With “The Eyes and the Impossible,” Dave Eggers won this year’s John Newbery Medal, adding yet another honour to his remarkable career.
Known for critically acclaimed adult novels like “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” and “What Is the What,” the San Francisco author and co-founder of the 826 Valencia writing workshop was honoured by the American Library Association on Monday, January 22, for his outstanding contribution to children’s literature.
“I received notification that I should keep an eye on my phone for a call from the Newbery committee,” Eggers said to the Chronicle after returning from a windy and rainy day at Ocean Beach with a friend and their dog Finn.
He continued by saying that he had a special place in his heart for the honour, which places him alongside well-known authors like Lois Lowry and Beverly Cleary.
“After reading every Newbery book multiple times with my family, we’re shocked to realise that ‘Eyes’ is one of them,” the statement stated. “It’s simply bizarre.”
In his most recent book, “The Eyes and the Impossible,” Johannes, a dog with an unquenchable thirst for running, is the main character. The story, which is partially set in a fictitious version of Golden Gate Park, centres on Johannes’s change following a rescue effort that motivates him to rally his animal friends in order to free the bison from captivity.
When the book was first published in May, Eggers told the Chronicle, “I’ve been obsessed with the idea of all-ages books for a long time because there are so many great, classic books — whether it’s ‘Charlotte’s Web’ or the work of Brian Selznick — that I think everybody can enjoy equally.” However, there is a system of division that says, for example, “This is middle school, this is high school,” among other things.
Eggers stated on Monday that the book has a strong ties to the Bay Area. It was illustrated by Santa Cruz artist Shawn Harris, who previously worked with Eggers on the picture books “Her Right Foot” and “What Can a Citizen Do?” in 2017 and 2018. It was a joint publishing project by Knopf and McSweeney’s.
“Many, if not all, of the setting’s inspiration came from Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach, which would not have existed without them,” stated Eggers. “I’m appreciative of everyone who helped make it and everyone who has fought to maintain its wildness.”
Vashti Harrison, a filmmaker and illustrator from New York, made history when she was awarded the Randolph Caldecott Medal for outstanding illustration in the movie “Big.” She was the first Black woman to earn this honour since the award’s creation in 1938.
May saw the release of the book by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
During Monday’s Youth Media Awards ceremony at ALA’s LibLearnX in Baltimore, Kathie Meizner, head of the Caldecott committee, remarked, “The art in ‘Big’ grabbed our attention from the start — it is beautiful and powerful.” “The committee thought it had a very excellent balance of a compelling story and eye-catching illustration.”
In addition to the winning titles, five other books were recognised with a Newbery Honour: “Eagle Drums” by Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson; “Elf Dog and Owl Head” by M.T. Anderson and Junyi Wu; “Mexikid: A Graphic Memoir” by Pedro Martín; “Simon Sort of Says” by Erin Bow; and “The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams” by Daniel Nayeri and Daniel Miyares.
Ibi Zoboi’s “Nigeria Jones” won the Coretta Scott King Award, demonstrating how African American writers and artists are acknowledged.