Getting Serious Again
Well, it’s mid-December and that means that the Newbery committee trades its final two nominations. With the three in October and the two in November, it’s a total of seven nominations. Those seven nominations help the committee narrow their focus from several hundred books to several dozen books.
The last time we talked about nominations a couple of months ago, I mentioned a dozen books that I would consider for my seven spots . . .
THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GAWAIN THE TRUE by Gerald Morris
AMELIA LOST by Candace Fleming
BLIZZARD OF GLASS by Sally Walker
BLUEFISH by Pat Schmatz
BOOTLEG by Karen Blumenthal
DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack Gantos
THE FREEDOM MAZE by Delia Sherman
A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness
OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt
THE PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE by Jeanne Birdsall
THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA by Jennifer Holm
WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick
This list holds up well for me, and I think most of my nominations are already represented here, but I’ve read (or reread) some very strong candidates in the past couple months that I would add to the mix (and if I had read as broadly as the committee, I would undoubtedly add more) . . .
I BROKE MY TRUNK! by Mo Willems
THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE by Brock Cole
NEVER FORGOTTEN by Patricia McKissack
DRAWING FROM MEMORY by Allen Say
PIE by Sarah Weeks
THE GRAND PLAN TO FIX EVERYTHING by Uma Krishnaswami
Now if I were on the committee I would be able to gauge how much support there is for each title based on the number of suggestions it has received up to this point, and that would inform which books I would choose to nominate. Suggestions, you’ll remember, are traded throughout the year–even during the nominations process in the fall–and are not accompanied by an extended statement of support so it’s sometimes hard to tell whether a suggestion means “worth a look” or “best book ever.” So . . . without the benefit of knowing where anybody else stands, and realizing that I have the luxury of delivering all seven of my nominations not only late, but simulatneously . . .
AMELIA LOST by Candace Fleming . . . This is probably the only title I cannot be strategic about. It’s a top three book for me. Thus, I would nominate it regardless of how much or how little support it had among the suggestions.
BOOTLEG by Karen Blumenthal . . . I haven’t pushed this book much, and I think it’s nearly the equal of AMELIA LOST, but it’s likely to appeal to a slightly older audience so I think it will be harder to build consensus around it. Still, I find myself returning to this one, especially since I remain ambivalent about most of the middle grade fiction.
THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GAWAIN by Gerald Morris . . . Best chapter book of the year. It’s definitely a darkhorse, but it’s particularly valuable to me as an illustration that a book need not have 300 plus pages to be a distinguished work of fiction.
I BROKE MY TRUNK! by Mo Willems . . . Best easy reader and another dark horse. This one can compete with the big boys–but only if you look at it through the eyes of an emergent reader. If my first, second, and third graders–largely English learners–got a Newbery vote, this one would win hands down. Wouldn’t even be close.
THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE by Brock Cole . . . Best picture book text and . . . well, you know the theme. This could benefit from some Goldilocks logic. While some may feel that there’s not enough text in I BROKE MY TRUNK! to merit serious consideration, others may feel there’s too much text in SIR GAWAIN to judge it by different standards than the fiction from the older end of the spectrum. THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE may be just right: a significant picture book text that obviously works different than a novel.
I’m going to spend my final two on middle grade fiction, and I’ve narrowed it down to these three, but I can be convinced to look in another direction. I would go into the discussion with an extremely open mind.
A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness . . . This is the only one from this group I’ve reread, and while I admire it very much on an intellectual level, it fails to move me–except at the very end–and I very much want to have a bigger emotional response to it.
OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt . . . I’ve described this as a flawed novel, but I still think it could be the easiest book to build consensus around, and I could cast my vote here, although it wouldn’t be my initial preference. Since I anticipate this would be a strong contender, it’s one that I might pass over to highlight another deserving book.
THE PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE by Jeanne Birdsall . . . I can’t shake the feeling that this is a guilty pleasure, but I distinctly remember distinguished elements all the way through. If I reread this over my break, and love it all over again, this one could rise higher.
So, there’s my seven . . . er, eight . . . nominations. Your turn. What are you putting on the table?
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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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