Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

1/31/12

Honoring Humor

Our topic this round is book awards. Everyone’s heard of the Newberry and Caldecott awards - as Stephanie said in an earlier post, the “academy awards” of children’s literature. But there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other awards that bring attention to quality books. Two of my favorites honor humor in children’s stories.

The Sid Fleischman Humor Award is given by SCBWI to reward “authors whose work exemplifies the excellence of writing in the genre of humor.” It’s been around only since 2004 but already the list of winners reads like a “greatest hits” collection of contemporary classics, including Clementine, Al Capone Does My Shirts, and Absolutely Positively Not – the latter by our very own David LaRochelle! I’ve read all but one of the winners and I’m awed by how each one is not only hilarious but also supremely crafted.

In England, the Roald Dahl Funny Prize has an even shorter history. Created in 2008 by Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, the prize has two categories (six and under; seven to fourteen) which makes for two winners and twice the fun! Personal favorites of mine from shortlists for the prize include Urgum and the Goo Goo Bah, The Boy in the Dress, and The Ogre of Oglefort. I haven’t read any of the winners yet – they must be even funnier! (As an aside, this year the Dahl prize judges included 400 students who read the shortlisted books, discussed them, and voted on their favorites.)

Both awards remind us that humor has a unique value in children’s books, as it does in all our lives. Check out the list of past winners/nominees and I’m sure you’ll find something to tickle your funny bone.

5 comments:

Christy said...

Great post, Mark! I will have to look into more of these award winners.

Stephanie said...

Those titles sound like a hoot:)

Lauren said...

This is a great post Mark-- and a great reminder of humor. I love that the Roald Dahl Award included 400 students on its panel of judges. Personally, I think that should be true for all of the awards. Can you imagine? Now that would inspire reading in schools, if there was a possibility that your school or class might be chosen to read over the year, the books to be considered for an award!

I want to look up all of these books-- of course I have read David's book more than once! Thanks Mark!

Teresa Crumpton said...

I love to hear children's writers encourage humor writing. Even in mostly serious books tinges of humor make the books a much easier "sell" to reluctant readers, who desperately need to learn to enjoy books.

David LaRochelle said...

Winning the Sid Fleischman Award, and receiving it from Sid himself, who was the final judge, was one of the highlights of my career.

I agree with Teresa in that even books about serious subjects can benefit from humor. One of my all time favorite books is Beverly Cleary's DEAR MR. HENSHAW, about a boy dealing with his parents' divorce and a less-than-perfect father. Despite the serious topic, there are parts that still make me laugh out loud (and other parts that choke me up).