Thoughts on Newbery: This Year’s Awards (and not just Newbery)

Yesterday was a terrific day for me for a number of reasons.

First of all, I’m on the 2018 Arbuthnot Committee which means we:

… choose annually an individual of distinction who shall prepare and present a paper which shall be a significant contribution to the field of children’s literature; to select a host institution and make appropriate arrangements for the presentation of the lecture; to arrange for publication of lecture in children and libraries.

It is a virtual committee so we made our decision long ago, but had to wait till yesterday for our selection to be announced. It is Naomi Shihab Nye and the response in the auditorium yesterday and subsequently on social media has been enormously gratifying. If you are not familiar with her work please rectify that asap! She is a a remarkable Palestinian-American poet, author of works for adults and children, and a brilliant speaker. Now for the second part of our charge — to select the location of next spring’s lecture. Betsy Bird is our chair and the other members of the committee are Wendy Lukehart, Sharon McKellar, and Tim Caphart.  Wendy, Betsy, and I were at the announcements yesterday and, after taking the official photos, the kind photographer took a bunch more on my phone. Here’s my favorite:

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Before I get to the Newbery I need to give a shout-out to the Stonewall Committee for selecting Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor.  When I read this title I was so impressed with Riordan’s portrayal of gender-fluid Alex and am over the top that the committee thought so too.  And one to the Caldecott Committee for their excellent choices, especially giving the medal to Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child which is a phenomenal work of art. Oh, and then there are the multitudes of well-deserved awards for March: Book Three. Amazing, wonderful, and absolutely deserved. What an experience to be in that room, in Atlanta, to hear and see that. Loved all the other awards too — Odyssey (my good friend Roxanne Feldman served on that committee), Printz, CSK,  Geisel, Pura Belpré, and many more. What a great day indeed.

As for Newbery, congratulations to the committee for their outstanding choices.  A fantasy! When was the last time one received the medal? Bravo, committee! While it wasn’t among my own hopes for the award, I read and liked Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon very much. So congratulations to her and to her publisher, small, but might Algonquin.  Similarly, I read and admired Lauren Wolk’s Wolf Hollow and so congratulations to her and Penguin.

But it is the other two honor books that have personal importance to me. I’ve known Ashley Bryan for a long time. He was a teacher at my school and, when I first came, regularly returned to do fabulous work with our children. And then I got to know him even more during the summers I attended the wonderful CLNE institutes. I loved Freedom Over Me, thinking more Caldecott, so am over the moon that it received a Newbery Honor. Ashley has had recent health issues so what a wonderful thing for him right now.

And then there is Adam Gidwitz’s honor for The Inquisitor’s Tale. I’ve been a huge cheerleader for Adam for years, even before his first book came out. We arranged for him then to come to my school to work with our fourth and fifth graders and he has come yearly ever since.  The Inquisitor’s Tale was one of my hopes for the award so I’m thrilled it was honored. It is an ambitious, thrilling, and unique work and I am so glad the committee thought so too.

Okay, I’m beat, still in Atlanta, heading home later today. What a lovely respite from the dreadful daily stuff coming out from DC.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Thoughts on Newbery: This Year’s Awards (and not just Newbery)

  1. Monica, some of the selections took me by surprise, but not in a negative way at all. There are always some personal favorite that don’t make the lists,but my only disappointment was that Melissa Sweet’s “Some Writer” didn’t get any recognition. I thought that it would be recognized for the
    Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award.

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  2. Thanks for this inspiring post. I now have a lot of reading to do!

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  3. rosanneparry

    The staff at Annie Blooms was very fond of The Girl Who Drank the Moon all year long and we were elated to find that Workman, who distributes Algonquin had reserved some of it’s stock of the Newbery title specifically for Indie bookstores. That’s a big deal for a little shop like this one which has hit a rough patch of weather this winter, and could use a bit of a bounce from librarians getting their copy from us rather than Amazon. Thanks!

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  4. Judy

    SOME WRITER and GHOST??? How can so many of us have strong feelings about these books and yet no recognition. Reminds me of THE HIRED GIRL last year.

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  5. Naomi Shihab Nye came to our local library many years ago, and I have never forgotten it. Such a radiant presence, such a compassionate (and lively!) voice. I’m so glad and grateful she’s gotten this honor. Now, can you please please please set the lecture in Cleveland?

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