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Children’s librarian Kampa is gearing up for ‘Newbery Monday’

Image of Tracy Kampa reading to a child, award medals, and logo for American Library Association's youth media awards
Tammy Bobrowsky
The American Library Association's Youth Media Awards take place annually.

“My favorite hour of the year.” Children’s librarian Tracy Kampa is back to celebrate another year of the Newbery, Caldecott and other American Library Association Youth Media Awards.

On Monday, Jan. 22, the 2024 Youth Media Awards for outstanding children and young adult books will be announced at the American Library Association’s LibLearnX conference in Baltimore, Maryland.

Several awards and honors are given each year, highlighting excellence in writing, art, inclusivity and portrayal of different experiences. Some awards of note include:

  • Alex Award for young adult books, 
  • American Indian Youth Literature Award for books by and about Native American and Indigenous peoples of North America, 
  • Coretta Scott King Award for books by African American authors and illustrators, 
  • Pura Belpré Award for Latino/Latina writers and illustrators whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience, and 
  • The Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book. 

What We’re Reading contributor Tracy Kampa, who is the children’s librarian at the Grand Rapids Area Library, is especially excited about the John Newbery Medal, which is awarded for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

Kampa refers to the awards ceremony as “Newbery Monday” and “my favorite hour of the year.”

"I was just so surprised and so undone by it. They are life-changing calls."
Minnesota writer Kate DiCamillo on getting the phone calls that she won the Newbery Medal.

Each year at this time, Kampa counts down the days to the awards ceremony which will be livestreamed for those who can’t be there in person. In a recent installment of What We’re Reading, Kampa provided some background about the awards and explained how winners receive a phone call before the announcements are made, which is typically very early in the morning.

As a two-time winner of the Newbery Medal, Minnesota writer Kate DiCamillo has received two of those early morning phone calls. Kampa talked with DiCamillo recently about her experience being awarded the Newbery Medal for her books The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses.

Photo of the author Kate DiCamillo.
Candlewick Press / Author's website
Kate DiCamillo, writer.

DiCamillo said, “When they called for Flora & Ulysses, the only thing I kept saying was, ‘But it’s about a squirrel.’ I was just so surprised and so undone by it. They are life-changing calls.”

Picking a winner is not an easy process. Kampa noted how serious the selection committees are about making sure they pick the best book and following the very strict judging rules. Specifically, the Newbery Award committee is made up of 15 people who each must read between 150 to 300 books the previous year.

Kampa explained, “Their discussions are not only held under a veil of the utmost secrecy, but they remain under a gag order for 50 years.”

Kampa noted whichever books win will sure to be great reads, but she also has some favorites she’s hoping will be recognized at the award ceremony:

  • Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow, 
  • The Labors of Hercules Beal by Gary D. Schmidt, 
  • The Probability of Everything by Sarah Everett, 
  • The Mona Lisa Vanishes, by Nicholas Day, and 
  • A First Time for Everything, by Dan Santat. 

We will check back in with Tracy Kampa for her analysis after the awards.

You can watch the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22. Livestream the event here.

View a full list of awards and past winners.

Looking for a good book recommendation? Want to recommend a book you've just read?  Check out our What We're Reading page on Facebook, or text us at 218-326-1234.

What We're Reading is made possible in part by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.

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Tammy works at Bemidji State University's library, and she hosts "What We're Reading," a show about books and authors.