Love, Love, Love
Jonathan says in a comment on Has the Newbery Lost its Way:
"And when you get right down to the end of your discussion and you only get three votes, and the books are close, so close, who can fault anyone for picking the book their favorite? I can’t. But I would hope that people could vote for things that aren’t neccessarily their cup of tea with their second and third place votes. And therein lies the difficulty of the whole thing."
I’ve been thinking about how to address this issue, because in this final week…and in the final throes of our Mock Newbery voting…I do think a lot of our reactions are coming down to: "I just feel [this way] about [this book]"…."I just LOVE this one more." The gut reaction. Now, the gut can be a valuable advisor, but it’s that word "just" that gives me pause.
When I have strong emotional reactions to a title, positive or negative, it makes me hyper-critcial of those reactions. I re-read to look for evidence of craft in the writing that is informing my reaction. If I can’t find it, on multiple re-reads, or in discussion with others that may be seeing something I dont, then I have to accept that my emotional response is informed in large part by my own tastes, biases, or reader preferences. And that should not enter into Newbery deliberations.
It’s a difficult level to get to in a Mock, or online. I feel that our online discussion with Stead’s and Peck’s books started to get there.
In the committee, most members come prepared with flagged passages in the text to back up every judgment they profess. If they don’t have evidence, and their point is challenged, it’s a hard point to push.
In the end: yes, you vote for your favorite. But when you’re on the Newbery committee, you make darned sure that "your favorite" is informed by the criteria, the evidence of craft, and the book’s ultimate effect on its ideal audience…however narrow that audience is and however different their tastes are than your own. I think that is what Jonathan is asking the committee to do in reference to this year’s nonfiction.
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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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