This is the tenth year that I’ve led a Mock Newbery. Mock, not as: “being such in appearance only and made with or manufactured from usually cheaper materials” or “lacking in natural or spontaneous quality”, but rather think of a Mock Jury: “a group of participants who are required to imagine and act as members of a jury, to investigate factors affecting the decision making process.” What might win the Newbery medal this year? That’s what we’ll be mocking. Will we be right? To answer that, let me show you my slideshow. Just step into my parlor here…
I served on the Newbery committee in 2003 (for the 2004 award); as suggested on p.24 of the manual, I gathered a local group to discuss titles, monthly. The group was comprised of some local colleagues and neighbors, and we sat in my next-door-neighbor’s garden when the weather was good. Can I even remember our winner that year? I remember the real ones of course. And I remember that it was the friend of my neighbor, whose husband was a third grade teacher, who helped me to fully understand and appreciate Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux, from an eight-year-old point of view.
After that, I continued the group as a sort of award-withdrawl-therapy. In 2006, I started a blog (Nina’s Newbery) to try to keep track of and solicit reading ideas for the group. The following year, I chaired the actual committee, so I asked my partner-in-crime Sharon McKellar to take over the group. And the following year, Brian Kenney asked us to join School Library Journal’s blog roll. In 2009, Sharon opted to leave the blog in order to travel around the world, and Jonathan stepped in. The blog has expanded beyond the preparations for our live Mock Newbery meeting, to become a wider forum to discuss titles and the award. I think that’s great. It’s also shone a spotlight on “predictions” for the year’s winners. That makes me a little uneasy…only because I don’t want people’s disappointment in failure-to-predict to translate into disappointment in the award. The point of the blog is supposed to be to appreciate what the award does for young readers, by supporting the quality of literature than can be written for different readers of different tastes and ages. That quality depends on a breadth of examples of “excellence,” and that’s part of the reason for having a different committee of 15 people serve each year. Jonathan and Sharon and I make a total of 3 stick-in-the-muds, though we all work hard at keeping our reading brains nimble. So: if we’re doing this right, we won’t be “getting it right” all the time. Following?
In the past 9 years then how well have we predicted the awards? Here we go. Years are the award year, which follows the publication year, and clicking on them will take you to the actual Newbery awards for that year, in case you’ve forgotten:
2004 Anyone out there remember what we chose? Did I browbeat you all with my favorite: Polly Horvath’s The Canning Season? I’m only certain we did not predict this one.
2005 We chose Kira-Kira. I remember a lot of Russell Freedman’s The Voice That Challenged a Nation too. And I remember giving up on my favorites: Farmer’s Sea of Trolls, Konigsburg’s The Outcasts of 19 Schulyer Place and Walter Dean Myers’ Here in Harlem.
2006 We chose Criss-Cross. Hey, doing pretty good!…and on the honors too. This was Jonathan’s committee year. I think we were our smallest Mock group: were there 5 of us? I revolted against The Penderwicks. Getting it “right” sadly can cloud your memory about other favorites. I had to check the Notables’ list to remember Sue Stauffacher’s Harry Sue.
2007. We chose A Drowned Maiden’s Hair; it and all of our honors remain some of my favorite titles of the decade (and some of all time). It was such a great year. We chose such great books. What happened?
2010. Hey, right place, right time, right books…almost all of em. But that was kind of an extraordinary year, in many ways. With record turnout at our live discussion, Jonathan and I had to split the room in two and had two sets of results: his and hers. Don’t Forget The Dunderheads.
2011. Huh. Well, we picked two of the honors as our winners, Dark Emperor in our live discussion, and One Crazy Summer in our first online poll. Neither Jonathan or I finished reading the actual winner until after the announcements.
Which years did you get it right? And which years did your favorite not get the medal…here’s your chance to remind us of why it’s still so special.