62. The NCTA Freeman Book Awards

The 2017 NCTA Freeman Book Awards have just been announced. I’m delighted that Bronze and Sunflower has won the young adult/middle school literature award, and that An’s Seed received an honourable mention. I didn’t really know what the Freeman awards were about. Who better to ask than David Jacobson, whose book Are You an Echo? received an honourable mention last year to tell us about the prize, and what winning meant to him. 

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Bronze and Sunflower, by CAO Wenxuan, tr. Helen Wang (Candlewick Press, 2017)

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Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko  by Misuzu Kaneko (Author),‎ Toshikado Hajiri (Illustrator),‎ Sally Ito (Translator),‎ David Jacobson (Translator),‎ Michiko Tsuboi(Translator),‎ Setsuo Yazaki (Foreword)  – image credit amazon.com

David:  Thanks, Helen, for this opportunity.  To be frank, I didn’t know much about them either, when my publisher applied for consideration. That was in the winter of 2016, and we had just learned that a new Asia-related prize would be added to the slew of children’s book awards announced at the American Library Association’s annual mid-winter meeting. So, of course we applied…

In April, we received word that Are You an Echo? had received an honorable mention, so I did a little sleuthing online to find out a little more about the awards.  In so doing, I discovered that the University of Washington’s East Asia Resource Room was about to hold a National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA) seminar using my book as one of its teaching materials.  So I contacted them and offered to introduce the book and answer questions, if they desired.  They did, and I ended up teaching a seminar to about 25 elementary and secondary school teachers.

Which brings me to what I find so striking to me about my experience with the Freeman Award:  the immediate connection it has helped me create with teachers who care about introducing Asia to their students.  Besides the seminar last spring, NCTA also invited me to participate in two sessions at its upcoming summer institute (one about Echo and the other about the database of translated children’s books in Chinese, Japanese and Korean  that we published on this blog), and possibly an online webinar in the fall.

That, it turns out, is the essence of NCTA’s mission: to make a “permanent place for East Asia in K-12 classrooms in the United States,” according to Mary Hammond Bernson, who is both NCTA co-founder as well as the director of the East Asia Resource Center at UW, one of the seven national coordinating sites that make up NCTA.

Founded in 1988, NCTA’s principal vehicle for aiding teachers has been its teacher seminars; some 22,000 educators have participated to date.  But a few years ago, it discovered that other organizations were recognizing and promoting international children’s books with prizes such as the South Asian Book Awards, but there were none for East and Southeast Asia.

So it started the Freeman Book Awards.  Unlike other prizes such as the Scholastic Asian Book Award and the APALA Children’s Book Awards (which are limited to those who are Asian or of Asian descent), the Freeman awards do not consider Asian-American focused topics.

“We are simply hoping to promote literature, as opposed to text books, that will interest K-12 students,” says Roberta Martin, a senior researcher at Columbia and also a co-founder of NCTA (Columbia is another of the national coordinating sites).

The awards are named for the Freeman family, whose foundation (the Freeman Foundation) funds both NCTA and the book prizes.  For a colorful history of the Freeman family’s 100-year-long association with Asia, see this interview of Houghton Freeman.

The Freeman Book Awards are offered in two categories, children’s and young adult literature.  Submission guidelines and instructions can be found here. This year’s deadline for books published in 2018 is August 31.

Winners and Honorable Mentions 2017 

Children’s Literature

  • Winner: The Crane Girl by Curtis Manley, illustr. by Lin Wang (Shen’s Books) – Fiction, set in Japan
  • Honorable Mention: An’s Seed by Zaozao Wang, illustr. by Li Huang, tr. Helen Wang (Candied Plums; Bilingual edition) – Fiction, set in China
  • Honorable Mention: Chibi Samurai Wants a Pet by Sanae Ishida (Little Bigfoot) – Fiction, set in Japan
  • Honorable Mention: My First Book of Vietnamese Words by Tran Thi Minh Phuoc (Tuttle Publishing; Bilingual edition) – Fiction, set in Vietnam

Young Adult/Middle School Literature

  • Winner: Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, illustr. by Meilo So, tr. Helen Wang (Candlewick Press) – Fiction, set in China
  • Honorable Mention: Hotaka: Through My Eyes – Natural Disaster Zones by John Heffernan, edited by Lyn White (Allen & Unwin) – Fiction, set in Japan
  • Honorable Mention: Ten: A Soccer Story by Shamini Flint (Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) – Fiction, set in Malaysia
  • Honorable Mention: The Emperor’s Riddle by Kat Zhang (Simon & Schuster; Aladdin) – Fiction, set in China

Young Adult/High School Literature

  • Winner: The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball by Doris Jones Yang (Spark Press) – Fiction, set in Japan and the U.S.
  • Honorable Mention: Want by Cindy Pon (Simon & Schuster; Simon Pulse) – Fiction, set in Taiwan
  • Honorable Mention: Tanabata Wishby Sara Fujimura (Wishes Enterprises, LLC) – Fiction, set in Japan

 Winners and Honorable Mentions 2016

Children’s Literature

  • Winner: My Night in the Planetarium by Innosanto Nagara (Seven Stories Press) – Non-Fiction, set in Indonesia
  • Honorable Mention: Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by Misuzu Kaneko (Chin Music Press) – Non-Fiction, set in Japan

Young Adult/Middle School Literature

  • Winner: Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) – Fiction, set in Japan
  • Winner: The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky) – Fiction, set in Japan
  • Honorable Mention: Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth by Holly Thompson (Henry Holt BYR/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group) – Fiction, set in Japan

Young Adult/High School Literature

  • Winner: Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee and Susan Elizabeth McClelland (Amulet, an imprint of ABRAMS) – Non-Fiction, set in North Korea
  • Honorable Mention: Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson (Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group) – Non-Fiction, set in Japan

 

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One thought on “62. The NCTA Freeman Book Awards

  1. Pingback: All About the Freeman Book Awards | SCBWI Japan Translation Group

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