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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Washington Post Ripples

Roger asks in a comment on Sharon’s last post: "We can say over and over that the award is for a book that meets a very particular group of criteria, but if those criteria aren’t perceived to be relevant, maybe they need to be changed."

Why changed, if the problem is the perception of them? Isn’t it the marketing and promotion of the award that needs to be changed? It’s the perception that is off.

The UKs Guardian won’t help to that end, but Erica S. Perl over at Slate is my hero for today.

Nina Lindsay About Nina Lindsay

Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at


  1. The perception has changed because children’s literature has changed. It has exploded in the past 10 years and thanks to the likes of Harry Potter has entered much more into the public conscious. Thus you’re going to get more public criticism of it.

    I think that what Roger was saying is that maybe the public perception isn’t all wrong and is really pointing to an underlying problem with the award. Maybe the age limit needs to be changed, maybe the criteria needs to reflect more the depth and breadth of children’s literature now. Remember: when the award was started, children’s literature was nothing like what it is today.

    I know you headed the committee last year, Nina, but I think you may need to look objectively at this issue. The facts remain that regardless of the criteria, the award appears to be perceived as not kid-friendly. How is that good press for a children’s book award, especially one this prestigious? Something needs to change: whether it’s a re-examining of the criteria or the committee nomination process, who knows.

  2. Roger Sutton says:

    All I meant was that the Newbery relies for its influence on a culture that prizes what librarians think a “distinguished” book is. I don’t think librarians and cultural authorities of all kinds have the same kind of influence we used to. Think of how hardcover book-buying has changed, where library purchases are a markedly decreased proportion of the whole.

    This is not to say that the Newbery should change, only that fewer people might find it significant. Despite the article’s claims, I bet, for example, that fewer and fewer teachers believe they “should” teach the Newbery rather than some other book that might work better with their particular students. This is a good thing.

    I fear we may have to become like Dick Cheney when told of the flagging public support for the Iraq war: “so what?”

  3. You’re right…don’t change anything at all. Just put up with the general public being dissatisfied and disenchanted with the award. Hey…we should put libraries back on the real card catalogs. There’s no need to change and grow and adapt with the times. “Just because the perception is wrong…” is not a good attitude to have here. This is not a squeaky wheel or a small minority that is displeased. It is a growing contingent of people. At least entertain the idea that after 86 years, maybe we need to do some tweaking.

  4. Sara, have you taken a poll, or what? How do you know “a growing contingent of people” is “dissatisfied and disenchanted” with the Newbery award? Roger and others have reminded us that there has always been a certain amount of dissent with regard to the Newbery; this isn’t necessarily anything new.

    Why should the award change because some people want it to be another award entirely? We already have numerous kids’ choice awards. Why can’t the Newbery stand as an award to recognize distinction in children’s literature, regardless of popularity?

    Do you have actual changes that you would suggest, that you think would make the award more meaningful? What is it that you think is missing in the criteria?

    I’m not saying I don’t think there could be changes; the main one is that, as others have said, it seems reasonable to change the age criteria so that Newbery goes up through age 12 and Printz is for 13 and up. That, to me, would be keeping up with the times–more quality literature is being produced for the 13-18 age range now than fifty years ago, which I presume is why the Printz was created, and the Newbery shouldn’t need to cover the excellent books for young teens.

    Anonymous, I don’t think I agree that “the award is perceived as not kid-friendly”. People know about the Newbery and continue to read and assign and recommend Newbery books (and continue, sometimes, to be dissatisfied with them) BECAUSE they think the Newbery is a sign of kid-friendliness. The recent news coverage isn’t necessarily a sign of what the average kid or teacher or parent thinks about the Newbery–it seems to be a sign of what some librarians think, and what the media thinks makes for a good story.

    I’ll be honest–I avoided Newbery winners when I was a kid for my own reasons (having to do with boys and dogs). But as an ordinary adult reader–I’m not a librarian–who has recently been talking about the Newbery with more “ordinary” people–I’ve been surprised to find that there seems to be a great deal of interest in and fondness for Newbery winners. But then, I haven’t conducted a survey, either.

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