Those of you who have been here before know that it’s about time for me and Jonathan to start settling on at least half of our shortlist….and we will. Soon. This year has more leisure in it than last, since our final mock deliberations don’t have to transpire until mid January. We’ll be doing an online vote again as well, all dates TBA.
I like a shortlist that stretches the boundaries of the criteria..that gets people to think outside the box regarding the Newbery. I think it brings a better understanding of the award, and of the varieties of quality in writing for children.
This is why I have a short temper when someone is so ready to dismiss a title because they “can’t see it” for the award. The Newbery is nothing about what any one committee member’s expectations are. It is about the best of one year’s books, and about how a room of fifteen dedicated critics can hash out a consensual example of “most distinguished.” If a book is eligible, and good: it needs to be discussed. If you can’t see it, that doesn’t mean that others can’t. You’ll need to articulate exactly why is it less worthy than other contenders.
Besides a short practice round at the summer Annual conference, the actual committee generally doesn’t engage in any discussion of titles with each other until they’ve each made their nominations, considered the whole shortlist, and come to meet together in January. They’ve likely discussed their favorites (and least favorites) with colleagues or kids, and followed reviews and blogs. But the true shortlist is comprised of titles that members feels strongly they can make a case for, and those nominations force the other committee members to sit up and take notice. Nothing comes off the table after that except by consensus, and usually not until the first votes are cast.
Of course, we’re doing it differently here. Jonathan and I are picking the shortlist, and we’re having it all out before we narrow it down. But I’m always in for a surprise once we start truly pitting shortlisted titles against each other, for it’s a that point it becomes hard to make this about whether any one of us cares for or doesn’t care for any given title….it’s about how each of the best measure against each other.