Thanks to Travis who drew my attention to the post “The Biebs and Ivan Connection” in which the author points out the new role social media is playing in our book world, noting the way John Schumacher and Colby Sharp fell in love with The One and Only Ivan and enthusiastically got the word out on Twitter, blogs, and elsewhere. As a result the book was well-known and there was a lot of hope that it would win the Newbery. That it did is indeed wonderful, but I feel strongly that it is important to recognize that it did for reasons other than social media.
It won the award because the Committee took a very hard look at it alongside many other books and decided it was the best. That there was a huge social media fandom behind it had nothing to do with it. Keep in mind that R.J. Palacio’s Wonder which had a similar social media fandom behind it, was not recognized nor was John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars recognized by the Printz Committee even though it had at least as large if not larger fan base than either Ivan or Wonder. (John Green’s fans, known as Nerdfighters, are a social media force to be reckoned with.)
One of the points I made in my Nerdy Book Club post, written before this year’s announcements, about the Newbery award was that:
10. Popular! Not.
Often through word-of-mouth and, these days, through social media, certain beloved titles are passionately admired and advocated as Newbery front-runners. The dismay when they are not recognized can be great. I’ve been there — standing open-mouthed when a well-known book I loved, one that I thought surely would be honored, was not. But it is important to know that the rules the members of the committee are required to follow clearly state that the award is “…not for didactic content or popularity.” That is, the committee cannot take into consideration a book’s crowd-pleasing aspects. And so if tomorrow one or more of this year’s especially well-loved books (you know which they are!) are honored, their popularity will not have been one of the reasons. And if they are not, don’t feel sad — these books will unquestionably continue to be honored by all of those who love and admire them.
What social media IS doing in a wonderful way is getting the word out about books and that is absolutely fantastic! As the result of John, Colby, and so many others this year’s Newbery winner may well be more widely known than winners in previous years and I love that. Forget about old media like The Today Show which decided to drop their interviews with the Newbery and Caldecott winners a few years ago — new media is where it’s at!