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Neil Gaiman 'befuddled' after his 'Graveyard Book' wins Newbery Medal

Neil Gaiman has received the top prize for children's literature: the John Newbery Medal.

"I am so wonderfully befuddled," the best-selling author said yesterday after winning the 88th annual Newbery for The Graveyard Book, a spooky, but (he says) family-friendly story about a boy raised by a vampire, a werewolf and a witch.

Also yesterday, the Randolph Caldecott Medal, given to the illustrator of the best picture book, went to Beth Krommes for The House in the Night, written by Susan Marie Swanson. The Coretta Scott King Award for best author was given to Kadir Nelson for We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. The illustrator award went to Floyd Cooper for The Blacker the Berry. The King prizes were founded 40 years ago to honor the works of black Americans.

The Newbery and other awards were announced by the American Library Association.

Other winners included Melina Marchetta's Jellicoe Road, given the Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature, and two Pura Belpre awards for Latino writing - best author to Margarita Engle's The Surrender Tree and best illustrator to Yuyi Morales for Just in Case.

Gaiman, 48, known for his Sandman comic-book series, had worked on the Graveyard Book off and on for more than 20 years.

Levinson in Annapolis

Director Barry Levinson will be in Annapolis today, lobbying for money to support film production in Maryland.

Levinson, a Baltimore native, will be part of a morning news conference announcing details of a bill to be introduced in the General Assembly to ensure that Maryland remains competitive in attracting filmmakers to the state.

In recent years, major films shot in Maryland such as Live Free or Die Hard, xXx: State of the Union, Failure to Launch and the coming He's Just Not That Into You, as well as the HBO series The Wire, have benefited from state rebate programs that returned part of the money spent in Maryland.

In the new state budget, the fund for such economic incentives has been cut in half to $2 million.

"Maryland doesn't have anything close to being competitive," Levinson said in a statement yesterday. "Unless state officials do something in terms of becoming more film-friendly, Maryland will continue to lose out."

'Thriller' on Broadway?

Producer James L. Nederlander says he has acquired the rights for a stage version of Michael Jackson's iconic music-video spoof of horror films. The show will include songs from two of the pop king's best-selling albums, Thriller and Off the Wall.

"I love the idea of making Thriller a musical. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, boy has big secret, now what?" said Nederlander, head of the company that owns nine Broadway theaters.

No word yet on who will write the book for the show or what songs will be included in the production, or who will direct and choreograph.

If they build it ...

Six Georgia construction companies have filed liens against actor-screenwriter Tyler Perry's home and movie studio, claiming they are owed thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.

Fulton County court documents show the companies claim they are owed nearly $200,000 for work on Perry's 30,000-square-foot home and production studio in Atlanta.

Perry told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he withheld payment from the companies for undocumented charges or sloppy work. He said he is being treated unfairly because he is a celebrity.

A publicist for Perry did not return a call for comment yesterday from the Associated Press.


Ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov, 61.

Chief Justice John Roberts, 54.

TV personality Keith Olbermann, 50.

Actor Alan Cumming, 44.

Actor Josh Randall, 37.

Country singer Kevin Denney, 33.

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