13 vs 14
As you know, the Newbery audience goes up to and includes the age of 14, but this spring the ALSC membership will have an opportunity to lower the age of service from 14 to 13 (while increasing it at the bottom end from preschool to birth). If the proposed changes to the bylaws pass, there will be many implications, but for our purposes here, it seems likely that the award criteria will be revised accordingly. You can read a couple of ALSC blog posts here and here for more background information about the controversial changes.
My question for you is this: Would lowering the age have any impact on the books that are chosen? Do you think there are books in the Newbery canon that would not have been recognized if the award only went to age 13? HOPE WAS HERE? CARVER? CRISS CROSS?
I actually think the Newbery committee is fairly conservative compared to some of the other ALSC awards and the proposed changes would affect them more greatly. PEDRO AND ME (Sibert Honor), HOLE IN MY LIFE (Sibert Honor), and DAMNED STRONG LOVE (Batchelder Honor) all seem much more YA than anything in the Newbery canon, both in terms of the mature themes and the age of the audience.
If these books challenge our notion of what a book for a 13-year-old or 14-year-old looks like, BRAVE STORY (Batchelder Award) pushes the boundary of what they are capable of. HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX comes in at 257, 154 words; BRAVE STORY at 286, 176. That’s 30,000 more words! I have been pondering the larger page counts of some of this year’s Newbery contenders, namely COUNTDOWN and KEEPER, but even darkhorses like THE BONESHAKER or THE CLOCKWORK THREE–all of which come up just shy of 400 pages. But these are nothing by comparison!
So what do you think? Are you in favor of lowering the age from 14 to 13? And if so, what impact do you think such a change would really have on the books chosen for the Newbery Medal and Honors?
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About Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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