It takes 15
We’ve plunged into discussion, but I’m going to take a breather to give a brief primer on the Newbery procedures.
The Newbery Terms and Criteria are the grounding definitions for the committee. If you’re not familiar with them, it’s worth reading them in detail. You’ll find that for all of the defining going on there, there’s quite a bit open to interpretation, which falls to the committee to do with each book they consider.
Some of the interpretations that come up regularly are developed further in the appendices of the Newbery Manual, which also spells out the process that the committee uses, and everyone’s roles.
Here, we try our best to focus our discussion of titles along the lines of a real Newbery Committee discussion. It becomes quite a different discussion than in evaluating a book for purchase or use on its own merits, or for “best of the year” lists or popular picks lists. We’re comparing each book against the other with the goal of finding ONE that is the “most distinguished” contribution to American literature to children this year. Among many other considerations:
- We base our discussion only on the text. “Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.”
- We consider only the books eligible this year. Not whether an author has won before, or if it’s their best book, or if there was a better similar book last year.
- We consider the literary merits of the book, and how it speaks to its ideal child reader. “The award is not for didactic content or popularity.”
As the committee starts to winnow down, then, to one title, it’s vitally important–to readers, and to the award–that the best breadth of eligible titles are being seriously discussed and considered. The Newbery committee has 15 members who share suggestions of titles throughout the year, and each ultimately nominates 7 for final discussion at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in January. They meet for 2-3 days straight, discussing every title and going through an anonymous weighted ranked ballot procedure to establish consensus on a winning title. (For guidance on following that procedure in your own group, try the Newbery Caldecott Mock Elections Toolkit!) On Monday morning of the conference (this time: January 28th, 2013), the awards are announced at a highly anticipated press conference.
We’ll expand on many of these criteria and procedures in coming posts, so if you have questions or elements you’d like to discuss, let us know!
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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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