Blog of Steel

The Excelsior Awards 2017 - Every Loser Wins!

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Last week, I announced the winners of this year’s Excelsior Awards at the wonderful venue of St. Mary’s College in Hull (the 2017 City of Culture). Many thanks to the librarian there, Naomi Bedworth, for hosting the awards ceremony and offering a welcoming, relaxing and safe environment for all the students that attended. Thanks must also go to keynote speaker Robert Deas (writer/artist on Troy Trailblazer and The Horde Queen, the winner of last year’s Excelsior Award Junior) and the guys from Sheffield Space Centre and Biglin Graphics for putting on stalls for the kids.

So let’s have a look at the awards themselves!

Well done to St. Paul’s Way Trust School and Balgowan Primary School (both in London) for returning the most Rating Forms and winning the True Believers Awards.

Congratulations to Jérémie Royer, Fabien Grolleau and Nobrow Press for winning the JABBICA (Judge A Book By Its Cover Award) with Audubon: On the Wings of the World. This was a book that went down well with many students and absolutely stunned a lot more librarians. This was the clear winner this year (with Clear Blue Tomorrows a well-performing but distant 2nd) and took nearly half of the votes cast by librarians and teachers.

The winner of this year’s Excelsior Award Junior had to work very hard to beat the high-scoring Nightlights in 2nd place but eventually triumphed by breaking the record for highest-scoring book we’ve ever had on either Excelsior Award (set by Earth 2 in 2014). It’s official – Mega Robo Bros by Neill Cameron is the most popular book the Excelsior Awards has had since we started in 2011. A phenomenal achievement. Well done to Neill, to The Phoenix Comic (where it was originally published in serial form) and to David Fickling Books. As Robert Deas pointed out last week, this marks a hat-trick of winners for The Phoenix Comic since the junior version of the Excelsior Award started in 2015. If they produce another winner next year, I think all the creators should play a doubles badminton match for charity!

On to the main event…

The book that finished 3rd in the 2017 Excelsior Award was Matsuri Hino’s Shuriken and Pleats, Volume 1. This was the first time a manga book had appeared in the top three since Black Butler won the very first Excelsior Award in 2011. In addition, the great thing about this manga, for librarians, is that volume 2 completes the series! And I’m sure we’ve all had our issues keeping up with long-running manga series like One-Piece and Bleach!

This year’s runner-up was Captain America: White by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (my own personal favourite). For those of you not familiar with the work of Loeb and Sale, they are a writer and artist team who have gained a reputation for producing moving, personal stories from the early days of famous and established superheroes from the DC and Marvel universes. White is no exception to this, being a story of kinship forged in the life-threatening perils of World War II. It is also a story of loss, sorrow, grief and survivor guilt. If you are interested in more works from Loeb and Sale, I can thoroughly recommend Spider-Man: Blue, Hulk: Gray, Superman: For All Seasons and Batman: The Long Halloween.

And, of course, this year’s big winner was… Superman: Lois and Clark! Not a massive shock as I thought it was a style of superhero storytelling that tends to do well on the Excelsior Award. So, slightly predictable, but welcome and fully deserved nonetheless. This graphic novel will always hold fond memories for me as I remember reading it digitally on my phone (via the Comixology app) in my sleeping bag whilst camping last summer. Couldn’t wait for the next chapter/issue! Interesting bit of Excelsior trivia for you – this is the fourth time in seven years that the winning book has featured someone wearing a big ‘S’ on their chest on the cover!

So there we have it for another year. I was very pleased with this year’s shortlists and I think they went down very well with kids. The “classic” shortlist formed nicely into pairs (2x Marvel, 2x DC, 2x Manga and 2x European) in a very natural way and this was not part of any deliberate plan. It offered the main shortlist a very sincere balance. Longlisting for 2018 is an ongoing process and the whole thing will begin again in November when registration opens. Many thanks to all the librarians and teachers who made this another massively successful year for the Excelsior Awards! I hope you’ll all want to do it again in 2018