Books

Maybe your next Mock Award Program should be a Mock Batchelder

It’s that time of year, when the smell of Pumpkin Spice is everywhere and squirrels are trying to get into the attic that thoughts turn to the question, ‘What are the best books of the year?’ This is the time of top ten lists and best books, and everyone is guessing what titles will win the top honors. Questions like, ‘Are you going to attend the Youth Media Awards at LibLearnX?’ are starting to appear. The slight panic of not having read enough to guess the winners while staring at a your TBR pile creeps in. Instead of trying to predict all the awards, maybe focus on the Sibert, Pura Belpré, or a personal favorite, the Mildred L. Batchelder. Consider delving into the world of translations for children this award season and offering a Mock Batchelder program!

Not familiar with the Mildred L. Batchelder Award? “The Mildred L. Batchelder Award is awarded to an American publisher for a children’s book considered to be “the most outstanding of those books originating in a country other than the United States and in a language other than English and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States during the preceding year.” The award was established in 1966, and you can find all the fascinating history about Mildred and the establishment of the award beginning on page 59 of the Revised July 2023 Batchelder Award manual.

Batchelder gold seal

The manual is a great place to start in planning a Mock Batchelder. Amy Seto Forrester commented, “It’s worth it to spend some time digging into the criteria, especially as a group. There are many ways to interpret criteria and through discussion you can gain insight into other perspectives for a richer appreciation of titles.” The Batchelder criteria and eligibility, as with all awards, leads to questions, including ‘How do picture books fit in with an award that focuses on text?’, ‘What about Canadian books with US offices?’, non-traditional translated books, and ‘why isn’t there a Batchelder for illustration?’ Not every book is eligible for the Batchelder, but the exposure to quality translations for children can sometimes be the reward itself. Of course, it is always wonderful when the translation is eligible.

Carol Edwards, who has been hosting a Mock Batchelder group annually, shared, “Our discussions increase our understanding of the criteria and widen our awareness of the many wonderful titles that are eligible. For example, we all look for books that might be eligible and recently one of our members, Melissa Depper, found an excellent nonfiction book, Wind by Olga Fadeeva, published by Eerdmans Books for Young People, and translated by Lena Traer. We talked about how we would see the country, language and culture reflected in nonfiction. We had to return to the criteria to even know if that question was relevant. “

Carol Edwards sites the 1982 Batchelder Award winner, The Battle Horse by Harry Kullman tr. by George Blecher & Lone Thygesen Blecher as, “That book completely amazed me and made me forever after pay attention to this award.”

Elisa Gall shared several tips for Mock Awards including:

  • “I’ve done mock awards in-person, on Zoom, and on social media. Each of these formats came with its own challenges and benefits, but no matter the format I have learned to give people plenty of time to get a hold of, read, and prepare to discuss the titles. People need to have read the books in order to evaluate them!
  • I also recommend using some sort of norms or agreements (like the ALSC community agreements) to help keep conversations respectful and meaningful.
  • I would also squirrel away some fun facts that you can share with your mock committee to keep things exciting. For example, did you know that Mildred Batchelder was a school librarian at Haven Middle School in Evanston, IL? (Fun fact: Haven makes an appearance in the movies Home Alone 2Home Alone 3Curly Sue, and Rookie of the Year. It is also the school that yours truly lives down the street from!)
  • Librarians Megan Altmayer and my spouse, Patrick Gall, create ‘kid-friendly criteria’ that capture the spirit of the original award criteria but in a condensed way for their early childhood-aged students. They end their mock celebrations with a school-wide assembly and celebration of reading. No matter what titles win, the kids are excited to celebrate their hard work and are interested to see if and how various ALA/ALSC committees recognize the same titles that they evaluated.”
Elisa’s Mock Award photo (Courtesy of Elisa Gall)
  • In looking for resources to find titles for a Mock Batchelder, know that the number of translations published in the US for kids historically has been low and not all are reviewed by professional journals. WorldKidLit blog keeps a running list of translated titles each year published in the US and UK on their website. It is an excellent place to start even though some will not meet the Batchelder criteria. The WKL current list has over 200 books from 26 countries on their 2023 list. The Association for Library Service to Children maintains a PDF of all Batchelder Award and Honor books from 1968 to the present. On this list, you will find publishers and translators, who believe in producing outstanding translations for children.

I came to know the Batchelder from a financial perspective as an ALSC Budget Chair and then Fiscal Officer, spending time with the publishers, translators, and fans of the award. The first Batchelder Award book that I ever purchased was Mister Orange by Truus Matti translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson and published by Enchanted Lion Books. I found myself being the part of the Batchelder cheering section, in person and online. Batchelder fans find each other; translators, authors, publishers, a wonderful community of people interested in children’s literature from around the world. In 2022, I was lucky to spend the day celebrating Temple Alley Summer’s Batchelder win with author Sachiko Kashiwaba and translator Avery Fischer Udagawa. There is a now a dedicated Batchelder shelf in my home along with multiple shelves of translations for children. And this year I was again loudly cheering all the Batchelder Award and Honor books. On my desk, sit my 2024 Batchelder predictions, my own private Mock Batchelder.

Paula’s Batchelder Award Shelf (Photo courtesy of guest blogger)

Final request:

Don’t forget to submit your winners (and catchier Mock Batchelder title) to the ALSC Blog’s 2024 Mock YMA Election Results Page in advance of the YMA’s on Monday, January 22nd .


Today’s guest blogger is Paula Holmes. Paula has served in a variety of volunteer capacities for the Association for Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association), USBBY (The United States Board on Books for Young People) and currently as a University of Alabama MLIS National Advisory Board Member. Paula is known to create tiny collage art, support translations of children’s literature, practice ballet, and is on a quest to learn Finnish.

Today’s guest blogger is Paula Holmes. Paula has served in a variety of volunteer capacities for the Association for Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association), USBBY (The United States Board on Books for Young People) and currently as a University of Alabama MLIS National Advisory Board Member. Paula is known to create tiny collage art, support translations of children’s literature, practice ballet, and is on a quest to learn Finnish. (Photo courtesy of guest blogger.)

4 comments

  1. Annette Goldsmith

    Thank you for this guide to conducting a mock Batchelder! In addition to following the wonderful WorldKidLit blog I would like to recommend subscribing to the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI) blog https://glli-us.org/articles/, which features a monthly focus on a national literature or related topic.

  2. Paula Holmes

    Thanks for the great recommendation!

  3. George Blecher

    Dear Paula Holmes, I just ran across your blog entry, and your comment about discovering The Battle Horse. My ex-wife Lone and I struggled for years to find a publisher for it, and finally Bradbury Press, a small independent press that had discovered Judy Blume years before, took it on. Decades later, the author’s take on feminism, class and religious/racial prejudice is totally relevant, and it remains one of the most original and exciting books I’ve ever read.

  4. Paula Holmes

    Dear George – I am so glad you found my blog entry that including The Battle Horse. It made my day! I find the backstory of the Batchelder titles fascinating. We owe so much all the translators who champion books, make sample translations, and act as an agent for a book and the small independent presses who take the chance on books like The Battle Horse. Hopefully, the blog will bring a new audience to this and other Batchelder titles.

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