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Has the Newbery lost its way?

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Harrietthespy

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Nicely said, Sarah!
#61 - October 16, 2008, 02:52 PM

Sarah Miller

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I'm glad that last post of mine is going over well. I wrote it on the fly and wondered if it might ruffle some feathers. *whew*


I have to laugh, Sarah, because one of the books you put on the farther end of the literary spectrum (the more ambiguous end) is JACOB HAVE I LOVED, which is one of my favorites!  *chuckles*  Just goes to show...;)

Me too. Great book -- but sure not for everybody.


What a person chooses to read is very personal, and I don't think that the choice should be criticized.

I agree. Goodness knows I've read my share of crapola over the years, and liked it, too!
#62 - October 16, 2008, 07:34 PM

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I certainly don't think a book should be dismissed because it happens to be popular. That's a wonderful asset.

But I'm intrigued about how the library/bookstore relationship with kids changes how the award functions.  In that the danger of turning off a potential reader is so great that we want the awards to BE popular.

Certainly, the Pulitzer committee would never balk at awarding to say, Philip Roth... because someone might, as a result, accidentally buy him in an airport, and be disappointed that it isn't Stephen King.

I don't like the idea that we're turning these awards into a way to laud work that we KNOW won't otherwise make the bestseller list.  But I do think the awards should go to the best writing (whatever that means), not the writing kids happen to want to read.

Taken to the extreme, that way lies a shiny gold sticker on "Pokemon 14, now with stickers!" Or whatever.

#63 - October 16, 2008, 08:10 PM

Linda

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Sarah wrote:
"It seems to me that "literary" is becoming a code word for boring and highbrow. I don't think that's quite fair."

Maybe not fair...but of very long standing....

From Ezra Pound's THE ABC OF READING (1934):

"The harsh treatment here accorded a number of meritorious writers is not aimless, but proceeds from a firm conviction that the only way to keep the best writing in ciruculation, or to 'make the best poetry popular', is by drastic separation of the best from a great mass of writing that has been long considered of value, that has overweighted all curricula, and that is to be blamed for the very pernicious current idea that a good book must be of necessity a dull one."

And:

"A classic is classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules, or fits certain definitions (of which its author had quite probably never heard). It is classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness."



Z




#64 - October 17, 2008, 05:40 AM

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A couple of years ago, I went to a talk by a professor of children's literature who was on the committee the year before.
It was very interesting to hear the criteria (and popularity isn't one).  The judges have to read something like 500 books and some of them over and over again. There are so many good books on the table in those final rounds of deliberation ...

Personally, I have enjoyed the Newbery books.  And so have my children, now that they are old enough to read some of them.  They read a wide variety of books ... from fluff to deep ... and enjoy them all.  But the meatier, heavier books stay with them.  A year later, we're still talking about Kate diCamillo's books.  The stories, themes, stay and grow with the children.

So, no, I don't think the Newbery has losts its way.

Vijaya
#65 - October 17, 2008, 12:45 PM
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I have loved many Newbery award and honor books. In the last few years, I've been reading them to my daughter (because I want the books she encounters to go a bit beyond those she may choose) and most are really lovely to read aloud. That element of craft really shows when you read them. Most are not books she would have picked for herself because they can sometimes look weighty and she is only in fourth grade. But some really have not been inaccessible for her and those I wonder about. She's far from a stupid fourth grader and although she's not deeply rooted in popular culture, she has a decent understanding of life -- as much as a nine year old can. She loves learning about new places and enjoyed The Single Shard and Rules even though both introduced situations and/or settings well outside her life. In fact, she took Rules and snuck off to read it on her own because I wouldn't read enough at a time to suit her. But she totally couldn't "get" The Higher Power of Lucky. I loved the book. But we had to stop so many times because she just didn't understand. It's not YA but even with discussion, she couldn't really understand some of what was going on and what motivated the characters and what circumstances were affecting the plot. For her, it was inaccessable (even when basic readability was removed from the equation because it was read aloud) -- though she totally understands what a scotum is  :yup

Now maybe it was just inaccessible for my kid. I'm open to that possibility. And some of the older Newbery winners were really YA and I'm not reading those because I know she wouldn't be able to "get" it.  But even at her age level, some of the Newbery's sail over her heand and even discussion can't bring them down where she can get them.

I dunno what I'm getting to...probably I'm just wandering aimlessly. But I guess I think even if appeal has no place in Newbery's -- accessibility to the reading age group maybe should. But my sample size for accessibilty was so small...maybe it's just my kid.
#66 - October 22, 2008, 05:56 AM
ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW HOLLYWOOD MOVIES GET MADE [Cherry Lake/2015]
GHOST LIGHT BURNING [ABDO/2015]
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Paulahy

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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.

Wow.  I've been reading this thread today, simply enjoying the discussion. But I had to pipe in when I saw this comment.  It sums up perfectly how my daughter and many other kids of color feel about books featuring them.

Last year, my daughter had to choose a college level book to read for English class. I tried pointing her to Native Son and a few other books by African American authors.  She said - Mom, I don't want to read a book about race...I hate those kind of books.

On one hand young Af-Am readeres (and non-black readers) need to acknowledge the past.  But I think Af-Am readers are totally over ALL of the "significant" literary books featuring African Americans being steeped in the past.   But where the CSK is involved, I don't think you'll see that change much.  After all Coretta Scott King was the wife of THE most iconic civil rights leader ever...the books must somehow lend to that legacy not detract.  So in the CSK arena, while it's frustrating, I sort of understand why the selections tend to be a bit narrow.

-P
#67 - October 22, 2008, 07:12 AM

Jaina

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Mrs Fields' post about her fourth grader made me wonder . . . does the committee favor upper MG or "older MG"?  Seems that way.  Right?  Wrong?  Opinions?
#68 - October 22, 2008, 08:20 AM

redheadedali

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Mrs Fields' post about her fourth grader made me wonder . . . does the committee favor upper MG or "older MG"?  Seems that way.  Right?  Wrong?  Opinions?

Speaking as a children's librarian, this does seem to be the case. It makes it difficult to put together book orders for elementary schools, because many of the Newbery books seem geared toward a more middle-school level audience. I'd say that's certainly true of the two books I've read from this years Newbery crop (Good Masters!Sweet Ladies! and The Wednesday Wars). It also seems to apply to two books that I've started reading that have been getting talked up a lot as contenders for this year - Kathi Appelt's The Underneath and Ingrid Law's Savvy. I can see maybe a few really strong fourth or fifth graders being able to get these, but not very many (which isn't to say that I don't like the books - I do like all of them, very much - they just don't seem ideal for a lot of the kids I work with). So with limited budgets, it becomes a question of do you buy an award-winner with a very limited audience, or do you spend the money on books that will actually get read?

I don't think this skewing-older thing is new, especially since in the pre-Printz days, many of the winners/honor books really were YA rather than MG (The Hero and the Crown, which I just read for the first time last year - and loved -  springs to mind). But as a librarian, it would be nice if the books could be appreciated by slightly younger kids.
#69 - October 22, 2008, 09:34 AM

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Yes, it does seem that Newbery books are skewed towards the older kids ...  I suppose it's much harder to write beautifully and with depth for younger kids, though I've read my share of gorgeous picture books and easy readers that will stay with us forever.
Vijaya
#70 - October 22, 2008, 12:31 PM
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TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
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