Amplifying Voices, Perspectives, and Experiences with USBBY’s 2021 Outstanding International Books List
BY JENNIFER M. GRAFF AND BETTIE PARSONS BARGER
“The stories you read can transform you. They can help you imagine beyond yourself. When you read a great story you leave home. We leave home to find home.”
(Rochman & McCampbell, 1997, p. vii)
The COVID-19 Pandemic has significantly shifted global travel to “zooming” from digital screen to digital screen and surfing online streaming services. For those fatigued by such excursions, international children’s books can offer exciting and thought-provoking adventures of the heart, mind, spirit, and global consciousness. Readers can enter fantastic worlds, hear previously unheard voices and perspectives, learn more about scientific worlds and cultural communities, and become immersed in emotional episodes that speak to senses of humanity and belonging in books published on multiple continents. The United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY)’s annual Outstanding International Books (OIB) list is a great go-to guide for such literary experiences.
As mentioned in Wendy Stephens’ overview of youth literature awards and described by USBBY President, Evie Freeman, the OIB list provides readers of all ages--especially educators and readers in grades PreK-12--a collection of 40-42 books originally published outside of the United States (U.S.) that are now available in the U.S. These books, selected by a committee of teachers, librarians, children’s literature and literacy education teacher educators and scholars, connect us to noteworthy international authors and illustrators who seek to entertain, inform, challenge, delight, stimulate, and unite people through story.
Engaging with the 2021 OIB List: A Geographical Map and Themed Text Sets
Even with the grade-level band organization of the OIB list, selecting which books to read might feel daunting. Two ways to help facilitate book selections are the Interactive Google Map and thematic text sets.
Each OIB list has its own interactive Google Map, illustrating the international communities represented by the selected books. Using the color-coded pins on the world map or the left sidebar, select a book to zoom in on its location. Additional uses of the maps include critical analyses and discussions about dominant/absent voices, cultural representations, and equity on a global scale.
The 2021 OIB books also fit within text sets conducive to interdisciplinary and socioemotional learning as well as differentiated instruction. The table below includes the 35 OIB titles identified for PreK-8 grades organized into five themes. While each book is mentioned once, many could fit into multiple themes. The variety of genres, formats, and cultural origins reminds us that storytelling and humanity have no borders and amplifies the connections and intersections of self and society. Visit the USBBY OIB website or the February issue of the School Library Journal for all of the book annotations.
Rochman, H., & McCampbell, D. Z. (1997). Leaving home. HarperCollins
Children’s Literature References
The OIB 2021 Bookmark has bibliographic information for the aforementioned books.
Jennifer M. Graff is an Associate Professor in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia, is a former CLA President and has been a CLA Member for 15+ years.
Bettie Parsons Barger is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at Winthrop University and has been a CLA Member for 10+ years.
BY WENDY STEPHENS
In addition to the ALSC awards described in the previous post, the Young Adult Library Association (YALSA) also designates award-winning and honor books for adolescent literature.
Among the best-known awards for adolescent literature is the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, administered by YALSA. However, there are many other opportunities to learn about exceptional literature for teens. The life and legacy of Margaret A. Edwards are honored through two award designations:
A shortlist of finalists for two of YALSA's flagship awards -- the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award, honoring the best nonfiction books for teens and the William C. Morris Award, which honors a debut book written for young adults by a previously unpublished author, are announced in December, with the winner of each being part of the press conference.
In addition to designating award books, YALSA also compiles book list resources that can aid librarians and teachers in selecting books that appeal to young adults. A decade ago, YALSA moved four of its lists onto The Hub, its literature blog platform, so that youth services librarians involved in collection development could benefit from more real-time input. All four categories post throughout the year, leading to year-end lists reflecting that year's best titles.
Outside the Monday morning announcements, there are myriad other titles to explore. Among those, the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) uses Midwinter to announce its Outstanding International Books (OIB) list showcasing international children's titles -- books published or distributed in the United States that originated or were first published in a country other than the U.S. -- that are deemed the most outstanding of those published during that year. RISE: A Feminist Book Project for ages 0-18, previously the Amelia Bloomer Project, is a committee of the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT), that produces an annual annotated book list of well-written and well-illustrated books with significant feminist content for young readers.
There are even genre fiction honors. For the past four years, the Core Excellence in Children’s and Young Adult Science Fiction Notable Lists designates notable children’s and young adult science fiction, organized into three age-appropriate categories, also announced at Midwinter.
Next year, we will have another treat to look forward to when the Graphic Novel and Comics Round Table (GNCRT) inaugurates its Reading List.
That's a lot of books! What are the can't-miss titles? I train my students to look for overlaps, like Candace Fleming winning this year for information text across age ranges. What does it indicate when the Sibert and YALSA's Nonfiction Award overlap? When a book is honored by both the Printz and YALSA Nonfiction?
Though the in-person announcement is exhilarating, especially the view from the seats at the front of the auditorium reserved for committee members, the webcast approximates its energy and allows you to share with students in real-time. To make sure you catch all of the lists, follow the press releases from ALA News and on twitter. Until next January!
Wendy Stephens is an Assistant Professor and the Library Media Program Chair at Jacksonville State University.
BY WENDY STEPHENS
This post is the first in a 2-part series by Wendy Stephens discussing the rich landscape of book awards announced over the winter months. In this first post, Wendy focuses on ALSC awards and awards by ALA affiliates recognizing books for children or books for a wide spectrum of age groups. The second post, which will be published next week, will present awards for YA literature administered by YALSA, as well as several other notable awards.
When we talk about budgeting for materials, I always advise my school librarian candidates to be sure to save some funding for January. No matter how good their ongoing collection development has been throughout the year, there are always some surprises when the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards (YMAs) roll around, and they'll want to be able to share the latest and best in children's literature with their readers. These are the books that will keep their collections up-to-date and relevant.
From our own childhoods, we always remember the "books with the medals" -- particularly the John Newbery for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature and the Randolph Caldecott for the most distinguished American picture book for children. These books become must-buys and remain touchstones for young readers. In 2021, Newbery is celebrating its one hundredth year. Some past winners and honor books are very much a product of their time, and many of those once held in high esteem lack appeal today.
For those of us working with children and with children's literature, the new books honored at Midwinter offer opportunities to revisit curriculum, update mentor texts, and build Lesesneian "reading ladders." Each award committee has its own particular award criteria and guidelines for eligibility, and its own process and confidentiality norms.
Every year, the YMAs seems to be peppered with small surprises. Does New Kid winning the Newbery means graphic novels are finally canonical? Is Neil Gaiman an American? What about all the 2015 Caldecott honors, including the controversial That One Summer? Did the Newbery designation of The Last Stop on Market Street mean you can validate using picture books with older students? How does Cozbi A. Cabrera's much-honored art work resonate at this historical moment?
In Horn Book and School Library Journal, Newbery, Caldecott and Printz contenders are tracked throughout the year in blogs like Someday My Printz Will Come, Heavy Medal, and Calling Caldecott. Other independent sites like Guessing Geisel, founded by Amy Seto Forrester are equally devoted to award prediction. Among librarians and readers, there are lots of armchair quarterbacks, and conducting mock Newbery and Caldecotts, either among groups of professionals or with children, have become almost a cottage industry. There are numerous how-tos on that subject, from reputable sources like The Nerdy Book Club and BookPage. But there are numerous other awards announced at ALA Midwinter almost simultaneously that deserve your attention, too.
Among the Association for Library Services for Children (ALSC) awards are: the Robert F. Sibert Medal, the Mildred L. Batchelder Award, the Geisel Award, the Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media Award, and the Children's Literature Legacy Award.
Aside from the award winners, each year annual ALSC Children's Notable Lists are produced in categories for Notable Children's Recordings, Notable Children's Digital Media, and Notable Children's Books. If you want to see the machinations behind the designation, those discussions are open to the public this year via virtual meeting links.
Outside of ALSC, many of ALA’s affiliates have their own honors for children's literature. These include the Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) which sponsors the Coretta Scott King Book Awards; the Association of Jewish Libraries which sponsors the Sydney Taylor Book Awards; and REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking which sponsors the Pura Belpré awards. In addition to these affiliates, others such as the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association and the American Indian Library Association also present awards.
The awards are always evolving to reflect the abundance of literature available for young people. Like the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association awards, the American Indian Youth Literature Awards were first added to the televised YMA event in 2018. And this year was the first year for inclusion for a new Young Adult category for the Pura Belpré.
Two awards of particular significance are the Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Awards are given annually to English-language works found to be of exceptional merit for children or teens relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience, and the Schneider Family Book Awards, honoring authors or illustrators for the artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences, with recipients in three categories: younger children, middle grades, and teens.
Wendy Stephens is an Assistant Professor and the Library Media Program Chair at Jacksonville State University.
BY EVELYN B. FREEMAN
International books open the world to your students. During this time when children everywhere are experiencing the global pandemic, sharing and experiencing stories across cultures help guide young readers towards realizing the similarities that unite us while recognizing and valuing our unique differences.
Deanna Day-Wiff, a member of the 2020 OIB Committee, who teaches at Washington State University-Vancouver Campus, has shared books with her teacher education students. Deanna describes examples of how she used two of the books from the 2020 list.
USBBY is an organization devoted to building bridges of international understanding through children’s and young adult books. It serves as the U.S. national section of the International Board on Books for Young People, with headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. The National Council of Teachers of English is a patron organization of USBBY and appoints two NCTE members, who are usually active members of CLA, to the USBBY Board. To learn more about the organizition, visit USBBY's website.
Evelyn B. Freeman is Professor Emerita at The Ohio State University and a former CLA President.