ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
This morning, at its annual conference in Seattle, the American Library Association gave out its prizes for children's and young adult literature. Its awards include the prestigious Caldecott and Newbery medals. NPR's Lynn Neary reports.
LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: The ALA announces a long list of prizes every year, from the Coretta Scott King Awards, which celebrate a 50th anniversary this year, to a brand-new digital media award. So when the time came to announce the two best-known awards, Jamie Campbell Naidoo, president of the Association for Library Services to Children, couldn't resist keeping the suspense going just a little longer.
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JAMIE CAMPBELL NAIDOO: All right. Are you ready? You've been ready, right?
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Yeah.
NAIDOO: All right. So this year's winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for outstanding illustration of children's books is "Hello Lighthouse."
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Cheering).
NEARY: This is the second Caldecott for Sophie Blackall, who wrote and illustrated "Hello Lighthouse." Blackall was not available for an interview because she's travelling in Burma.
Mary Fellows, chair of the Caldecott committee, said Blackall's book is exquisite, filled with detailed illustrations that depict life in a lighthouse.
MARY FELLOWS: There are cutaways of the lighthouse so we can see the interior. There are these wonderful uses of swooping and swirling seagulls and crashing waves and Northern Lights. And it's a feast of color.
NEARY: Fellows said the judges chose the winner from a field of nearly 1,000 books. They read them over the course of a year, but only met face-to-face for the first time during the conference.
FELLOWS: And over hours and hours and hours, we talk. But it also becomes a process of embracing new loves during the course of this discussion and, sometimes a little regretfully, letting go of old loves that we have.
NEARY: The Caldecott, along with the Newbery Medal, which is given for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature, is highly anticipated by the entire children's book industry, but none more so than the writers. This year's Newbery Medal winner, Meg Medina, author of "Merci Suarez Changes Gears," thought she might hear some news about the award last night.
MEG MEDINA: I waited up for a little while. I said, oh, nobody has called, so, you know, that's it.
NEARY: Medina was so sure she didn't win that when the call came this morning, she says it felt surreal.
MEDINA: When I think of the Newbery, I think of all the books over the years that I have read and loved - the books that shaped my children's lives. And I just hold them in such high regard. And there's a piece of you - it always feels like it couldn't possibly be you, and it was. And that was the amazing thing.
NEARY: Medina's book is about an 11-year-old Latina girl and her family as they learn to adapt to changes in their lives. She believes it's a story with a universal message.
MEDINA: The family is Latina. They're the Suarez family in south Florida, but they're able to speak to families everywhere, across all kinds of backgrounds. And that's, I think, a really important thing and a beautiful thing, especially right now.
NEARY: Medina loves the idea that her book will always have the stamp of the Newbery on its cover and that winning the medal means it will be around for a long time. Perhaps, she says, her grandchildren will find it on a library shelf one day. Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.