Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered. (From the Newbery Terms & Criteria)
Thank goodness for that hard, but honest criteria. I mean that really and truly even as I often butt my head up against it. Unlike some other awards (say one in particular — more on that in a second), the Newbery Award isn’t given to a book that appeals to a range of kids. Rather, a range of books is considered. That means a book can win the award that is perfect for a twelve year-old and completely useless for a two year-old. Or wonderful for a six year old and tedious for a thirteen-year-old.
Yet evidently other awards don’t work this way at all. Say the U.K.’s Blue Peter Award whose judges earlier this week took a book off their just-announced shortlist because it wasn’t “suitable” for their “core audience.” The book is Andy Mulligan’s Trash which I thought was absolutely riveting and perfectly suitable for my core audience of middle grade kids. A book that, were Andy American, would definitely be under Newbery consideration — it is that good. Here’s a bit from the Guardian article on the tempest:
Trash is the story of a young street child who lives and works on a rubbish heap, and who finds himself on the run from the police. A statement from Blue Peter said the book should not have been shortlisted in the first place “because it contains scenes of violence and swearing that are not suitable for the younger end of our audience.” The programme-makers added: “We regret the mistake that was made in the initial judging but we do not believe the book is appropriate for children as young as six.”
Too bad. And pretty lame too. Now I may struggle to figure out if the language and sensibility of a particular YA book is right for an almost-fourteen-year-old, but at least I don’t have to worry about it being also suitable for a toddler. Bad show, Peter.