Well, despite all my dithering, nothing on this list is going to surprise anyone, except, perhaps, for what isn’t there.
Almost Astronauts by Tanya Stone
Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman
Claudette Colvin by Philip Hoose
Marching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge
The other four titles we will discuss and consider are:
The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman
I do think it’s interesting and important to include some genre/format stretching titles on the list. I was sad not to find any Poetry that rose quite high enough in my own estimation or that I could get others to comment on…though I still think those titles I posted on are very worthy of note. Happily, there’s a clearly strong contender in the picture book category…perhaps because it is a longer picture book with dynamic and notable narrative techniques that we can compare to some of the other titles on the list.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Surprised? Neither Jonathan nor I seem overly fond, but it does have a strong following, and I’ve yet to respond to the commenter who challenged me on my complaint that I found it structurally lacking. This one is sure to provide rich debate, and that’s what I’m looking for.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Should be no surprise. Should be a racous debate with Jonathan there.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
I think this is the "sleeper" that people are overlooking. Haven’t heard many people talk about it here. It reads "simple" on the face, but read the whole thing, reflect, and consider a young audience. I think it offers engaging and accessible complexity to a slightly younger end of the chapter book audience than the Newbery usually nods to. And it’s different in tone than other titles on the list: another thing I look for.
I did put myself through paces deciding whether I could squeeze another title or two onto the list. I try to keep it to 8 for a couple of reasons. First, we need everyone participating to read every title so that we can really compare one against the other, and so that everyone can participate in the voting. This gives the best semblance to the process of the actual committee, which to me is the most interesting thing about this discussion, and makes it very different than a general book discussion club. That means I need to keep the number of titles, the overall length of all of them, and their general accessibility in mind. If there’s a book people simply can’t bear to read, or can’t easily find…they won’t. If there’s too many titles, it’s more likely that that will happen.
Secondly…it’s an exhausting afternoon. Those who have been there can attest to it. There’s plenty of snacks and sugar, but it’s just…draining. And a tight agenda. We could add another half an hour on in order to get two more titles on…but I want peoples minds to stay intact, not turn to mush at the most crucial parts at the end.
So to extend the list, I have to be convinced that the discussion would really be better with the additional titles. We’re not the real committee, we can’t read everything they do, and so any shot we want to take at a "predicition" is really a wild shot. With the 8 titles above, I think we’ve got a good sampling for a representational and productive discussion. I’m not sure adding anything else would improve it without risking one of the factors above.
Thus, here are some titles we won’t be discussing on January 10th, but which we should certainly keep discussing here:
A Season of Gifts. Yes, this provides for rich and important discussion. However, I have a pretty good idea at this point of where the discussion goes, and it is so emotionally fraught, and so difficult to keep short, that I fear it would really eat away at the agenda and the energy of the afternoon if I included it. I think the discussion on this title is actually a better discussion when it’s taken out of the confines of the Newbery.
The Rock and the River. Maybe this one is just too fresh for me and I’ll regret not including it. But I didn’t see anything in it that was different enough–in Newbery criteria–from other titles on our list that I thought it would really extend the discussion. Read it anyway for yourself!
Lips Touch. Now, this would extend the literary discussion. But we have other titles that address age-level crossover (Charles and Emma most noticeably), and I think this one would eventually go out on it’s ear on that issue, and so just end up taking up space.
…or, of course, any of the other myriad of titles we’ve mentioned, or haven’t yet found. The Mock Newbery discussion is an exercise, and I think it’ll be a good one with the 8 titles above. Let me know if you want to attend…and meanwhile, we don’t have to limit ourselves online.