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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Consider the margins

As some of you get ready, with Jonathan, for the San Diego mock Newbery tomorrow, the actual Newbery committee members are in the midst of their own re-reading, and many of all of us are approaching the “apples to oranges” dilemma.   How, considering the Newbery criteria, and the nominated books (for the committee, a secret list of dozens, for us, a mock shortlist of 9 titles), do you stack up one against the other?

9781608981977_p0_v2_s192x300We’ve now run through each of our shortlist books a couple of times for you to start comparing them, but I’m struck by responses so far to two titles in particular.  MY SENECA VILLAGE, and ROLLER GIRL, I think, would both be considered “outliers” on a real Newbery discussion list, at least initially.  They are not the “typical” looking Newbery book, but as there should be no “typical,” I do have a soft spot for them.

At the redux post for MY SENECA VILLAGE, commenters who appreciate the book on a literary basis still have questions about audience.  Joe says “And though I know “popularity” is never taken into consideration (and shouldn’t be taken into consideration)… unfortunately, my students have show *no* interest in the book whatsoever. … I’m a bit bummed. I hope if the awards committees shower it with some love. Maybe that will raise its profile.”

9780803740167_p0_v2_s118x184While at the redux of ROLLER GIRL, Roseanne Parry mentioned “I did find it a fun and accessible read with surprising depth about girls’ friendships.”  Megan Singer spoke to the strength of voice in a way that sounded distinguished to me, but concluded: “Is Roller Girl the most distinguished book I’ve read this year? No. But is it a book that I know will constantly be checked out of my classroom library, engage even my most reluctant readers, and leave my students with a positive message? Yes. And for those reasons it’s one of my favorite books this year.”

Using a “we” that is a gross generalization… we have one book we can find “distinguished” in a literary way, but question audience, and another that we have no doubt speaks to a child audience in a distinguished way, but for which we can’t quite make the leap to say it is Newbery-Worthy.  I find these two ends of the spectrum very interesting.  If there is no “typical” Newbery book, neither of these cases should exist as extremes.  So this tells me we are still searching for something “recognizable” as a Newbery book.  While it IS an award granted by a consensus, the process, and the fact that the committee changes entirely from year to year, should encourage ultimately a wide variety of examples of distinguished literature, even by the criteria (which are purposefully general, too).

If you are a fan for either of these, preparing for your imaginary Newbery committee, can you see where this title fits squarely in your assessment of “distinguished,” and can you pitch this orange against the many apples on the table?

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Nina Lindsay About Nina Lindsay

Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at ninalindsay@gmail.com

Comments

  1. Ugh. My proofreading of that post leaves much to be desired. I wrote in a fit of passion and clicked “submit” instead of taking a moment to look things over.

    Thanks, though, for highlighting my comment, Nina. I personally don’t believe that there is a “typical” Newbery Medal book. ‘Good Masters, Sweet Ladies’ is vastly different than ‘Flora & Ulysses’, and my opinion of those two books aside, I do find them both remarkably distinguished. So the “recognizable” quality of a Newbery book, for me, is how much a book sets itself apart from the rest of the pack.

    I guess with ‘My Seneca Village’ I’m starting to wonder who Nelson’s audience was when she set out to write the poems. I was gobsmacked when one of the commenters on this blog indicated that her library had cataloged the book as an adult book. When re-reading ‘My Seneca Village’, I thought, “Ok. I can kinda see this being written for adults.”

    There’s a maturity to the poetry that I think would be lost on many (not all) young readers. And though I think Nelson builds an extremely effective contextualization for the poems, I wonder, too, how much is lost on readers. One of my Mock Newbery participants (finally! even though it had already been eliminated!) checked out the book last week, and returned it with a grimace. Her only comment: “I didn’t really understand it.” Even though this is one child’s interaction with the text, it does give me pause.

    This will not stop me from booktalking ‘My Seneca Village’. I stand passionately by this book, but am starting to have visions of a Printz medal decorating it. And a Coretta Scott King. And perhaps a Newbery.

    • Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says:

      Joe, “sets itself apart” is a way to look at it that I think is embedded in the definitions of “distinguished” in the criteria, and a good way to look at it.

      With MY SENECA VILLAGE, I hope readers take time to read this slowly, and repeatedly, including out loud. It can’t be read like a linear prose narrative.

  2. Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

    SENECA VILLAGE and ROLLER GIRL have been doing well with the Best Books list. I’ve added Kirkus to my own personal tally (which already had Publishers Weekly, Horn Book, and School Library Journal), now that they finally released the Teen list. Jen J, I couldn’t find your Best Books spreadsheet, so I couldn’t check it against yours to see if I missed something . . .

    Four lists—

    WAITING
    SIDEWALK FLOWERS
    DROWNED CITY
    MOST DANGEROUS
    CHALLENGER DEEP

    Three lists—

    X: A NOVEL
    THE NEST
    GOODBYE STRANGER
    LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET
    THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT
    LENNY & LUCY
    THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH
    THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE
    GEORGE
    ROLLER GIRL
    WRITTEN AND DRAWN BY HENRIETTA
    FUNNY BONES
    SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD
    MY SENECA VILLAGE
    NIMONA
    THE EMPEROR OF ANY PLACE
    SHADOWSHAPER

    Two lists–

    TOYS MEET SNOW
    CONVICTION
    BECOMING MARIA
    THE DEATH OF THE HAT
    THE BOYS WHO CHALLENGED HITLER
    MARTians
    MORE HAPPY THAN NOT
    THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH
    SIMON AND THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA
    THE TIGHT-ROPE WALKERS
    HARRIET THE INVINCIBLE
    BLACKBIRD FLY
    GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA
    IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CRAZY HORSE
    UNUSUAL CHICKENS FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL POULTRY FARMER
    THE FIRST CASE
    SUNNY SIDE UP
    ECHO
    THE MARVELS
    LOST IN THE SUN
    BONE GAP
    ALL AMERICAN BOYS
    FLOAT
    FINDING WINNIE
    THE WALLS AROUND US
    THE HIRED GIRL
    TWO MICE
    THE PRINCESS AND THE PONY
    THE NIGHT WORLD
    THE ONLY CHILD
    FLUTTER AND HUM
    LEO: A GHOST STORY
    TWO WHITE RABBITS
    DRUM DREAM GIRL
    THE ACCIDENT SEASON
    TRICKY VIC
    OUT OF DARKNESS
    WAIT
    SONYA’S CHICKENS
    SAIL AWAY

  3. Hello! I have it in process. I haven’t added the Booklist titles yet, but here’s a link that includes the 4 lists you have as well! My home computer is currently out of commission – it decided it didn’t want to boot up correctly a few weeks ago, so I’ve been a little behind on getting everything updated. I’m working on it though!

    http://tinyurl.com/BestBooks2015

    • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

      Are the Booklist Editors’ Choice out yet? I keep checking their website and googling, but I’m getting nothing . . .

      • I got the Booklist Editor’s Choice via one of the email newsletters I’m signed up for, but haven’t had a chance to update yet! Do you think it would be ok to share the link from that here? I would not want to step on Booklist’s toes in any way!

        Over my lunch break I was able to check your list against mine – only a few additions from me –
        I show March Book 2 with 3 lists, but I remember PW in particular put it in their adult list, so went back and forth on how to handle that. Other lists for it were Horn Book and Kirkus.

        I also show these additional titles with 2 lists:
        The Accident Season (SLJ and Kirkus)
        Out of Darkness (SLJ and Kirkus)
        Sail AWay (SLJ and Kirkus)
        Sonya’s Chickens (SLJ and Kirkus)
        Tricky Vic (Kirkus and Horn Book)
        Wait (SLJ and Kirkus)

      • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

        Got them! They have the link on Twitter.

  4. Touching on what Joe said about popularity, I think it should be taken into consideration sometimes. I got into the Kid Lit game after Wonder and still don’t understand how that didn’t get any awards especially when I’ve seen how much kids LOVE and embrace that book. Still waiting to get My Seneca Village from the library but I did read Roller Girl. I know what you mean about a having a soft spot for it. I think it’s good enough for at least an honor. I hope it gets considered seriously for that. It’s very original and kids are enjoying it!

  5. Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

    Okay, here’s the list with Booklist factored in. Now just waiting on Bulletin. Does this match up with what you have, Jen?

    Five lists—

    DROWNED CITY
    CHALLENGER DEEP
    MOST DANGEROUS

    Four lists—

    WAITING
    SIDEWALK FLOWERS
    SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD
    FUNNY BONES
    MY SENECA VILLAGE
    X: A NOVEL
    THE NEST
    GOODBYE STRANGER
    THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH
    THE EMPEROR OF ANY PLACE
    SHADOWSHAPER
    MARCH: BOOK 2

    Three lists—

    THE BOYS WHO CHALLENGED HITLER
    LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET
    THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT
    LENNY & LUCY
    THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE
    GEORGE
    ROLLER GIRL
    WRITTEN AND DRAWN BY HENRIETTA
    NIMONA
    MORE HAPPY THAN NOT
    THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH
    THE TIGHT-ROPE WALKERS
    THE HIRED GIRL
    THE FIRST CASE
    THE NIGHT WORLD
    THE PRINCESS AND THE PONY
    BONE GAP

    Two lists–

    FULL CICADA MOON
    TOYS MEET SNOW
    CONVICTION
    BECOMING MARIA
    THE DEATH OF THE HAT
    MARTians
    SIMON AND THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA
    HARRIET THE INVINCIBLE
    BLACKBIRD FLY
    GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA
    IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CRAZY HORSE
    UNUSUAL CHICKENS FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL POULTRY FARMER
    SUNNY SIDE UP
    ECHO
    THE MARVELS
    LOST IN THE SUN
    ALL AMERICAN BOYS
    FLOAT
    FINDING WINNIE
    THE WALLS AROUND US
    TWO MICE
    THE ONLY CHILD
    FLUTTER AND HUM
    LEO: A GHOST STORY
    TWO WHITE RABBITS
    DRUM DREAM GIRL
    THE ACCIDENT SEASON
    TRICKY VIC
    OUT OF DARKNESS
    WAIT
    SONYA’S CHICKENS
    SAIL AWAY
    IT’S ONLY STANLEY
    I CRAWL THROUGH IT
    VOICE OF FREEDOM
    SUPERTRUCK
    RHYTHM RIDE
    BEASTLY VERSE
    THE DAY THE CRAYONS CAME HOME
    HOME
    THE DOG THAT NINO DIDN’T HAVE
    THE OCTOPUS SCIENTISTS
    TURNING 15 ON THE ROAD TO FREEDOM

  6. So, I tried to post this comment last night, but apparently was so tired I never hit the actual “post comment” button.

    I only show 2 other titles for the 2 list section: Carry On and Earmuffs for Everyone.

    And I still show March, Book 2 with only three lists (PW, Horn Book and Kirkus), but since that keeps getting named in different sections I could have missed it somewhere.

    Here’s the list link once more: http://tinyurl.com/BestBooks2015

  7. Great post Nina, and more important now than ever, very topical with Last Stop taking Newbery, more people should be directed to this post.
    Cheers from China
    Kimbra

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