Neil Gaiman, Beth Krommes win Newbery, Caldecott Medals

Contacts: Macey Morales/Jennifer Petersen
ALA Media Relations
312 280-4393/5043

For Immediate Release
January 26, 2009                                                       

DENVER - Neil Gaiman, author of “The Graveyard Book,” and Beth Krommes, illustrator of “The House in the Night,” are the 2009 winners of the John Newbery and Randolph Caldecott Medals, the most prestigious awards in children’s literature.

Gaiman and Krommes were among the award winners announced Jan. 26 by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver, Jan. 23 - 28. The Newbery and Caldecott Medals honor outstanding writing and illustration of works published in the United States during the previous year.

The 2009 Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature went to Neil Gaiman for “The Graveyard Book,” illustrated by Dave McKean and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books.

A delicious mix of murder, fantasy, humor and human longing, the tale of Nobody Owens is told in magical, haunting prose.  A child marked for death by an ancient league of assassins escapes into an abandoned graveyard, where he is reared and protected by its spirit denizens. 

“A child named Nobody, an assassin, a graveyard and the dead are the perfect combination in this deliciously creepy tale, which is sometimes humorous, sometimes haunting and sometimes surprising,” said Newbery Committee Chair Rose V. Treviño.

Neil Gaiman is an English author of science fiction and fantasy short stories, graphic novels, comics, and films. His notable works “The Sandman” comic series as well as books for young readers “Coraline” and “The Wolves in the Walls.” He lives near Minneapolis, Minn.

The 2009 Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book is awarded to Beth Krommes for “The House in the Night,” written by Susan Marie Swanson and published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Richly detailed black-and-white scratchboard illustrations expand this timeless bedtime verse, offering reassurance to young children that there is always light in the darkness. Krommes’ elegant line, illuminated with touches of golden watercolor, evoke the warmth and comfort of home and family, as well as the joys of exploring the wider world.

“With her clear artistic vision, Krommes has created visual poetry,” said Caldecott Committee Chair Nell Colburn.

Born in Pennsylvania, Krommes now resides in Peterborough, N.H. Although her first love was painting, Krommes currently explores scratchboard techniques to reflect the look of wood engravings.   She has illustrated children’s books since 1989 and won the 2001 Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for “The Lamp, the Ice, and a Boat Called Fish.” 

Four Newbery Honor Books were named:

“The Underneath” by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by David Small, and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

Underneath the canopy of the loblolly pines, amid the pulsating sounds of the swamp, there lies a tale.  Intertwining stories of an embittered man, a loyal hound, an abandoned cat and a vengeful lamia sing of love, loss, loneliness and hope.  Appelt’s lyrical storytelling heightens the distinguished characteristics of this work.

Kathi Appelt has written several books for children, including “Bayou Lullaby,” “Hushabye, Baby Blue,” and “Toddler Two-Step.” She lives in Texas, where she was raised.

“The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom” by Margarita Engle and published by Henry Holt and Company.

“The Surrender Tree” utilizes compelling free verse in alternating voices to lyrically tell the story of Cuba’s three wars for independence from Spain. Combining real-life characters (such as legendary healer Rosa La Bayamesa) with imagined individuals, Engle focuses on Rosa’s struggle to save everyone—black, white, Cuban, Spanish, friend or enemy.

Margarita Engle is a botanist and the Cuban-American author of several books about the island, most recently “Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano,” which won the 2008 Pura Belpré Award for narrative. She lives in Calif.

“Savvy” by Ingrid Law and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group in partnership with Walden Media, LLC.

This rich first-person narrative draws readers into a wild bus ride, winding through the countryside on a journey of self-discovery for Mibs Beaumont and her companions.  Newcomer Law weaves a magical tall tale, using vivid language and lively personalities, all bouncing their way to a warm, satisfying conclusion.

Ingrid Law has sold shoes, worked in a bookstore, helped other people get jobs, and assembled boxes for frozen eggplant burgers. She lives in Boulder, Colo. “Savvy” is her first novel.

“After Tupac & D Foster” by Jacqueline Woodson and published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Books for Young Readers. 

This tightly woven novel looks back on two years in a New York City neighborhood, where life changes for two 11-year-olds when a new girl joins their game of double Dutch. Bonded by Tupac’s music, the three girls explore the lure of freedom and build a friendship that redefines their own identities.

Jacqueline Woodson was raised and educated in Greenville, S.C. and Brooklyn, N.Y. Her previous award-winning books include 2006 Newbery Honor Book “Show Way” and 2001 Coretta Scott King Honor Book “Miracle’s Boys,” which was made into a television mini-series. She is the 2006 Margaret A. Edwards Award winner.

Three Caldecott Honor Books were named:

“A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever,” written and illustrated by Marla Frazee and published by Harcourt, Inc. In lively, detailed, subtly retro cartoons, Frazee gently pokes fun at adult expectations and captures the unbounded joy of two friends experiencing a parent-free summer adventure. 

Marla Frazee lives in Pasadena, Calif., where she works in her backyard studio.  She has won numerous awards for her picture books, including the 2002 Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for “Mrs. Biddlebox.”

“How I Learned Geography,” written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz, and published by Farrar Straus Giroux.  Recounting memories of his family’s flight from the Warsaw Blitz and his years as a refugee during World War II, Shulevitz employs watercolor and ink to depict a boy liberated from his dreary existence through flights of fancy inspired by the map his father buys in the village market.

Forty years ago Shulevitz won the 1969 Caldecott Medal for “The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship.” He has subsequently garnered Caldecott Honors for “The Treasure” and “Snow,” as well as the Charlotte Zolotow Award for “Snow.”  He has influenced generations of writers and illustrators through his teaching.

“A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams,” illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant and published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Sweet’s mixed-media collage and primitive watercolors flow seamlessly with Bryant’s prose to reveal the important bits and pieces of Williams’ ordinary, yet extraordinary, life as a doctor and poet. 

Melissa Sweet was born in Wyckoff, N.J. She later attended Endicott College and the Kansas City Art Institute. She has illustrated more than 40 children’s books and has received numerous accolades, including the 2005 Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for “Baby Bear’s Chairs.” Sweet currently resides in Rockport, Maine.

Members of the 2009 Newbery Medal Selection Committee are: Chair Rose V. Treviño, Houston Public Library; Rose Brock, Coppell (Texas) Middle School West; Floyd C. Dickman, Ostrander, Ohio; Caitlin Dixon, Ketchikan (Alaska) School District; Nick Glass,, Madison, Wis.; Eric Gómez, Broward County Library, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Beth Jackson, Westside School Library, Athens, Tenn.; Betsy Bryan Miguez, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, La.; Ellen Hunter Ruffin, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, Hattiesburg, Miss.; Jennifer S. Smith, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Ky.; Amanda Moss Struckmeyer, Middleton (Wis.) Public Library; Julie Tomlianovich, South Central Kansas Library System, South Hutchinson, Kan.; Michael O. Tunnell, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; Linda Ward-Callaghan, Joliet (Ill.) Public Library; and Kathryn Whitacre, Free Library of Philadelphia.

Members of the 2009 Caldecott Medal Selection Committee are: Chair Nell Colburn, Multnomah County Library, Portland, Ore.; Lynn Piper Carpenter, Birmingham (Ala.) Public Library; Rosanne Cerny, Queens Library, Jamaica, N.Y.; Georgene DeFilippo, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; Jennifer Duffy, Kingsgate Library, Kirkland, Wash.; Susan Erickson, San Bernardino (Calif.) County Library; Suzanne Gibbs, Lexington Park (Md.) Library; B. Allison Gray, Goleta (Calif.) Branch Library; Jan Johnson, Princeton (N.J.) Public Library; Naomi Morse, Silver Spring, Md.; Jamie Campbell Naidoo, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; Richie Partington, San Jose State University, Sebastopol, Calif.; Rachel Payne, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library; Ed Spicer, Michigan Reading Journal, Allegan, Mich.; and Terrence Young, West Jefferson High School, Harvey, La.

ALSC is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children.  With a network of more than 4,200 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty, ALSC is committed to creating a better future for children through libraries.  To learn more about ALSC, visit their Web site at

For information on the John Newbery and Randolph Caldecott Medals and other ALA literary awards, please visit