What's a “Ubie”?
As folks involved in children's books know, the American Library Association's annual awards are the biggest deal in the business. The Newbery Medal, for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” covers novels, and the Caldecott Medal is for “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” Usually, once a book wins one of these awards, they fly off the shelves, whether we all love 'em or not. While we realize that ALA also stands for All Librarians are Awesome, and we do think the organization is incredible (among other things, they're tireless watchdogs cataloging all the annual episodes of book banning or censoring), it's basically a tradition to grumble about the award winners, simply because we each want to see our own favorites on a national stage, and only one book a year will get it.
Five or six years ago, we realized something- we could just make our own award, give it to our favorite book, and put it on display when the ALA awards came out. That way the bright spotlight of the ALA awards could also shed some light on our staff pick of the year. Each year since then it's been loads of fun to nominate, vote on, and crown our own Ubie Award winners. Last year, we joked that the Ubie Award had come full circle because there was now some debate over whether the book that won the Ubie was really the best or if the runner up was the better pick (it was Hunger Games versus Paper Towns, both fantastic young adult novels). But this year, we really have come full circle, because the book we chose as the Ubie novel, Rebecca Stead's amazing When You Reach Me, also won the Newbery Award. Yes, that's right- our super renegade indie award pick was the same as the big dogs. But it's okay, because we love it to death, and also because we now give out two Ubies: one for a novel and one for a picture book, and this year's picture book was a secret delight that nobody else seemed to know about. The Secret Plan (by Julia Sarcone-Roach) is the story of three cats and an elephant who come up with a plan to defeat the dreaded bedtime, and you have to come in and check it out. Just rebellious enough to win over your hip friends and just cute enough to win over your grandma (or the other way around, depending) it's fully deserving of being an award winner.