What’s My Line?
Jonathan posted earlier this week about his 5 yr deja vu. But I’m feeling less deja vu than simply seasonal award-season syndrome…like bad weather, we just seem to forget about it each year.
This year, the first days of the award announcements felt different … not only did we have a surprise winner, but when we all tuned in to the Today Show to see her…we were stood up. Monica Edinger was one of the first to ask “what the heck?” …a question that got picked up pretty quickly by PW and SLJ.
On the ALSC member listserv, the debate very quickly derailed into the “popularity” “appeal” “quality” question that Richard’s also been stirring up here. It’s the question that gets asked every year, and it’s not at all a new question. KT Horning’s online course on the history of the Newbery has a fabulous electronic reading list proving this debate is age old. (Registration for her course closes Jan 31st!)
What I find most interesting about this latest iteration is how Snooki became the focus of the maelstrom. (So far, my favorite take on it is over at Peter Sieruta’s Collecting Children’s Books). Of course it wasn’t Snooki herself that “displaced” the Newbery/Caldecott winners, so why is she, of all the appearances that morning, the one that gets our goat? I tried to shift the jibe to Tiger Mom, but it didn’t take. And I guess that Oscar winning cancer survivors are simply untouchable. But Snooki is, of course, perhaps the best parallel we have to the “popularity vs quality” debate. For many of us, the Newbery/Caldecott announcements are the one place that we get to see public airtime focussed on “quality” in children’s literature. Snooki is the epitome instead of the kind of popularity that is self-sustaining and doesn’t really seem to need any airtime… except that, of course, airtime is actually the only thing that allows it to keep going.
At the ALSC listserv, wise voices cut in to the “should the Newbery be popular?” debate to remind us that the Newbery and Caldecott provide publishers with the incentive to publish high quality work. Beyond what actually wins the awards, the incentive nets us a pool of wonderful books every year to add to a body of literature from which kids can select what best appeals to them… and that body will be continually refreshed over time. As long as we keep the awards alive and healthy. And I guess that includes having the popularity debate annually. My roses like a fierce attack every year too. … and every year I forget that I have to make time for them.
Back on the Today Show, Snooki concluded her interview by answering the question: “if you’re back here in 5 years what do you think we’ll be talking about?” Her answer: “Hopefully my brands. I have my Snooki line out…my Snooki slipper line. Uh, my jewelry line. And then my book, The Sure Thing. Also I’m working on my clothing line. So hopefully I can still be known as a brand…I’m being smart about 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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