Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Perennial Newbery Debate

OK, I'm a little behind the curve on this one (October has been a little messy) but earlier this month a discussion about the Newbery award started that is worth a look. Check out the following links and see what you think!

Anita Silvey wrote in SLJ about her frustrations with recent Newbery winners--she speaks to a "trend" away from recognizing books that are popular with young readers.

The problem is, the Newbery criteria specifically state that "the award is for literary quality and quality presentation for children. The award is not for didactic intent or for popularity."

Both Nina Lindsay and Roger Sutton have written responses; don't miss some of the conversation that follows their posts in the comments. This debate crops up every few years, so it's worth the time to get familiar with it.

And if you're curious about what books folks are saying might be Newbery and Caldecott contenders for this year, here's a few lists to read:

Fuse #8
Wizards Wireless
Allen County Mock Newbery List
Allen County Mock Caldecott List

In addition, you might want to check out the Cybils (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literature Awards). This new award was created specifically to bridge that perceived gap between literary excellence and popularity. On their FAQ they say, "We wanted a literary competition that combined the freewheeling democracy of the Internet with the thoughtfulness of a book club...The winning books must combine quality and 'kid appeal.'"

Compare their nominations lists for this year with the books getting buzz for the Newbery and Caldecott!


gwenraftpro said...

I read Monica's post with interest. I have carefully read YALSA's criteria for various awards, because in a book club, I had to once had to explain the criteria for selecting a book a club member felt was far too sophisticated for teen readers! It is an ongoing debate, and the short story is that the reasons books win is based on so many factors, the best we librarians can do is promote, promote, promote and hope we helps teens discover their own winners! Go to http://www.teenreads.com to see the links to the 2008 winners of 2008's Audies, Printz, Siebert, Coretta Scott King, Schneider, Odyssey and Alex Awards - Enjoy!

Allison said...

I guess I am a little confused between all the writing done here on these different sites and on what the debate is. I understand the importance of books being nominated for their literary quality rather than just over popularity.

Are all the books on these lists being nominated because of popularity or because of literary quality?

Thanks for posting this Melissa! It is always good to find out about more possible good reads and to broaden my understanding of Children's books!

Melissa said...

No problem, Allison, sorry for the confusion!

The Newbery criteria tell the committee members to look for the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" ie, "literary quality and quality presentation for children." The award is "not for didactic intent or for popularity."

Anita Silvey, along with a number of the people she's interviewed for her piece, believes that the Newbery committees aren't thinking of "readability" or "kid-appeal" as much as they should be when choosing their winners, but in fact the critera forbid the committee from looking at that aspect of the books.

Other awards, like the Quills or the Cybils, have criteria which DO take popularity into consideration.

I say it's a perennial topic because people often come into the library with a vague notion that the Newbery is for the "best book for kids," and depending on what their definition of "best" is, they can be either very happy or very frustrated (or both) with the books on the Newbery list. (Many teachers were furious that Higher Power of Lucky won, because they wanted to be able to read the "new Newbery" to their classes, but felt they couldn't because it uses the word "scrotum.")

So it's always important to know what an award is FOR.

So back to my post: The first set of links is to books that librarians, bloggers, teachers, etc. feel are good or likely candidates for the Newbery.

The last link is for the nominations list for the Cybils. There's only some overlap between the two lists, which is to be expected because the awards have different criteria.

Allison said...

Ah that makes more sense! Thanks for clarifying! I appreciate it!