I’m on it, the 2008 Newbery Committee that is, which means I’ll be reading A TON of books this year. Perhaps not as many, I’m told, as I’ve had to read for the NCTE Notables committee, but I suspect I’ll be reading some of them over and over and preparing very differently for this award. The NCTE committee has very specific criteria related to language arts instruction and we chose thirty books; Newbery is not nearly so straightforward. We award one medal to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in the United States during the proceeding year.” I suspect it is easier to decide what is notable for language arts instruction than what is the most distinquished work of children’s literature of the year. The “I know it when I read it” gut response is not going to fly, I suspect, when I meet up with my committee mates next January. And so, I start out this year feeling awed, honored, and hopeful that I’m up to the task and that we chose a book that is truly a winner in every sense of the word.
Now just to clarify what I’m allowed to say and not say here, my chair Nina Linsday, points out on her soon-to-disappear-blog, that while, “All actual committee discussions, lists, and voting are confidential forever” we committee members may voice our own opinions about books under consideration. Indeed, the Newbery manual itself states that, “Committee members are urged to discuss books under consideration with others throughout the year to obtain a variety of critical opinions. However, it is important to remember that, in these discussions, committee members may only express their own opinions, and may not quote the opinions of other committee members or indicate in any way which books are under consideration.” (pg. 14)
And so, I’m planning to continue to do what I’ve already been doing on this blog since I started it and on the various lists like child_lit for years: write and talk about books I’ve read, books I’ve read aloud to my class, and other books about which I have something to say. Some of these may be books under consideration for Newbery, some may not. Either way, as Nina notes, “Individual committee members, though, HAVE to be able to always state their individual opinions about books, exactly so that they CAN discuss books throughout the year and form well-thought justifications.”
So here’s my plan — to read, read, listen, read, think, read, consider, read, talk, read, blog, read, write, read, opine, and hopefully help select a book that stands the test of time.