Update 10:48 a.m. Eastern Time: We Are the Ship has won the 2009 Robert F. Silbert Medal for “the most distinguished informational book for children” from the American Library Association.
The latest in a series of occasional posts that predict the winners of major book awards
A last-minute prediction from Jan the Hungarian, about 11 hours before the American Library Association announces the winners of its 2009 Newbery and Caldecott medals …
Kadir Nelson’s We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball (Hyperion, 88 pp., $18.99) will win the 2009 Caldecott.
I’ve held off on calling this one because the text of this nonfiction book has obvious factual and other errors that Kevin Baker noted in his review in the New York Times Book Review (and that I confirmed easily). But the Caldecott judges aren’t allowed to consider the text unless it interferes with the pictures, so Nelson has a get-out-of-jail free pass on that one. And We Are the Ship strikes me as this year’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the novel that got the 2008 Caldecott despite its own flawed text (in which, among other things, the young hero wrongly blamed himself for the death of his father and the book left the issue unresolved).
Consider this: A big advantage The Invention of Hugo Cabret had over other 2008 candidates was its novelty. Brian Selznick told its story alternately in words and black-and-white drawings, merging the picture- and chapter-book formats in a way that no book had done. We Are the Ship has a similar novelty going for it: The art consists of dozens of original oil paintings. (When was the last time you saw that in a children’s book?) Nelson also uses only first-person plural narration (“we” instead of “I”), which – although the judges aren’t supposed to consider it — is even rarer than oil paintings in picture books. So like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, We Are the Ship would be a defensible choice, if not the ideal one. And I’m guessing that tomorrow, as so often in the past, the ALA will favor safety over risk-taking.
© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.