In recent comments, "A Teacher" remarks "I get the feeling through reading these comments that "distinguished" to lots of people means "historical fiction". And Jane "One last discussion question: is PC policing going on to favor books because the subject matter is worthwhile (and PC) rather than the writing being distinguished?"
And in a private email to me yesterday, because there was no relevant posting to comment on, Eric Carpenter asks me:
"Where’s the Funny? Historically the Newbery Committees do not seem to find comedic writing very distinguished. This is not to say there aren’t moments of humor in Newbery titles such as Holes or Honor titles like Joey Pigza, the Ramonas or even 26 Fairmount Avenue, but these titles have that heart warming sincere kind of humor that seems tangential to the main focus or purpose of the writing. Last year I thought there were two titles that could have been given awards. Clementine’s Letter and Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls were both flat out hilarious, full of laugh out loud moments. … This year however I haven’t come across any buzz for distinguishingly hilarious titles. … Alvin Ho : Allergic to Camping was funny but I do not think it is nearly as distinguished as its predecessor. … This is really just a round a bout way of saying: Where is the buzz for the absurdly hilarious JASPER DASH AND THE FLAME-PITS OF DELEWARE??? Come on. Its by M.T. freakin’ Anderson, please put a medal on this book! Like Whales on Stilts and Linoleum Lederhosen, Anderson‘s newest title made me laugh out loud like few novels ever have. … Are there other titles that might or should at least be part of the discussion? Is humor simply to subjective or personal to be agreed on by a committee?"
In looking for titles to include in our annual Mock Newbery Discussion, I’m always looking for titles that:
…I think have distinguished writing. I use the blog posts to try to develop my comments about them, to see if I can actually defend my position and persuade people, as I would have to do on the committee. It’s akin to writing the justification statements that the Newbery Committee sends to each other along with their nominated titles. How does the book actually speak to the criteria? Am I excited about this book because of personal taste or agenda? That’s something that everyone brings to their own reading. But can I separate that from the quality of the writing as called out for in the Newbery criteria? I depend on other people’s insights, such as Jane’s questions about accuracy in the Stone. It’s part of the process the committee goes through with each and every title they look at. (I think a whole different post about judging accuracy in nonfiction on award committees is due…).
…will broaden the discussion. One of the hardest things on the actual committee is the "Apples to Oranges" discussion… how DO you judge what is the most distinguished between books like, for instance, Criss Cross, Hitler Youth, and Show Way? I think the Mock discussion is always richer with a variety of genres on it, and I’ll sometimes include a title or two that I personally think are weaker, just because they represent an under-represented genre.
This year, amazingly, there is no dearth of discussable nonfiction. However: I’ve yet to come across the distinguished Funny, Fantasy, Poetry, or Younger Reader types of books I’m always looking for. If I were on the committee myself this year, I’d be throwing myself into an exhaustive review of everything that’s out there. But that kind of work takes over your life. (Newbery Committee members rarely come up for air at this point in the year.)
Since I’m not on the committee, I’m relying on you all to suggest titles that you think are strong. When you suggest them, please take a look at the criteria, and try to give a 50-100 word justification of WHY you think this book meets the criteria. Here are some titles people have suggested that Jonathan and I have still not addressed:
Alvin Ho and Jasper Dash. Eric, I’m with you on Alvin Ho. And last time I tried a Jasper Dash book on this blog, it fell totally flat in discussion. "Funny" IS very tricky with the committee. With any title, you have to convince a large portion of the committee that the book is distinguished. And if people don’t "get" the humor…it’s just that much harder. I’d be desperately happy to get a truly Funny book on the Newbery podium…but, that’s my agenda.
Any Which Wall was mentioned recently…but the reviews don’t compel me to pursue it as a Newbery contender. Anyone who read this want to champion it using the Newbery criteria?
Shadowed Summer, Tropical Secrets, When the Mountains Reach the Sea, and Peace, Locomotion were all mentioned when I asked for titles a month ago. Anyone want to take a crack at justifying these?
Here’s the thing: I’m a slow reader. I just finished The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy on the bus this morning, and intended to crack Charles and Emma by the end of the weekend, as these are hard reads for me and I need to get past my nonfiction pile and really delve into any other contenders out there as we finalize our discussion list for January 10th.
So, imagining you were on the committee, and were nominating your three titles for October: what would they be, and why? How can you say it, in under 100 words, to convince me and the other thirteen people on the Mock committee?
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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 email@example.com
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