Two weeks from tomorrow I will be in a ballroom at the Philadelphia Convention Center watching as the ALA Youth Media Awards are announced. I will be waiting with thousands to see just who and what won the 2008 Newbery Medal. Well, actually I will already know having spent the last few days squirreled away with my committee making the decision. But I will still be on tender-hooks waiting to see what the world thinks of our decision. If it is anticipated there will be cheers galore; if it is a surprise there will be a moment of silence before the hall will ring with applause (hopefully sincerely happy as opposed to just polite).
In the days immediately before the press conference I will be sequestered with my fellow committee members discussing and discussing and discussing the best books of 2008. We will be referring constantly to the award’s terms and criteria and reminding ourselves that “… the award is for literary quality and quality presentation for children. The award is not for didactic intent or for popularity.”
And so now I do my final preparations. I reread carefully, carefully, carefully. I research elements in the books that I feel I need to know more about. I read reviews in journals, at amazon, goodreads, on-line discussion groups, blogs, and everywhere that I can. I do everything I can to know these books intimately, fairly, and respectfully. I admire their creators — these are works of art, worthy of our careful and intensive consideration. These are books that have been lovingly and carefully read, studied, and appreciated by a group of incredibly intelligent book-loving people.
It has been quite a year. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of books to read in a new way. Having to chose among them — which ones to suggest to the committee to read, which ones to nominate? And now which ones to argue for most fiercely while being ready to listen to others argue for their favorites? And how to both love and be willing to compromise? I need to go in with both an open mind and one ready to argue for and against. What a strange thing this is indeed. This picking the best of the year.
Wish us all luck!