too far from her - standing a - an adult wolf.
NEARY: "Wolf In The Snow" is what's known as a wordless book because there's no text. The pictures tell the whole story.
CORDELL: Of all the books and stories I've created, this was one I felt like didn't need the text. The text was really just kind of getting in the way. Yeah, so this was my first crack at a wordless book. But now I've sort of got the bug, so I'm working on another wordless book right now.
NEARY: After catching their breath, both Cordell and Kelly hope to celebrate. Though Kelly says first, she plans to clean her house. Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.
(SOUNDBITE OF NOBODY'S "WAKE UP AND SMELL THE MILLENIUM")
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