Why don’t funny books ever win the Newbery?
I’ve heard people ask this question in the past. "Why don’t funny books ever win the Newbery?" I’ve been thinking a little bit about it. First of all, I’m not sure it’s entirely true that they never win, but it is surely not the genre of book that tends to win. When I have participated in Mock Newberys in the past it seems like the humorous books are often knocked out of the competition pretty early on. Is it because humor is just so subjective? Shouldn’t we be able to get past that in the same way we get past other personal taste issues in looking at books and Newbery criteria? Or is it that humor is so subjective that it changes whether or not we can agree on if a book is or is not distinguished?
I’d love to hear from people who have served on various committees and see if and how they’ve managed to get past the funny book issue in discussion. I’m not looking for top-secret specifics, of course, but a general sense of how funny books get their fair shot.
John Scieszka’s Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka made me laugh out loud and it’s pretty rare that a book does this for me. I read it thinking it might be nice to find a great funny book that happens to be short, easy-to-read and non-fiction to discuss during the Mock Newbery. I am having a hard time seeing this book as distinguished even though it was thoroughly enjoyable. Does potty humor make something less distinguished? I’m gonna have to check in with Nina on this one and see what she thinks. I know it would make for a fun discussion either way. But I hate to put a book on the short list that I know is going to be bumped right out of discussion quickly.
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About Sharon McKellar
Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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