Daily Archives: January 14, 2008

Thoughts on Newbery: The Envelope Please!

John Newbery Medal

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd (Candlewick)

Newbery Honor Books

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic)
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion)
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (Putnam)

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Thoughts on Newbery: Secrets

I am not generally great at keeping secrets and I tend to strongly discourage my students from having secrets from each other as it is generally just a ploy to exclude. However, I’m having to keep a very big secret right now and I not only am having no problem doing it, but I see the point of it as I did not before.

Over and over there was much talk of the integrity of the Newbery Award. The question of my blogging about it, what is and is not eligible, the criteria, and so much more. The secret element is one more piece to maintaining the integrity. Not only the secret of the winners — to be announced in a couple of hours — but the secret of the process (what went on in our discussions, that is).

It sounds hokey and lame and whatever else to say, but this was a remarkable for-m0st-once-in-a-lifetime experience and it was the process that made it so. That carefully honed and smoothed away process developed over the years by the Association of Library Services for Children. That process (along with a superwoman chair and wonderful committee members) almost magically sets in place a situation that is remarkable in its intensity. The result is truly award winners that have been scrutinized and discussed in the most considerate and intelligent and careful way possible.

In teaching there is (or was in the olde days) disputes about process versus product. The process of nominating, electing, appointing, reading, and reading, and reading and rereading and rereading and rereading and researching and thinking and talking and thinking and talking was what it all about for me. The product will put the stickers on those books — a hugely well-deserved honor for the creators which we are not. And so their paths and ours to this day is a very different one, but very much about process in both cases.

Okay, the CALL awaits!

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