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Has the Newbery lost its way?

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I've started this thread because this issue was brought up under the "Early Newbery" thread, and Sarah thought it might be a good topic for a new thread.

Here'e the link to Silvey's article that started the whole discussion. 

http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/index.asp?layout=talkBackCommentsFull&articleid=CA6600688&talk_back_header_id=6558883

So, what do you think?  Do you see these trends?

What are you experiencing?

keep reading and writing,
dave r
#1 - October 12, 2008, 03:39 PM
« Last Edit: October 13, 2008, 05:05 AM by Jaina »
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Sarah Miller

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Love this topic!


Here's what I had to say in response to Silvey's article:

My personal experience as a former independent bookseller reinforces some of Ms. Silvey's observations: At our shop, Newbery season coincided with returns season, often with amusing results. Every January we examined our entire inventory and weeded out books that hadn't sold at least one copy in the last 6-12 months. In the last four years, we had to 'rescue' Newbery gold-medal winners from the returns pile twice. Both times, we'd joked and placed bets about those very books being chosen for the award even as we pulled them from the shelf. Another year, the winner was a title we'd never carried, and had no requests for prior to its winning the Newbery. You could argue that these books were hidden gems waiting to be discovered, but sadly you'd be wrong. Media specialists and librarians came flocking as usual to buy their obligatory copies, but the feedback after a few months was discouraging; the books only languished on library shelves, and the handful of reader responses were poor. Which means that in one small shop, 3/4 of the last four consecutive Newbery gold medal winners sold primarily on the strength of that gold sticker and ultimately disappointed their buyers. Regardless of WHY that happened, I think we can all agree it's unfortunate and distressing.


Also, this rebuttal by Nina Lindsay had some interesting things to say: The Newbery Remembers its Way, or “Gee, thanks, Mr. Sachar”

And of course I couldn't resist commenting there, either....

To my way of thinking, there's a significant difference between popularity and appeal. Popularity is about numbers; appeal is about accessibility and relevance to the intended audience. The Newbery criteria do in fact appear to address issues of accessibility: "The book displays respect for children's understandings, abilities, and appreciations." Likely, the dissatisfaction with some of the recent winners stems from a perception that this criterion is getting short shrift. Whether or not that perception is accurate is another matter, but the fact remains that the perception exists in a significant number of readers. And if it's not accurate, how did it get rooted in so many people's minds? Because I can tell you as a former independent bookseller that right or wrong, the majority of Silvey's anonymous informants' comments and opinions are dead-on with my experience of kids', teachers', librarians', and parents' reactions to many of this decade's winners.
#2 - October 12, 2008, 03:49 PM
« Last Edit: October 13, 2008, 05:05 AM by Jaina »

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A Dutton editor actually discussed this topic at an SCBWI NJ mentoring session that I attended. Her take was "yes," that the committee was more interested in what children should be reading than what children would actually enjoy reading.

Her comments reminded me of the Oscars. Many times I don't enjoy the movies that win, but I guess there's merit in there somewhere!



#3 - October 12, 2008, 05:43 PM
« Last Edit: October 13, 2008, 05:05 AM by Jaina »

Sarah Miller

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I wanted to add:
IMO, 99% of Newbery gold medal winners are examples of finely crafted writing. Whether or not that always translates into a story that appeals broadly to children is certainly up for debate, however.

I have mixed feelings about that phenomenon. As an author, I'm pleased to see craftsmanship rewarded. As a bookseller, it was frustrating and disconcerting to find myself actually steering some customers away from recent Newbery winners. (Grandmothers who believe those shiny gold stickers are a fail-safe choice for reluctant readers, for example... :hairpull)
#4 - October 12, 2008, 08:00 PM
« Last Edit: October 13, 2008, 05:06 AM by Jaina »

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IMO, 99% of Newbery gold medal winners are examples of finely crafted writing. Whether or not that always translates into a story that appeals broadly to children is certainly up for debate, however.


Great discussion topic, Dave R and Sarah.  I sit in on the mock committees.  On several occasions I asked about books that were going on to win awards but didn't seem appealing to children. That's EXACTLY the feedback I got.  That more often than not - the committees look only at literary merit.  I got the same answer on a literary listserv.  But those same people in both groups admitted that is not always the same as what a child wants to read or will read if it is shoved in their hands.

It is interesting that librarians across the country will share lists of potential contenders, only to see a book make the awards list that isn't on anyone's radar.  I was also at a conference a few years back attended mostly by teachers and librarians.  I watched - with amusement - as authors (exhausted from all-day booksignings) were then dragged from place to place to "meet" with influential people who sat on awards committees.  One exhausted (well-known) author found out I was also an author (I was attending incognito to hang out with a friend who was presenting at the conference) and tried to pin his red "author" badge on me so he could fade into the woodwork.  :yup  That's when I realized that there is a part of publishing that is all "meat market."

So the question begs - if the committees get a mix of books targeted by the publisher and that is combined with books they discover on their own, how much of that factors into which books are considered and which aren't when there are so many released?  Buzz?  Word of mouth among colleagues?  Influence of advertising and media sent in advance.  Authors whose ARC's are sent versus those who don't get them at all?  Etc.?

And given the committee changes from year to year - does subjective taste enter into it?  I.e. today's Newbery might not be one if it were being considered by a previous or future committee?

There are some books that are Newbery winners that I've loved, but thought - this is not a kid book.  It's an adult book with a kid protagonist.  Which now colors my view of the world from that perspective. 

That's why I like state awards as a supplement. For instance school kids vote on the books they like for the Mark Twain awards in Missouri.  More focused on the target audience and maybe a better indicator of what kids are reading voluntarily.
#5 - October 12, 2008, 09:54 PM
« Last Edit: October 13, 2008, 05:06 AM by Jaina »

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School librarian weighing in here....The librarians in my district have been zinging some emails back and forth about this article. Here's part of what I piped in to say:

The part of the article that struck me was, “'Recent Newbery committees seem dismissive of popularity, a quality which should be an asset,' said one reviewer.”

To me, a book that has appeal to kids and makes them want to read it is an essential component of “distinguished literature for children.” Sometimes it does seems like the committee gets so caught up in the part of the criteria that talks about theme, concept, distinction, and style that the section that mentions the “excellence of presentation for a child audience” is overlooked. Just because something is packaged as a children’s book doesn’t mean that it “works” for children. Something that is beautifully written with Deep Important Themes but that doesn’t appeal to the audience it’s written for is missing a crucial piece of the criteria.
#6 - October 13, 2008, 03:06 AM
« Last Edit: October 13, 2008, 05:06 AM by Jaina »
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I'm going to ring in as a defender of the status quo.

It's easy to criticize the result of a committee without being a privy to the way a decision was made.  It's easy to say that a decision was made for political or other reasons.  It's easy to minimalize the work that went into selecting a winner when that work was not your own.  I have been guilty of criticizing certain winners because that book didn't satisfy my particular taste.  And, of course, I'm not a kid.

To me, any discussion that criticizes Newbery selections ought to begin with "I think Book A should have won because it fits the criteria for the award better than Book B."  The article in question does that in one instance, though in leveling heavy criticism at the four most recent winners, this specific argument is saved for the winner of 1953.  Wnenever someone writes an article criticizing the Newberys, Charlotte's Web seems to be the poster child for "books that should have won."  You won't find a more staunch champion for Charlotte's Web than me, but Secret of the Andes is a fabulous book, lyrical, mystical and sophisticated.  The author seems to think that by reminding us that one of the most universally loved children's books in history lost to a book that few people have ever even heard of let alone read has played the trump card in making her point. And how many people who haven't read Secret of the Andes are going to go out and get it to make the comparison?

It's difficult to judge whether or not a particular winner will be successful with children when many or most of the potential winners have been on the market for such a short time.  Charlotte's Web has had fifty-six years of success.  I can state my own personal opinion that Rules should have won the Newbery in 2007 rather than The Higher Power of Lucky, but my own taste is not a sufficient argument to invalidate the work of that year's committee.  I simply didn't like that book as well, though the committee, looking at it with different eyes with closer consideration for the award's criteria, made a different selection.

Our kids are bombarded with television, video games, hundreds of activity choices; many of them worry about what their next meal will be or when Mom and Dad's next argument will begin.  We live in a culture of instant gratification that openly mocks cultural sophistication, so naturally even good readers will shy away from books with high levels of literary sophistication.  Typically, books that are eligible for the Newbery are not the kind of book that can be absorbed with one independent read by a child.  These are books that ought to be taught.  We don't, as a rule, expect high school students to read Shakespeare on their own.  We put his works in class with a teacher who hopefully knows what to do with it, and we teach it.  To fully appreciate the quality of many Newbery winners, the same approach would be more valid than simply handing a child a book with a gold sticker and saying, "Here's this year's winner.  Enjoy."  And of course, I've never seen a Newbery winner yet that was accompanied by a teacher's guide, because the book is new.  Most readers haven't read the winner before the award is given, and so even the adults who read children's books may be looking at the winner for the first time.  We're not looking at books that have stood the test of time and have proven their ability to win the love of their readers.  We're looking at fresh, new material.  It's impossible to predict how those books will be loved over time.

One last point.  I was born in 1952, the same year Charlotte's Web was published.  Also in 1952, a play by Agatha Christy called The Mousetrap opened in London.  It's been playing there ever since.  Does the fact that this play has been running continuously in London for fifty-six years - the longest running play in the history of the world - make it a great work of literature?  No.  It means it's popular, and it means it's enjoyable.  There's nothing wrong with popularity.  We should all, including children, feel free to read enjoyable literature without guilt.  But's not a measure of greatness or of quality.

So I do applaud the work of the Newbery committees, I faithfully buy and read each new winner, if the book isn't already on my shelf.  And while I don't always agree with the choice, I do try to read with an eye for why the book was chosen.

And if you get a chance, read Secret of the Andes.  it's a beautiful story. 
#7 - October 13, 2008, 04:34 AM
« Last Edit: October 13, 2008, 05:06 AM by Jaina »

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Just FYI, I went in and changed the subject line from "lost it's way" to "lost its way," just because it was driving me a little crazy. 

It shows up as me "editing" your posts at the bottom of each post.  Sorry about that.  I promise, all I changed was the subject line.
#8 - October 13, 2008, 05:07 AM

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So much for the punctuation vacation (wink wink).

Fascinating thread, guys!! Good stuff!

I am going to weigh in with pbs and kids and librarians when I get a free moment or maybe I'll start a similar thread just for that.
#9 - October 13, 2008, 05:11 AM

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- this is not a kid book.  It's an adult book with a kid protagonist. 

Amen. The winners are beautifully written--there's no doubt about that...


The Newbery criteria do in fact appear to address issues of accessibility: "The book displays respect for children's understandings, abilities, and appreciations."

...but do kids appreciate them? From what I'm hearing--not so much. And this is supported by what I've seen in my (upper elementary) classrooms over the years.


Typically, books that are eligible for the Newbery are not the kind of book that can be absorbed with one independent read by a child.  These are books that ought to be taught. 

True, especially considering the number of students who read below grade level nowadays. Interesting to note that according to the Accelerated Reader site (http://www.arbookfind.com/default.aspx), HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY is almost on a sixth grade level. This means that this book is simply not accessible to the vast majority of kids in the age group for whom the book was written, unless a teacher (or another adult) teaches it.  Other past winners are lower (KIRA KIRA and HOLES are upper 4th grade) and RULES, which most would agree has oodles of kid-appeal, is at an upper 3rd grade level.

We don't, as a rule, expect high school students to read Shakespeare on their own.  We put his works in class with a teacher who hopefully knows what to do with it, and we teach it. 

This is true, but Shakespeare and most other works of literature that are taught in high school were written for adults. Many of the books I studied in high school are books that I didn't appreciate at the time--only when I went back and read them as adults. Perhaps there could be another award for books that should be on the elementary "to be taught" list, but is the Newbery such an award? I do agree wtih you, 1846, that children need to be exposed to books that are just beyond their independent reading levels if they are to grow as readers. But should those titles be on a different list?

To fully appreciate the quality of many Newbery winners, the same approach would be more valid than simply handing a child a book with a gold sticker and saying, "Here's this year's winner.  Enjoy."  And of course, I've never seen a Newbery winner yet that was accompanied by a teacher's guide, because the book is new. 

Good point--there's no reason why these books shouldn't have teacher's guides. A good teacher's guide can be written in a month or less, and the powers-that-be in the publishing world should get those guides out there as soon as the list is announced.

We're not looking at books that have stood the test of time and have proven their ability to win the love of their readers.  We're looking at fresh, new material.  It's impossible to predict how those books will be loved over time.

But the article points out that this has been a trend over at least the last four years--some of those books are no longer fresh, new material.

This is a great discussion, and thank you 1846 for your different point of view. I just thought I'd play devil's advocate to your defender of the status quo. ;)

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#10 - October 13, 2008, 05:33 AM
« Last Edit: October 13, 2008, 12:44 PM by Verla Kay »
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!846,

I appreciate your point of view. But a lot of the people I'm working with and a lot of those who sit on Mock committees HAVE been judges.  So many of us are not speculating about the methodology used to vote or how books seem to be entered for consideration that aren't on any other radars (including many librarians not on the committee).  A friend was featured several years ago surrounded by the thousands (yes thousands) of books submitted by the publishers.

The argument still stands.  What is the point of calling something distinguished literature for children if the only people who read them are adults? 

Which is why I think the state awards are often more indicative of quality from the perspective of a the target audience.

There are some kid-centered books that fit the bill.  My kids, for instance, enjoyed Bud not Buddy and Maniac Magee.  I don't expect them to love them all.  But some books do seem to fall outside the range and I think Sarah's response as a former bookseller was appropriate.  Even after a book makes the list - how many of them sit on the shelf gathering dust?

On the other hand - I will also agree that sometimes a good book gets lost in the pile and the awards can breathe new life into it.  It's a delicate balancing act.  But fair game for discussion.

As for politics - I sat through a lively conversation about the Coretta Scott King awards and books/authors that are "redlined" there.  That's an topic for another day.
#11 - October 13, 2008, 06:03 AM

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As for politics - I sat through a lively conversation about the Coretta Scott King awards and books/authors that are "redlined" there.  That's an topic for another day.

Would you start that topic?  I sure would like to hear about it.
#12 - October 13, 2008, 07:14 AM

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The more I look over the list of Newbery gold-medal winners, the more I think Silvey's premise is incorrect -- there is no trend. Each decade has two or three much-beloved books that resonate deeply with children for some years to come before fading into the past. The rest are examples of finely crafted writing that may or may not appeal to a broad audience of kids. This has been the pattern all along.

IMO, we can perhaps 'blame' the public sentiment of frustration and disappointment with recent Newberys on the winners of the 1990's. That was an unusual decade for kid-friendly winners. I'll bet a lot of current teachers and librarians grew up or started their careers during that decade, which yielded winners like Holes, The Giver, Maniac Magee, Shiloh, and Number the Stars. Five lasting humdingers in a decade is unheard of. It was something of a rebel decade, but even the 1990's has what you might call its duds -- I worship The View from Saturday, but in six years NEVER sold one single copy to a kid. Ditto The Midwife's Apprentice and Walk Two Moons.

Skip down the list to the 1980's and 1970's to see what I mean. Dicey's Song and Jacob Have I Loved (which I think is painfully good) barely have a chance with today's readers. The Westing Game is almost universally detested by kids in my area who read it for school. I can pick out about a dozen Newbery winners prior to 1990 that still sell quite reliably to teachers, but hardly a one that's popular with kids browsing the bookstore shelves for themselves. They may become fans after reading a Newbery winner in school, but they aren't naturally drawn to them at the library or the bookstore.

If you want to talk about silver medal winners, though, that's a whole 'nother discussion. IMO, the golds and the silvers are almost two different species. The golds seem to represent the height of literary achievement in craft, theme, or form. The silvers are where you're more likely to find excellence in the whole package -- plot, character, theme, pacing, craft, AND appeal. In the case of the silvers, the whole is generally more than the sum of its parts. The silvers are where you find the books and authors with real staying power, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Gary Paulsen, Avi, Ramona Quimby, Frog and Toad, My Father's Dragon, Because of Winn-Dixie, and the oft quoted Charlotte's Web.
#13 - October 13, 2008, 07:53 AM

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Well, I think these days I watch the list for the silvers...some of my favorites (and my kids' favorites) come from this list!
#14 - October 13, 2008, 07:59 AM

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My kids have told me that Newbery books are mostly those boring books that adults think we should read.  They've liked one or two of the Newberys but for the most part have seen the fact that a book won an award as a warning.

My daughter once said that she and other kids would "recoil in horror"  :ahh whenever a teacher or librarian approached them with a book "with a medal on it" because 95% of the time "those books were boring."

#15 - October 13, 2008, 08:05 AM

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When I was teaching, I directed my students' 'free' reading by giving them categories.  Every time they finished a book from one category, they had to choose another from a different one until they completed all nine categories -- then they could truly 'free' read.  One of the categories was "Newbery winners", and almost all of them chose that first (to get it over with) ;)

For me, I read a number of winners (or nominees) as a child and loved them (A WRINKLE IN TIME, THE WESTING GAME-- which was one of my very favorite books, btw, JACOB HAVE I LOVED, MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BEF).  But I did see my students pretty much not liking the majority of the Newbery books. 

I think the award, to me, has long meant well-crafted children's books that won't necessarily be a fun read ;).  I haven't read any of the recent winners (but some of the runners-up have been wonderful).  Interesting thoughts in this thread!
#16 - October 13, 2008, 08:16 AM
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Those of you with children/students/library patrons who recoil in horror when they see a medal on the cover of a book--I would LOVE to know what middle grade novels those same children grab and devour.  Would anyone like to share?
#17 - October 13, 2008, 08:48 AM

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My kids--the two oldest--have pretty much liked the Newbery books.  My oldest son fell in love with Secret of the Andes when he was in the third grade and made a Cusi doll. He learned everything he could about the Incas. I do realize he's different from most of his peers. My youngest was a reluctant reader, but he loved Holes and he eventually became a good reader. I've never seen them reading the more popular fiction. I know they are in the minority.  

But I don't know if the Newbery has lost its way or not. I go back and forth with this issue. I know what my kids have read and loved and the Newberys have helped them discover the type of books they wanted to read and could connect to.

#18 - October 13, 2008, 08:57 AM
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Would you start that topic?  I sure would like to hear about it.

Let me wait on that one.  It might be too passionate - know what I mean?  For instance, I knew of a brilliant book that featured an African American protagonist and later went on to be an ALA best book for YA. But the publisher stated concerns that it wasn't eligible for a CK because the author was not African American.  I asked why that was an issue - why not submit for a Newbery?  It never was. 

In conversations with librarians around the country, the unspoken sentiment is that many people think that it's easler to put AA books in the CK category because it has less competition and then no one feels guilty if it doesn't get a lot a Newbery nod.  Hence my comment "redlined."

There was a study started years ago about how many trade books are published and how many are written by authors of color.  It was started by a librarian who was appalled at how few books were submitted for the award.  The numbers are dismal.

There are other issues - for instance why so many books tend to be about civil rights and slavery (and often the same subject matter or people) when the category is inclusive of books that are set in the past, present OR future.  Which is why I think I'll wait.  Otherwise I'll get up a big head of steam on the topic.  :mob

How about we start the thread after the ALA award is announced?  By then I can bring the question up again at the Mocks and see if there has been a change and booksellers can add their insight as well.

BTW - My kids think the same thing about CK.  If it has a seal - it's likely not one they'd pick voluntarily. They and their friends are kind of burnt out on the civil rights as totality of their existence issue.
#19 - October 13, 2008, 09:08 AM

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For me, when I see a medal on the front of a non-PB, I prepare myself for a critical, but ultimately dull read.

This is an issue of great concern for me, because I watch in unsurprised horror as my students are bored to tears by the Giver and The Witch of Blackbird Pond.  The other english teacher really loves them, so I agreed to read them as well, but these books bring back bad memories for me. 

Until the end of my college career, I couldn't understand why people read much for enjoyment.  Then I read Artemis Fowl and I finally "got it."
I'm so worried about turning kids off from reading (this isn't hard considering the competition books get from video hames and films) that at the end of the year we'll be reading Artemis Fowl as a class.  I don't care what "level" it's on, or what The Newberrys think of it, if someone had introduced fun, humorous novels to me when I was thirteen, I would be WAY ahead on my reading right now.

And I wouldn't have to read about kids bathing the elderly nude    :old :gaah . (Chock me up as one of those who "don't get it" when it comes to the Giver.  I understand the message, which is a valid and important one, but I'd rather have my toenails ripped out by rabid loompas than read it again.  Which I will be, in January.  That should suck out the last drop of Christmas joy I'll have.  Maybe I'll watch Schinlder's List right after and really push myself to the brink of suicide.)
#20 - October 13, 2008, 09:13 AM

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I think the judging process favors books with depth. A book that excites you on the first read, can show up less favorably by the third read.  By that time, the unique newness of the book has worn off and you will see the flaws.  The winning books are read repeatedly through the process, so I think a book that wins will give the reader something different on successive reads. . .that translates to depth. I also think it usually favors character-driven fiction for the upper reaches of the age range.

In the committee's discussion rounds, only new things can be said each time. Plot is only one element and kid appeal is only one element.  Because members have to keep saying new things about the book, the book has to stand up against books that do several elements superbly. Once you've said how good the plot is or how much kids will like it, you've got to find more to keep talking about. Kids and adults love plot, especially when they are reading for pleasure.  But character, theme, setting, and description will also be looked very carefully. I think a plot-driven book can win, but it'll have to be very strong in those other elements--and that's not always the goal of a plot-driven book. 
 
As a former teacher, I understand completely that it would wonderful if we could make kids excited about reading at the same we're giving them books of top literary quality. Sometimes we CAN find books that do both--and  :yay when it happens!!!  Other times we have to make value judgements about which criteria matters more to us that year, that class, depending on the readers we have before us.  That doesn't make either of those criteria unimportant to literature as a whole, though.   

In this discussion, we are thinking mostly about what we would gain if mass kid appeal were made more important than other parts of the criteria (I say "mass" because there ARE children who loved every book that's been deemed unpopular in that article).  But I think we would also LOSE something of value to us as writers. 

The Newbery Award and the Printz are one reason publishers are willing to take a chance on books that don't immediately shine in P&L statements.  Many of us already feel there is a very slim place in the publishing world for "quieter" books and multi-cultural books and books that are unusual or that are in genres that are not as financially successful. The Newbery Awards (and the Printz, etc) are definitely one thing that holds that place open at all.  If I look at the other thread about which books people would like to see win. . .I'm not seeing very many books I would consider to have mass appeal to children.  THE HUNGER GAMES is the only one that jumps out at me.  And yet, elementary school teachers are probably not going to be able to teach that one without some hesitation over the violence factor. 

I honestly don't think we can have it all under one award. I challenge you to find that book this year that you think covers everything we have deemed important here: 

The majority of elementary and middle school teachers can teach it and will enjoy teaching it.

It makes a wonderful gift that grandma can hand off to a child she doesn't know very well.

It is among the highest literary quality that's published this year.

It will have broad kid appeal. 

And my own addition: It will continue to encourage publishers to occasionally take a risk.   

I think HOLES accomplishes all that, but that book doesn't come along very often.
 
Books with kid appeal are honored in *several* other awards (the Quills, the Cybils, the state kids' choice awards). Those awards don't have the same history and prestige yet of the Newbery, but I would say those books do get rewarded in other ways (namely, book sales).  Maybe as teachers we should make more use of those award lists as our general classroom reads. 

On a personal level, in the world beyond our children's book circle, I haven't found that the general public sees gold and silver seals that differently. Susan handles the harder parts of winning  the medal with superhuman grace and humor, but I've joked with her that I think Kirby, Jenni, and I actually got the better deal. 
#21 - October 13, 2008, 09:58 AM

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Cindy--

I think you make excellent points.  And I am not one who thinks sales equals quality.  I still have yet to read a Potter book, and out of all of CS Lewis's work, I've only read his mostly under the radar space trilogy.

However, while I cheer on the little guy and books that take on more substantial topics, my experience in school, as well as the one my middle schoolers are having now, has not been one where the little guys are pushed out in favor of books with more "kid appeal."  In fact, I think that there is a reverse discrimination in academia that is far more impactful--the idea that popular means brainless.

I suppose it's fine to force this age group to read only these books as these books offer vaulable insights to the human experience.  But this ignores the pink elephant sleeping in my class.  If adolescents' first encounters with reading put them to sleep, they will be less inclined to read in the future.  Or, this just happened to me and I am weird.  Which is true anwyay.

I would never boot award winners out of the curriculum, but I don't think schools do a good job of mixing the critically acclaimed with the entertaining.  For instance, I believe that my classes should do either Blackbird Pond or Giver and then one other book with more "kid appeal."  (I really hate that label, makes many of the books I read sound like choose your own adventure or pop up).  I'd also add that I think the non award winning novels offer important lessons on writing, such as tight plotting, story structure, descriptive langauge, and use of dialogue.  For any of my students who want to be writers, I can't think of a better novel that Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely.  Will it win a Newberry or cure any injustice? Not unless you're a summer fairie.  But, for me, it was a perfect example of how to employ rich, descriptive language without losing the reader.

Of course, I enjoyed Transformers as much as No Country for Old Men and think World War Z is a better novel than Old Man and the Sea, so my opinons should probably be shunned more than the next Ben Affleck movie.
#22 - October 13, 2008, 10:24 AM

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The last four winners were historical fiction novels. The last two winners were written by children's librarians. Coincidence? Maybe. But I think if writers rather than librarians were judging the Newbery they would emphasize different elements in judging books.

I believe writer-judges would put more emphasis on whether the book is appealing to children, because we know how hard it is to write a compelling plot, a first chapter that draws readers in, a book that is written by an adult but has a child sensibility, a book that will move readers without resorting to easy emotional pulls such as death of a parent or dog. I think people who haven't actually sat down and written a book don't realize how hard these things are, how much effort and talent it takes. Creating child appeal is a very difficult part of crafting an excellent children's book. I believe pretty language and moral lessons and teaching about history currently are given too much weight in deciding what makes an excellent book, at the expense of elements that make the book appealing to the supposedly intended audience. (And there are some books I suspect were written to appease the gatekeepers more than the children.) With all the great books out there, I don't think a book that most children dislike should be chosen as the best written book of the year.

And Harrietthespy? I understand your frustration with so many books about African-Americans which focus on slavery and civil rights. I'm tired of books about Jewish children being mostly about the Holocaust or anti-semitism. I would like more books about Jews to focus on the positive aspects of being Jewish.
#23 - October 13, 2008, 10:45 AM
Author of SILVER PONY RANCH and ZEKE MEEKS series

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And Jaina, the stray apostrophe in the subject heading was killing me. Thank you for changing it. You've lowered my blood pressure.

Not that I don't make those kinds of errors a lot. But I'm glad you fixed the error.
#24 - October 13, 2008, 10:48 AM
Author of SILVER PONY RANCH and ZEKE MEEKS series

http://www.DebraLGreen.com

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The last four winners were historical fiction novels. The last two winners were written by children's librarians. Coincidence? Maybe. But I think if writers rather than librarians were judging the Newbery they would emphasize different elements in judging books.

I believe writer-judges would put more emphasis on whether the book is appealing to children, because we know how hard it is to write a compelling plot, a first chapter that draws readers in, a book that is written by an adult but has a child sensibility, a book that will move readers without resorting to easy emotional pulls such as death of a parent or dog. I think people who haven't actually sat down and written a book don't realize how hard these things are, how much effort and talent it takes. Creating child appeal is a very difficult part of crafting an excellent children's book. I believe pretty language and moral lessons and teaching about history currently are given too much weight in deciding what makes an excellent book, at the expense of elements that make the book appealing to the supposedly intended audience. (And there are some books I suspect were written to appease the gatekeepers more than the children.) With all the great books out there, I don't think a book that most children dislike should be chosen as the best written book of the year.

I think the judges for the Edgars were also writers. Obviously I was happy about this.

I do wonder if the dislike comes more from the forced reading--and I have seen that happen with over eager parents, grandparents, teachers, and Brad. :) (Kidding Brad!) 
#25 - October 13, 2008, 10:58 AM
PAINLESS (Albert Whitman 2015)
BLOOD BROTHERS (Delacorte 2007)

If JACOB HAVE I LOVED (which is one of my all-time favorite novels) were published today, it would not win the Newbery. It would win the Printz. That's the main difference between books published in the past and recent winners. The Printz effectively took the older end of the spectrum away from the the Newbery and changed the dynamic of the award.
#26 - October 13, 2008, 10:59 AM
SHDAOW ON THETHE SUN, 2013
INVISIBLE SUN, 2012
BLACK HOLE SUN, 2010
SOUL ENCHILADA
Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins
http://www.davidmacinnisgill.com

In response to Jaina's question, here's what my extremely avid 3rd grade reader has loved in recent months... she's definitely in the camp of Newbery books being "boring" because her main interest is a great plot. She read A Wrinkle in Time this weekend (and our copy didn't have a Newbery sticker for some reason) and was amazed to hear that it had won the award years ago.
Most of these are series but not all: Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, The Sisters Grimm, The Chronus Chronicles, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Children of the Lamp, almost anything by Gail Carson Levine (including Ella Enchanted which was a Newbery Honor book), Molly Moon, Chris D'Lacey's Firestar and the others, most books by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Pandora Gets Jealous, Laveidem, Emily Windsnap, Chasing Yesterday series, Fablehaven series, The Drowned Maiden's Hair, and the Once Upon a Time series. She's reading Every Soul a Star right now and is totally loving it.
She also just read Poultry in Motion by our own Debby Garfinkle and laughed her head off!
#27 - October 13, 2008, 11:30 AM

YAmom

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Really great thread here. I tend to agree with those who think recent winners do not have great kid appeal.  But I spent last week speaking to almost 4000 kids in 13 different schools. The librarian driving me around told me about friends of hers who had been on Newbery committees. One tried to figure out how to put a book in plastic so that she could read while in the shower. So, despite our opinions on the choices, I have to give those committee members huge props for taking on such a momentous task. 
#28 - October 13, 2008, 11:40 AM

I make sure Brittney Spears stays out of movies. So yeah, you're welcome.
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I think the judges for the Edgars were also writers. Obviously I was happy about this.

I do wonder if the dislike comes more from the forced reading--and I have seen that happen with over eager parents, grandparents, teachers, and Brad. :) (Kidding Brad!) 
Hey!

I should add, books I was forced to read that I loved.
Animal Farm, Farenheit 451, Confederacy of Dunces, Heart of Darkness, Hatchet, all shakespeare (I constantly play Shakespearean defense attorney to my students.  It does make sense children, you just need context!.)
#29 - October 13, 2008, 11:47 AM

Sarah Miller

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The last four winners were historical fiction novels.

Actually, I think just Good Masters, Sweet Ladies and Kira-Kira were historical. I'm pretty sure Higher Power of Lucky and Criss-Cross are both contemporary stories.


Quote
The last two winners were written by children's librarians. Coincidence? Maybe. But I think if writers rather than librarians were judging the Newbery they would emphasize different elements in judging books.

Now THAT would be interesting! Should we form a committee?  :applause


I'll be back to fawn over Cindy's and harrietthespy's posts later...
#30 - October 13, 2008, 11:54 AM

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