And the Oscar Goes To… Children’s Lit!
Say what you will about the ceremony itself (I actually found it to be refreshingly tender and dignified, for the most part), Sunday night’s Academy Awards were a tribute to Oscar’s own medium – the history, customs, elders, and influence of cinema. From the retro popcorn girls in the aisles and the live band in the balcony, to the themes of the films and the longevity of the careers that were saluted, Oscar celebrated his own crib and the significant contribution the film industry has made to our lives.
For many of us, though, there was another medium honored throughout a surprisingly large portion of the evening – children’s books. Back in January, Publishers Weekly noted that 21 of the nominations were ‘nods for films based on kids books,’ specifically Hugo (11 nominations), War Horse (6), Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (3), and Tin Tin (1).
I would argue the number to be 24, if you count Puss in Boots, Jane Eyre (now widely considered to be a YA novel) and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, a children’s book app as well as a short film, that in and of itself celebrates books and reading.
This is great news for children’s book authors of all stripes (though it would have been nice – and politic – to hear Brian Selznick’s name mentioned at least once over the course of the evening’s 5 awards given to Hugo.) It demonstrates the enduring appeal of stories for and about young people, from classic fairy tales, novels and comics to the richness of today’s middle grade and YA fiction and the exciting possibilities that new media represents for the entire genre.
But for me there was a subtler connection at play between the mediums of film and childrens literature on Sunday night. The films on offer this year were notably less snarky, trendy or cynical than those of recent years. Those familiar Hollywood qualities were largely replaced by conscience, compassion and – dare I say it – hope. What’s going on? Even in the darkest realms of YA, these are the universal themes of childrens lit!
Whatever it is, I like it. Let’s hope it sticks around awhile… or at least for as long as some of Sunday night’s honorees have.