Thoughts on Newbery: What About Sequels?

Sequels are thorny award contenders because they are usually part of larger story arcs, and not meant to stand alone. Many award committees have no problem with this; Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass, Susan Cooper’s The Grey King, Richard Reeve’s A Darkling Plain, and Lloyd Alexander’s The High King are all award winning sequels. And now, God bless him, Jonathan Hunt has taken this issue on in his excellent Horn Book article, “Epic Fantasy Meets Sequel Prejudice.” I’m very grateful to him for doing so because he is causing me to rethink how I look at these books.

Last year I thought a sequel needed to stand alone to be an award winner. In the case of The King of Attolia I argued that it did, that author Megan Whalen Turner’s style was one of intentional holding-back of information, of crafty misdirections, changing points of view, and other wily techniques designed to keep the reader guessing right up to the end. At least one of my friends who had not read the previous books agreed, but many others did not. While my friend and I relished Turner’s twists and turners, others were simply puzzled and it was impossible to convince them that reading the previous books wasn’t necessary.

But now I’m rethinking the need for a book to stand alone, say Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Jonathan writes of another finale in a series, Richard Reeve’s award-winning A Darkling Plain:

While A Darkling Plain has its own narrative arc, it certainly makes no pretense of being a stand-alone title. There is not much to help the reader recapitulate the previous action of the sequence, let alone sort through the novel’s multitude of characters, settings, and political alliances. It took me about fifty pages to acclimate myself to the novel (though, in fact, that is often true even when I have followed a series from the beginning, especially if a few years have elapsed between each entry’s publication). I found coping strategies to process chunks of incomplete information. If, for example, I did not understand the distinction between the various political factions, I could still use context clues to sort them into good guys and bad guys. If I did not know the exact details of Hester’s betrayal, I could still infer the generalities, and I could empathize with the characters’ resultant emotions. Again, I felt that I could evaluate the literary merit of this novel without having all the puzzle pieces.

While I found Jonathan’s description of how he read this book fascinating my experience in similar situations has been different. I can get frustrated while reading those first fifty pages, finding it challenging to become engaged in the story itself while also sorting out what happened before, orienting myself in a previously-established setting, and getting to know the characters. During those first fifty (or hundred or more) pages I sometimes feel irritated, grumbling to myself that all this stuff is getting in the way of my connecting to the story. Most of all I feel that it is keeping me from connecting to the characters especially when they are coping emotionally with events and circumstances from the previous book . It is for this reason I think I probably do need to read the previous books to properly evaluate sequels, to be fair to those under consideration for this year’s Newbery. If they don’t need to stand alone then I don’t need to read them alone, do I?

So what about you? What are your thoughts on this interesting dilemma?



Filed under Newbery

33 responses to “Thoughts on Newbery: What About Sequels?

  1. I do think a sequel needs to stand alone to be an award-winner, but I am also quite sure that different readers will vary drastically on where they fall down on what “stand alone” means (as your Attolia example suggests). I read “The Subtle Knife” first of the Pullman trilogy, I picked it up at the public library in an impending-flu, better-get-some-light-reading fit–that book WELL passes my stand-alone test, to the extent that I still almost feel it to have been the real start of that story–I suppose because Will’s story is narrated from its own beginning, Pullman has found an especially intelligent way to tackle this issue.

    Not exactly what you’re asking about, but I have several times recently had to put down badly edited mass-market paperbacks, otherwise adequately well-written, because of the technically clumsy and slightly bizarre handling of incidents prior to the story’s actually beginning. I wonder whether a number of genre authors actually write series (i.e. you’re trying your hand at paranormal romance, so naturally you look to Laurell K. Hamilton), get themselves a few books into the series, improve their writing, get a contract for what in writing terms was book 4 and then do a hasty rewrite as if to make it work as the first installment. Someone should publish a useful set of instructions for rules that should only be very mindfully broken with regard to the introduction of back-story in the opening pages of a standalone/first installment…


  2. Jenny,

    Oh thank you so much for weighing in. I’m so struggling with this right now. I agree with you that The Subtle Knife stands alone because, as you point out, it starts with a new character’s story —- a character who is the second most important character in the trilogy. But what about The Amber Spyglass? Does it stand alone as well do you think?


  3. I agree – if a sequel doesn’t stand alone, it really shouldn’t be up for consideration (besides, doesn’t that go against the Newbery rules of not considering the previous works by the author?).

    The Narnia books tend to work well as “singles”, ditto the “Dark is Rising” and “Green Knowe” series (I’d include Robertson Davies’ works by those are no where near YA). Not sure about Paolini’s Inheritance books since I couldn’t get past the first one, but Funke’s Ink??? books don’t work that way. As for Pullman’s trilogy, you’re right about being able to read Knife and Compass separately, but you do need an understanding of them to get Spyglass. I’m starting to have my doubts about the Percy Jackson’s, because they seem to be treading that fine expository line in the start of each new book. We’ll see how Riordan does with the fourth one.

    When I was at AASL, I attended Ruth Cox’ preconference on YA lit in this modern age. One thing she said she tries to do is read the second in a series without having read the first – if she understands and appreciates it, it’s a good series. That sort of is my criteria, too.


  4. sdl

    I maintained during last year’s discussion and continue to believe that it is unfair to expect a sequel to win an award when it’s read in isolation. If it can do that, bravo and well done. But for many series and certainlly for Turner’s Attollia books, the events of subsequent books gain a great deal of their resonance from previous events, and just reading them in summary isn’t enough. You need to have gone through them with the characters.

    How award committees choose to handle that would be up to each one, I suppose. I know I would advocate for reading sequels in context and judging them in that light.


  5. The Newbery criteria states:
    The term, “only the books eligible for the Award,” specifies that the committee is not to consider the entire body of the work by an author or whether the author has previously won the award. The committee’s decision is to be made following deliberation about books of the specified calendar year.

    To some degree, it seems to me, the challenge is about how we read (as we each read differently — Jonathan is more plot-oriented while I’m more character-oriented) and what background knowledge we bring to our reading (as we each bring specific knowledge to our reading of all books including sequels). But the complicating factor for sequels is that they are stories within stories.


  6. When I considered “Attolia” last year for Newbery I had not read the previous books in the sequence. Consequently, I was in a good position to determine whether or not the book was its own separate entity. To my own mind, I could feel gaps in the narrative as I read it. Character motivations in particular suffered. But “The Subtle Knife” is a great example of a stand alone sequel, I think. So there must be exceptions to every rule.


  7. delzey

    Agreed, the sequel needs to stand alone. I come at this often when reviewing; I’m asked to review the book at hand and not required or expected to seek out the ones that may have come beforehand. Occasionally a book will merit (i.e. is compelling enough) seeking out the previous titles but that’s personal.

    For purposes of awards I would think that having to read a book’s prequels underscores a flaw in the title at hand, that a sequel or a title within a series is incomplete without it’s mates, suggesting it doesn’t deserve award consideration. …Deathly Hallows requires a reader to bring so much previous knowledge with them I would think it impossible for that book to stand alone, even if it were well written.

    Kids are often given reading assignments where they need to choose from titles on the various awards list and write reports about them. This probably isn’t the concern of any award committee, but if an award-winning title is part of a series you know that book is going to be ignored because the young reader isn’t going to want to feel compelled to read the entire series for fear of missing something. I witnessed this first-hand last month with The Black Cauldron, second in Alexander’s Prydain series; my daughter didn’t want to “jump in at the middle” and she didn’t want to read them all just to write a report on the one. I know better than to push, and hope one day she’ll come around to them, but while adults decide on the awards their importance takes on a different meaning at the reader level.


  8. sdl

    Do we really think, though, that any of the Newbery Committee that year read The High King without having read the previous Dark Is Rising books? Obviously it’s always tacky to second-guess any Newbery Committee, but I’d be really shocked to hear that some of the sequels that won had been voted in by people who hadn’t read the previous works. Nowadays there are SO many books coming out that a committee member stands a much better chance of not having read the previous works and being *able* to judge them singly. I wonder if that means that the single volumes of a series will probably never win in future unless the first volume happens to win.

    I don’t know how you could write a good rule that would cover sequels without muddying the waters horribly, but I also think it’s very unfortunate that series books are thereby knocked out of Newbery contention as part of a series and can only win if they can rise above every other book published that year without having read the previous books in a series. Doesn’t anyone else think that’s sad?


  9. I think this is such a conundrum. David makes compelling points, so does Betsy, and so does Susan. It shouldn’t be either or but, unfortunately it is. That is, once you’ve read the previous books you are going to view the one under consideration with that background. And if you haven’t read those earlier books, no matter what you are told, you are likely to attribute lapses of the book you are considering to the missing information from the previous books.

    For example, what Betsy saw as narrative gaps in The King of Attolia I see as intentional omissions on the part of the author. But if I’d been on that committee I don’t know how I’d have been able to prove that to anyone. After all, I wouldn’t have been able to say “but it ISN”T in the previous book” because you can’t mention books other than those under consideration.

    It does seem unfair to consider these books on their lonely yet they are up against other books that do stand alone. Quite the how-de-do!


  10. Just to throw in a book that hasn’t been mentioned, I would say that Richard Peck’s Year Down Yonder does certainly stand alone, but as Long Way From Chicago was a Newbery Honor, there is no way that the committee considered YDY on its own without the additional halo effect of LWFC. I absolutely adore both books and re-read them every year or so.
    Year Down Yonder is its own kind of wonderful and doesn’t need LWFC at all, but having read LWFC, the depth of YDY is increased.


  11. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

    Monica, thanks for this timely topic. Coming from the perspective of one whose nine years in education have been entirely in the digital age, I think that the criteria will eventually evolve to incorporate changing notions of the canon. For instance, arguably, the keys to understanding the trajectory of the Harry Potter trajectory is found not only in the text of the seven books (some of which, I’d argue, are standalone, and some of which are not), but also in the author’s close interaction with her fans. Otherwise, in my humble opinion, the development arc of characters like Sirius Black doesn’t make much sense.

    I agree with the discussion above on Pullman (Subtle Knife, my favorite of the trilogy, does indeed stand alone), and on Narnia. Narnia was written in a different era than most of the texts under study, but in some ways, collected stories united by a place — Narnia — inasmuch as many religious texts are a collection of stories united by a theme, I think this is intentional on Lewis’ part. On the other hand, Lewis’ contemporary, Tolkien, did not write the Lord of the Rings as standalones — I tried to pick up The Return of the King at first exposure to the series, then tried the Hobbit, but wasn’t successful in my attempts to enter the story-world of Middle Earth until beginning with Fellowship. I wonder if contemporary authors who model themselves after Tolkien (or grew up reading him) think of their series and trilogies as one long metanarrative instead of discrete units?


  12. misskate, glad you mentioned Peck’s work. I’ve been thinking how we focus so much on fantasy series and wondered how much this same problem exists in realistic works.

    Ebony, so glad you stopped by! While I agree that we may need to rethink our idea of story (something many have been grappling with on child_lit as you know) those on the Newbery Committee, for now at least, have to stick to the rules as they are writ. I think ALSC (the ALA division that administers the Newbery Award) is considering changes, but I don’t know far they are with that.

    Regarding contemporary authors thinking of their series as one long narrative, Philip Pullman definitely feels that way about His Dark Materials. He spoke about that more than once during his various appearances here in NYC this past week.


  13. Elizabeth Bentley

    I can remember being very puzzled that The amber spyglass won the Whitbread, the first childen’s book ever to do so, when it is so very clearly a continuation of The subtle knife. On the other hand the sheer power of the narrative and complexity of ideas explained why it had done so. I wonder how many of the Whitbread judges had gone back and read the previous titles in the series.
    The darkling plain for me is a more difficult call. I had read the previous books, but found the changing POVs hard-going and I had to keep checking back and forth within the book itself to remember who was who and what they were up to. But this may be more my fault than the book’s – I seem to remember being interrupted several times in the reading.
    The interesting thing about King of Attolia is that those who had read the earlier titles were well aware of her use of the unreliable narrator, so were probably more accepting of the apparent gaps than those who had not.
    From the point of view of the child reader, I think it is very valuable for books to be in series/sequence. We have found with our local award that uncluding first books in our shortlist has lead to students wanting to read the others.


  14. Clare

    Interestingly, when I saw Megan Whalen Turner at the Particles of Narrative conference in Tornonto, she said the books were not a trilogy. It was in answer to a question that called them that, and it was a throwaway comment and not elaborated on. So what does that mean, and does that mean they’re still a series? Who makes that decision, the author or the marketing department? To me, the use of Queen of Attolia and then King of Attolia makes it pretty obvious that one follows the other, but now I wish she’d explained more what she meant.


  15. This is from Jonathan Hunt (who was having trouble posting himself for some reason):

    1. That books need to stand alone is not a de jure requirement (i.e. that the rules do not forbid it), but rather a de facto one, meaning that given the nature of the committee process and how it forces consensus, the more a book stands alone, the better its chances will probably be.
    2. Whether or not a book stands alone varies widely from reader to reader. The bottom line is: How much confusion can you handle? Since plot-driven readers (i.e. readers of fantasy and mystery) are used to viewing both plotting and world-building as big puzzles to solve, they can often tolerate a greater degree of confusion. These genres typically begin with a lot of confusion but gradually move toward enlightenment.
    3. There are many things in a reading that can cause confusion. What if you don’t know what a word means? Idiomatic expressions? Foreign languages? Literary allusions? Most of us have coping strategies to overcome these along the way (and oftentimes it simply means ignoring what we do not understand).
    4. Sequels do often present a more advanced state of confusion because they require the reader to infer what has happened. Inference is an advanced skill, even for adult readers, and many people are just not up to the demands of doing it. Margo Lanagan is an example of an author who forces you to use your powers of inference to form a reader response, but because she writes short stories, none of us whine about feeling left out. We are all left out–but left out equally. Then you have writers like Elizabeth Knox and Megan Whalen Turner who have the chutzpah to write a sequel *and* ask readers to think . . . Heaven forbid!
    5. There is a relationship between books in a series, but aren’t there also relationships between other books? Why is it that Elizabeth Wein cannot allude to her previous book, THE SUNBIRD, but Gary Schmidt can allude to Shakespeare in THE WEDNESDAY WARS? Just as Monica would have no way to prove in committee that THE KING OF ATTOLIA is not dependent upon the previous books, she also would have no way of proving that THE WEDNESDAY WARS does not depend on Shakespeare. Of course, this will never be an issue with the committee for WEDNESDAY WARS (or MISS SPITFIRE or a number of other books they might be considering) because intertexuality is not the problem. The problem is that people who tend to dislike fantasy like to hide behind the sequel issue rather than discussing the merits of the book in terms of plot, character, setting, theme, and style.


  16. Monica to Jonathan:

    You forget that I’m a character-driven- fantasy-loving reader:)


  17. Linda

    This may muddy the water but in thinking about the merits of these books it seems to me important to understand the importance of books in series for young readers. Series can provide a sense of stability and assurance to young readers. They feel if they have successfully read the first volume then the second and third will be within their reach. For children struggling with issues of competency etc this is a good thing. Children also enjoy the familiarity of characters and a world they have come to know. Sci Fi and fantasy series in particular allow children to experience alien worlds and people in ways that are safe and reassuring. Series like this allow for optimum imaginative stretching and growing. I don’t think this helps clarify the issue of how awards should be granted it does help to put into perspective the powerful hold these kinds of series can have on children.
    I am an avid reader of series and sequels, like many children I find them reassuring. I also have no problem thinking that one is better than another in a sequence, or even upon finishing a squence finding that one particular book stands out for rereading. I would take this as an indication that books within series can and should be considered on their independent merits outside the squence in which they exist.


  18. Maia Cheli-Colando

    Monica, Thanks for an interesting discussion. I think Ebony is correct that the “digital age” dynamics will impact the ability for a work to stand alone — as, arguably, social politics, cultural references, and folklore always have. :) The impact of the internet is tremendous, as it allows a kind of direct mass interaction unseen before at such a scale.

    When I read the first messages above, and Jonathon’s article, I immediately thought of Battlestar Galactica, which I have been watching these last few months with my mate. We were both huge BG fans in the 70s, and it has been intriguing to see how the producers have reinterpreted BG with 21st century themes (most especially, the Iraq War). Since we only started watching the series now (on DVD and Unbox), we are able to watch shows in a swath — which is a very different experience than having them scattered over weeks… and, I have been able to read the Wiki to get a scene by scene analysis of the shows before we watch them. Horrors! But seriously, there is no way that I could watch this series without the spoilers; it contains too much extended tension for my psyche to handle without some grasp on what is to come (after all, “it has all been written before”!).

    In this show’s case, at the least, the producers/directors/writers very much have a tap on the pulse of the fanbase… and BG is remarkably alike to Harry Potter in its constant complex weaving of plot threadlines. (I would argue that BG’s weavings are much more sophisticated than HP.) And it is clear that much of the story is evolving via the Wikis and podcasts with the executive producer. Like Rowling’s media errata, Moore is offering extensive information via podcast. Perhaps it is a better match than usual for sci-fi and podcast/internet release of corresponding information (as opposed to soap operas, for example), because of the nature of the fan base?

    Now, you clearly can watch and enjoy the show without the internet supplementals (my husband is, for example, which makes life interesting here!), but there are so many other layers available if you (a) read the Wikis, (b) watch the extra episode clips, (c) hear the podcasts, (d) know the 70s series, (e) follow the events in Iraq…

    Putting this in a Newbery framework — I think that BG could earn a Newbery equivalent based on simply the series material, but a Newbery judge who was watching only the series would be watching a different show than someone who was partaking in the Wikis and boards.

    So… Is this any different than the separate realities we each bring to a reading experience? What is extra-textual, extra-readering?



  19. mindyht

    Fascinating discussion! In a recent interview on her website, Shannon Hale asked Megan Whalen Turner what she’s working on now, and the response was that she is working on the next book in the sequence. Clearly, if there are four (or more) books, it’s not a trilogy. That’s more than likely what she meant.–1.html


  20. Elizabeth Wein

    In the “web extras” addition to this month’s Horn Book, my first three books are listed as a “trilogy” followed by the “sequence” of The Mark of Solomon. The Horn Book is not the first to call these books a trilogy and I’m sure won’t be the last. But I’ve never ever ever called these books a “trilogy” in public, and neither has my publisher! In fact I was well into the first draft of The Lion Hunter before I sold A Coalition of Lions and The Sunbird. I have not laid out a plan for a specific number of books in this cycle, but I do have a very specific plan for where it goes and how it wraps up. Always assuming I have the strength and grace to complete it, it’ll be interesting to see how people classify the books as a whole once I’ve done.


  21. I think it is quite unfair to demand a sequel to “stand alone” when concerning the narrative arcs or character growth. I think as an award judge, one needs to presume that the young readers which these books are for have read the previous titles and are anticipating certain turns of events or character development that are carried over from those volumes. Even if a judge has not read the previous titles, he or she should be able to evaluate a book based on many other literary aspects such as tone, style, plot development (in this volume alone,) character interaction, thematic development, etc. I think it reflects poorly on the award judges’ ability if we dismiss a sequel simply because one cannot handle some confusion and then demands that the author pleases us (award committee members) by disregarding the integrity of the series and instead concentrating on how “not to confuse” readers who didn’t read the first book(s.)

    I was on the CYBILS Fantasy panel last year and we gave Ptolemy’s Gate (a 3rd in a trilogy) the Cybil. Not all of us had read the previous two books but we could all agree that Stroud’s style, characters, plot development and many other elements are so strong that it deserved the award seal.


  22. steven

    In one way I can see how a sequel actually gives authors extra opportunities to show their skill. One of the great achievements of “The High King,” for example, is that even if you missed the previous books, Alexander gives you just enough about Prince Rhun, to know that he was a feckless, but well meaning prince, a former rival to Taran, now a mostly respected friend, and someone for whom a heroic act like the “ruse” he engineers would be a particulary remarkable and poignant accomplishment. And he probably did it in less words than I just used, without disrupting a fast moving, complex story. Alexander clearly did not assume that all of his readers knew the first four books, and I think he earned some credit from the Newbery committee for the way he dealt with that.


  23. Lee

    I also tend tend to wonder at the expectation of autonomy, except perhaps in marketing terms and, if Jonathan is right, as a pretext for other convictions. In fact, I think it’s possible to make a good case that the very strength of a sequel is its interdependence – a tapestry, so to speak , or Fairrosa’s integrity. However, I’m not sure I’d go so far as to ask: if a sequel can stand alone, what’s it even doing there?


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  25. More from Jonathan:
    Several more points–

    1. Betsy said that THE SUBTLE KNIFE may be the exception to the rule, but doesn’t THE KING OF ATTOLIA follow the same pattern? That is, we are introduced to new view point characters in both books, Will in THE SUBTLE KNIFE and Costis in THE KING OF ATTOLIA.

    2. The best fantasy is both character-driven and plot-driven. Take THE GOLDEN COMPASS as a case in point, Monica. We are thrown an awful lot of confusion in those first two chapters–Dust, daemons, severed children, armored bears, politics, intrigue–before Pullman pulls back in the third chapter to give us some background information. I think those first couple chapters are just as confusing as any sequel.

    3. Some of the worst offenses against fantasy sequels are committed not by award committees, but by list committees. Consider that the 2007 BBYA list has 80+ titles, but PTOLEMY’S GATE is not among them. To me, this is the kind of omission that calls into question the competence of the committee as a whole.

    4. PW Best Books came out today and they did good by sequels. HARRY POTTER, SWEET FAR THING, and LONG MAY SHE REIGN were all included. Kirkus Best Children’s Books came out today. No sequels made their list (unless you count KNUFFLE BUNNY TOO), but they do have a boxed feature called Best Continuing Series which lists TRACKING TRASH (Scientist in the Field), THE LAND OF THE SILVER APPLES, I AM NOT JOEY PIGZA, THE TALENTED CLEMENTINE, and STARCROSS. We’ll see if the sequels fare better in the Kirkus Best YA Books due next month.



  26. Weighing in again, belatedly (great discussion!):

    I think it’s right that the sequel question as far as this award goes should be a de facto rather than de jure question. It seems to me wholly appropriate that a committee, assuming the terms of the award do not specify standaloneness as a criterion, should choose to award an honor to a late book in a wonderful series, regardless of whether it stands alone.

    I suppose I don’t think “The Amber Spyglass” is standalone (nor to I think “Abhorsen” is standalone, though “Sabriel” and “Lirael” work fairly independently of one another–but you can see that in many of these trilogies really books two and three are one long narrative–the momentum has built up and it may even partly just be a device that’s convenient for publishers to break there rather than a strict feature of writerly choice or narrative suspense or what-have-you).

    I would actually observe that “The Grey King” is not standalone to speak of–I think the first three books in “The Dark is Rising” definitely are, but that once the characters all meet in “Greenwitch” there’s an overriding story arc that doesn’t make that particular volume, say, show as much to advantage on its own as it does in the context of the whole series.


  27. Hi Monica,

    Great discussion–and I confess to being completely convinced by Fairrosa’s argument (with a dash of Lee’s observation “if it’s a standalone what’s it doing there”).

    However, I am pretty gobsmacked by the idea that you can’t mention any other book in your Newbery discussions. How can you NOT?! I do appreciate that a book needs to stand and fall on its own merits, but books are not written, published nor, most critically, read in a vacuum.

    Surely our responses to a given book are coloured by other things we’ve read (as well as narrative in non-book forms) although we’re not always consciously aware of it. I would argue that discussing the eligible books in context of one’s wider reading (yes, including the writer’s previous work) will bring some of these responses–which may be in one way or another prejudicial– into the light.

    And your King of Attolia example only further convinces me that this is a very problematic restriction.

    Leaving that aside for the moment, I do think there’s a tendency for non-fantasy sequences to be less “sequential”. Think of the Casson family stories, or possibly even Voigt’s Bad Girls series (which I’m going to nominate for your ‘most overlooked’ discussion). Each of those books could be argued to stand alone–yes, your reading is enriched if you’ve read others, but there’s, at least in the case of the Casson family books, no particular reason to read them in any order. The Voigt books are, of course, chronologically sequential, but each book is self-contained in terms of plot.

    Anyway, thanks for kicking this off–and good luck with the judging!


  28. Judith,

    Yep — the rules are very strict. We can only discuss the eligible books. and that will be an interesting challenge come January! I understand the reasoning (focus on the book at hand), but I’m struggling with it too. It isn’t just sequels. We come to that table with all sorts of prior knowledge related to the books under discussion. It is an interesting situation, I can tell you!

    Thanks, everyone, for the comments. By all means keep ’em coming!


  29. hope

    How can you possibly discuss only the eligible books? Kavya Viswanathan could plagiarize her way to the Newbery and you couldn’t point out that she copied everything from some other book? No discussion of allusions to Shakespeare? Intertextuality? You can’t even say, “I’ve seen this subject
    handled better and where?” This is a very disturbing interpretation of the rules of discussion.


  30. From Jonathan:

    At first, I chafed at the stipulation that only books published this year could be discussed, but I have become a fan of the rule.

    Let’s say I’ve read ELIJAH OF BUXTON and I find it reminiscent in some aspects of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn stories and would like to mention that in committee discussion. What if there are committee members that have not read those stories or, having reading them so long ago, have forgotten them? The only books that we can all guarantee that we have read and are prepared to discuss are the books that have been suggested and nominated, so the discussion rightfully focuses on those books only.

    We can often make the same arguments for and against books by comparing them to books published in the same year. It takes some getting used to I think, but it forces us to be more precise in our considerations.

    I think the committee can and will praise WEDNESDAY WARS for its literary allusions to Shakespeare, but I still maintain that it is a double standard not to allow LION HUNTER, LAND OF THE SILVER APPLES, et al the same privilege.

    Nonfiction never stands alone, does it? We demand that authors cite primary sources in their text and append source notes and bibliographies. We expect their work to build upon the work of previous writers. We also tend to welcome criticism from those who bring independent expertise to their reading of a nonfiction title. Yet, once again, we do not allow the sequels this privilege. Double standard? You bet.



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