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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Tween Contenders

We haven’t had the raging “upper age limit” debate yet, even though one of the frontrunners, OKAY FOR NOW, should have stimulated it.  Let’s look at a few titles that are all solidly “12 and up” titles, and therefore must be at least considered by the committee.

In the Terms & Criteria:

2. A “contribution to American literature for children” shall be a book for which children are an intended potential audience. The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered.

Further elaboration on how to interpret this start on p.77 in the manual, but the upshot is: if a fourteen year old is potential audience, the book is eligible.

Recall that for the Newbery Committee….no other awards exist.  They must not bring into consideration whether or not a title is eligible for other awards.  So, on this post, comments with the word “Printz” are verboten.  Here we go.

Sidekicks Tween ContendersSIDEKICKS. Alright, this wouldn’t make my top ten, but it is funny and fast-paced. High on mood and plot, if pretty simplistic with character. It’s slick, and it’s surprising, and it made me snort with laughter. Jack D. Ferraiolo works for an animation production company and writes for television, and it shows: his narrative is highly visual and loaded with conversation.  The tension is well-tuned, yet in a familiar and predictable way that suits many readers.  It’s like a Matt Damon or George Clooney action flick with just enough high-falutin’ ambience for NPR snobs (uh, me).   It is so well directed to its audience, and so different than the bulk of what this audience usually finds bound in 300 pages with a spine label, that I hope the committee takes some notice of it as a point of comparison for narrative craft.

Bluefish Tween ContendersThe characters in BLUEFISH own their stories from the start. Schmatz creates a pair in Travis and Velveeta that are on par in believability and vividness with Schmidt’s.  You know them within a few pages, and can sense immediately the outline of what each is hiding, although it takes the entire book for them to slowly reveal themselves.  Readers get an uncannily real sense of that “feeling” of being in middle school…the kind of live tension and angst and excitement in the air.  The story loses its energy for me towards the end, as the fairly predictable resolutions start to lay themselves out.  Perhaps it’s the only way for the story to have resolved itself, though it bears an interesting comparsion to the opposite kind of four-ring-circus finale that Schmidt employs in OFN.

Chime Tween ContendersOne of my esteemed colleagues whose book-opinions I value put this on her “overwritten” shelf in Goodreads.  She and I will have a talk. Meanwhile, the illustrative point is that CHIME is not for everyone.  What some might call “overwritten” is a crackling original wit that speaks perfectly to a young teen mind without dumbing down: p.177 “It takes no more than a single brain cell to flirt, making it perfect for Cecil and leaving me another few billion to admire the paper napkins, which Eldric had folded into pagodas.”  It makes magic real and tangible, not swirly or vague: p.309: “Stepmother’s cheek slipped from her bones, splatted onto the gallows floor…” or p. 252 “It eddied, then boiled. I’d seen this before, the wave rising from the river, too tall, too straight, defying gravity . Now a face, taking shape beneath the cap of foam, whirpool eyes, deep-sea mouth–  Mucky Face, poised to leap and crush….His belly was liver-gray. No schoolgirl paintbrush water for Mucky Face.”  Briony’s story–in the end, one of young teen angst, guilt, and lust that any young reader can identify with–is couched within a steam-punky British swampland at the end of the new railroad line, where magic and Industrial-age technology are butting heads–literally.  The setting is on par with the best of the best fantasy writers: McKinley, LeGuin … the sentence-level writing as dazzling as Laura Amy Schlitz… the off-beat humor as Horvath’s… ok. You see I like it. There are flaws, though I see them as small overall.  The biggest contention with this book will be its age level.  Though as firmly “12 and up” as the others, it’s certainly got more to it, more that will be better appreciated by some readers when they’re older.  “Some” being operative by the definition of the award.  For as long as this book is more distinguished for some 13 and 14 year olds than other contenders…it should be highly considered.   Why are we so ready to see a medal on OKAY FOR NOW–certainly a title whose best appreciators might be older than 14?–if not for CHIME?

Which gets, btw, my “most deceptive cover” of the year award.  I hope it sells well, but it sells wrong.

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Nina Lindsay About Nina Lindsay

Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at ninalindsay@gmail.com

Comments

  1. KT Horning says:

    I’m with your colleague who put CHIME in the “overwritten” category. Although I agree that there were many beautifully crafted sentences, the author seemed to be in love with her own words and the overall effect was a slow-simmering self-indulgence that didn’t really serve the story. It also took me so long to slog through it that I felt like I actually WAS in the swamp. But CHIME at least provides a good example for Jonathan’s question elsewhere about unlikeable main characters, since Briony was singularly tiresome.

  2. Nina Lindsay says:

    Oh KT that’s lovely. Thank you.

    But… it hasn’t quite got me convinced of anything except that you find the voice annoying. I felt the swampy feeling myself, but for me it was part of the enjoyment….something to savor. The voice is absolutely self-indulgent, but in a very self-aware way, very adolescent. Can you try to imagine the reader who likes Briony, and then argue against the story?

    It’s possible that this is one of those books that is so much mood/voice that it’s hard for either side to get beyond the love it or hate it argument.

  3. Ed Spicer says:

    And KT, maybe it is your feelings toward the “tiresome” Briony that colors your reading of the book? I find Briony to be “feisty” and therefore enjoy her ‘tude. I do not see the “over written” or “self indulgence” that you see. I see the carefully crafted sentences designed to evoke the mood of the swamp and the ever increasing pressure that does, indeed, simmer slowly until this savory stew is done.

  4. Kate Coombs says:

    I thought Chime was brilliantly written, with a unique and strong voice–Ed S puts it well with his description of Billingsley’s craft above. In fact, I found Chime refreshing after having read a whole crop of books with a similar, nice-but-bland style. I did see Chime as falling clearly in the YA camp. But I have to agree with you about the cover, Nina–it’s completely wrong for the book. (It bothered me so much that I proposed alternate covers–borrowed from other books–on my blog last spring!)

  5. Martha P. says:

    I loved every word of Chime and somehow knew from the very beginning that Briony was an unreliable narrator and therefore I should look below the surface for her true nature. The swampiness of the writing and the setting were all of a piece and worked beautifully for me.
    However, regarding the age discussion: when thinking about Newbery eligibility (I mean that unofficially of course!) I don’t consider the age of the protagonist as much as I do the themes of and raison d’etre for the story. Chime’s themes are decidedly YA. She’s not figuring out how to leave her childhood behind; she’s already a young adult deciding how she is going to live her adult life.

  6. Wendy says:

    Nina, you use the phrase “young teen” twice–once in reference to readers, once in reference to Briony. But Briony is actually seventeen years old (it isn’t “young teen angst”). Now, sure, readers read up etc. But I struggle with this one. I know the criteria, and even if I quibble with them (because there isn’t any book in the world that isn’t going to appeal to some fourteen-year-olds, rendering the criterion basically pointless if the interpretation is that liberal), I know they’re what we’ve got to work with. This book just doesn’t seem to have much to offer anyone under thirteen or fourteen. It doesn’t seem right for the Newbery. OKAY FOR NOW, while maybe, as you say, best appreciated by those over fourteen (I don’t necessarily agree, but that doesn’t matter), has a lot to offer a ten- or twelve-year-old. That kid won’t get everything, maybe, but will still enjoy the book and find distinguished stuff in it. That’s why I am more willing to consider OFN as Newbery contender. Since you asked.

    As for the book itself–I think the setting, as you mention, is outstanding, and definitely distinguished, both in its description of place and time. The characters, too, were intriguingly written; I thought the author did a great job of keeping details about the characters back, to be revealed later, without cheating or deceiving the audience: every detail appears at the right moment, and fits in perfectly with what we already know about the characters. That’s it for me, though. I thought the style drifted from “intentionally swampy” into “distractingly muddled”, and that the plot got lost here and there. I thought it was good, but not fantastic.

    I recognize, though, that I’m almost never going to like a book that has meandering pacing as well as something sharp and clear. Is it fair to say that CHIME suffers in comparison to, say, MAY AMELIA? Holm isn’t making any attempt to write “atmospherically”. It’s difficult for me to articulate what I feel like keeps this from being distinguished writing for me without bringing in books from other years. You invite the comparison with McKinley and Schlitz, and I don’t think this is as good as those. When I compare apples and oranges I ask “Is this the best [fantasy, poetry, book about frogs] it can be?” Here I can’t say “yes”. I know we aren’t actually looking for “the best meandering fantasy evar”, but knowing that I have appreciated some similar books in the past more than I appreciate this one makes me less concerned with whether CHIME isn’t in my top ten simply because this isn’t my preferred style of writing.

  7. Nina Lindsay says:

    I realize that CHIME is going to be the most challenging one to consider for age range, but I really want to tease out the thinking. WHY is it, when we are so ready to consider other books for the same age range?

    Martha, you call it “decidely YA.” I won’t disagree. However, that’s not a consideration for the committee. The committee needs to decide whether it’s for children including up to age fourteen, as defined by the award. It can be both.

    Wendy, you offer in comparison that OFN offers a lot to 10 and 12 year olds. That’s nice. However, a book only needs to offer something to a fourteen year old to be considered for the award. It will, of course, need to really stand out to compete with others, and you’re arguing it doesn’t.

    Ok, I was really hoping to drive you all to the manual yourself, but here I’ll go in and pull out just part of the expanded definition:

    “If a book is challenging, and suitable for 13-14-year-olds but not for younger
    readers, is it eligible? Yes; but it can be given an award only if it does what it sets
    out to do as well as or better than other, younger books that are also eligible.
    Questions for committees to consider include these:
    * Is there any 14-year-old for whom this book is suitable?
    * If so, is it distinguished enough to be considered?
    * If so, exactly what 14-year-olds would respond to it, and why?”

  8. YES about the wrongness of the cover of CHIME! I wouldn’t even read it until Kate Coombs posted about the wrongness of the cover last spring, as she mentioned. Just want to chime in there.

    I like what Martha P has to say about the themes of the stories being what truly differentiates a YA from a younger book– it’s a great guideline for me to figure out what sections of the library a book ought to be in. But I guess it still doesn’t count as a way to tell true Newbery eligibility, does it? Because the Newbery doesn’t care if it’s YA, just if a 14-year-old would be the audience. Looking at precedence, I’d say Chime and The Hero and the Crown have pretty similar audiences, so, it’s been done.

    That said, I really enjoyed Chime, but I didn’t think it was as All That as the rest of the world seemed to think. I’d say age-appropriate or not that there are other more Distinguished books this year. And (this is where I fail as a potential committee member) I don’t really have much more to say, just chiming in. No pun intended.

  9. Martha P. says:

    So if Chime is a book the Newbery committee should be considering, then I hope they also take a good look at Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, to my mind the best fantasy novel published this year, and pegged by the publisher as appropriate for grades 8 to 12. Fourteen-year-olds are in eighth and ninth grades, correct? at least mine were!

  10. Wendy says:

    That was my point, Nina–you asked why people were willing to champion OFN for the Newbery and not CHIME. It obviously isn’t based on the criteria, because the criteria don’t rule CHIME out; it’s based on personal feelings or preferences or personal-something-else.

    I do think the question “Is there any 14-year-old for whom this book is suitable?” is, to be frank, silly. There isn’t any book one could answer “no” about. But I don’t quite see how the third question, “exactly what 14-year-olds would respond to it, and why?” is relevant according to the Newbery rules. What does the committee gain from asking themselves that question? (Requesting a serious answer.)

  11. Nina Lindsay says:

    Ah, Wendy, good question. To me, this is actually the most important question for the committee to ask…and I’m going to turn it around a little: “Why…[in what way]…would a fourteen year old respond to it”?

    Now what follows is really my own interpretation of reading between the lines of the terms and criteria and expanded defintions…but I do like to go back to: “The book displays respect for children’s [defined as including fourteen] understandings, abilities, and appreciations.” A fourteen year old carries qualities of both children and adults. Can they appreciate the book from their more childlike point of view? Or *only* from a more mature perspecitve?

    While there are parts of CHIME that I do think are beyond most fourteen year olds…I do think the vast bulk of the story and writing is appreciable by a fourteen year old working on their more “immature” level. Afterall, isn’t Briony’s struggle all about crossing that line herself? Forget about her actual age for a second: isn’t her mindset one that is solidly fourteen, solidly confused-kid-dealing-with-chemical-changes-in-the-brain? And wouldn’t this still fit the terms of the award?

    I may well come down to deciding that the book, as appreciated by a fourteen year old, is not as distinguished as another title–as appeciated by whatever it’s target audience is. But in terms of eligible titles dealing with magic, I’ve found it to have by far the most distinguished approach so far. Martha, I’ll look up Scorpio Rules. Any others out there?

  12. Mr. H says:

    I’m behind in reading the comments on this one but badly wanted to add my two (or three) cents.

    1. We really shouldn’t waste time talking about this book for the Newbery. The sexual tension that existed between Briony and Eldric ALONE puts this out of the age range for me. The whole thing about watching the witches fly away and looking up their skirts and Briony wondering what other “lady parts” Eldric has seen . . . screams “too old” to me. This one should be a no-brainer. Sorry.

    2. The cover is terrible. I was embarrassed reading it actually! My brother-in-law was going to beat me up for reading a “romance” novel.

    3. I started reading OKAY FOR NOW to my 5th grade class yesterday. One chapter in, and the class is OBSESSED with Doug. They love him and already feel for his situation. That tells me that OKAY FOR NOW is perfectly fine for the Newbery. If I read CHIME to them, there wouldn’t be a single kid in the class that’s even a year or two away from being able to keep up.

    Like Wendy said, the fact that Briony is 17 years old, is ’nuff said.

  13. Mr. H says:

    And to Nina who said this:

    “Forget about her actual age for a second: isn’t her mindset one that is solidly fourteen, solidly confused-kid-dealing-with-chemical-changes-in-the-brain?”

    Can’t agree at all. For most of the story, the only thing I see Briony struggling with is how badly she wants Eldric and how annoying the older woman that keeps hanging on him is. Their “relationship” makes up a LARGE part of this story and it simply doesn’t speak to the majority of 14 year olds.

    I don’t see Briony as a 14-year-old confused mind at all. If anything, the opposite. She’s wise beyond her years, sure of herself, snarky, and witty. It’s why I actually liked her. She may be unreliable but that doesn’t make her smart and sure of herself.

  14. Wendy says:

    Hey, I didn’t say that! Several Newbery winners feature protagonists who are out (way out) of the age-range for Newbery readers. But I basically agree with you, to be honest, and wrote/deleted a comment on similar lines because I can’t figure out how to talk about it. I don’t care what books kids read when, and it may not be strictly criteria-based, but I simply can’t see this as part of the Newbery canon. The treatment of sex isn’t aimed at readers 12-14 IMHO, and yeah, Briony doesn’t read to me as a “young 17″ or anything like that.

  15. Nina Lindsay says:

    Mr H: All girls regardless of age have girl parts, and they all look at them. And so do boys, regardless of age.

  16. KT Horning says:

    Nina and Ed, you may be right about my negative feelings toward Briony and the voice coloring my overall feelings about the book. This is definitely a book I could see someone making a case for in terms of distinguished writing, and I am certainly open to hearing those arguments. Wendy used the word “atmospheric” to describe CHIME, and she’s absolutely right. In fact, if there were an award for best atmospheric YA lit, this would win hands down. For me it just got old. As I was reading the book, I wanted to take the author by the lapels, give her a shake and say “Okay, I get it. Let’s get on with the story.”

    In terms of age level, I’m sure there are some 14 year old girls who would enjoy the book, and maybe even some 13 year olds. But I do agree with those who feel the age level of the book is mostly older YA, not just because of the age of the main character, but because of the the way in which the mother/daughter relationship is portrayed. I think it will appeal more to readers with a more mature perspective, and perhaps a bit more separation from their own mothers than 13 and 14 year olds typically have. The romance part of the story, I think, is what would most appeal to younger teens, in a Twilight-y sort of way. The romance in the book, I felt, was the least complex and most formulaic part of the story.

    Overall, this book strikes me as a novel that appeals most to middle-aged women, and interestingly, they happen to make up most of the Newbery Committee. If you are looking at audience, a book like OKAY FOR NOW speaks so much more to the intended age level for the award, and perhaps on a deeper and more meaningful level than CHIME. I would love to understand OKAY FOR NOW as Mr H’s 5th graders do. I am not talking about popularity or child appeal here, I am talking about a level of literary understanding that a book like OFN can inspire, even as we adult readers see all the plot holes. To me, that is what gets a book closer to distinguished than any lovely turn of phrase.

  17. This may be the single most vulgar thing I’ve ever said on the internet, but to just to “chime” in on Mr. H’s comment and Nina’s response, I didn’t have an issue with Briony wondering what “lady parts” Eldric had seen. I think the real questionable section comes earlier in the book when, not to put too fine a point on it, the witches are squatting in the trees, and the Briony and company are looking up into their “inner girl-parts.” When I was a teenager, the depiction of “girl parts” versus “inner girl parts” was how you distinguished Playboy Magazine from the far raunchier Hustler Magazine.

  18. Mr. H says:

    Nina, I hope you’re playing devil’s advocate, because I’m pretty sure you’re smart enough to know there’s more going on in that text than you so innocently summarized. We’re not just talking about Susan Patron using the word “scrotum”, which to me was harmless, but dumb. We’re not talking about a curious 10 year old. We’re talking about a 17 year old girl exploring

    Of course all girls have girl parts and all boys of a certain age become curious. But a 17 year old narrator, sexually attracted to an older boy, who is in turn, sleeping with an older woman who keeps throwing herself at him, and that narrator curious about “inner girl parts” and wondering what other girl parts that older man has seen . . . that kind of stuff pushes this outside of the age limit. Easy.

    LIPS TOUCH last year is a good comparison. Similar themes were approached more subtly, in my opinion. And I thought LIPS TOUCH was too old for Newbery consideration! But I understand we cannot really compare CHIME to LIPS TOUCH.

    I, like others, can totally respect CHIME for it’s beautiful writing. Click on my name and find my thoughts and “review” on the book. I had plenty of good to say about it. Just not when discussing it in regards to the Newbery. It doesn’t belong.

    And sorry Wendy, for putting words in your mouth! Rereading the comments, I have no idea where I came up with that!!! Although I do love what Martha P had to say (Briony is not leaving childhood for teenworld, she’s squarely in teenworld wanting to leap into adulthood).

  19. Mr. H says:

    Now . . . you want to talk about a “age limit” discussion worthy book, I thought HIDDEN by Helen Frost was pretty good. Really inventive actually. Eric had mentioned it in another thread so I gave it a try.

  20. Nina Lindsay says:

    Of course I’m playing devil’s advocate, but in a completely serious way. Because looking at the “inner girl parts” of witches is the least important part of this story, so I’d really like to get us past it. A reader who is too young to deal with the image won’t even notice or remember it. (And that could be be an argument against the book if you’d care to make it.). At the same time, many child readers will have no issue or problem with it. It’s adults who have the problem with it, and happily that is not a consideration of the committee.

    There is an argument to be made against this book in terms of age level, but it’s a fine line, and it has to do with the emotional capacity of the protagonist in relation to her family and her beloved. It has nothing to do with gross anatomy.

  21. The inner girl parts may be the least important part of the story, but it is there and, to me, it’s one of the things (among SEVERAL others) that make this novel more appropriate for Printz consideration than Newbery.

    You say that you’d like us to “get past it” but Heavy Medal has a history of dwelling on such picayune subjects. You spent an awful lot of time last year discussing the name of a single character in ONE CRAZY SUMMER or the location of certain streets in the novel. Yes, I guess they were important to the historical accuracy of that novel, but we could also use the argument you’re using here that most young readers wouldn’t “notice” those elements or “have an issue or problem” with them.

    But let me return to a more “literary analysis” of the novel. I did think it was beautifully written and found myself in awe of the prose. But as K.T. points out, it got to be a bit of a slog. I thought I was reading it carefully, but all of a sudden there was a reference to the boy’s hand being missing and I had to page back to find that scene! It happened in the bog and I’d somehow missed it in that morass of words.

  22. Sondy says:

    I thought CHIME was beautifully written. For me, the story mirrors Briony’s confused thinking, believing what her stepmother has told her at the start of the book. I think it’s brilliant the way the truth is revealed to the reader as Briony slowly understands.

    I like books where you can read them again and see things in a whole new light. (Like Megan Whalen Turner’s.)

    But it’s definitely pushing the age range. Would it be right to call this the most distinguished book written for children, when it really seems to be written for young adults?

    Oh, and I’m totally on board about THE SCORPIO RACES. I loved that book. (I think it’s out next month, but I got an ARC.) It, too, really has an older feel to it. However, I think kids who love THE HUNGER GAMES or THE BLACK STALLION books will love it. (It revived all my old BLACK STALLION passions.)

    I think it does well with the Newbery elements — setting is wonderfully realized; character is developed; plot is dramatic and suspenseful. I’m not sure if the committee will *really* give it full consideration though, because it seems directed to young adults.

  23. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I have SIDEKICKS queued up to read, but I’ve peeked at it briefly, and found it very amusing. Further, the reviews suggest that it will be a big hit with middle school students. I also have THE SCORPIO RACES in my pile, and am looking forward to that one.

    BLUEFISH stands in a similar place for me as THE PENDERWICKS. I think every single element is distinguished, but I don’t think any single one is *most* distinguished. These books may not win a single event, but by placing third, fourth, fifth in every event, they may end up winning the whole decathlon. My one quibble is that I dislike books where characters magically learn to read. That did happen here, but it was handled better than most efforts.

    I think CHIME is not only eligible, but appropriate for the Newbery. We are not concerned about the age of the main characters, the mature themes in the book, the label of young adult used in reviewing and marketing. We *are* concerned with the readers, and in this case, there is a healthy middle school audience for the book. When we consider this audience, we ask ourselves these questions.

    * Is there any 14-year-old for whom this book is suitable?
    * If so, is it distinguished enough to be considered?
    * If so, exactly what 14-year-olds would respond to it, and why?

    Of course, we can answer yes to the first one for just about *any* book, but moving to the second and third questions enable us to probe further and answer these follow-up questions.

    * Is it so distinguished that everyone of that age should know the book; or
    * Is it so distinguished, in so many ways, that it deserves recognition for the
    excellence it provides to a small but unique readership; or
    * Is it exceptionally fine for the narrow part of the range to which it appeals, even
    though it may be eligible for other awards outside this range?

    There are many of these mature fantasy/romance books in the canon: HERO AND THE CROWN, THE BLUE SWORD, THE ENCHANTRESS FROM THE STARS, THE PERILOUS GARD. On Calling Caldecott, KT mentioned that there is no such thing as precedence in the committee deliberations, and she is exactly right. This committee will not discuss those books, but rather wrestle anew with the questions above. I simply mention them in this context to move beyond the yes-it-is and no-it-isn’t to reveal that past committees have found similar books distinguished–and suitable–enough to recognize.

    My personal response to the book is very similar to KT’s (and like Peter I missed the hand episode completely and had to turn back the pages). Perhaps I’m just not the right reader for this book. On a second reading, I might be able to get past some of those issues and get on board. Where I think this one ultimately fails, however, is in the introduction to these questions–

    If a book is challenging, and suitable for 13-14-year-olds but not for younger
    readers, is it eligible? Yes; but it can be given an award only if it does what it sets
    out to do as well as or better than other, younger books that are also eligible.

    I definitely felt that A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS bested the younger books in terms of what each set out to do. I felt very tempted by CHARLES AND EMMA and LIPS TOUCH a couple years back, but I’m not sure I ever resolved my feelings one way or another. With CHIME, in spite of its distinguished qualities, I just don’t think it’s better than the younger books. And–damnit!–I waited ten long years for this book, and I so wanted it to be.

  24. Wendy says:

    People keep mentioning THE HERO AND THE CROWN as being for a similar audience to this book. I think that’s a joke. The one that comes closest, in my mind, is JACOB HAVE I LOVED. I don’t see why we can’t be concerned with mature themes–surely that comes into the question of whether a book is the most distinguished for children–but it all comes back to that apparently no one, or few people, are here to say that CHIME is so distinguished it must be recognized. I don’t love JACOB HAVE I LOVED, but I can see why it was chosen, March-December pseudo-romance and all. (That was an interesting year–honor book A RING OF ENDLESS LIGHT is undoubtedly YA, too, and has a little bit of sex in it. The only other honor was THE FLEDGLING, squarely middle grade.)

  25. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I don’t think HERO AND THE CROWN is a joke at all. Same genre, same older main character. Aerin has sex with Luthe, but she is also romantically involved with Tor. I do think JACOB HAVE I LOVED is another good comparison, especially outside the fantasy genre, but I don’t think it has the issues of promiscuity and immorality that cloud both HERO AND THE CROWN and CHIME.

  26. Blakeney says:

    My issue with CHIME is that the reader is so conscious of the beautiful imagery and clever descriptions that the technique overwhelms the story. It separates me from the character.

    If we could just draw the line between the Newbery and the Printz at 12 years old, we could let go of this discussion. That would be much more reflective of today’s kids, books and libraries than an age that was chosen when there were no YA services or literature and children’s rooms served young people through 8th grade. Alas…

  27. I agree that THE HERO AND THE CROWN is a good comparison Newbery-winner for CHIME. I recently reread it and was blown away by how sophisticated the text is — and, as Jonathan mention, there’s Aerin’s sexual relationship with Luthe. As I was reading, I was thinking, “Could this ever win the Newbery nowadays?” According to the rules above, yes… but I do wonder if the Printz has changed our expectations of what’s appropriate in a Newbery winner, and if the Newbery’s skewing younger as a result (solidly MG as opposed to YA). I feel like that’s true in mock-Newbery discussions, if not inside the committee’s conference room.

    Responding to Jonathan’s comment about BLUEFISH featuring kids who “magically” learn to read, I didn’t feel that way at all. It seemed to me that Travis was learning to read by memorizing sight words, and at a pretty painstaking pace, considering he didn’t manage to read a whole sentence aloud until the end of the book. And I have to say, I’m sure it’s partly because I read BLUEFISH close on the heels of OKAY FOR NOW and the discussion of it here, but I appreciated BLUEFISH’s more realistic non-”four ring circus” conclusion. :-)

  28. Nina Lindsay says:

    Peter et al… of course I was frustrated when I said “get past it.” Here’s what I should have said. I don’t believe that anything should be “no brainer” for Newbery because of the sight of genitalia or presence of sexual tension. These are things well within the experience of children. And: there IS no clear line between the Printz and Newbery, so it is a false argument to suggest that a book should be considered for one more than another. These are knee-jerk reactions. These reactions ARE founded in something worthy of dispute…an argument about whether this book is SO distinguished for its narrow sliver of Newbery audience that it should be considered as a top contender. But if someone says to me: there are vaginas in this book! I have to say: so what?

    Blakney : Technique overwhelming the story is a compelling argument. But the compelling story is about a protagonist who has pulled wool over her own eyes with … a pretty story. Is the technique so deliberately foregrounded as to mimic this? I’ll have to read it again.

    Re BLUEFIISH, I actually really appreciated that Travis DIDN’T magically learn to read. He made some realistic progress. Funny that I appreciate that realism for what it does for the characters, but not for what it does for the shape of the story, whereas with OFN I feel the opposite.

  29. Nina Lindsay says:

    Sondy, I’m looking back at your question: “But it’s definitely pushing the age range. Would it be right to call this the most distinguished book written for children, when it really seems to be written for young adults?”

    Fair question. But again, why not? I have to ask why people seem so convinced that children and young adults are separate audiences. Can any of you remember the day you ceased being a child, and became a young adult?

    The fairness in your question is in asking: is this book distinguished in what it has to offer to it’s audience of 14 and under? It may be that what makes it distinguished is overwhelming grasped only by people over 14. I’m not quite convinced of that. I’m still on the fence.

    For those of you who were here last year: remember CITY DOG COUNTRY FROG? Or any other of the picture book texts that we’ve tried to champion? This is really a similar argument. This book does many things that are utside of the Newbery criteria. But for what it does WITHIN the criteria, is it distinguished enough to rise to the top? Why do we seem to get so much more upset about books that cross a line at the upper age range of the criteria, than with a book that crosses a line with any other of the criteria? I urge people to look at their arguments, locate their discomfort, and then set it aside for a moment. You may find your argument is still sound, but that you can make it in a more convincing way.

    I realize I’m throttling this one to death. BUt CHIME makes a perfect sacrificial lamb for this argument…and happily, will have a happy life beyond it.

  30. Doret says:

    I loved Sidekicks and got a chance to interview the author this year. http://thehappynappybookseller.blogspot.com/search?q=jack+ferraiolo+ . Since many screamed foul when scrotum was mentioned in a winning Newbery novel, I don’t think Sidekicks has any chance of sneaking in has an honor but it still please me to see it on this list.

    One Tween novel I hope is considered is Silhoutted by the Blue by Traci L. Jones. I read it today and really enjoyed it. What stands out for me is how well Jones handles the topic of depression, which I’ve never seen addressed so throughly before in a MG or YA novel. As much as I enjoyed this one I can still recongnize its weaknesses that could keep it from being a true contender.

  31. Blakeney said:

    If we could just draw the line between the Newbery and the Printz at 12 years old, we could let go of this discussion. That would be much more reflective of today’s kids, books and libraries than an age that was chosen when there were no YA services or literature and children’s rooms served young people through 8th grade. Alas…

    This is what I can’t help thinking about, reading this thread… that the definition of “child” has changed. On both ends. I know 3 year olds who read on their own, and 8 year olds who have finished all the Twilight books. I don’t think 14 means what 14 used to mean.

    I also wanted to say that when we talk about Jacob Have I Loved as the “oldest” Newbery, we’re talking about the end of the book, I think? The romance of it, and the sexual awakening. But the characters in that book age into their maturity. As a kid, I’m pretty sure I was aware of that. Not unlike way I read Little Women, or the Anne of Green Gables books. The kid in me identified with Wheeze/Jo/Anne in the beginning of each of the narratives, as they ran around barefoot/munched apples/romped… and so I looked at the end of the story as an indication of things to come. I could see the growth, but wasn’t scared by it. I haven’t read Chime yet (so maybe ths is also the case there), but I wonder if there’s a difference between a book where a kid ages into those issues, and a book where the book begins with those issues at stake..

    Just a thought.

  32. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I was being flip about BLUEFISH. Of course, the boy doesn’t learn to read easily, and I would hardly say that he has learned to read by the end of the novel. The magical part, I guess, is that circling the words (I know, I know–wonderful allusion to THE BOOK THIEF) happens to take care of whatever reading problem he has. Recognizing sight words is merely one part of reading, but not really the most difficult. What a coincidence that’s what the boy’s problem was–and how fortunate that he had the Jedi Master teacher! This is a minor quibble for me, but since we knocked Schmidt around for similar kind of stuff, I did want to bring it up.

    Blakeney, I’m not sure that we would resolve anything by drawing the line between Printz and Newbery at 12 years old because the criteria would still say that you can pick a book for a 12 -year-old, and only for a 12-year-old–and there are 12-year-old readers for CHIME. 12-year-olds read the TWILIGHT series. 12-year-olds read THE LOVELY BONES. 12-year-olds read David Sedaris. I had 5th and 6th graders read LIPS TOUCH. I don’t think trying to draw a line in the sand between 6th and 7th grade solves very much. Moreover, I think your comment about the evolution of children’s and YA services probably reflects your specific location, but is not universally true. Some libraries still do not have YA services. Many rural libraries are run by staff who do not specialize, but must be jacks-of-all-trades. And, of course, there are also school libraries that come in all shapes and sizes. Our junior highs are 7-8, the one I attended was 7-9, many areas have middle schools that are 6-8. I have one colleague that overseas two buildings 6-7 and 8-9. The permutations of what library service looks like in public and school libraries is quite diverse.

  33. Ed Spicer says:

    The never ending argument! Necessary. On Printz and BBYA we argued about whether or not a book was old enough. On Notables and Caldecott, we argued this very question, is it too old. I remember someone at a dinner defining the method for determining the answer: It is in understanding that the same 12 or 14 year old is not (as Nina alludes to) a static being. Sometimes a 12 year old is YA and sometimes that same 12 year old is a child (and vice-versa). Consequently our goal becomes one of defining which 12 year old or 14 year old is the book ideally suited? If it is the 12 year old YA, then the book should be deemed a YA book. If it is the 12 year old child, the book is a children’s title. This discussion involved a lengthy consideration of developmental milestones, which means that one would discuss what approaches to themes are YA in nature or which approaches are properly younger in nature. Ultimately, we did not come to unanimous consensus but I still use the discussion as an individual method for determining whether the book is or is not eligible. I think We do have to have MANY reminders and warnings that the Newbery or Caldecott or Notables are NOT back up plans for why we can dismiss or not dismiss a title for consideration. And, also, that the Printz and BBYA or BFYA are not safety valves for dismissing a book from consideration.

    I adore CHIME. I love every lovely sentence, which are, as someone (Nina?) suggests a way of reinforcing Briony’s character. I think that the treatment of “girl parts” are well within the realm of Newbery consideration. However, I think that the language treatment and the character development really skews this book more firmly in the YA arena. I would listen to those making the case for its eligibility (as I have with this discussion). Even if I don’t agree that is Newbery material, I would understand how it could come to the table and possibly land a spot on it. However, I probably would not vote for it. I don’t have the time to reread it, which could certainly change my mind. I think it is more difficult to make the case for Chime than it is for Jacob Have I loved and other titles. For me, perhaps Carver is the book to hold up for those wanting to make a case for Chime. Also, like those 12 or 14 year old beings, my decision is not absolute. I have been wandering back and forth since my gut level and immediate dismissal of this title from Newbery consideration when I first read it. I remember reading the first post asking about this book in terms of the Newbery and thinking, “Wow, I never really thought of this book in that way!” I so love the book that I want it to win any award that it can so I jumped on the Chime for Newbery bandwagon. And now I find myself closer to where I began, but grateful for the discussion and happy to be less certain of my decision.

    I do wonder whether or not the fact that there are those Printz, BFYA, or Notables, Newbery, Caldecott committees does make it more difficult for a book like Chime to make a Newbery list? Or whether a book like Skellig could make the Printz today? Have we been subtly influenced to cut short discussion of books like Chime for Newbery because it is also a book that is likely to be considered for YA awards and lists? Does OK For Now even come to the Printz table for consideration? I am pretty convinced that the respective chairs for each committee are diligent in reminding members to be on guard. Interesting discussion, thanks!

  34. Rebecca Hachmyer says:

    I believe that Chime certainly belongs on the table in a Newbery discussion, but it wouldn’t get my vote. This is not for reasons of age/eligibility/girl parts. Instead, I believe that there are inconsistencies in Billingsley’s treatment of magic which impact the work’s “interpretation of theme” and “development of plot.”

    Billingsley has created a beautiful liminal/immersive fantasy world in which powerful magical creatures are accepted and respected (albeit usually feared). If this is the case– and this IS the case– why would they hang Nelly for being a witch? Am I wrong that this is the only instance in which the villagers attempt to exert power over the Old Ones/magical creatures? This scene feels like a disjointed throw-back to a different type of story entirely– maybe an earlier draft? Billingsley needed to find a different way to establish Chime Child’s position of authority in the community and Briony’s fear of retribution. One that is consistent with the Swampsea world.

    Also, if they hang witches in Swampsea then why didn’t Briony’s father have his wife hanged when he realized she was a Dark Muse? There are some inconsistencies here around magic and power and history and fantasy that I can’t reconcile.

  35. Rebecca: I didn’t get the impression that the magical creatures in CHIME were “accepted and respected.” It seemed like there were spirits who were benign (such as the reed spirits) but many more who were malignant (the Boggy Mun, the lights that lead people to their deaths, and the Dead Hand). The use of the “Bible balls,” hanging witches, etc. felt right as part of the villagers’ superstitious desire to keep the wild creatures at bay.

    As for not hanging the stepmother, I think there’s a line about Briony’s father being too ashamed to admit to anyone else that he — the minister — was fooled into marrying a Dark Muse. Yeah, I admit that’s kind of weak. But perhaps the “love spell” cast by the Muse was part of it, also?

  36. Sam Bloom says:

    I loved Bluefish. I found it to be one of the most readable Newbery-eligible books I’ve seen this year. But, like Jonathan, I have issues with the “Jedi Master” teacher – he wasn’t quite as ridiculous as Mr. Terupt (sorry to bring up books from a different year), but as a former teacher I had to laugh at a few of the ways in which he magically helped both Travis and Velveeta. Another problem – a slightly larger and more… problematic… problem – I had with Bluefish was with Velveeta herself. I really adored her, but I didn’t quite believe that she was a real kid. The goods outweigh the bads on this one, though – great book.

    To *chime* in on the eligibility discussion, I agree that the first criteria – does Chime set out to do what it does better than books for younger children (or whatever it actually says) – disqualifies it, because I can think of at least a dozen books for younger kids that do the job better.

  37. I liked Bluefish and felt that McQueen was one of the better represented teachers I’ve seen in kids’ books for some time. I actually had another difficulty — the character Bradley. Since the story is told through Velveeta’s letters alternating with Travis’s 3rd person chapters, I felt Bradley seemed a bit of a stereotype as well as a contrivance, there so certain other things could happen.

  38. Jonathan Hunt says:

    You know what I want? I want McQueen’s office. Someplace that I can conference with students one on one about their reading while the other middle school students are reading silently just outside. Only in books. :-)

  39. Genevieve says:

    I think The Grand Plan to Fix Everything was one of the best books for tweens I have read this year. It is cheerful, and I liked that (being in the mood for cheerful), but I don’t think that a lack of darkness should disqualify a book from the Newbery. Far from it. The Newbery can encompass books of all types, as long as they are distinguished.

    I don’t think that an overall cheerful tone has to equal lack of depth. Dini is certainly not upbeat and happy throughout the entire book — her plans make a mess of things and embarrass people, she feels humiliated at times, she feels progressively sadder about the separation from her best friend and her feeling that they’re growing apart (common concerns for tweens, exacerbated here by the distance of thousands of miles). She is not depicted as sinking deep into gloom and depression, but I don’t think that equals lack of depth, and neither does a happy ending. I didn’t think (to compare to a previous Honor book, though I understand that the Committee can’t do that) that Dini’s feelings here were presented in less depth than the narrator of Where The Mountain Meets the Moon, though I haven’t read that since the year it came out. I definitely don’t object to books where the main character has darker experiences — Okay For Now is one of my top choices this year for the Newbery — but I also don’t think that a more joyful book is disqualified. This book appeals to a somewhat younger reader than many we have mentioned, and I support having Newbery winners and honor books that appeal to the 8-11 year olds.

    I found the setting (a tiny mountain town in India) distinguished, as it was depicted beautifully and brought the reader to that spot, monkeys in the water tank and all. I also found the plot and style distinguished – the plot brought many intricate threads together (with extreme coincidences, but that was done on purpose to emulate a Bollywood movie), and the language is considerably richer than a typical tween novel, with Dini’s language (both spoken and narrating) being close to that of her best friend Maddie but including some slightly more poetic and idiosyncratic phrasing picked up from her Indian-born parents (and perhaps some from the movies she loves). E.g. “Then she stops, as if she has only just seen Dini’s face, only just heard her voice.” “The day goes by in a flurry of no-no-no and how-can-this-be-happening.” (I don’t have the book with me, so those are from the first couple chapters I can see on Amazon – there are better examples later, I think.) Also in terms of style, Dini sees her life as a movie script and is constantly trying to rework it, and I think that works very well in the story. (or does that go under theme?)

    The interpretation of the theme/concept was well done, including all the aspects of Bollywood movies, including particularly coincidence.
    “There it is again, that thing that most people call coincidence. Lal prefers
    to think of it as kismet. Some people would say kismet means fate, but really
    it is a far more beautiful idea—it is the idea that in spite of all the obstacles,
    some things are meant to be.”

    I love how Dini notices every detail about the movies, finding more and more through rewatching, such as singing every song from Dolly’s latest movie and then later realizing that this movie, unlike all her others, has only sad songs — leading her to try to find out what has gone wrong in Dolly’s life.

  40. Mr. H says:

    I’m not quite ready to let go of the whole CHIME/age debate yet.

    Nina, you said: “But if someone says to me: there are vaginas in this book! I have to say: so what?”

    I don’t mean to zero in on this one minute detail of the novel but this one detail is just one example of why I think this book falls well outside of the age range for the Newbery. It’s not that the book simply contains the mere mention of female vaginas. Of course 14 year olds and younger are familiar with girl parts. It’s the way in which these brief mentions of them are directed more at adults. It’s the way that Briony’s jealousy surfaces when worrying about which other girl parts Eldric has seen. This is not a feeling that a typical 14 year old reader can relate to. In fact, for me, the relationship of these characters is very much what would make this book distinguished and real. But their all treated very “adult-like”. Which makes sense because, heck, they are all adults!

    I teach 5th graders (10-11 year olds) and I keep in close contact with many former students (14 year olds). Sure there have been some students of mine that could read CHIME and take away some of the magical elements and even understand some of the relationship stuff, but as Ed put earlier in these threads, then these students are not your typical 10-11 and 14 year olds, they are in fact YA and should be treated as such. And furthermore, I do not think Billingsley necessarily had them in mind when writing the book.

    Also, looking back to your (Nina) initial argument of why we’re willing to champion OKAY FOR NOW but not CHIME when they should present similar arguments, from personal experience I think you’re way off. I’m reading OKAY FOR NOW to my 5th grade class right now and they love it. They are catching EVERYTHING. The father’s behavior, the unnamed middle brother, everything. I think that’s because even though Doug Swieteck is a 14 year old, I get the feeling that Schmidt was writing with a younger audience in mind. If I was to read CHIME outloud to my class, the lot of them would be incredibly lost after the first page! And that has nothing to do with my PERSONAL feeling that the subject matter in this book is too old. It has to do with the language used. The demanding vocabulary and inferring that is required of the child reader. CHIME is far too much for the typical 14 year old. And I think Ed made a particularly good point that if there IS a 14 year old reader for CHIME than that reader may in fact be YA.

    What Ed said makes perfect sense, otherwise you could make an argument for ADULT books because heck, I know, as Jonathan put it, plenty of 5th graders that have cracked into THE LOVELY BONES and other similar books. Wendy mentioned it on here too. Saying that CHIME is fair game simply because some 14 year old out there could find it distinguished is kind of weak.

    I know this sounds like I’m hating on CHIME, but I’m only hating on it for the Newbery. I read the book and enjoyed it. I loved Briony’s voice. I liked the mystery surrounding the stepmother and the younger sister. But personally, I feel that all the stuff I liked about CHIME, and found distinguished about CHIME, would go right over the heads of the primary reading age for the Newbery.

    I also think what Laurel said earlier in this thread, really rang true with what’s bothering me about the age-discussion here. I would be more open to listening to arguments for CHIME if the book was more about Briony’s coming-of-age and growing up, but I don’t think it is. I firmly believe that Briony is a wise, mature 17-year-old young adult from page 1, and that the problems she deals with are more sophisticated, and heavy. Aimed at fellow 17 year olds.

    Whew. That’s a lot off my chest. Probably wasn’t the least bit convincing but at least I can tell myself I tried!

  41. Mark Flowers says:

    I have to agree with Wendy’s statement that “there isn’t any book in the world that isn’t going to appeal to some fourteen-year-olds, rendering the criterion basically pointless if the interpretation is that liberal.” It simply cannot be the case that the Newbery criteria actually means what it says it means. I was a 14-year-old once and I read Stephen King for fun and Shakespeare for school. There is no way that the Newbery award is meant to be given to books like Romeo and Juliet or the Stand, just because there are 14-year-olds out there who understand them.

    I think the REAL question *has* to be what is the *primary* audience. And with Chime I think that audience is obviously: people who like boring books . . . oops – I mean teenagers ;)

  42. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Yes, this is a nice little theory, Ed. I remember Nina said something similar about LIPS TOUCH several years ago. I disagreed with it then, and I disagree with it now. I’ll refer you all to this post from several years ago, please pay special attention to the section where Susan Cooper and Orson Scott Card suggest that there are parts of our child selves that are not children, that are not young adults, but that are fully mature. So I’m going to say that the child reader who enjoys CHIME does so not as a child, not even as a young adult, but as a grown-up. And, by the way, adult books are fair game for the Newbery–and always have been.

    http://blogs.slj.com/heavymedal/2009/11/14/what-are-children-2/

  43. Nina Lindsay says:

    Mr H., I’ll always defer to teachers knowledge of their student bodies. I don’t have that level of contact. But I have had many years of contact with children of many ages. And in my committee work I’m always reminded of how different different populations of children are in different communities. So:

    I can’t buy the language in Chime being beyond a child. It’s within the grasp of its readers. 13/14 yr old children can and do experience the type of jealousy that Briony does. And I don’t think Schmidt intended his book for a younger audience, though it may more readily reach a young audience.

    Mr. H and Mark, I’m mostly on your page, believe me. But when you talk about “typical 14 yr olds” or “primary audience,” again–that’s not in the criteria. Truthfully, if you asked me to put money on it I would not call CHIME for a Newbery. I recognize fully that it stretches the bounds of the criteria. However, it’s specifically because it does this, and because it exemplies (debatably!) distinguished writing under the criteria, that I feel it’s so important to consider and discuss it, if for nothing else that to use it for comparison.

    Getting to Jonathan’s current post…”Getting Serious.” It’s important to look at the “best of” in as many different ways as possible. The Newbery is about one title rising to the top, and it only does that by being compared to everything else in its field.

  44. Mr. H says:

    Oh, don’t get me wrong. CHIME is not the typical book I find myself reading. Because I enjoyed it though it got me to read HIDDEN (which I liked even more!) I actually really wanted to read CHIME in the hopes that it would be discussed here and that I could participate somewhat! So I too, can agree that it is important I guess, to discuss it.

  45. Ed Spicer says:

    Jonathan,

    I can see why you may be tired of rehashing an argument that was discussed in depth previously…

    However, at some point committee members have to decide this very question: Is the book eligible according to the criterion that mandates up to 14.

    I get that ANY person carries infinite age characteristics within his or her soul. I get that we wander back and forth between the poles of young and old. I get that within this individual 14 year old prototype there are parts that are not children. However, the award is for children. The award IS for that part that IS a child and members must come to grips with exactly what this means before voting.

    Kudos to Nina and others who have me rethinking my position; I am not sure I am with them when it comes to Chime, but at least I understand the position AND, more importantly, it will influence how I approach the next chime or lips touch twice. That is what I enjoy about this new (for me) Heavy Metal Blog.

  46. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Ed, I never tire of discussing this. As you said first of all, the award is for children . . . The award being for that part that is a child . . . well, that’s what you are bringing to the criteria. My point is only that while your definition of children makes sense to you, and while I think it is a popular one and will win many converts, it is not the only valid interpretation. I further add that each individual member must decide what this means, but I’ve yet to serve on any committee where the entire group comes to a unanimous or even majority decision, that is, a yes-no vote on whether CHIME should be eligible. Most of the time you have that conversation and then people draw their own individual conclusions and then you move on to balloting and the wonderful process of consensus. But maybe I am overgeneralizing. Maybe my small handful of committee experiences do not reflect as universally as I think they do.

  47. Eric Carpenter says:

    Can someone give me an example of a book that would be too old for newbery? If we are going to believe the book needs just one 14 year old reader couldn’t any book published this year be awarded the medal? So to play devil’s advocate for a second, should the newbery committee be reading some of the nonchildren’s finalists for the NBA such as THE SOUJOURN or THE TIGER’S WIFE [haven't read an adult book in ages so i'm just pulling two titles at random]? I am sure somewhere there is a 14 year old who could read one of these titles. If we deem these adult books too old then what is the difference between these titles and CHIME or LIPS TOUCH?

    The first term in the criteria states: “distinguished contribution to American literature for children”

    But if we are saying that the word ‘children’ is meaningless (assuming there is a 14 year old some where who can read any adult book regardless of content, or age of characters) then the criteria might as well state: Distinguished contribution to American literature.

    I’m sure some 14 year old somewhere read Octavian Nothing back in 2006. Are we really thinking that the newbery committee overlooked Anderson’s masterpiece in favor of Higher Power of Lucky? I believe it’s clear which of these titles was the greatest contribution to American literature but at the same time I personally don’t believe said contibution was to American literature for children.

    Now I am not saying that CHIME is as old as Octavian or most adult books published but I would like to know if there is a line at all and if so what is keeping CHIME on the “children’s” side of the line but keeping Lev Grossman on the adult side?

  48. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Eric, if you think children are an intended potential audience for THE SOJOURN and/or THE TIGER’S WIFE and you think they are the most distinguished and you can convince seven other committee members of this fact, having an eight point spread above the next highest vote getter, then I see no reason why either of them should not be awarded the Newbery Medal. Good luck!

    I’d like to circle back to the A MONSTER CALLS eligibility discussion briefly. We had some people that were quite adamant that the criteria mean exactly what they said. The criteria said that A MONSTER CALLS is eligible, and nothing in the example could negate that. So . . .

    Don’t the criteria here mean exactly what they say they do? That is, that any book with a fourteen-year-old reader may be considered? I’m not alarmed by the thought of having such a large field because the practical limitations of what is humanly possible to read coupled with the difficult process of building consensus bring the Medal and Honor books more in line with our expectations.

  49. Mr. H says:

    Jonathan, you’re losing me. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard you and Nina both say something to the effect of “primary audience” not being criterion. Or at least you have both warned me and/or others to be careful throwing that phrase around. However here you say to Eric “if you think children are an intended potential audience” for an adult book, and can argue said book, it’s worthy of Newbery discussion. So now you’re saying that “primary” or “intended audience” IS important?

    The criteria states (as Eric put): “distinguished contribution to American literature FOR children”

    That word “for” tells me that you definitely need to be aware of the intended audience for a book when discussing it’s eligibility for the award. I don’t see how your A MONSTER CALLS comparison really fits, or clears up your point. To me, A MONSTER CALLS should be eligible because of what the criteria clearly state. You were “implying” the criteria (in that case) to mean something else, otherwise deeming it ineligible. But here, you’re wanting to argue that the criteria mean exactly as they say (trying to make a different point) . . .

    Besides, when you say: “Don’t the criteria here mean exactly what they say they do? That is, that any book with a fourteen-year-old reader may be considered?” I think you’re a little off base. The criteria DOES NOT say that any book with a 14-year old reader may be considered. It says that any book written FOR children (up to 14) may be considered. I believe the two to be different. Any 14 year old can read ANY book. If you cannot argue that the book was written with them in mind, I don’t see how it can be eligible based on the criteria. And if your go-to argument is the idea that all children, regardless of age, are part child, part adult, I think that’s kind of weak.

    If Billingsley wanted CHIME to be read by 14 year olds the world over, why did she choose to make Briony a deep, mature 17 year old young woman?

  50. Mr. H says:

    Ha, I reread my muddle. Now I probably lost YOU!

  51. Jonathan Hunt says:

    1. The problem with your “primary audience” argument is that you are trying to affix a specific age to a specific book (e.g. The primary audience for CHIME is fifteen rather than fourteen) when in truth the primary audience for the book represents a range of ages. The publisher believes this range to be 12-18 and I’m inclined to agree with them.

    2. Your focus is wrong. We don’t care whether authors wrote with children in mind, but rather we care about the READER of the book. All of the criteria point to this, from “The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations” to the further questions and guidelines in the Expanded Examples & Definitons. None of them focus on the intentions of the writer and/or the publisher, but rather on how the child audience (i.e. the inteded potential audience) is receiving the book.

  52. Nina Lindsay says:

    I think the key to totally losing focus on this is to circle back to Jonathan’s “good luck!”…that is, a Newbery winner has to have consensus. It is, still, as Eric points out, an award for children. This criteria attempts to define both the broadness and the limits of who we should consider as children. If enough of the committee really feels a book is MORE distinguished for this audience than other eligibile books, then… well, you end up with THE HERO AND THE CROWN for instance. It will depend, partly, on the field…and also on the committee.

  53. Jonathan Hunt says:

    One last comment and then I’m going to bow out of this discussion. I want excellence recognized by the Newbery committee, regardless of where they find it in the age range (0-14) and if that means WHERE THE WILD THINGS over IT’S LIKE THIS CAT and OCTAVIAN NOTHING over THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY then so be it. Personally, I’m not finding anything (yet) at either extreme that I can support over the middle of the Newbery age range.

    While I do believe that CHIME is suitable and eligible (and probably the most distinguished title that forces us to have this debate), I cannot get behind it for other reasons. We have seen quite a range of responses on this list, but since most of them are negative (either too-old or not-distinguished-enough), I think CHIME will be a difficult title to build Newbery consensus around, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be considered because *all* distinguished titles for the *entire* range should be considered.

    And if some book published for adults should speak to a child audience (WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS, for example) then I would like to see the Newbery committee pursue it.

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