…Completely different from Jonathan’s group.
WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead
CLAUDETTE COLVIN by Phillip Hoose
THE DUNDERHEADS by Paul Fleischman
THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly
Interestingly, it seems like the strongest similarity was in the way our two sets of ballots progressed, not in reference to titles, but in the way the votes fell out.
Our first ballot did not result in a winner. WYRM had four first place votes, but the other first place votes were all over the place. Only ALMOST ASTRONAUTS received no votes, and we removed it, had a little more discussion, and moved quickly to a second ballot.
The second ballot produced 6 first place votes for WYRM: with 11 voters, that’s the "more than half" we needed, as long as there was also a 6 point spread in total points above the next one on the list. Was there? Yes, by LOTS. WYRM also had 3 2nd place votes and 1 3rd place votes…or: it was a selection of 10 out of 11 voters. Pretty consensual.
On to honors. THE DUNDERHEADS had done very well on both ballots, alsways coming in second with total points by a clear margin. To some committees, this could indicate a situation for just one honor book…but, there were still strong and numerous votes for other titles, and so we did one more ballot for honor books. Here, finally, the cutoff was more clear, both in total points, and in number of voters. (All of our honor books received a vote from more than half the committee on the honor book ballot.)
Something that stood out to me in our voting was how strongly divided the first place votes seemed to be. I think that this year, more than in others, we had very different types of books on the list, resulting in some "oranges to apples" selections. I heard in discussion that where people felt two disimilar titles were both very strong, it was really hard to figure out which one was more distinguished. I tried to offer my weird-visual-thinking method (involving lots of hand motions) in which I picture two titles, independently but side by side, being measured against the criteria, and try to "see which title is…um…denser." That is, for the type of book it is and for it’s potential audience, how distinguished is: The Dunderheads…versus Claudette Colvin…versus When You Reach Me?
With limited time, we could only scratch the surface of this. In the actual committee, the chair would try to allow for plenty of time for committee members to talk about these comparisons, as well as spend time in individual reflection before proceeding to another ballot. (If there’s time for a meal break or a night’s sleep, committee members will even re-read a few titles.) The consensus is built not just around the title, but around why and how the committee arrived at it.
We finished a little after 5, and everyone packed up and left…which always happens quickly (it’s a Sunday afterall). But I was left with this horrible empty feeling: dang! I didn’t get to sit at the table with Jonathan! Oh well…we’ll just have to continue to pound it out at the keyboard for the rest of the week, until….