As we start to pick apart our shortlist, we’re finding plenty of flaws in all of our favorites….which is not at all surprising. No Newbery winner is flawless. But the flaws complicate that already complicated puzzle of how to measure books against each other that are totally different. A thread that’s shown up in various comments here are people’s personal hopes for the *type* of book that should win the Newbery. Everyone has a picture of their perfect Newbery winner, and it’s slightly different for everyone. An exercise sometime employed by committees early in the year is for everyone to describe their *virtual* pick for a Newbery winner. It helps just to “out” these otherwise secret hopes, so that they don’t bias the discussion…and it usually adds depth to the interpretation of the criteria.
Usually, a *virtual* perfect Newbery winner is drawn in the mind in comparison to other past winners. But remember that when it comes down to voting, committee members are to consider just their year’s worth of books. They are thinking about which one of those they’d want to put on a pedestal to stand throughout time with the other medalists…but they don’t have the advantage of long foresight to guess which might become “classic.” They’re not to consider how the winner will measure against other winners, but rather only how the books of the year measure against each other.
In 2008, the first year of this blog at SLJ, Sharon McKellar and I posted a redux of the “Secret of the Andes” debate. This book is often held up as the epitome of the “wrong” choice for the Newbery…but curiously, reading it and its companion honor book ”Charlotte’s Web” side by side with an eye toward the criteria, and imaging ourselves in 1953… Well, if you’re curious, check out the posts and comments: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.