Boiling it down
I’m enjoying the back and forth at Jonathan’s TRUE BLUE SCOUTS post and don’t really want to slow it down, but thought to offer this conversation on the side.
In the comments, there seem to be two different assessments of Appelt’s writing style/p.o.v. choice going on. One is: Is it appropriate for readers? The other is: Is it excellent? These are related, but ultimately different, assessments. The voice doesn’t work for me as a reader, but until I can prove differently, I have accept that I may be failing the book, as much or more as it may fail any readers. This is what Jonathan is suggesting in his comment, I think, when he says “We often think of ourselves as perfect readers and the books as flawed, but what if it’s the other way around? The books are perfect and we are flawed. Nina has written very specifically about what bothers her–enough for me to understand where she’s coming from. At the end of the day, however, the short, single-sentence chapter endings are neither inherently good for me, or bad for me–they just are.“
But: are what? Are they done well? So-So? Excellently? Poorly? What purpose do they serve to the text, and how is that a part of the books proven excellence? Or: is their part in the text so insignificant that they weigh little in the proof of excellence? This is what I, as a mock committee member, need to be convinced of in order to sway my mind to a consensus regarding a book that I have a hard time with. Saying it doesn’t matter for you doesn’t make it not matter for me, or make me believe it may not matter to other readers.
The consensus process can be slow and tedious…it’s about budging pretty firmly set and developed opinions. Sometimes a mind can be changed just by observing a substantial majority with a difference of opinion to “give up”; but more often it requires a lot of activity on two sides: the proponent has to try to pick apart the opponent’s argument, the opponent to listen with an open mind while at the same time defending their argument, until they’re satisfied that they can put it aside.
I have a feeling I can be swayed, in discussion, on my complaint re TRUE BLUE SCOUTS, because I see it as a very strong contender in the field, but I don’t make it easy for anyone to change my mind.
Which leads me to ask…as we head into our Mock Discussion week: which title on our shortlist do you still have a hang-up about? Is there one that you recognize as strong, with a lot of support, and which you could get behind if someone could just explain to you why X? When it boils down to it: what will it take to change your mind?
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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