Has the Newbery Controversy Lost its Way?
It does appear to be wandering in circles.
I missed the anniversary of Anita Silvey’s article "Has the Newbery Lost it’s Way?" by exactly one month. But will mark its thirteen months by inviting people to read–or at least dip into–Christine Jenkins excellent article of thirteen years ago in Library Trends: "Women of ALA Youth Services and Professional Jurisdiction: Of Nightingales, Newberies, Realism, and the Right Books, 1937-1945."
I read this article in KT Horning’s excellent online course: The Newbery Medal: Past, Present and Future. (Now in session, registration closed, but check back again!)
A tidbit, from an article by Clara Breed in the Wilson Library Bulletin May 1942…referenced in Jenkins’ article and available in full as part of KTs amazing course reading list:
“It would be a dull world if we were all agreed upon anything—the Roosevelt family or lemon juice before breakfast—but perhaps the Newbery Medal would not be criticized so much if it were really understood…. Indeed the complaints about the Newbery Medal usually insist that the medal be something it is not. Elementary teachers say that the books chosen are too old, junior high teachers that the books are too young. An author of boys’ books says the books are too feminine and too tender-minded. A parent objects that the selections too often have been books with foreign backgrounds….Sometimes it seems as if all these people had joined hands and were chanting in unison “the Newbery books are not popular.”
Another very interesting bit from Breed’s article describes Frederic Melcher’s intent in creating the award:
"Because creative talent cannot and should not be confined to any pattern, the words ‘most distinguished’ were wisely undefined and unqualified, so that no limitations were placed upon the character of the book."
Definitions of "distinguished" have crept into the Newbery Terms and Criteria….but I really wonder what Mr. Melcher would have made of graphic novels.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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