We’ve tentatively decided on Sunday, December 12 for our live Mock Newbery discussion in Oakland CA…with a reading list ETA at Halloween.
A quick refresher on the Newbery process:
- A brand new committee forms each year, charged with considering eligible books from that year only…not to be compared to other books by the same author, or on the same subject (unless, of course, such are also eligibile books that year)…not to be limited by any categories, but only by the definitions of the award.
- Committee members receive books from publishers throughout the year, but also search them out on their own. All eligibile books are to be considered. “Submitting” them is a convenience only. Committee members email “suggestions” to the chair monthly, and the chair compiles an anonymous list of “suggested” titles, with a tally of how many committee members have suggested them. This list keeps the committee in tune, without any judgment about who’s suggested what. It’s a way to alert members to titles they may not have noticed, and to see if other committee members think a book is a strong as you do.
- The committee meets at the ALA Annual Conference in the summer for practice discussion and logisitics, but no “real” discussion happens until the ALA Midwinter Meeting in January. In advance of that meeting, committee members send in seven signed, annotated nominations, spread out through the late fall (the chair sets the calendar) for titles they feel strongly about. These nominated titles generally constitute the discussion list for Midwinter, though technically any eligibile title can be discussed (a review of the manual explains this better). All suggestions and nominations are confidential. There is no posted short-list.
- For about 3 days straight, the committee lock themselves into a room (with plenty of snacks) and discuss every title they need to in order to progress to a vote. Anonymous ballots rank each members 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices. Each 1st place vote gets a title 4 points; each 2nd place vote 3 points; each 3rd place vote 2 points. If a title has at least 8 1st place votes (is the first choice of a majority) and an 8 point spread above the next title in total points, it has won the Newbery. If no title has a winning vote, the committee re-discusses and re-ballots until there is a winner. Hung-over with exhaustion, they then draft a press-release, nap fitfully, show up at 5:30amish on Monday morning to call the winners and show up at the press conference where we all find out the winners to the many fabulous ALA Youth Media Awards! (Then have a group photo taken. Then collapse.)
In our Oakland Mock Newbery, we attempt to model the committee process. Steps 1-3 happen between now and December 12, and Step 4 happens on that afternoon, over the course of 4 hours. Jonathan and I will select a shortlist of 8-9 titles that we will post here. Having both served on the committee, we try to choose titles that we feel like we might support if we were committee members this year…but also a range of titles that we think will provoke interesting discussions, and that give you all a sense of the variety of literature that’s eligible for the award. The Newbery is not an award for fiction, or for any age range more specific that “zero to fourteen.”
Usually we hold our discussion the weekend before the Midwinter Meeting…but that Meeting is much earlier than it usually is this year. That means we have to move up ahead of the holidays…and that means that there may be some favorite contenders with late pub dates that we don’t include just because it’s going to be too hard for participants to get their hands on them in time. Also…some sleepers that we’ll likely miss.
I toyed this summer with a format for an online version of what we do at our live discussion. But…you, know, I just could not come up with something that interested and satisfied me. To ensure that all voting participants have read every book, and participate in the discussion, gets too prescriptive in an online model. It’s less a vote than a process of consensus. Trying to figure out how to do this online simply exhausted me. One could certainly have a more open online forum and vote…but that no longer holds my interest. I realized I like doing the kind of in-person discussion that first attracted me at the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, and that though technology and 2.0 has enhanced that process (as it has enhanced the actual committee process I believe), the integrity of the award rests in large part on the carefully developed in-person deliberation process that has continued to evolve. That’s the part of the Newbery that I’m most interested in “mocking.”
There are a variety of ways to Mock Newbery, and you should check them out:
(and what else have I forgotten? Let me know and I can add it….)
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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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