In this post, the co-hosts of Guessing Geisel (Amanda, Amy, Kahla, and Misti) share their thoughts and reactions to the 2020 Geisel Award winner and honor titles.
Watching the YMAs
Kahla: I watched the livestream from my office, and although my coworkers were not all as enthusiastic about the awards I was, I filled in the gaps by texting reactions with colleagues and friends. The excitement at the conference was contagious, even through the screen!
Misti: I watched the livestream from my desk, as well. I always bring doughnuts on YMA day, and figure that my enthusiastic reactions are good entertainment for the rest of my department!
Amanda: I was tuning in to the livestream from home, feeding my baby and cheering on my friends and colleagues who did amazing work on their various committees. I was so excited that the livestream included shots of the waving committees standing to be recognized for their work. On a personal note, I was delighted to have read more of the award winners than I expected in this year when I’ve had my mind on other things.
Amy: I was in Philadelphia watching the announcements unfold live! It’s always such a thrill to feel the excitement crackling through the room. In addition to shouting out with joy when favorite books were announced, I was also texting the other co-hosts and live tweeting for @GuessingGeisel.
Stop! Bot! by James Yang
Amanda: I was surprised to see a picture book take the top spot this year as the beginning reader series just get stronger and stronger, but not surprised to see Stop! Bot! recognized. From its unique trim size that really supports the vertical movement of the story to the predictable layout of the word balloon on each spread, there’s much to celebrate in this imaginative book.
Kahla: The beguiling simplicity of the text pairs wonderfully with the bustling illustrations, so full of little details that invite a second (or third) look.
Amy: We included Stop! Bot! in our mock, but it only got a handful of votes, so this was a lovely surprise. I also love the trim size; to me it says something exciting and unique is inside. This is one I also wish I had been able to read with kids.
Misti: I, too, am looking forward to getting to know this book better -- I gave it a quick read when we put it on our mock list, but now I’ll be sure to go back and give it my full attention.
Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot! by Cece Bell
Kahla: Graphic novels got a lot of attention across the board this year, and it’s great to see the comics format becoming more commonplace in the top Geisel spots. This one solidly hits the mark for creativity that engages kids in reading!
Amanda: I think it’s great that CeCe Bell thought that this one might be too weird for the committee, and that this riff on the classic “Dick and Jane” found a spot. I always appreciate when humor with high kid appeal is recognized.
Misti: Oh, definitely! I always say that it’s so hard to write humor, and even harder to write it for beginning readers, so I love to see something funny taking home a prize.
Amy: There simply aren’t enough graphic novels for developing readers! I’m always happy to see a graphic novel recognized by the committee because I think it encourages the creation and publication of more. Also, a brain with legs just tickles me!
Flubby is Not a Good Pet! by J.E. Morris
Misti: This book was on my list from early on. I’m so glad to see it get recognition from the committee! (I'm also amused, while formatting this post, at the number of Geisel honored titles with exclamation marks this year. These books, emphatically, have something to say!)
Kahla: This book is satisfying on multiple levels, not the least of which is that there is simply something irresistible and timeless about fat, lazy cats.
Amy: Agreed! I think kids can see the promise of a resistant cat in the title of a book can only lead to hilarity. I also appreciate the depiction of Flubby’s child owner with brown skin and hair. While not #OwnVoices, there’s still so little diversity in beginning readers that it’s notable.
Amanda: What Kahla said! There’s not a word out of place in the pacing of this relatable story. I can’t wait to share this one with owners of bad pets everywhere.
The Book Hog by Greg Pizzoli
Amanda: Pizzoli’s no stranger to the Geisel Award. Congrats to him and CeCe Bell for being the repeat honorees this year. How meta to recognize a story in which our main character learns to read “over time, and with practice” with an award for those engaged in that very learning themselves.
Kahla: To echo Amanda, how cool to see a book all about the power of stories and libraries make one of the top spots for an award that celebrates learning to read! Especially when said story manages to tug at adult heartstrings while also hitting that kid-humor sweet spot with a nice toilet scene.
Misti: This is a book with great kid appeal -- well, all-ages appeal, really! I also love the learning to read connection in a Geisel honoree.
Amy: Pizzoli lives in Philadelphia, so I imagine it must have been a really cool experience to receive that phone call on Sunday and know that the YMAs were happening in his own city! I didn’t see him there (there were a lot of people!), but I hope he was able to be in the room to experience the excitement of a roomful of people going wild about his book!
Amy: A little part of me is sad to say goodbye to this round of contenders, but another part of me is excited about all the amazing titles to come! I stopped at a lot of publisher booths to ask about upcoming Geisel contenders (see the @GuessingGeisel Twitter account for pics) and it’s gonna be a good year!
Kahla: Can't wait for it! Thanks to everyone who helped fill this year at Guessing Geisel with great conversations.
Misti: It’s been a great year on Guessing Geisel, and I echo Kahla’s thanks to all of our great guest contributors, and to those who read and comment. We couldn’t do it without you!
Amanda: It’s very exciting to have the historic overlap between the CSK and Caldecott/Newbery picks! And what a delight to see Antoinette Portis (2007 Geisel Honor) take a Sibert honor, and Kevin Henkes (2014 and 2016 Geisel Honors) recognized with the Legacy Award. Overall it feels like a pretty satisfying year! There will always be beloved books left out the selections, but job well done to the committees this year.