Setting the Table
If you haven’t yet perused the Nov/Dec issue of the Horn Book Magazine, there are some treasures in there, including:
An editorial about an advertisement, whose authors have also posted it here: http://thepicturebook.co/. In his editorial , Roger challenges his readers “to find anything there that is not equally pertinent to fiction and nonfiction published for youth.” My top 3 of these proclamations for our Newbery considerations are:
- “The line between moral and meaning is paramount”
- “It is right that anything a child sees, feels, or thinks be our grist.”
- “Even books meant to put kids to sleep should give them strange dreams”
There’s many other calls in there I think we should heed closely, but these are the ones that I feel most need to be heard. That it is for children …their imaginative stimulation, whether comforting or un (and the un- is more often the truly stimulating) … that children’s literature exists.
Also in the issue, and linked online, is an adaptation of Mo Willem’s Zena Sutherland Lecture. Jonathan quoted from this already (help me find it? Piggie and Elephant all over our blog!), in regards to how Willem’s feels his text and illustrations should be separately incomprehensible, but together, allow for the reader to figure out what they mean. And following that’s my favorite part of his speech: “Incomprehensible also because I never know what the book I’ve made “means.” That’s my audience’s job. You, the reader, create meaning out of the story; I just set the table. …. I prefer to write about things I don’t know, about things that perplex me, create a sense of wonder in me, or are simply weird. So I write about things like: What is a friend? How do you keep a friend? How does what you do by accident change your environment and how do you come to grips with that? Wouldn’t it be cool to drive a bus?”
These are all the kind of questions and handles I’d like to apply to the books we’re considering, and I believe are underlying to the Newbery criteria, especially in regards to “excellence of presentation for a child audience.” Where is the line between moral and meaning in A MONSTER CALLS (and does it give a child strange dreams?). Which protagonists are the most well delineated, the most “real,” by embodying everything “a child sees, feels, or thinks”… Mo Wren? May Amelia? Ben Wilson?…those three present themselves first to my mind in answer to that question.
Your turn. (But, do read the rest of the Magazine too. It’s a paritcularly good one.)
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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 email@example.com
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