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Children’s librarian Kampa breaks down the 2024 ALA Youth Media Awards

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

The 2024 American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards did not disappoint children’s librarian Tracy Kampa (much).

Grand Rapids Area Library children’s librarian Tracy Kampa eagerly awaits “Newbery Monday” each year.

It’s the day each January when the American Library Association’s (ALA) Youth Media Awards are announced during their mid-winter conference.

Kampa was ready to go early in the morning this past Monday, Jan. 22.

“So 6:55 a.m., I'm sitting in front of my computer. I had stopped and got my coffee and my breakfast sandwich because it is my traditional Newbery Monday breakfast. And I was ready to go,” said Kampa in a recent What We’re Reading interview.

The awards are livestreamed and as Kampa watched the fast-paced award announcements, she was busy making lists and taking inventory of what the Grand Rapids Area Library already owns and what they now need to buy.

Typically, Kampa has purchased several of the award books already throughout the year and the ALA awards gives her the opportunity to play with the numbers.

“So out of all of the potential 76 books that had anything to do with the children's library, we already had on our shelves 46 of those.”

Every year Kampa has favorite books she’s read through the year that she roots for, and sometimes she’s just surprised by the award committees’ choices.

“I was pleasantly surprised when they got to the Newbery Medal. The Newbery Medal went to a book called The Eyes and The Impossible. It's written by Dave Eggers and Dave Eggers is normally an adult writer.”

Though Kampa reads dozens upon dozens of books each year, she had not yet read Egger’s book, which was in her to-read pile.

“Have I read it yet? No, because just like other years in the past, they announced the winner and I go, ‘Shoot. It's already on my nightstand.’ It literally was already on my nightstand,” Kampa said.

Occasionally, though, Kampa will be disappointed when her favorite book of the year is passed over at the awards. She noted, “Gary Schmidt, with his The Labors of Hercules Beal was not mentioned anywhere and I've had it out with several Newbery committees with his work.”

For anyone interested in reading the award books, Kampa recommends they check their local bookstores, and of course, their local libraries.

Select list of 2024 awarded or honored children’s and young adult books

The John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature: The Eyes and the Impossible, written by Dave Eggers.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children was awarded to Big, illustrated and written by Vashti Harrison.

The American Indian Youth Literature Awards are announced in even years and were established to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians and Alaska Natives, according to the ALA. The winners include:

  • Forever Cousins, written by Laurel Goodluck (Mandan & Hidatsa and Tsimshian), illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Navajo/Diné);
  • A Letter for Bob, written by Kim Rogers (Wichita & Affiliated Tribes), illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Navajo/Diné);
  • We Still Belong, written by Christine Day (Upper Skagit), cover art by Madelyn Goodnight (Chickasaw Nation); and
  • Rez Ball, written by Byron Graves (Ojibwe), jacket art by Natasha Donovan (Métis).

Byron Graves’s Rez Ball, also won the William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens.

"Rez Ball" is based on writer Byron Graves' adolescence while growing up and playing basketball on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

A full list of the 2024 American Library Association Youth Media award winners and honors can be found here.

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.