Speaking by telephone from Los Angeles, where he had been doing press interviews for the forthcoming film adaptation of his first children’s novel, “Coraline,” Mr. Gaiman said he was stunned by the award, partly because the book had already found a popular audience. “The Graveyard Book,” published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, has spent 15 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list for children’s chapter books.
“I had thought that’s nice, there are books that are best sellers and books that are winners,” Mr. Gaiman said. “Very often, the world of award judges, and I think rightly, use their magical judging powers to try to bring books to the attention of the world that might not have otherwise been noticed.”
And also from the NYTimes piece on the awards:
Rose V. Treviño, chairwoman of the Newbery committee, said the popularity of Mr. Gaiman’s novel had nothing to do with its selection. “We chose the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children,” she said.
It is about literary excellence. Period.