October 18, 2011

Books Winning Awards or Award-winning Books?

If it's fall, then it's Canada's book award season. We've just had the TD Canadian Children's Literature Awards, and the short lists for the Governor-General's Book Awards and the Giller have been announced.  This week the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading announced the nominated titles for its reading programs (including Blue Spruce, Silver Birch and Red Maple).  Just being nominated is a huge accomplishment and a designation that many publishers are delighted to see on their books.  These nominations, regardless of the final selection, will translate readily into sales and promotions and recognition.  It's a big deal.

But then, everyone - readers, booksellers, publishers, authors, illustrators, book clubs, judges and juries, librarians, consumers - awaits the ceremonies and the naming of the triumphant tomes.  No matter what book is selected for an award, there will be some grumblings.

Having been on enough award selection committees, I know how diligent juries are about their readings and determinations and ultimately their selections.  When you're on a committee, your first choice may or may not be selected the winner.  But, with thorough discussions and in-depth analyses and consideration, all committee members agree on the single title to be declared the winner.

Sitting in an audience, awaiting the announcement of the winners of the TD Canadian Children's Literature awards, hundreds of us had undoubtedly made our own selections.  Personally, I picked 4 of the 5 award winners.  The winner of the fifth (and I refuse to tell you which one) had not even been on my radar as a winner.  That doesn't mean it didn't deserve to win.  It just means that a jury of gifted writers and/or readers experienced some aspects that I had not.  Somewhere, within the wealth of their past reading, the burdens of their regrets or traumas, the joys in their reminiscences or their life context during their perusal of that book, the story touched them and held fast onto their hearts.  Since we each have our own portfolio of experiences, we may be touched by different facets of stories or not touched at all.

So, the next time you hear someone grumbling that a book shouldn't have won, be sure to correct the speaker, because it did, so it should have.

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