Sunday, February 17, 2019
Awards. Join in the conversation.
I looked it up and was shocked to learn that The Beatles only won five of them before they broke up. Five! And in reality one of those, the Grammy for best song of the year in 1967 went to McCartney and Lennon for "Michelle", not the whole group. In 1964 The Beatles won the New Artist Grammy and the Best Vocal Performance By a Group for "A Hard Day's Night." and in 1968 they won two Grammys for Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. But here is the real shocker, in 1967 Revolver, thought by many. many people to be The Beatles best album was nominated for Best Album but lost to Frank Sinatra.
This last fact got me thinking about AWARDS in general. Revolver vs A Man and His Music, which one is played and admired more today? Revolver, hands down. So often awards, not just Grammys but also Oscars, Pulitzers, National Book Awards, Tonys, etc., seem to go to the wrong person/book/movie. Don't you think?
I have followed and promoted the Youth Media Awards from the American Library Association for years. I read as many YA titles as I could and tried to figure out what books would/should win the Printz, Morris, YALSA Nonfiction Awards. More times than not, I was surprised and often disappointed in the winner. But even if I wasn't disappointed, I usually had a hard time talking the students into reading the winners. The books were just too long, or serious, or nuanced, or adult-picked. Of course, there were some exceptions. Think Looking for Alaska, The Book Thief, and Speak as winners that also appealed to readers and have remained popular choices for years.
The Academy Awards will be handed out next week and I am going to make a prediction..."And the Oscar goes to..." the movie that few people will watch after this year. Shouldn't an aspect of the best movie/book/play be popularity? In 2010 "Hurt Locker" won for Best Picture. It won over "Avatar", which had broken all kinds of box office records. Everyone wanted to see "Avatar" and no one wanted to see "Hurt Locker." Shouldn't viewership/readership, at least to a small degree, factor into the decision of what wins?
As a judge for the Cybils Award (Children and Young Adults Bloggers' Literary Award) I know what it is like to be part of a team who helps determine a winning book. We discuss each nominated book and one of the things we consider is how much the book would appeal to our target audiences. If we, the adult judges, like a book we also have to think of the teen/children readers. Writing, story/plot/accuracy/relevance/and appeal all factor into our decisions. I know the same thing is done for The Grammys and the Oscars but sometimes it seems that message wins over appeal.
On the flipside, Washington State hosts a book award, The Evergreen Award, which is based entirely on popularity. I'm sure other states have something similar. Students vote for their favorite books from a list generated by teen librarians. The winners are exactly the books you expect. Past winners were Twilight (2008), Hunger Games (2011), The Fault in Our Stars (2015). The inclusion of Twilight on this list of winners lets you know immediately that popularity was the only factor used in the selection. That isn't a good selection technique, either.
At a library conference a few years ago I overheard one librarian in conversation with another say that winning a book award was like a kiss of death in terms of circulation. Wow. That was harsh, but I wonder about the truth behind the comment. If you are a librarian, have you ever noticed that award books don't circulate as much as you expected? I suspect that may be truer with children's and YA books. It always seems to me that the adult award winning books I want to read have plenty of holds on them. In fact, I personally scour award book lists to advise my next book selections.
How about you? How do you feel about awards in general? Do you read award books? Watch award movies? Do you usually agree with the selection committee's decisions. Do you think that popularity should at least factor into the selection a bit? Please join in the conversation.