End of Year Lists
When Gringolandia first came out in 2009, I learned about the coveted end of year lists. Most of them came from the major review journals, such as Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist. Others were from newspapers like The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. Still others were from large public library systems. Not having any starred reviews or a publisher that was able to get my book reviewed by newspapers, Gringolandia was ineligible for all these lists, so I watched other authors rejoice while I worked on my next book. Fortunately, my “little novel that could” made a very important “beginning of the new year” list when a ALA/YALSA chose it as one of the Best Books for Young Adults in 2010.
Many years later, I offered encouragement to another YA author whose debut novel didn’t make any end of year lists. Like Gringolandia, her novel went on to win a place on the ALA/YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults list one month later. (After 2010, outstanding YA nonfiction went to a separate list, hence the name change.) I got to say “I told you so!” but in a good way.
My first appearance on an end of year list was in 2015, not for a book I’d written, but one I’d translated — The World in a Second, written by Isabel Minhós Martins, illustrated by Bernardo Carvalho, and published by Enchanted Lion. It was on the Kirkus list as well as the one from the Boston Globe. I finally had a chance to spread the word, and it didn’t feel like bragging because I wasn’t the actual author or illustrator of the book, though without my words, it would not have existed for English-language readers.
This year — and after many years of writing books that never sold — I have books of my own on end of year lists. Moonwalking has made two lists — the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Kids of 2022 and Kirkus‘s Best Children’s Books of 2022 (the same list that The World in a Second was on seven years earlier).
Along with authors cheering their place on end of year lists, there is the disappointment of those who don’t make any lists. Periodically someone will write a piece about how that snubbed book is some young reader’s “best book” — the one that makes a difference for the reader. I echoed that sentiment when my second book for young readers, Rogue, didn’t make any lists and didn’t get particularly favorable reviews either, but has up to now been my most popular book, earning out and going into multiple hardcover printings.
The truth is, all books can make a difference. One of my favorite middle grade books that came out this year is Turn the Tide by Elaine Dimopoulos. This verse novel portrays a newcomer to an island community in Florida whose outrage at seeing piles of plastic trash on the beach leads her to join with an unlikely friend to ban plastic bags. I especially like the author shows the obstacles to change, including business owners seeking to co-opt and water down the middle schoolers’ activism and online trolls targeting Mimi’s Latina friend, as activists of color are often targeted online. Mimi’s voice rings true in the spare verses, as does her interactions with others in her community. It’s the perfect book for young activists — a great story and a guide for them as they research and take action for their future.