September 23, 2009 By 3 Comments
In the comments to a previous post, some eligibility questions were raised about a couple of titles.
I’m not so sure a 2008 copyright date disqualifies ODD AND THE FROST GIANTS by Neil Gaiman. It’s highly unusual that a Newbery book would be published outside of America first, but as I read the criteria that does not necessarily disqualify it: "A book might have a copyright date prior to the year under consideration but, for various reasons, was not published until the year under consideration . . . The intent of the definition is that every book be eligible for consideration, but that no book be considered in more than one year."
Now, to my mind, FIRE: TALES OF ELEMENTAL SPIRITS by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson is a messier affair. It’s a book of short stories, some written by McKinley, some by Dickinson, but none written collaboratively. The Newbery does allow for co-authors but I think the presumption is that both would be American residents or citizens. If this book were somehow ruled eligible, I imagine that only McKinley would be honored, and then only for her stories–so long as Dickinson’s did not detract from the overall book. That is to say, that her stories alone would have to stand as a distinguished contribution.
Eligibility decisions are the sole discretion of the chair and they are often made in consultation with the ALSC priority consultant assigned to the committee, but of course if none of the committee members perceive either ODD AND THE FROST GIANTS or FIRE: TALES OF ELEMENTAL SPIRITS to be distinguished it’s a moot point, really. (Nina can address the chair’s responsibility better than I can.)
Since the criteria defines children as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, I do not think FIRE: TALES OF ELEMENTAL SPIRITS is too old for the Newbery. (Many people don’t realize that fourteen-year-olds are typically high school freshmen. I myself attended a junior high that included seventh, eighth, and ninth grades–and since my birthday is around Memorial Day, I spent my entire ninth grade year being fourteen.) Whether or not a book is too old is not a decision that the chair should make, but rather something that should be decided by entire committee through its rigorous consensus process.