Ten years ago yesterday I received a phone call from my great friend Roxanne Feldman who was on that year’s Newbery Committee. She told me to guess the winner. “It was a book you liked!” she said excitedly. After a few poor answers she put me out of misery and told me the winner was A Single Shard. Having vicariously lived through that year with her (and it was a particularly hard one for both of us New Yorkers because of 9/11) it was easy to convince me to attend my first banquet that summer. And before long I was no longer receiving my news about the awards by phone, but in person. Now there is twitter and live streaming, but it is still very special to be there in person as I was yesterday.
First of all, my congratulations to all the committees. Having been on the Newbery Committee myself I know what a complex thing it is to come to a consensus for winners. I also know how hard it is to understand why one book wins and another book doesn’t. As others have pointed out — a different group of people with different tastes would probably chose a different set of books to honor. So again, bravo, to those hard-working committees.
I was very happy with yesterday’s decisions — I knew many of the books, some well, but not all. Here are some that I was especially pleased to see honored.
My first delight was that Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman’s Why We Broke Up garnered a Printz Honor. I adore that book and if you want to know more about why I do (in far more elegant language than I have the time to do right now) please read my New York Times review. I concluded:
Filled with long, lovely riffs of language (some paragraphs of Min’s moody reflections go on for over a page), exquisite scenes of teenage life and the sad souvenirs of one high school relationship, “Why We Broke Up” is a silken, bittersweet tale of adolescent heartache.
Next was the thrill of seeing Melissa Sweet’s Balloons Over Broadway get the Sibert Medal. Shortly before last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade I wrote in a post (which is mostly an interview with Melissa):
Mixing primary sources, toys she made herself for the book, collages, assemblages, comics, drawings, paintings, and more, she has created a picture book biography like no other. Through her text and art the brilliant Sarg bounds to life in this book as do his ideas, his creations, and his stories. Balloons over Broadway is a book that will be enjoyed by everyone in the family
And then I was elated to see Chris Rashka’s A Ball for Daisy get the Caldecott. Here’s what I wrote about it in a post about forthcoming titles last February:
A wordless picture book involving a dog and a toy, this one is artistically outstanding. Caldecott-level-outstanding in my opinion. Admittedly, I’m now a dog person, but I just loved the warmth and characterization, and story-development — all wordless and all wonderful.
In that same post I also wrote about Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again which won a Newbery Honor:
A very moving verse novel based on the author’s own family history, immigrating from Vietnam to the US. I’m generally wary of novels-in-verse, but this one worked for me. Somewhere I saw it described as a series of prose poems which I think it is.
And finally, Jack Gantos’s Dead End in Norvelt which took the Medal. May I just say, “Yay, Jack (both the real one and the fictional one)!” This was one of the books I wrote of as being “in the wings” for my Newbery hopefuls and I’m so happy to see it win. As others have noted it is one of those rare birds, a funny Newbery. And the man is hysterically funny too so we are in for a fantastic speech I’m sure.
So again, congratulations to all involved!