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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Graphic Novels

WE CONSIDER ONLY THE TEXT . . .

Each book is to be considered as a contribution to American literature. The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.

BUT THE TEXT NEED NOT STAND ALONE

Because the literary qualities to be considered will vary depending on content, the committee need not expect to find excellence in each of the named elements. The book should, however, have distinguished qualities in all of the elements pertinent to it.

We have developed this mantra over the past couple years to guide us as we consider literary works of a highly visual nature.  We often talk of covering up the illustrations to read the text alone.  We do this not to see if the text stands alone, but rather to appreciate the qualities of the text without being prejudiced by the illustrations.  In the past, we’ve discussed these issues as they relate to picture books and easy readers, but now I’d like to examine the format in which words and pictures seem to be the most inextricably linked: graphic novels.

A VISUAL MEDIUM OF STORYTELLING

Because graphic novels are a visual medium of storytelling, it would behoove us to spend some time comparing and contrasting them with some other visual mediums: film, television, and theater.  While we can identify all of the literary elements in stories told in these mediums, we typically don’t think of film and television as literary achievements.  We do, however, think of plays this way.

First of all, a play is published with an eye toward future performances, and while other elements of a production change dramatically, the words remain relatively unaltered.  The best plays prove their literary worth time and again.  But the permanent record of a filmed performance negates the need for the multiple performances of live theater, rendering the lone performance of those screenplays definitive and iconic.  Classic films do get remade, but never with the same kind of fidelity to the original script that we see in theater.  We’ve never really come to rely on a textual experience of the stories in movies and television in order to gain a deeper appreciation of them.

Graphic novels are illustrated from scripts that look very similar to published plays and screenplays.  Like published plays, a finished graphic novel is very much a textual experience, but like screenplays they are delivered once in a definitive performance.  I think a more helpful question to ask is not–Can this graphic novel text stand alone?–but rather–Would this graphic novel text be just as distinguished if it was illustrated by a different person?  Does it have qualities that would transcend this particular edition?

Graphic novels have one quality that none of the other visual mediums have, a quality they share with prose: the reader controls the pace of the story.  They can read fast or slow.  They can look back and they can skip ahead.  Film, television, and theater move at their own speed and the audience must keep up or be left behind.

THE MYTH OF INSEPARABILITY

Elizabeth Moreau, current Newbery committe member, offers some interesting thoughts on the whole conundrum of Graphic Novels and the Newbery.  In part, she concludes that. . .

The beauty of a graphic novel is in the interplay between text and illustration. In the best ones, the two work together, build off each other, complement each other. What one lacks, the other supplies, but you need both to fully appreciate the experience. A graphic novel that could win based on text alone would feel redundant. Constantly the text would be repeating what was clear in the illustrations: the emotions, the setting, and all those subtle effects.

As I stated above, the criteria actually allow you to judge a text only on those qualities which are pertinent to it.  So if, for example, the setting is conveyed almost exclusively in the illustrations (and–in a graphic novel–it probably should be) then we need not expect to find excellence in the text for that criteria.

I’m also not sure I agree with Liz’s general description of the relationship between words and pictures.  We hear it quite frequently–but is it true?  Take the pictures–and only the pictures–from WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE and it could virtually serve as a wordless picture book.  Sendak might have added a couple of pictures to segue into the boat and out of the boat, but otherwise it works splendidly.  And the text–this works independently, too.  Yes, the marriage of the two is brilliant, but it doesn’t conform to the popular logic about the strict interdependency of words and pictures.  Sure, some picture books will prove that logic, but not all of them, or perhaps even most of them.

I suspect the same holds true for graphic novels.  Some books are more interdependent; some are more independent.  But I think even that is kind of simplistic because it ignores the fact that the relationship between the words and pictures is dynamic and fluid and can change from page to page and panel to panel.  Thus, as with all of the books that we are charged with considering this year, we must operate on a case by case basis rather than from assumptions and generalities.

WHAT IT TAKES

When I say–as I did above–that we need only evaluate a graphic novel text on the qualities pertinent to it, it does sound as if I’m lowering the standard for this kind of text.  While there is some truth to this–we definitely are letting it off the hook in some respects–the fact remains that in order to be a serious contender, a graphic novel text needs to be able to compete head-to-head with prose novels and come out victorious in those areas which are pertinent to it.

That said, here are some general guidelines that I think a graphic novel text must have in order to be able to seriously contend for the Newbery.  First, the text must make a substantial contribution to the storytelling.  I love THE STORM IN THE BARN by Matt Phelan as much as anyone, but there simply aren’t enough words there to justify an award.

Second, the text must contribute to each of the literary elements, but most especially the prose style must be distinguished.  Think: STITCHES by David Small or THE ODYSSEY by Gareth Hinds.

Third, the text must have a good balance between dialogue (speech balloons) and exposition (text boxes).  It can be very difficult to communicate distinguished prose through dialogue alone.  Indeed, if we copied out the dialogue from some of the leading contenders, we may find it similarly lifeless.  It’s not impossible to tell a prose story this way, however.  Avi did it in WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN ANYWAY?, a book that pays homage to the radio dramas of a bygone era.  So it’s not impossible, just very difficult.

And fourth, theme must be a strength of the graphic novel text.  We must gain a greater understanding of what it means to be human.  That is the hallmark of all great literature, and if I surveyed people for the greatest literary accomplishments in the graphic novel format, we would see that the most common answers–MAUS and PERSEPOLIS–bear witness to this.

That’s a tall order for a graphic novel text: to address the six literary criteria for the Newbery and adhere to my unofficial rules.  And that’s just gets a foot in the door; it’s no guarantee of Newbery recognition.  I’ve found two graphic novels that I would like to discuss here–HADES: LORD OF THE DEAD by George O’Connor and LITTLE WHITE DUCK by Na Liu–so I would invite you to track these down and read them in the coming week so that you can participate in the discussion.

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Jonathan Hunt About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the County Schools Librarian at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at hunt_yellow@yahoo.com

Comments

  1. Wendy says:

    Aye aye, Captain. I have LITTLE WHITE DUCK and just put a hold on HADES. Did you read DRAMA?

    I agree with Elizabeth Moreau, as far as the criteria currently stand. As one who came around only slowly to graphic novels, I’ve spent a lot of time considering the whole point of the medium and have come to similar conclusions. (I loathe comic books, for some reason, so I really had to work this whole thing out.) But I think the quality graphic novel is so much something the earlier writers of the Newbery criteria never anticipated that it almost calls for a revision. I’d rather see broader criteria than see the best graphic novels bent and twisted in interpretation in order to fit Newbery criteria.

  2. Eric says:

    Wendy, I’m sure that the some early comic book fans (i’m not one but they surely exist) would disagree with the idea that graphic novels of today are so vastly superior to the comic books of the 1920s that the writers of the criteria could not have anticipated it. They may not have anticipated the institutional approval sure, but has quality really changed? Librarians might not have been willing to shelve Windsor McCay’s work in their libraries but to claim that these titles are somehow inferior to today’s graphic novels seems a bit bold.

  3. Wendy says:

    I didn’t claim that, though. I don’t think librarians ever anticipated that there would be something called a “graphic novel” that would be considered quality children’s literature, suitable for an award. I’m not saying anything about the quality of comic books, new or old–of which, as I suggest above, I know little.

  4. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I like DRAMA and I like GIANTS BEWARE (which Liz discussed briefly), but I think I can make the strongest (but possibly not entirely successful) cases for HADES and LITTLE WHITE DUCK. We’ll see.

    Some more things I’ve been mulling over . . .

    THE ROLE OF THE ILLUSTRATOR IS SUBORDINATE TO THE ROLE OF THE AUTHOR. The author writes the text and then the illustrator illustrates it. Even in the case of an author/illustrator, the story is conceived textually first and then visually. I’m sure there are exceptions, but not HADES or LITTLE WHITE DUCK.

    EDITORIAL CHOICES CAN THEREFORE BE IMPUTED TO THE AUTHOR. Because the story originates in the text we can impute the structure of the narrative to the author and can discuss the visual-textual relationship in a general manner as a strength of the text.

    Agree or disagree?

  5. Eric says:

    Sorry to misinterpret you Wendy…
    I thought by “But I think the quality graphic novel is so much something the earlier writers of the Newbery criteria never anticipated that it almost calls for a revision.” that you believed the quality graphic novels is something that the writers of the Newbery criteria could not have foreseen. My mistake.

  6. Wendy says:

    Oh, I do think that, Eric; I don’t think you misinterpreted that. I’m just not saying anything about whether comic books in the 1920s were any good. I know that the average librarian (the average person, really) didn’t think of them as good literature, no matter how “good” they might have been, so I don’t think they would have foreseen them being part of the award.

    Jonathan, I think there must be a whole range of ways in which graphic novelists approach their work–some of them must think more visually than textually, and so think out their books that way, but I don’t see how that plays into their eligibility–since in most cases, as you note, it’s an author/illustrator, not two people. In cases where there are two creators, it seems to me they must work more collaboratively than we find in the average picture book that’s written by one person and illustrated by another. Generally, I think these two items apply well to the picture book that may not be Newbery eligible (or a good choice, anyway), but not necessarily to the question of graphic novels. Which is probably what you’re getting at–that these two items don’t rule out graphic novels. Yes?

    I don’t have any issues with whether the text is mostly dialogue or not–that wouldn’t have occurred to me. Incidentally, the Newbery Honor book RED SAILS TO CAPRI, which was tragically robbed of its rightful Newbery by THE SECRET OF THE ANDES (tee hee), is a full-length non-illustrated novel written entirely in dialogue.

  7. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I agree that there is a range of creative processes and collaborative relationships. With the two GNs that I have selected, however, the text obviously came first. Andres Vera Martinez did not start drawing the pictures for LITTLE WHITE DUCK first and then think, “Oh, my wife could write a memoir to accompany these–how perfect!” Likewise, O’Connor wasn’t doodling before he realized he had some spiffy little drawings that would help him tell the story of HADES. In both of these instances, I think it’s quite clear that the text is of primary importance; the pictures illustrate the text–which is not to say that there was not collaboration in the case of Martinez/Liu and frequent switches between visual and textual modes in O’Connor’s creative process. Does any of this matter? Maybe, maybe not. We’ll see.

  8. Eric says:

    Jonathan the text came first or the story came first? I haven’t seen either of these titles yet so i’m simply generalizing but isn’t it possible that the artist told the (previously agreed upon or not) story in pictures and the author added the text after the fact? This is (as i understand it) how the famous Jack Kirby/Stan Lee tandem worked in those 1960s marvel superhero comics. Lee would fit the text and story around the images Kirby drew in the panels (and then take credit for the entire story).

  9. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Yes, Kirby/Lee discussed the story, then Kirby drew, and Lee filled in the text. So I should amend my statements above, then, that it’s not really important to answer the chicken-or-the-egg question. I stand by my claim, however, that the illustrations seem to make far less sense to me independently than the text does, generally speaking.

  10. L says:

    I come later to comics, too. and I come even later to this conundrum, which will no doubt be obvious here in a second.

    I know there is prestige in having a Newbery, but so there is in winning an Eisner, which perhaps the kid-lit world could/should use as a selling point or promote more. I can appreciate the dilemma with Selznick’s novels who seem more comfortable in the non-graphic novel arena, but I wonder at how the author and/or illustrator of a graphic novel feels about dividing the text from the image when the graphic storytelling medium is all about the text-image dynamic. It is considered a fail when one unbalances the other or becomes redundant (as you note in your post). so much of the craftsmanship is in the partnership; and thus the impact of the story.

    Are the intentions of incorporating graphic novels an effort to recognize the interest in it as a medium? generate interest? or help elevate it in the eyes of those who question it’s relevance? because there are prestigious awards available to graphic novelist author and/or artist…which reminds me that they do have awards that distinguish between artist and writer: maybe worth looking at their criteria, see what rigor they apply to the writer?

  11. L, among those involved in books and children the Newbery has a degree of clout unlike any other award. I would guess that the majority who are aware and curious about the Newbery winner of the year have absolutely no interest in any other award, Caldecott included.

    I agree with you about the problems with attempting to divide text from image in the case of graphic novels and have railed about this more than once over the years. I admire enormously the work done here at Heavy Medal over the years to consider these books somehow in spite of the criteria, but it is a challenge. One I find extraordinarily frustrating and have blogged about several times.

    I understand the problems with altering the Newbery criteria, but with more and more innovative books (say Selznick’s) being hybrids with their creators firmly and equally telling stories through text and image I continue to be bothered by the need to figure out how to get around the Newbery criteria, to be able to convince others that these books can be considered in their totality.

  12. Wendy says:

    I think–and I know you’re responding to the original post, not my comment, but throwing this in anyway–that when I say I’m interested in considering these books for the Newbery, I’m suggesting an actual revision of criteria that takes away the idea that “text” has to mean “written words”. Instead, “text” can mean (as it does in academic circles) “storytelling medium”–both written words and pictures (we’re clearly not dealing with video here). This idea was brought up last year in regard to a picture book or easy reader or Selznick, I think, and I can’t remember what side I fell on there–probably it was something I didn’t like, so I didn’t pursue it…

    I agree with you about it being almost a negative to say that the written words of a graphic novel are distinguished independent of their pictures–to me that takes away from what makes a graphic novel special or successful. And that’s actually what made me cold to graphic novels for so long, until I found a few that I understood had stories that couldn’t be told so effectively any other way. The best graphic novels aren’t just comic-ized stories–they have a rich interplay between words and pictures.

    My intention or purpose in suggesting that graphic novels be incorporated into the Newbery is that I want to see the best literature for children recognized. I want to know “What is the book everyone should know this year?”. Prestige, generating interest, encouraging the medium–those are all pretty much irrelevant to me.

  13. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Since there is “NO LIMITATION AS TO THE CHARACTER OF THE BOOK” and since “THE COMMITEE SHALL CONSIDER ALL FORMS OF WRITING” the question is not can a graphic novel win the Newbery, but rather what does a distinguished graphic novel text look like?

    I still chafe at the idea that the words and picture cannot be evaluated independently. If it were so, then it wouldn’t be sufficient for producers, directors, and actors to evaluate a play simply by reading it: they would have to produce some scaled down version before they could know if it was any good. Ditto for a graphic novel. And what about the Oscars for best original and adapted screenplays? Surely, the voters saw the movies before they read the screenplays. How can they divorce the screenplay from the rest of the production? How can they not be prejudiced by it? And yet somehow they manage to give those awards out every year without the hullaballoo that accompanies our discussion here. Could it simply be that the Oscar voters are just inherently smarter than the Newbery judges?

  14. L says:

    “My intention or purpose in suggesting that graphic novels be incorporated into the Newbery is that I want to see the best literature for children recognized. I want to know “What is the book everyone should know this year?”.” I was hoping this was the case, Wendy, thank you. The comic world has adjusted to shifting markets, “long comic” finding more palatable term in “graphic novel,” especially in how it has reached across aisles. and I agree with you regarding “text” and “written words” where the “text” is often the book as an entity, a whole, even as we do look more closely at the different aspects that contribute to the overall. Is part of the hold-up an unease with how to read graphic form? I have increasing adoration for the form, some of the increase coming from greater confidence in how to read them more critically, but that has taken some time.

    The innovation we are seeing does create a fascinating (and frustrating) dilemma Monica that I truly can appreciate. For instance, DiTerlizzi has some cool things going on with his Wondla series, how might digital interplay influence the dynamic further? And I can appreciate the idea that the Newbery would rather embrace than leave off, to acknowledge as Wendy says, “the book everyone should know this year.” I guess my concern is the potential disservice to the medium, and perhaps to the actual best to be eliminated because they were not as restrained to the criteria, that they couldn’t be as separable of image/text. The concern sounds like it is shared. Pardon my ignorance: Has there been talk of a new related award by the committee? could the Newbery extend its clout by endorsing another or related award/committee?

    thank you both for your patience and clarifications.

  15. Alys says:

    I don’t think you can compare reading just the text of a graphic novel with reading a play. A play script is not just dialogue, it also contains information about what the characters are doing, how they are doing it, etc. I don’t need to see the play performed to find out whether Character B is happy, sad, or angry about what Character A just said because the script tells me. But a graphic novel that includes a scene where there is a purely visual reaction loses that information if the pictures are not considered.

    I’m not arguing against your general point, just saying that a script is not the same thing as a graphic novel sans illustrations.

  16. Wendy says:

    I agree with Alys–I think your comparisons are lacking, Jonathan. I’d add that it is very common to do a workshop read of a play before it’s produced, and that we are deciding awards for the equivalent of “Best Picture”, not “Best Screenplay”. We CAN judge the writing separate from every other part of the book, but as far as graphic novels go, why would we? The movie that wins Best Picture is not necessarily the one that wins Best Screenplay, and vice versa.

    Also, I’m about 99.9% certain that there are many people who pick over the Oscars–the criteria, the field, the likely nominees, the actual nominees, the winners, the past winners, the demographic makeup of the judges, the preference of the Academy for certain actors, certain directors, certain kinds of stories–to a far greater extent than we do about kids’ books here. No, change that to 100% certain.

  17. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I’m not comparing reading a play to reading a graphic novel, though. Reading a play is like reading the script of a graphic novel. Watching a play is like reading a graphic novel; neither one needs the previous cues as they are self-evident in the performance. What I’m saying is that people can–and do–judge text independently, and they do so without questioning the process. That is, I’ve never heard people say they shouldn’t hand out the screenplay Oscars because it’s impossible to separate the screenplay from the performance of the screenplay. But maybe they do.

  18. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Also, I don’t think we are necessarily picking something analogous to Best Picture, a fact that is even more evident when you include Caldecott in the mix. We are definitely evaluating parts of a whole (probably the biggest part of the whole in each equation, but parts of a whole nevertheless). Thus, perhaps something more than Best Screenplay, but definitely something less than Best Picture.

  19. Wendy says:

    They do, Jonathan–not say that the screenplay award shouldn’t exist, but that such-and-such movie didn’t actually have a great screenplay and it was just the total package that swayed the voters.

    If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re comparing reading the words only of a graphic novel to reading a play, right? As Alys points out, a playscript is more than the words spoken by the actors; but in general, isn’t the prevailing thing about reading plays, Shakespeare included, that “you don’t really get it until you’ve seen it performed”? I think by shoehorning graphic novels into the current Newbery criteria, we’d very likely be missing out on some of the best graphic novels published, the ones with a story that is a true interplay between words and pictures.

  20. Mark Flowers says:

    @Wendy: this – “the Newbery Honor book RED SAILS TO CAPRI, which was tragically robbed of its rightful Newbery by THE SECRET OF THE ANDES (tee hee)” is the greatest thing I’ve read all week. Thanks.

    As for GNs, I definitely agree with Wendy that the reality of the situation is that we are stuck with criteria that are in need of serious reform. And I agree with Jonathan that “text” could easily be redefined to the more academic understanding of the word.

    That being said, within the current criteria, I see no reason why an illustrated book or graphic novel shouldn’t be given full consideration, especially since illustrated books have been awarded Honors in the past. I don’t see how GNs (or at least *all* GNs) are so substantially different from FROG AND TOAD or DR. DE SOTO in format that we have to have a separate conversation about them.

    Unfortunately, I actually haven’t read a lot of Children’s GNs this year, so I can’t speak to any specifics, except for HADES. I think HADES is an out-of-control awesome book. The whole structuring of the story to maintain the basic plot line of the Greek myth of Persephone, while updating it to give more and deeper motivations is extraordinary. Plot – distinguished. Interpretation of theme – distinguished. Characters – distinguished. Appropriateness of style . . . a little less so. There’s some really clunky dialogue in places, which, considering how few words there are, really hold me back from saying that the words alone are Most Distinguished. If I *could* add in the illustrations, this book would be in my top ten, maybe top five. Just on the words, it slips a bit below that.

    I’d love to hear about what other GNs I should take a look at, though.

  21. Wendy says:

    Er, just to avoid putting words in Jonathan’s mouth, I think I was the one advocating for looking at “text” in the academic sense (that is, text does not necessarily mean words on a page). I don’t know whether he agrees with me.

  22. Mark Flowers says:

    Sorry, Wendy – that’s what I get for trying to read 18 comments and come up with something coherent to say in just a couple minutes before I had to head out to the desk.

  23. Playing devil’s advocate — do those in the Academy have to ONLY consider the screenplay? Without viewing the film? The performances? And don’t they all just vote separately? There is no Academy Committee coming together, discussing, and considering within a process a la the Newbery is there? So who’s to say whether or not they consider all those other elements when voting for best screenplay. My guess is how the screenplay ended up on the screen matters.

  24. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I know I’ve been all over the place so let me clarify. Because graphic novels are a visual medium, the reading of an entire graphic novel is roughly analogous to viewing a live play or movie. If we are only focusing on the text of a graphic novel–divorced from its pictures–then I have made the comparison to the words of a play only to illustrate that people can and do enjoy a “lesser” experience (acknowledging that reading a play is lesser than viewing it).

    Personally, I think hell will freeze over before the criteria are revised to specifically include GNs, but I do not think I need to twist the current criteria to make GNs fit. I’m not rewriting or reinterpreting the criteria that I quoted above. I think it’s a pretty straightforward reading of them.

    Other GNs I would recommend from this year: DRAMA, EXPLORER: MYSTERY BOXES, CARDBOARD, THE SILENCE OF OUR FRIENDS (YA), MARATHON (YA), and AMULET: PRINCE OF THE ELVES (which I haven’t read but is hugely popular with my students). I also haven’t read HEREVILLE: HOW MIRKA FOUND A METEORITE, but I enjoyed the first one . . .

  25. fairrosa says:

    Thank you, Jonathan, and everyone .. and Elizabeth, for all these thoughts and considerations. I have been thinking hard on this issue for a long time, as well. And I just wrote a blog post, hopefully, illustrating how I view the Graphic Novel Conundrum :)

    http://fairrosa.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1633&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

  26. Nina Lindsay says:

    This week has been one long short one of catching up on various things post elections work, so I’m sorry to just be getting into my favorite annual discussion, but really please to see it with a slightly different tack.

    I believe that the ultimate resolution to the conundrum has to do with, as Wendy and L have gotten to, a broader understanding of the terms “literature” and “text,” which don’t HAVE to mean written word, and I think in one more generation might cease to. Extricating ourselves in the Newbery criteria from the specific language that makes us separate the words from the visual is going to be long, complicated, and messy.

    To me there is a parallel argument to my favorite one about sequels, which we haven’t fully plumbed yet this year, and that’s the idea that we judge books for the Newbery on a specific set of criteria that don’t take into account the entirety of what makes the work distinguished. There are distinguished sequels that do not stand on their own, and shouldn’t be expected to (my favorite example: THE KING OF ATTOLIA). There are distinguished illustrated works whose words don’t stand on their own, nor should they be expected to (still my current favorite example: DRAWING FROM MEMORY). Where is the recognition for the “most distinguished work of literature for children” that includes these kinds of books?

    I think we’ll only get there with baby steps. HUGO CABRET busted open the definition of a “picture book” for the Caldecott. Where are the examples for Newbery that might start to tickle at those criteria? Jonathan and I keep looking for them. It’s an uncomfortable procedure, as right now these two awards, the Newbery and Caldecott, stand so well as markers for writing and illustration distinct from each other. How do we start to “mush” them together while keeping the spirit and integrity of those awards?

  27. fairrosa says:

    Can I be audacious and crazy here??

    How about re-writing all currently standing awards’ and their criteria by Age Ranges (Geisel: 0-4, Caldecott: 5-7, Newbery: 8-11, Sibert: 12-14??) — and for EACH age range, there will be one gold medal that is awarded for THE BOOK, and its creator(s) — and of course honor titles. This way ALSC still has 4 Committees for people to involve themselves in, and instead of considering many books only partially, we examine the ultimate success of the book as a whole (and I say, yup, take into consideration the design elements as well!)

    This way we don’t have to change the names of the awards, but re-think and re-define WHY the books win these awards: mostly, whether they succeed in being the most distinguished books for a particular readership.

  28. Nina Lindsay says:

    Roxanne, while you might be on the right track (audacious and crazy), there’s a couple of hurdles with the age range idea. One is that I believe that, legally, the Newbery and Caldecott need to encompass the entire range of service of ALSC, the association that administers the award. Has to do with how they were granted to ALSC. (I’m going to check on the intricacies, to make sure I’m getting this right). I also hate the idea of compartamentalizing things by small age ranges, especially without crossover, as we all know interests and abilities range so much among children, and I fear that we’d end up excluding way too many titles that each group feels falls “outside” their range.

  29. fairrosa says:

    This is a short response regarding Eric’s comment on the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee collaboration: if we presume, even for a minute, that the books we consider so carefully each year are purely the creation of the authors with no input from or collaboration with others (writers’ group, friends, and especially hard working and talented editors,) we would be completely mistaken. This is also something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time — how we don’t recognize the names and work of editors as much as they so deserve.

  30. fairrosa says:

    Nina, I didn’t know about the legality of the two awards. Thank you for this knowledge. And personally, I find this 0-14 “rule” enriching because it is challenging to compare so many different age ranges and formats. It stretches my brain.

    So I agree on the richness of non-compartmentalizing by ages — it is a lofty goal. But then, why was Geisel created? Because, in practice… the easy readers were almost completely excluded from both Caldecott and Newbery due to exactly what you mentioned in your response: that even though the age range for both awards specifies 0-14, the outcomes of Caldecott tended to be for pure picture books while Newbery tended to be for middle grade texts. The outcomes of the past however many years have been, in practice, if not in theory and charges, showing narrow age-range compartmentalization, and more so in Newbery!

    These are the Newbery Winning titles for the last twenty years: Dead End in Norvelt, Moon over Manifest, When You Reach Me, The Graveyard Book, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, The Higher Power of Lucky, Criss Cross, Kira-Kira, The Tale of Despereaux, Crispin, A Single Shard, A Year Down Yonder, Bud, Not Buddy, Holes, Out of the Dust, The View from Saturday, The Midwife’s Apprentice, Walk Two Moons, The Giver, Missing May, Shiloh, Maniac Magee

    And I’d say except for Despereaux and Shiloh which reach down to perhaps 3rd grade “independent reading” competency, and Out of the Dust, Criss Cross and Good Masters which might be slightly more difficult for readers under 6th/7th grade to appreciate (although I’ve seen them read and appreciated by 5th/6th grade students), most of them fall quite comfortably within the 4-6 grade (10-12) range.. which is quite narrow, even though the CHARGE of the Committee isn’t.

    And aside from Good Masters! all of the others are pure fiction titles because the current terms and criteria make it more likely for committee members to highlight the “merits” of the text (since most of them don’t need verification of index/source notes, or aren’t accompanied by images, sidebars, graphic panels, etc. that make comparison difficult.)

    (And out of the 66 Newbery honors, 13 of them are assorted poetry/nonfiction/picture books — 53 are fiction, mostly middle grade: no easy readers, one picture book.)

    With my crazy scheme, hopefully, we can ensure that titles for EACH age range can emerge to be recognized as contributing greatly to the field of children’s literature when they indeed DO!

    I only wish that the ALSC Notable books were more valued by the fields: both in publishing and in the teaching world. The two-year assignment on the Notables was intensely interesting and rewarding to me as a practitioner: the number of books submitted were 10x that of the Newbery, the genres we had to consider were so much wider and we were allowed to consider each book as a whole, the open-forum in front of an audience during our deliberation was invigorating: and I don’t think the rigor or the standard were lesser than The Newbery. It’s just that the list is longer, with more titles for each age range and genre and it’s traditionally not that glitzy! Perhaps we SHOULD make Notables more SHINY :)

  31. Nina says:

    Yes….when theory and reality don’t meet halfway, it’s hard. I like the idea of shiny Notables.

    Trying to get an official explanation of the age level thing to share in a future post, so that I get it explicitly correct.

  32. Barbara says:

    For me, the GN analogy that “works” is a piano concerto. Both right and left hand are needed. Sometimes one hand dominates, and then moves into a supporting role for a portion of the composition. At times both are of equal dominance. But the reality is that while you can dissect and discuss each hand separately, the musical experience demands both right & left hand, working in tandem.

  33. Nina says:

    Barbara, good analogy. So I wonder if the Newbery criteria would stretch to consider a “piano concerto”….

  34. Wendy says:

    Hey, what happened to the post about HADES that I was just about to comment on (and object to, naturally)? I guess that gives me time to consider the book further…

  35. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Wendy, it had some big formatting problems that I couldn’t fix from home. I’m at work now, and will have it up shortly.

  36. Barbara says:

    Sure thing, Nina. It will probably happen when Hades freezes over.

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