As I review the titles that seem to stand out strongly so far… I note a LOT of previous medal winners (Kadohata, Williams-Garcia, Appelt, DiCamillo, Henkes, Spinelli, Choldenko, Vanderpool…), and common favorites (Ursu, Urban, Pennypacker…). This always gives me pause. The committee is able to read broadly enough, they can level that “star” effect, but when we are trying to pay attention to what people are paying attention to…it gets murky. It’s especially hard to find the stand-out debut works, since they tend not to receive stand-out marketing (unless they can be made to look like the next Rowling-Meyers-Riordan).
I spot only two debuts so far in our October Nominations. Both got glowing, but no starred reviews in the major journals; both have gotten a lot of attention at my own local reviewing group.
BETTER NATE THAN EVER by Tim Federle. Arguably a little better marketed than the classic lost-in-the-shuffle debut that I’m picturing, I’ve started to hear about this book every time I turn around. I still haven’t read it, but it’s creeping to the top of my to-read list. I’m always interested in looking at titles that appear to be a little more “fun” than the stereotypical Newbery.
ZEBRA FOREST by Adina Rishe Gewirtz. This one is getting some Goodreads love. I read it quite a while ago and had little enthusiasm for it for Newbery then, but in retrospect, and especially in comparison to others we’ve been discussing, I’m recalling a tightly drawn sense of setting, mood, and tension that are memorable. I think that some of the motivation on which the suspense depends didn’t quite click for me, but I’d like to hear more from fans of this one.
What other debut works should we all have our eyes on?
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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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