I am extremely happy to welcome Imogen Russell-Williams to TeenLibrarian today to discuss The YA Book Prize
Would you like to introduce yourself to the audience and let us know how you got to be involved with the YA Book Prize?
Hi audience! I’ve been a massive children’s literature and YA geek enthusiast since I was a child myself, and am now lucky enough to do some reviewing and other journalism on kids’ books for the Guardian Books Blog and the Metro. The Bookseller Children’s Editor approached me because I’m very interested in YA literature, especially YA literature published in the UK, and I know quite a bit about it.
There are 10 judges in all how were you all selected and for how long will you all hold your positions as judges?
We were all selected in the same way – on the basis of being experts in YA fiction – but we all have different kinds of expertise – in book-buying, reviewing, writing, etc. The idea was to get a really diverse mixture of knowledgeable judges to weigh up the shortlist, and we’ll be judges just for this year (although the prize will continue.)
The YA Book Prize is the latest and at present only (I think) national Award for UK (& Irish) YA novels, how did the award come about?
The Bookseller ran a feature about current prizes for children’s literature, and realised that since the winding up of the Booktrust Teen prize, there was no UK award that focused specifically on books for teenagers. After that, they heard from some indie booksellers that people were keen to see an award focusing on YA books – and the rest is history!
Currently Movellas is the primary sponsor of the Award, how did that partnership come about?
The Bookseller approached Movellas to see if they’d be interested in sponsoring the award. They felt Movellas would be a good fit for this prize, since they’re at the cutting edge of how teenagers create and consume fiction (especially fanfiction!) and were delighted when they agreed.
How are YA titles selected? Is there a nomination process, or are all YA novels published in the UK eligible for the Prize?
There’s no nomination process, no – publishers were simply invited to submit up to six titles that meet the ‘published in the UK’ criteria and were definitely YA novels.
Who is involved in the short list selection?
An eight-strong Bookseller committee narrowed down the submissions (almost a hundred titles) to the current short-list of ten, which were then passed on to the judges.
Your job (along with the other judges) to select the overall winner is no easy task, what criteria are used to make the final choice?
Judging is always highly subjective (although I’d love to say we’re all totally objective and omniscient!) and it really comes down to what each judge really rates in a book. I’m on the look-out for superb writing, enthralling plotting, and engaging but nuanced characters (I don’t have to like a character, but I do want to be deeply interested in what will happen to him or her.) I also have a particular interest in diversity – putting people front and centre who aren’t just ‘the usual suspects’.
There has been a big social media push to publicise the Award and the short-listed titles, has it been successful in involving readers in the discussion of the titles?
The prize’s Twitter account @yabookprize has 1,387 followers, and the successive #Team(BookName) hashtags have encouraged readers to champion their favourites (in a really nice, positive, generous-spirited way). The YA Book Prize is also active on Tumblr and Facebook, so yes, I think it has been!
I am a reader, this does not come as a surprise to people that know me – in real life or online. Even people that just meet me and find out what I do automatically assume that I must love books because I am a Librarian proving once again that stereotypes are alive and well and that many, many people do not have librarians in their personal lives – because there are loads that do no read much or at all.
I used to be surprised that I was a reader as when I was just starting school I had to ‘learn’ to read with
Unlike a number of people that claimed that Dick and Dora put them off reading, these books only made me hungry to read more challenging literature!
These are (in no particular order) the books that made me a reader:
The Tim books by Edward Ardizzone – I read the entire series thanks to my local Library. For the small child I was, they were a thrilling read and incredibly believable. It has been over 30 years since I read them, but I can remember the characters and stories fondly.
The Adventures of Tintin was the first series of books I can remember owning, as well as being a joy to read the books also cemented my love of the comics medium. The stories are still as good as I remember when I was a child!
Blade of the Poisoner was the first book I stayed up all night to read, well this one and the sequel Master of Fiends. Douglas Hill had quite a large influence on my reading tastes as a child, this is the book that awoke my love of fantasy.
The second book by Douglas Hill, and this time science fiction. It is the second part of the ColSec trilogy, my younger brother had borrowed it form the library but I nabbed it before he could read it and it was one of two books that turned me into a scifi nut.
Norby the Mixed-Up robot was one of the first books by Isaac and Janet Asimov that I read. I enjoyed it enough to track down as many as Isaac Asimov’s books as I could over the years and devour them.
I was heartbroken when as a newly minted librarian my library manager told me that Franklin W. Dixon was a construct of the Stratenmeyer Syndicate a book packager that produced books for young readers. They did a good job as The Haunted Fort was the first book (apart from comics) that I compulsively read and reread, usually on a Friday night until I fell asleep.
I seem to have been a bit of a book kleto as a child, as I nabbed this one from my older brother, he had it as a reading book for English when he was 12 or 13 and when he was telling our mother about it I liked the sound of it. To this day it remains one of my most recommended books for people looking for something to read. The rest of the Dark is Rising series is brilliant as well, it did not even matter that this is the second in the series.
These are books I read in my formative years, all genre fiction and all books I can remember as vividly as if I had only finished them yesterday. I can recall other titles; the Vampire and Zombie short story collections, edited by Peter Haining, the Doctor Syn series by Russell Thorndike tales of smuggling and derring do on Romney Marsh. I am proud to say that I am a genre fiction man – and always have been going by my recollections of being a young reader.
YLG London will be running a new Unconference on the 8th March in the Richmond Reference Library.
Full details are available here:
Each year the American Library Association honors books, videos, and other outstanding materials for children and teens. Recognized worldwide for the high quality they represent, the ALA Youth Media Awards, including the prestigious Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and Coretta Scott King Book Awards, guide parents, educators, librarians, and others in selecting the best materials for youth. Selected by committees composed of librarians and other literature and media experts, the awards encourage original and creative work in the field of children’s and young adult literature and media.
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