The Newbery Terms and Criteria provide the following definitions of “distinguished”:
3. “Distinguished” is defined as:
• Marked by eminence and distinction; noted for significant achievement.
• Marked by excellence in quality.
• Marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence.
• Individually distinct.
These definitions don’t seem to help me much on their own, but with a book in hand, I find them very useful to answer that question (in the words of the Eva Perry MockNewberiers, who wear the slogan on their t-shirts) “But is it Distinguished?” When looking for contenders for our Mock Newbery, I turn back to these definitions to try to answer that question, and look for evidence in the text. Lack of clear evidence is what relegated many excellent, noteworthy books to my “not quite” pile.
There are several titles on our shortlist that are definitely “marked”…with a unique style and voice that attempts to achieve something different and elevating with their subjects. Whether or not they are successful is the point of debate, and their “conspicuousness” and “distinction” can create divided camps of “love it” or “hate it.” These often provide the most provocative and interesting debates at the table, as committee members attempt to persuade each other past their emotional inclinations.
In our live discussion, neither DREAMER nor KEEPER fared quite as well as I expected…SIR CHARLIE was humbled, while THE KNEEBONE BOY had such a sure camp of support that it hung gamely onto that consolation spot of “not-quite-enough-for-an-honor-but-clearly-above-the-other-non-honors.” I think all four are clearly “marked.” Taking into consideration the complaints about each that have been aired, what would you say to your committee to convince the “haters” to “love”?