Monday, February 03, 2014

Can The Property Brothers Teach Me Anything About Book Awards?

The ALA children's book awards were announced last Monday. In my lit world, which exists pretty much on-line, this is a big deal. In the real world I really live in, this is a very definite nonevent. If I hadn't gone on to Facebook Monday afternoon, I wouldn't have known it happened.

You don't see me writing much here at Original Content about the various ALA awards because as a general rule they involve titles that I'm not particularly attracted to. Often times, if I have read the winners, I didn't care for them much. For instance, this year there is an honor book that I couldn't finish. As a result, I don't have a very good understanding of what's going on with the awards.

This year's announcement day had a little more significance for me than usual because last Monday I happened to come home from the hospital after having had surgery on Friday. Clearly I was doing pretty well, since I was able to whip out my laptop, go onto Facebook, and see that Kate DiCamillo had won the Newbery Medal. But I did end up spending a big part of this past week lying on the couch napping, reading mysteries on my Kindle, and watching HGTV.

One of the two shows I focused on was Property Brothers, which involves two really good looking brothers (twins! twins!!!) who "help couples find, buy and transform extreme fixer-uppers into the ultimate dream home." You can see why this program works for viewers. There is a real narrative here. Something happens to somebody. A person buys an ugly house hoping it will become beautiful for a finite amount of money and in a finite amount of time. If everything works (and, of course, it always does), a transformation/change will take place. Something happening to somebody...transformation...that is a story.

So last week HGTV ran Property Brothers all afternoon several times. Brother Jonathan turned out beautiful rooms over and over again. I watched probably another three episodes yesterday afternoon. And with the very last episode, once again he provided the homeowners with a beautiful black and white kitchen opening into a dining area. It was lovely, just as the kitchen he'd designed the episode before had been lovely. And the episode before that. And the episodes on other days.

Suddenly, all this beautiful stuff seemed kind of the same. And it being book award week, I couldn't help but wonder if there isn't a sameness with book award winners, too. Those award-winning titles that don't attract me meet some kind of award criteria. It makes some sense that the books that meet award criteria would be similar just as the rooms that meet a standard for beauty would be similar.

Well, I've been splitting my time between sacking out on the couch with the TV remote and trying to get in a few units of work. That's probably what led to my profound Property Brothers thoughts. I have to keep transitioning back to work. But first I'm going to go lie down for a while.


Jen Robinson said...

Hope you are feeling back to 100% soon, Gail. I find the ALA awards a mixed bag for me - I've hardly ever read the winner ahead of time, despite reading plenty of books. I think the Cybils are a better fit for me in general ;-)

Gail Gauthier said...

Agreed. I also tend to like the Printz books, though I know librarians who find them a hard sell for their real YA readers.