RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Awards for the best kids books of the year were announced this morning by the American Library Association. The Caldecott Medal for best picture book went to a book called "Radiant Child: The Story Of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat." And the Newbery for best children's literature went to "The Girl Who Drank The Moon." NPR's Lynn Neary looks back at the impact of these awards.
LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: Everyone, it seems, has a favorite children's book. Adults often fondly remember the first book that really touched them. And when those who write and illustrate kids books win the Caldecott and Newbery Medals? Well, last year's Newbery winner, Matt de la Pena, says it was an unreal experience.
MATT DE LA PENA: I thought, this is probably an episode of "Punk'd." I just couldn't believe it.
NEARY: There's good reason for the excitement, as retired librarian Rita Auerbach noted in 2013, when the called Caldecott Medal celebrated its 75th anniversary.
RITA AUERBACH: It's a little bit like winning the Nobel Prize in that forever afterwards, you are the Caldecott-winning illustrator. That phrase accompanies your name wherever your name appears.
NEARY: But it's even more than that because winners of the Caldecott and Newberry often go on to become classics such as Caldecott winners, "Make Way For Ducklings" and "Where The Wild Things Are" or Newbery winners, "A Wrinkle In Time" or "Bridge To Terabithia." Chris Allsburg has won two Caldecotts for "Jumanji" and "The Polar Express."
CHRIS ALLSBURG: Years ago, I signed it for parents giving it to their children. And their children have subsequently become parents themselves. So now I'm signing it for, you know, for that generation. So that's a terrific feeling.
NEARY: When Matt de la Pena won last year's Newbery medal for "Last Stop On Market Street," there was an extra reason to rejoice.
DE LA PENA: The inclusion of diverse literature is so important to me. And I've been doing this for 10 years, writing diverse characters. And I just want to honor every Hispanic author who's come before me.
NEARY: And in addition to becoming classics, the Caldecott and Newbery winners often become best-sellers as well.
Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.
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