100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

The Relative Surprise-iness of the 2016 Youth Media Awards

“So, what are your favorites?”

That’s the question everyone asks each other at ALA Midwinter. The day before the Youth Media Awards were announced, I told a friend I was hoping for a happy surprise or two.

Now that the medals have been distributed, I want to talk about four individual moments that made me raise the ol’ eyebrows – almost always in a good way.

So, from least surprising to most surprising, here we go…


No Mo

This one isn’t a happy surprise, just a surprise. I have been told by folks that Mo Willems has won a Geisel Honor or Medal every year he has released an Elephant & Piggie book. In true irresponsible blogger form, I refuse to research this, but I have been told, I have been told. This year, no Mo (although – ha – the Geisel winning book is Don’t Throw it to Mo!). If I’m looking at this through my “the universe has a plan” lens, it’s because he will be winning the Geisel Medal next year for the final E&P, The Thank You Book. Big Question: does the universe have a plan? Please advise. The Geisel announcement also led to a side surprise. You see, I was feeling pretty good about my predictions this year and none of the came true. None! I listed 11 books! What the heck?! I’m going on record as saying the T.S.G. (how cool/really lame people refer to the Theodore Seuss Geisel) might just be the hardest award to predict.

Trombone Shorty

Trombone Shorty Caldecott/Coretta Scott King

This is a classic case of “Hear the announcement. Pause. Think about the book. Get a big smile. Start nodding your head, smiling and saying ‘yes’.” This is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for when I said “happy surprise” – a great book that was not receiving much buzz in the lead-up to the awards. This is why buzz is dumb. It’s also what makes the Youth Media Awards fun. Great to see.

Roller Girl Newbery

A Newbery Honor for Roller Girl

This was probably my favorite book of 2015, and I wasn’t expecting to see it on Monday morning. Hence, of all the awards announced on Monday, this one made me the happiest. Instant standing O. I love that two Newbery committees in a row have named graphic novels for honors (last year, as if we could forget, was Cece Bell’s El Deafo). It makes you start to think this might become a regular thing. I’d love it if this proves to be the case.

Last Stop Newbery

A Picture Book Wins the Newbery Medal

In terms of surprise-iness, nothing can top a picture book winning the Newbery Medal. Hands-down, the shocker of the day was Last Stop on Market Street winning Newbery. I love this pick for two reasons:

  1. I love unexpected choices (see above: hoping for a happy surprise)
  2. It’s a great pick. The writing is clearly distinguished.

(de la Peña recently wrote a piece for NPR about his life and work – it’s worth reading.)

Anything surprise you that I didn’t talk about?

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I too was thrilled to bits about so many surprises…just when you think you have it sorted…and have loved sharing Trombone Shorty with my students this week, as it was not on my radar; what a story!

    Enjoying all the de-briefing and lively online conversations, but best of all, loving sharing the books with the students, they are so so so enamoured with these books, it is a joy to behold.

    I was surprised that Orbiting Jupiter didn’t get any nods…I loved it so so much…

  2. Cathy Potter says:

    Thanks for the recap of surprises. I’d like to give shout-out to the students at Falmouth Elementary School in Maine who selected Trombone Shorty as the winner of our school’s Mock Caldecott Award. Students were quite pleased to see it take home an Honor. http://mrspotter.edublogs.org/2015/12/21/2016-mock-caldecott-and-mock-newbery-winners/

  3. I hope you’ll still predict the Geisel honors next year! (In addition to having your pick for the winner already on record, that is). It’s definitely a tough one to call, but isn’t it great to be able to put together a list of 11 strong contenders for this particular set of criteria? What a wonderful time to be a beginning reader.

  4. I wanted Ballet Cat to get some honor, too….
    At ALA, I got an ARC of Pax, by Sara Pennypacker, and that’s already my hope for the 2017 Newbery.
    But it’s nice that there are always happy surprises. :)
    (I am particularly proud that Last Stop is a Cybils Picture Book Finalist. Which is kind of silly, since the rest of the panel had more to do with that choice than I did. But still, it’s a great book.)