A Monster Calls
As Nina mentioned, eligibility issues are decided by the chair in conjunction with the priority consultant. I’m going to hazard a guess about A MONSTER CALLS. The book has been getting lots of buzz, and deservedly so. It’s one of the better middle grade titles of the year.
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
Conor was awake when it came.
He’d had a nightmare. Well, not a nightmare. The nightmare. The one he’d been having a lot lately. The one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. The one with the hands slipping from his grasp, no matter how hard he tried to hold on. The one that always ended with–
“Go away,” Conor whispered into the darkness of his bedroom, trying to push the nightmare back, not let it follow him into the world of waking. “Go away now.”
Is it eligible? Despite living abroad in London, Ness is an American citizen, so that’s not a problem. Is it an original work? Absolutely, despite the tagline “inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd.” Now the one that gives us the most pause, especially because of the very close, but not always transparent relationship between Walker Books (UK) and Candlewick Press (US). Did the editorial originate (or co-originate) with his US publisher? Monica has provided this interview snippet that sheds light on this question, and when I asked Candlewick Press about the editorial at ALA Annual, they confirmed as much.
Ness does a first draft that no one sees, according to Adair [his American editor]. His first “public draft” goes to Johnstone-Burt [his British editor], and then to Adair. With A Monster Calls, Adair says that the two editors conferred about what they thought needed finessing, to make sure they were “on the same page.” Each gives her comments to Ness directly, and Adair includes Johnstone-Burt in her correspondence with Ness.
So everything’s all good, right? Well . . .
Publication Eligibility Issues
(A) SIMULTANEOUS – means “at the same time.” For purposes of these awards, “published simultaneously” means that a book was first published in the United States within the same calendar year that it was first published in any other country, whether or not the actual dates of publication are identical.
Example: How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff, was published in 2004 by Wendy Lamb/Random House, and “simultaneously” published in Great Britain. It was explained by the editor, Wendy Lamb, that the book had been jointly acquired by the U.S. and British publishers; that editorial work had, from the beginning, been a joint process by the two editors; and that every effort had been made to be sure that the two editions were, literally, simultaneous. However, certain procedures specific to each publisher were impossible to manipulate (such as Tuesday always being publication day in the U.S. while the British publication day was always Thursday for these publishers). For this reason, the British edition was actually released a few days—but only a few days—before the U.S. edition. The book was ruled eligible with regard to date.
You will remember that THE GRAVEYARD BOOK won the Newbery, but it was actually published first in the US on September 30, 2008. Then the following month it was published in the UK on October 20, 2008. Now THE GRAVEYARD BOOK also subsequently won the Carnegie, but the rules for that award stipulate that a book can be published in another country first so long as there is a UK publication within six months of the original publication (a clause that has probably benefited some authors from Commonwealth countries–I’m thinking Margaret Mahy, for example–but more recently Americans like Sharon Creech and Jennifer Donnelly).
The British edition of A MONSTER CALLS was published on May 5, 2011. The American edition was just published earlier this week. Amazon currently has September 15 listed as the release date, but it was listed as September 27 until last week. In either case, however, it is more than a four month delay, and thus A MONSTER CALLS does not conform to this definition of a simultaneous publication.
It may seem harsh to disqualify a book on a single niggling point, but I think this point may become more important because of the murky editorial question. The only hope for this book, I believe, rests with Candlewick’s ability to convince ALSC that there is a good reason for the delay. While the exception for HOW I LIVE NOW seems entirely reasonable, I’m not sure what would explain or excuse a four month delay. Thus, I am not very optimistic that A MONSTER CALLS will be ruled eligible. But, take heart, Candlewick! Word on the street is that you yet have a thoroughbred in your stable for the Newbery race: BLUEFISH by Pat Schmatz.
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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 email@example.com
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