By Dennis Abrams
Confusion reigned when the finalists for the 2011 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature were made public on Wednesday, October 11th.
Five authors and books were announced in front of a live audience by former NBC Medalist Virginia Euwer Wolff:
- My Name is not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson, edited by Melanie Kroupa (Marshall Cavendish)
- Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, edited by Tara Weikum (Harper)
- Flesh and Blood So Cheap: the Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin, edited by Michelle Frey (Knopf)
- Shine by Lauren Myracle, edited by Susan Van Metre (Abrams/Amulet)
- Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, edited by Virginia Buckley
Just a few hours later, though, a sixth book was added to the list: Franny Billingsley’s Chime, edited by Kathy Dawson (Dial). According to the Associated Press, miscommunication between the judges and the award’s sponsor, the National Book Foundation, led to confusion over whether Lauren Myracle was a finalist. She was on the original list given to the media, and then withdrawn when the foundation said her book had been mistakenly included over the similar sounding Chime. “We made a mistake, there was a miscommunication,” said Harold Augebraum, executive director of the National Book Foundation, to the Los Angeles Times. “We could have taken one of the books away to keep it at five, but we decided that it was better to add a sixth one as an exception, because they’re all good books.”
But the list of six soon reverted back to the traditional list of five. After receiving a request from the National Book Foundation that she withdraw her name from nomination, Lauren Myracle agreed to do so, and Shine was removed from the list of nominees. Myracle issued a statement through her publisher, Amulet Books, saying, “I was over the moon last week after receiving the call telling me that Shine was a finalist for the award. I was later informed that Shine had been included in error, but would remain on the list based on its merits. However, on Friday, I was asked to withdraw by the National Book Foundation to preserve the integrity of the award and the judges’ work, and I have agreed to do so.”
In a statement, Augenbraum was quick to emphasize that what happened was not Myracle’s fault, and called the entire situation, “Unfortunate. We regret it very much,” adding that “The integrity of the awards is paramount.” In an effort to make amends of a sort, the NBF has agreed to donate $5,000 to the Matthew Shepard Foundation in support of Shine, which deals with issues faced by young gay people as part of the story about a possible hate crime.
The winner will be announced on November 16 at the National Books Award Ceremony in New York City, which will be hosted by John Lithgow.