Jonathan’s Newbery-Induced Attention Deficit Disorder is a symptom of buzz. Buzz is a little crazy making. Yet we seem to love to gorge on it, like popcorn and Coke and Red Vines at the movies. What’s the latest voting on the Goodreads Newbery 2011 list? Who’s predicted what or liking what or not liking what on which blog? It’s easy to create almost literal buzz online, as the sheer frequency of a title being mentioned seems to draw a crowd’s attention to it. Like a fight, or just the rumor of one, on a school playground.
In all this noise, it gets harder and harder to focus on the task at hand, and to make sure to give every title its due. I think this what was making Mr. H anxious in some of his comments on Jonathan’s post. Most award committee members create the focus they need by any means necessary…restructuring their personal lives to create “Newbery time,” sequestering themselves from online discussions, etc. Here, we’re only pretending…and also deliberately examining the buzz…and it’s hard, folks, to focus.
Last night I had the pleasure (because I’m not on the committee, and can make time for this sort of thing) of dining, along with some other guests, with Dana Reinhardt and her editor Wendy Lamb (thank you Random House. My duck was delicious). Wendy was also the editor of When You Reach Me, and remarked on what a new experience it had been to see the buzz grow about this book online. The discussion meandered to some of the other books of the year, and then of other years, and she observed that–for those of us who look to measure a year’s best books–those books continue to exist in our memories within a “class” of their year. Certain books “belong” together, and your non-awarded favorites of one year become latched in memory to that year’s award winners. And it’s interesting to look back over the years, as the classes get necessarily smaller, some dropping from memory….to see really which books stand out to you over time. This is very different than which books stand out in a year, and it is only with time that we can measure it.
I know this, but I regularly forget it and remember it. It’s not a terribly ground-shaking thought, but it is, interestingly, at the core of the idea for the Newbery Medal, as Frederic G Melcher (the award’s “father”) remarked in its early years:
“The growing value of the medals…has been due to the strict devotion to the standards the medals represent. Writers, artists, publishers and librarians can point out books of distinction, considered as they must be year by year, but only readers in succeeding generations can make them ‘classics.’”[i]
So, as an exercise in focus (like the 20-20-20 rule for exercising your eyes, and I hope you all do that after this)…what are your top 3 non-Newbery “classics”…and which Newbery book do they go with? Mine are (done simply by what jumps first to mind…I wonder if they’ll be different after I look at my shelves at home or hear from you):
The Canning Season…. (Tale of Despereaux Year)
A Drowned Maiden’s Hair…(Higher Power of Lucky Year)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian…(Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Year)
[i] Melcher, Frederic G. “The Origin of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals,” in Newbery and Caldecott Medal Books 1956-1965, edited by Lee Kingman (The Horn Book, 1965). P.2.