Gladys Hunt on Enduring Value

Editor’s Note: The “something new” Gladys Hunt notes below has been around awhile now and changes have occurred which she would probably have deplored.

Something New I Recently Learned

Originally published on the Tumblon site on September 4, 2009.

James Marshall created some wonderful books. The George and Martha series are great hits with children. He also did The Cut-Ups and Space Case, the first of the Fox easy readers. His editor said about him, “Almost all of his books had some spectacularly dim-witted characters and he seemed to have a particular affection for them and gave them the best lines.” Winnie, in Wings: A Tale of Two Chickens, is a good illustration of this. Your children may already have an attachment to Marshall’s cleverly illustrated stories.When I noticed that James Marshall was awarded the 2007 Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, even though he died in 1992, I was immediately intrigued. An editorial in the 2007 July/August edition of The Horn Book Magazine alerted me to something I had not known before: the Wilder Medal rewards an author not for a book from the past year but one (or more than one) that has “over a period of years made a substantial contribution to literature for children.” This means that the Wilder Medal rewards books that stick around. That’s a good thing to know in evaluating books.Roger Sutton in his editorial in this issue comments, “Books have that virtue: they stick around, each brought to life again and again as another reader, another generation of readers, turns its pages. The most durable outlive their readers and creators alike. You don’t win the medal for being alive: you win it for having created books that are alive.”The Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal [see note below] is awarded every two years. Winner for 2009 is Ashley Bryan, famous for his wonderful African-American stories and art. Among his many outstanding works, look for Beautiful Blackbird, Walk Together Children, and Dancing Granny. Check out the website for this medal and others to find authors and illustrators who have received awards.In the previous post I mentioned award-winning books like the Newbery and Caldecott Medal winners, the most prestigious of the awards. Some of these are notable, but there are also some that do not earn the sustained readership that would be necessary to capture the Wilder award. I am going to be noticing which books get the Wilder Award—and investigate further qualifications for other awards. What are the standards they use in choosing winners? We need all the help we can get in choosing good books and increasingly we need to develop our own standards of what makes a winner.

Note from Mark Hunt: In 2018 the name of this award was changed Children’s Literature Legacy Award due to what was deemed as inappropriate depiction of minorities. I am saddened by this decision, not because this is an unimportant issues but because it potentially avoids a teachable opportunity. Wilder quotes others and seems to hold native Americans in high regard herself. Laura Mclemore explores this topic thoughtfully in her article “Historical Perspective or Racism in Little House on the Prairie?”

Whatever your opinion on this decision to change the name of the award, look for books with the award in both names.

 © Gladys M. Hunt 2008-10, reissued in 2022 with minor adjustments with permission of the Executor of the Literary Estate of Gladys M. Hunt (4194 Hilton SE, Lowell, MI 49331). Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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