I still haven’t read A TALE DARK AND GRIMM (waiting for it at the bookstore) so am refraining from chiming in at this point, but am finding the discussion fascinating. I browsed back through past Newbery winners and honors to see what other recognized titles had references to other (noneligible) texts. I didn’t have to look that far. The past 12 years of awards show an interesting variety of intextuality.
Jonathan mentioned 2010′s WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON and Lin’s retelling of Chinese folktale elements. This cleary falls under the definition for “original work” as outlined in the award definitions:
- “Original work” means that the text was created by this writer and no one else. It may include original retellings of traditional literature, provided the words are the author’s own.
2009′s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK pays homage in structure and arc to Kipling’s JUNGLE BOOK…yet its distinguished elements still work for readers who don’t pick up on the reference. Similarly, 2008′s honor THE WEDNESDAY WARS is thick with references and parallels to Shakespearean text, though they’re always ancilliary to the main drive of the book. Readers unfamiliar with the referred texts can enjoy each of these books and recognize them as distinguished. I think, however, that they are more distinguished when these extra layers are recognized.
The 2001 Newbery committee honored two sequels: A YEAR DOWN YONDER, and JOEY PIGZA SWALLOWED THE KEY. Both stories “stand alone” in plot arc, but cleary refer to previously developed characters. I wish I’d been able to hear that committee discuss the issue of sequel prejudice…
And 1998s ELLA ENCHANTED’s humor depends on knowledge of the fairytale to which it refers. Sure, it’s one that we assume is in “common knowledge,” but why should that make a difference? The book can be read and enjoyed without knowledge of the Cinderella tale, but I’m not sure that it would be considered distinguished without that knowledge. What do you think?