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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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Alphabet Soup: NBA and NN

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD

As I’m sure you already know, The National Book Award for Young People’s Literature went to GOBLIN SECRETS by William Alexander.  Nina reviewed it here, but I still haven’t read it.  I did finish ENDANGERED this morning which could be considered a cuspy Newbery candidate–and the NEVER FALL DOWN debate continues to intrigue me.  Anyone care to make Newbery cases for either of them? 

NOVEMBER NOMINATIONS 

We have 32 nominations and the results are as follows . . .

(17) LIAR & SPY

(16) BOMB

(16) SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS

(8) NO CRYSTAL STAIR

(8) THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

(7) SUMMER OF THE GYPSY MOTHS

(7) WONDER

(6) THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK

(6) STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY

(5) TEMPLE GRANDIN

(4) EACH KINDNESS

(4) MOONBIRD

(4) MR. AND MRS. BUNNY 

(4) THREE TIMES LUCKY

(4) WE’VE GOT A JOB

(3) THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE

(3) TWELVE KINDS OF ICE

(2) CHICKADEE

(2) CHILD OF THE MOUNTAINS

(2) CODE NAME VERITY

(2) CROW

(2) KINDRED SOULS

(2) THE MIGHTY MARS ROVERS

(2) REMARKABLE

(2) TITANIC

(2) WATER SINGS BLUE

(1) ABOVE WORLD

(1) ABRAHAM LINCOLN & FREDERICK DOUGLASS

(1) BENEATH A METH MOON

(1) A BLACK HOLE IS NOT A HOLE

(1) THE BROKEN LANDS

(1) DUMPLING DAYS

(1) FALSE PRINCE

(1) THE GREAT UNEXPECTED

(1) THE HUMMING ROOM

(1) JAKE AND LILY

(1) JEPP, WHO DEFIED THE STARS

(1) NO NAME BABY

(1) ONE FOR THE MURPHYS

(1) PALACE OF STONE

(1) SAME SUN HERE

(1) SEE YOU AT HARRY’S

(1) SERAPHINA

(1) SHADOW ON THE MOUNTAIN

(1) SUMMER ON THE MOON

(1) WOODEN BONES

There were some interesting points on the previous thread that I want to address . . .

1.  ANONYMITY: The Newbery Manual states that suggestions are anonymous, but says nothing about nominations, so I would assume that is the discretion of the chair.  Personally, I really like having nominations also remain anonymous because it keeps the focus on the book rather than the nominator (and as we have seen, I’m the kind of person who would pyschoanalyze and profile somebody based on their nominations).  On the other hand, I think there is greater accountability with names attached to nominations and that is especially nice since the balloting is secret. 

2.  IMPLIED VALUE JUDGEMENT: The nominations become the discussion list.  Thus, it should include not only the most distinguished titles (regardless of genre), but also a balanced and diverse list since the charge of the comittee is very broad.  I don’t think that’s an implied value judgement.  It’s an explicit value judgement that’s written into the terms and critieria.  Does the committee member that repeatedly nominates one kind of book (regardless of what that kind of book may be) shirk the responsibility to consider all forms of writing?

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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. DaNae says:

    Jonathan, or Nina, or Roxanne, or anyone else in the know . . .

    Is my understanding correct that all books which are nominated should then be read by the entire committee?

  2. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Yes, but since most of these books were previously suggested by members of the committee, the vast majority of these books have been read (and reread). The readership on these titles, as Nina mentioned previously, is the biggest difference between the real committee and our virtual supercommittee. They’ve each likely read all of the titles whereas we’ve each only read some of them.

  3. Carol E says:

    As to anonymous or not, I used to run a mock discussion where folks sent me their nominations and I compiled. No one else knew who had sent them in. When we went to discuss the titles the person who had nominated the book first presented it. I like that, as while you’re reading and making your notes for discussion, you don’t know who is attached to the nomination. But then when the book is brought to the table, you get the ‘sell’ from the person who is most fond of and attached to it’s success.

  4. Wendy says:

    Jonathan, I don’t want to get caught up in a semantic misunderstanding–some of us felt there was a judgment implied at anyone who didn’t choose a book that wasn’t a middle-grade novel, and you said that wasn’t what you meant; I was puzzled by how you meant anything else at the time, but now rereading, I see it. That’s the only value judgment that came up. But again, just because someone nominates five novels doesn’t mean s/he hasn’t considered other types… and, perhaps, decided they weren’t discussion priorities. That person’s two “other” books might be novels that aren’t being talked up, in general, but that s/he feels it’s important to have in the conversation–or, at least, important to that person. My nomination of KINDRED SOULS (which I think is underappreciated) is surely more “outside the box”, in this case, than my nomination of BOMB. Perhaps I get some points because KINDRED SOULS has a younger intended audience ;)

    Last year I poked at you and Nina because I thought the final discussion list was lacking in ethnic and gender diversity. We then discussed all the ways you guys try to come up with a diverse list; you can’t be all things to all forms of diversity, I get that. But ethnic and gender diversity is important to ME, more than diversity of genre. But I still think there’s nothing wrong with some people focusing on perceived excellence. Also, in this context, it doesn’t really matter in the end what we nominate because you and Nina make up the discussion list, and I think we’re all aware of that. Sure, you take the votes here into account, somewhat, but (at least in past years) some of the books are pulled out of left field, or personal preference, or something we may not be aware of. It’s your blog and that’s okay. But I might nominate differently if I thought the top eight or ten or twelve books would automatically be the ones discussed–which, I gather, is closer to the situation with the Committee. (I know any book can still be up for discussion at the actual meeting.)

  5. Elle Librarian says:

    I agree with Wendy. I kept my top three, as instructed, which happened to be all middle grade novels (ONE AND ONLY IVAN, LIAR & SPY, LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK). After these nominations, I read TEMPLE, SPLENDORS, EACH KINDNESS, and others. With only 2 more nomination spots to fill, I wanted to fill my list with a couple more that I felt strongly about – I had no consideration for making my list more “diverse” than it was. I ended up nominating (EACH KINDNESS and SPLENDORS with my final two spots). If I could have nominated five without having kept all three of my previous nominations, then my list may have been more diverse.

  6. Elle Librarian says:

    Ignore the last set of paratheses – trying to do too many things at once! :)

  7. Eric says:

    From the newbery criteria definitions: “Contribution to American literature” indicates the text of a book. It also implies that the committee shall consider all forms of writing—fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.”
    Does this state it is the responsibility of committee members to nominate all forms of writing or to simply consider them? If a committee member doesn’t see a book’s excellence as a distinguished contribution to Children’s Literature why should it be nominated? A feel like a book can have many distinguished elements without being a distinguished contribution.
    I don’t believe that the award should be reduced to a best-in-class/best-in-show type decision. The committee is not tasked with finding the best books of each form of writing and only then determine the medal winner.
    [aside: if the award was simply set up to find the best single book and there was no possibility for honors then this "dog show" type methodology would be fine but since the committee has the option of awarding any number of honors on other distinguished books then I don't think this best-in-class method of nominating is useful.]

    I don’t want to put words into Jonathan’s mouth but I’m reading his comments about not needing more than 3 fiction titles because they are all superior in level of distinction to all the other fiction titles as a best-in-class model of evaluation. Jonathan, you seem to be assuming that the contribution of the best nonfiction, poetry, easy reader, etc would be, at the very least, more distinguished a contribution to children’s literature than the fourth most distinguished fiction title. While this may often be true, is it useful to assume so for every year’s batch of titles?

    Personally, I tend to turn a blind eye to the diversity (be it genre, gender, ethnic, etc) when it comes to my hopes for the medal and honor winners. In fact I like it best when a committee makes powerful statements such as one winner and a single honor book. Here they really do find the most distinguished CONTRIBUTIONS to children’s literature.

  8. Nina Lindsay says:

    Eric, I think your reading of the criteria is correct, that all types of books need to be *considered*. Those genres will be more likely considered by the whole committee in a real way if they are nominated. So those who feel strongly about certain genres may choose to focus some of their nominations there. I think it’s completely true that every committee member selects their nominations based on individualized strategy, and that’s what we’re seeing in these comments.

    DaNae, all nominated books MUST be read by everyone on the committee. Really, every suggested title should be

  9. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Does the committee member that repeatedly nominates one kind of book (regardless of what that kind of book may be) shirk the responsibility to consider all forms of writing?

    This was a rhetorical question, but I’m glad so many of you responded to it. ;-)

    The only person that can really answer this question is each individual committee member because the decision about what to nominate comes from a laborious process of reading and rereading dozens of books; poring over reviews, online discourse, and suggestions from fellow committee members; and consulting peers and children for their responses to various books. Nominations are also made with different ends in mind: to put forth the best books of the year and to put forward various excellent books that, for whatever reason, remain on the fringes of the committee’s attention. I would never presume to question another committee member’s nomination, and I only did it in this forum–and initially without names–to discuss various trends and predictions.

    I personally value all kinds of diversity (including the ones Wendy mentioned), and I certainly see that in the nominations that we have so far. Another person may value recognizing a middle grade novel for fifth graders, and I certainly see that, too, in our nominations. Once the discussion begins, however, agendas go out the window, and as Eric rightly notes, distinction is the sole focus of the committee.

    Can a committee consider books that are not nominated? Certainly, individual members read and suggest a wide range of titles, but discussion is reserved only for nominated titles. The committee in its entirety, then, can only consider books that are nominated. Reading 200 books in a year is an incredibly mind-expanding kind of experience and it tends to pull you in many different directions when the time comes to nominate.

    To be sure, the best-in-show model is at odds with the best-damn-books-period! model. Some years the best books may really be middle grade historical fiction, but by the same token, some years the best books may be all nonfiction or poetry or easy readers. And yet this never happens. Are other kinds of books really so inferior? Or is there another problem? We have 35 novels nominated so far. Are all 35 of those novels better than the lone poetry title or the lone picture book? Even half of them?

  10. Wendy says:

    The picture books that I have loved this year–and there are several–just aren’t right for the Newbery.

  11. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I haven’t seen any picture books that I could get behind either. I admire EACH KINDNESS, but don’t know that I could nominate it myself. I could nominate WATER SINGS THE BLUE, but don’t know that I could vote for it. Incredible year for nonfiction, but I’m only interested in voting for about six of them. Probably six novels, too. I guess my point is that we show remarkable restraint when it comes to atypical books. Yeah, okay, I was being extreme about only needing three novels, but do we need 35 and counting?

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