At the end of the last Heavy Medal season, Wendy announced–
I’m now retiring from Newbery fandom. This was my fifth year, and I read more widely than ever before thanks to the great Seattle Public Library system that I’m now privy to (72 books that I considered eligible for the Newbery, plus a number of Printz, Sibert, Caldecott, etc), and I am just burned out.
Burnout is a serious problem if you try to read like the Newbery committee does year after year which is one reason why Nina and I never feel compelled to read or discuss every single worthy title, and why one of our mantras here has always been that we are more interested in simulating the Newbery process than in predicting it. No matter how widely you read in the field, you will always be surprised by something. Case in point, last year Newbery committee Roxanne Feldman listed her top 40 books, and among those books were the following which were never discussed or, I think, even mentioned here either in a post or in the comments (although I could be wrong). I had never even heard of quite a few of them.
BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore
FAKE MOUSTACHE by Tom Angleberger
THE HIGH SKIES ADVENTURES OF BLUE JAY THE PIRATE by Scott Nash
THE VENGEKEEP PROPHECIES by Brian Farrey
A DIAMOND IN THE DESERT by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
SHADOWS IN FLIGHT by Orson Scott Card
THE SECRET OF FORTUNE WOOKIE by Tom Angleberger
CHOMP by Carl Hiaassen
NEVERSINK by Barry Wolverton
THE ADVENTURES OF SIR BALIN THE ILL-FATED by Gerald Morris
Now we don’t know if any of Roxanne’s fellow committee members felt as enthusiastic about these titles as she did, and if so, how many. We might also assume that if each of the fifteen members had made a top 40 list that there would be a handful on each list that we did not discuss or even mention on Heavy Medal, meaning that there is quite likely several dozen titles that committee suggested to each other that we never even considered here. In other words, what we do and see here on this blog really only represents, in many ways, the tip of the iceberg. That kind of knowledge is one of the reasons that many past committee members are reticent to criticize present and future committees. Not only did we not read as broadly as they did, we didn’t read as deeply. I try to reread our shortlisted books plus several others, but during my tenure on the committee, I read quite a few books three or four times–and that kind of deep reading tends to be the rule rather than the exception, especially for the very top tier of contenders. That knowledge doesn’t make our conversations here any less important or fun, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t often feel as proud of our results as the real committee must feel about theirs. Here’s to another year of chipping away at the tip of the iceberg–and with reckless abandon, it would seem, if the early discussions of HOKEY POKEY and THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING are any indication.