Thoughts on Newbery: Relevance

Is the Newbery Award out of touch? Anit Silvey certainly wondered about that in the article I referenced yesterday.  I was surprised that so few people have responded to it, but maybe readers are still thinking how best to.  I sure hope so as this is an issue that never goes away and is worth hashing out, I think.   So far I’ve just seen two comprehensive responses from Roger Sutton and Nina Lindsay. If there are more, please let me know or, even better, weigh in yourself at your own blog, here, at the article itself (there is a place for comments — I posted one), at Roger’s, or Nina’s.

My brief contribution to the conversation is a comment posted at the article (similar to what I wrote here yesterday).

1 Comment

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One response to “Thoughts on Newbery: Relevance

  1. delzey

    Currently working on my MFA in writing for children, the topic of awards is one of those danced around lightly. No one (to my knowledge) writes for awards, and in fact we have been told there is no way to write specifically to win an award in literature. There are tendencies and trends, but these should be of no real concern to the writer or their intents.

    That said, the published writers among us, faculty and student, have pointed out that winning a Caldecott or Newbery can move a published title into the midlist, can guarantee to be in print for ten years, and can buy a certain amount of financial freedom for an author. It’s the ugly, business side of things, but for those authors who have fared well as a result of the award — better marketing and advertising, opportunities to experiment on future works, actual multi-book contracts — how different life might have been for them and their books had they not won awards.

    What is sad is that while many awards honor excellence, for many authors it can have a huge effect on their ability to survive as writers. Our society has come to equate an award with a certain level of must-read status that focuses a hard light on the winners and leaves the remainder in the dark. How many award-worthy books that didn’t win were left to wither on shelves, to go out of print, to not garner their author a second chance simply because, for whatever reason, they didn’t end up with a gold or silver medallion on the front?

    For the second year in a row I am participating as a judge in the Cybils awards for graphic novels. I like that the awards have an open nominating process and that there is yet another chance for a book to be recognized that might not have had a chance with other awards. I also like bringing some recognition to graphic novels but there are other categories as well, like poetry and early readers, that helps elevate more titles into the discussion. At the risk of award inflation, I think that if there is a possibility to give a wider selection of books (and their authors some attention to a reading audience then let couple dozen more awards bloom. Let there be a true popularity contest, as well as those for obscurity. Let the Newbery be Newbery, and let’s find ways to honor and recognize more than just a single standard-bearer when it comes to awards.


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