Sharon gave a brief overview of how we organize our Mock Newbery, and I talked more about choosing titles. We’re now at the stage of shaking out the end of our shortlist, and I’m officially consigning some of my favorite titles of the year to the "UnMockable" shelf. These include:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation: Volume II The Kingdom on the Waves.
The recent NYTimes review pretty much says it all. I will go to the mat with anyone who wants to argue that the Octavian Nothing books aren’t children’s books as defined by the Newbery criteria (I can think of a lot of children who could appreciate them better than most teens or adults)…but this second volume succeeds on the strength of first, and the Newbery committee may not consider the first book. Specifically:
"the committee is not to consider the entire body of the work by an author or whether the author has previously won the award. The committee’s decision is to be made following deliberation about books of the specified calendar year."
In other words, it has to succeed–against all other eligible titles–standing on its own. Though Octavian himself does by its end, the book does not.
Into the Volcano
I read this in one late-night gulp on Monica’s sofabed when I visited NY this spring. Then bit my fingers until I got home so that I could find my own advance copy waiting in the mail and read it again. Gripping, frightening, uplifting, and somehow realistic. Surely it is "distinguished" in "Development of a plot…delineation of characters…delineation of a setting…Appropriateness of style"…but it’s impossible to measure these characteristics without considering the illustrations. And while illustrated books can be considered by the Newbery committee, the committee cannot consider the illustrations:
"The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other aspects of a book are to be considered only if they distract from the text. Such other aspects might include illustrations, overall design of the book, etc."
In a thin year, it’s sometimes fun to include a book like one of these on our discussion list, as it lets participants wrangle out the details of the criteria through discussion. But this isn’t a thin year–Sharon and I are still wrangling out our final few titles.