Sharon and I are landed in Denver and happily installed at the first meeting (for the session) of ALSC’s Notable Books for Children committee. Here (as opposed the “closed” award committee meetings) the discussion has an audience: conference goers flock to the room in the afternoons to listen in on the debate. In the back of the room, nominated titles are on display and during the break the socializing hovers over these. Noticeably missing?: The Underneath. (It could still make it on the final list if it gets a Newbery medal of some sort, as: “Newbery, Caldecott, Batchelder, Geisel, Sibert and Pura Belpré medal and honor books are automatically included.” From the Manual.)
Today the committee is working through fiction titles they haven’t previously discussed at last summer’s Annual meeting. Some highlights of titles that we’ve also noted here…
Chains and My One Hundred Adventures: members seemed to share the mixed concerns our group did regarding the convincingness of these books’ narrators, though supporters felt these two stood out under “Notable” criteria.
Oddly, the discussion for The Hunger Games went by in a flash. Savvy got a little more discussion, with some pointing out the “clunkiness” of image, narration, characters…while others felt strongly the verve of the story and tall-tale characters outweighed any defects. Though you all know I don’t feel these stand up to Newbery criteria, I do think they are great examples of “Notable” books: showing “venturesome creativity” and “reflect[ing] and encourag[ing] children’s interests.”
Porcupine Year: elements highlighted include the cliffhanger beginning, fast pace, and the age-appropriate love interest with a light enough touch for young readers. Someone questioned abrupt transitions between chapters and the sudden appearance of characters from the previous title, but others thought this was forgivable for its strengths.
Clear favorites in discussion were Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Pratchett’s Nation—my own two favorites this year.
It is ultimately hard to tell where members land on these titles. To see how the voting shakes out, the audience will have to hang around until Tuesday…or check out the results later. (Wait for that page to show the "2009" list…of 2008 titles).
Regardless of results, this Friday afternoon meeting of Notables is always exciting: the place where colleagues first hook up at Midwinter, and heralding a weekend of wide-spread debate over the year’s best books.
(Saturday update: forgot to show you where you can download the Notables discussion list.)