“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.