In less than 24 hours members of the 2011 Newbery and Caldecott Committees will be doing one of the coolest things ever — call their winners. And then shortly after that they will be at the press conference where the rest of us will learn of their decisions. Today everyone involved will try to be nonchalant, try to go about their regular lives, and think of other things. And tonight — I can only imagine how hard it must be to attempt to sleep with the knowledge that it just might be you that will get that call and then how hard to go on when you don’t. My heart goes out to everyone involved this anxious day. And my very best to all the writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, designers, marketers, publicists, agents and everyone else who work to create these wonderful books, these wonderful works of art, for children.
Category Archives: awards
As we head into autumn, speculation about this year’s award winners is mounting (at least among those of us who are obsessed with such things). The Cybils are getting underway, there’s a wonderful event attached to the Boston Globe-Horn Book awards this year at Simmons College, and the various ALA mock award groups are building steam. One of my favorites is the Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog run by my pals Nina Lindsay and Jonathan Hunt. Nina was chair of my 2008 Newbery Committee and Jonathan is one of my collaborators for the BoB. Those that followed their blog last year know how smart and fun it was. They’ve just opened it up for this year and I’m psyched!
2. Each book is to be considered as a contribution to American literature. The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.
That is the current criteria #2 for the Newbery award and I’ve written here before about my frustration with it. (Thoughts on Newbery: The Design Thorn.) As I complained in that post and Betsy Bird points out today, it keeps the committee from being able to recognize some of the most exciting books for children being created these days, those where art and design are intertwined with the text in original and innovative ways.
Betsy’s solution is a new award and while I’m absolutely fine with that something new, it doesn’t satisfy my problem with the something old — the Newbery. After all, it is the most prestigious award for children’s books in this country. It is the only one most people know. One Frederic G. Melcher proposed it to ALA and they approved it in 1922. This is from his formal agreement with the ALA board:
“To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children’s reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field.”
“Original creative work for children.” 88 years ago Melcher and the others who created this award wanted books for children to be consider literature on the level of works for adults. Can we agree that this is now moreso the case? A few years back Anita Silvey wrote a provocative article asking if the Newbery had lost its way. She felt it had because young people were not longer “rushing to read the latest Newbery winners.” However, as many pointed out in response to the article, that wasn’t the original intent of the award at all. Nor is it today. If the books end up being popular, that is just grand. But the award isn’t about that; in fact, some of the least popular winners have been the most creative (say, ahem, “my” winner).
But, to steal from Silvey, I do think the Newbery may be losing its way if it continues to leave art and design outside the circle of consideration. Some of the most exciting and original books (and these are still very much books) for children being created today have these elements as integral parts. For those books not be recognized as the best because of this or for them to be recognized in spite of this frustrates me tremendously.
How to do it is a huge problem, I realize. But I hope somehow it can be done so that the Newbery continues to truly recognize the most original and creative work for children of the year.
MRE took the ACELA*
Down to DC USA
When she got there
What did she see?
The librarians of America at ALA
DC 95 DS**
DC 97 DS
DC 99 DS
ALA PPP *******
ALA FFF ********
NYC 62 DS
**degrees in the shade
*** Newbery Caldecott Banquet
**** books books books
***** authors authors authors
******Coretta Scott King Awards Breakfast
******* publishers publishers publishers
********friends friends friends
Betsy’s Marching for Freedom, winner of SLJ’s 2010 Battle of the Kids’ Books, has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the Young Adult Catagory. Bravo!
“Reading is subjective” is how Julius Lester begins his SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books decision. It is, it is. And this is why we have different books receiving different awards the same year. It is why I might love this year’s Newbery winner yet you might not. It is why the chances are good that two different groups of people might chose two different winners the same year (as happened with Heavy Medal here and here).
People have been surprised by some of the judges’ decisions at the Battle, but I’m not. While I may not agree with their reasons I respect them. Because they are doing what the Newbery Committee does every year. Yes, unlike the Battle, there are criteria, but in the end each person has to figure out how their favorites work with that criteria. And it isn’t just the Newbery. It is true for all awards. J.L. Bell wondered about The Storm in the Barn winning the Scott O’Dell because he didn’t think of it as historical fiction. However, the committee that gave it the award clearly thought it was.
When on the Newbery Committee you want to be able to listen, consider, and also be passionate about what you care about. Passion is all about subjectivity in the end, isn’t it? So while you may not agree with Julius Lester today (and some clearly don’t) you have to acknowledge that he showed his cards in that very first sentence. We are human. We care. We are subjective.
This committee selects and awards a stellar collection of books. Their annual awards breakfast is this coming Thursday, March 18th and you are invited! Sadly, I won’t be there (teaching, you know), but some day I hope I can make it as they’ve an excellent list (and the college is literally around the corner from my home).
Congratulations to all involved in the creation of this year’s young people’s winner of the National Book Award, especially author Phillip Hoose, editor Melanie Kroupa, and Claudette Colvin herself. As I think I made clear in this post, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice is one of my favorite books of the year. Hurray!
I’m a big fan of the runners-up too:
Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith
David Small, Stitches (W. W. Norton & Co.)
Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped (HarperTeen/HarperCollins)