Most people have probably heard of the Newbery and Caldecott. These awards are given out each year in the middle of January (honoring the previous' years books) and celebrate the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children". You can find more information about the Newbery here and more about the Caldecott here.
However, besides these two awards -- which may be the most well known -- there are plenty more distributed each year. The annual awards ceremony -- where all of the ALA awards are given -- lasts almost two hours.
Let's back up a second. ALA or the American Library Association is a large organization that helps librarians and libraries, and the organization is the one that distributes the awards such as the Newbery and Caldecott. It's a very big group that many (I wouldn't say all, but it's a large number) of librarians are a part of. ALA is the main organization, but through the organization there are a great number of groups that specifically deal with a certain topic.
Now, back to the awards. There are many great awards that they give out each year. Awards for audiobooks and nonfiction and children's books and YA and distinguished authors and debut awards, every award you could possibly think of that somehow relates to books and literature.
Today I'm specifically going to talk about the YA awards. These awards are distributed by one of the groups of ALA, YALSA. YALSA stands for the Young Adult Library Services Association. You can view their website here.
YALSA distributes all of the YA-related awards. Most--not all--of the awards have one honor and three honor books (sort of like 2nd and 3rd place: you are still a winner and still acknowledged though you aren't 1st). Some awards however, do not follow this scheme and instead honor 10 awards or more awards than the "average joe" award. The awards are selected by committes. All members of the committees must be ALA/YALSA members and librarians. YALSA says that their awards are to honor the best literature for teens. For each award I'm going to explain what each award is, exactly. For each award there will be a picture of the actual award given and a link to the award's site if you're interested in learning more. All statements in quotation marks are direct quotes from the YALSA site. The websites are a great resource and explain more about the award, such as when it was founded and it's criteria, as well as including lists of past winners of the award and winner's speeches.
Let's get started.
Alex Awards: The Alex awards are given to 10 books for adults that "have special appeal to teens ages 12-18". These books can be of any genre, as long as the books were published in the previous year (example: 2011 books were honored in 2012). The award has been given annually since 1998. The award was originally given by a special project, the YALSA Adult Books for Young Adults that Margaret Alexander Edwards had sponsored. The award is named after Alexander Edwards, who was a "pioneer in young adult library services". She was called Alex by her friends, hence the award's title. YALSA says that the purpose of this award is to provide a list for young adult librarians to share with their teens and increase their teens' outlook on adult titles. The award is now sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust.
Margaret A. Edwards Awards: The Margaret A. Edwards Award honors "an author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, for significant and lasting contributions to young adult literature". This award, instead of simply focusing on one of the author's titles, honors their entire body of work and all of the achievements that they have done over the course of their career. This award is again named after Margaret A. Edwards, whom the Alex awards are also named for. The Edwards awards have been established since 1988. The purpose of this award is to "honor an author's work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and the world". Many of the authors honored with this award are very famous, or at least very well known -- just a scan down the list proves that. What do S. E Hinton, Judy Blume, and Madeline L'Engle have in common? They all won Edwards Awards. This award is sponsored by School Library Journal.
William C. Morris YA Debut Awards: This award honors "a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens". This award focuses only on debut books. Debut books are books written by authors who have never published a book before; their debut title is their first book. This award is one of the more recent awards (the Alex, Printz, Morris, Nonfiction, and Odyssey awards are the five most recent) -- it was formed in 2009. The award is named for William "Bill" C. Morris, an "influential innovator" and who left an "impressive mark on the field of children and young adult literature". The books in the award are based on: compelling, high quality writing; the integrity of the work as a whole; and it's proven or potential appeal to a wide range of readers. This award is the only one to have "potential or proven appeal" (ie, teens will be interested in reading the book) in its guidelines, and the award criteria is a bit more open, though the award is limited to debut titles.
Nonfiction Awards: This is the only YALSA award that focuses specifically on nonfiction. While some of the other awards may have nonfiction titles (and this is specifically mentioned in most award criteria) this award was specifically designated to honor "the best nonfiction book published for young adults ages 12-18". This award also gives a specific amount of time for the books published: November 1- October 31 of each year. (This is different than most of the other titles, which only require that they be published in the preceding year.) The award's purpose is to recognize the best in the field of nonfiction for teens and help give recognition to the genre. Interestingly enough, the award also states that it's purpose is to show YALSA as a strong leader in nonfiction. Hmm. This award is very recent, having started in 2010.
Odyssey Awards: Like the Nonfiction award, this award specifically focuses in on a genre: audiobooks. The awards honor "the producer (not the author or the person who reads the audiobook) of the best audiobook for children and/or young adults, published in English in the United States". This award is different because it opens the playing field to children's audiobooks as well. It also removes any audiobook not read in English (for example, an audiobook read in Spanish) from the award. The award is based on the following criteria: literary merit and the quality of the audiobook (narration, sound quality, background etc). This award has existed since 2008.
Okay, I have one more award to talk about. The Printz Award. The Printz is a bit like the Newbery award mentioned at the beginning of the post -- the Newbery for young adult literature. Both the Newbery and Printz awards both have very similar goals. This award is the one that is probably the most well known out of all of the awards, and one of the most recent.
Printz Awards: This award honors a book that "exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature". The criteria for the award is literary merits such as story, voice, style, setting, theme, accuracy, characters, illustrations and design (how the book is organized). This award is probably the YALSA award that is grounded the most in literary merits and quality. The purpose of this award is to bring quality literature to young adults and showcase the best fiction for young adults. The Printz Award is named for Michael L. Printz, a school librarian who was very active in YALSA and a longtime member of the organization. The award has existed since 2000 and is now considered the most well-known YALSA award. Anyone can nominate a title for this award.
These may be YALSA's most well known awards, and they are the ones cited as awards on YALSA's awards page but they are not the only awards and booklists that YALSA creates. There are many more smaller awards and many booklists, such as Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA), Fabulous Films for Young Adults, Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and many more.
If you have any questions on these awards, comment below. If you are interested in searching and learning more about the awards you can view more information in the links for each award (click on the bold font titles of each award) or you can view them on the awards page.
Hope that you learned something about YALSA awards :)