And…we have totally different results than Jonathan’s group. After 3 ballots:
Mock Newbery Medal
THE THING ABOUT LUCK
Mock Newbery Honors
We ran out of time to finish this, but were likely headed to a final Honors ballot. Definitely on it would have been CLEMENTINE AND THE SPRING TRIP, which was tied neck and neck with LUCK for the gold. Possibly ERUPTION too, which was the standout after those two, but had a ruggedly divided camp. And, moving to a honor ballot may have reopened the field for more honors.
We had 18 in discussion, and 16/17 in the voting (that unkosher procedure to be explained) In the photo you can see, but not really read, all three ballots; the first, in purple, with 16 voters, started CLEMENTINE and LUCK in their battle; CLEMENTINE with 4 Ist place votes and a total score of 34; LUCK with 5 1st place votes and a total score of 33. The other 1st place votes were liberally distributed between ERUPTION, FAR FAR AWAY, IF YOU WANT TO BE A WHALE, and PS BE ELEVEN. TRUE BLUE and WHAT THE HEART KNOWS didn’t place much at all, and eventually fell off the ballot.
Surprises there? I think our sense of WHAT THE HEART KNOWS was similar to Jonathan’s group. TRUE BLUE SCOUTS just had more in the “can’t get behind the voice” than it did in favor…we talked a bit about being swayed by hearing it read aloud, and how that fit within the Newbery criteria. But since we did not have the time the committee would have had to go back and give this another chance…
We went back to discussion; and had a further round on ERUPTION. We’d appreciated the compelling and cohesive narrative, the prose that delivered hard-to-grasp science within an engaging voice. But there was a bit of discussion on whether the slant of the perspective presented didn’t patronize the villagers. We looked at word choices: a citation on p. 22 “meager belongings” (why meager?); a quote on p.67 “Oh, these poor people…Those villages will be gone next time. They will be gone. I hope the people understand that.” This was a totally new point for many of us to consider, so without the entire text analyzed, and only a couple of specific examples, I feel unprepared to make a judgement call on this; if I was on the real committee I’d have asked to come back to discussion after a meal break and would have reread the text fully.
I also asked people, in the second discussion, to make a case for LUCK and CLEMENTINE, seeing the consensus was to be reached by moving other first place votes one way or the other. We’d appreciated both for doing what they set out to do so well, and so completely. We contrasted this with PS BE ELEVEN, which had many stalwart supporters throughout for its stand-out strengths in voice and theme, but which seemed, ultimately, less deliberately delivered. And, with FAR, FAR, AWAY, which *was* appreciated for its complex delivery of what it set out to do, but which perhaps led readers too far astray in various directions, getting there.
So, the second round of voting shifted 2 first place votes: from PS and FAR, but one to each of CLEMENTINE and LUCK, getting us no closer. Meanwhile, the discussion on ERUPTION only seemed to get it more supporters. Still, LUCK was edging ahead, and we decided to move directly to a 3rd vote without discussion. First, we removed WHAT THE HEART KNOWS and TRUE BLUE (the first had gotten 1 3rd place vote, the second no votes in this second ballot). Then, we invited our 17th voter in to help break the tie. I always ask that only those who’ve read every book on the ballot participate in the voting….no judgement in not finishing everything, but recognizing that the voting just doesn’t work otherwise. Once we removed those two titles, this last voter now *had* read everything on the ballot, and we figured we could use her help to break the stalemate. We were already late!
That final ballot was not actually a conclusive ballot for the committee, but we agreed we’d call it conclusive for us. It looked like this (the hot pink in the photo):
CLEMENTINE: 6 (1st), 4 (2nd), 5 (3rd) = 46 points
ERUPTION: 1 (1st), 7 (2nd), 3 (3rd) = 31points
FAR FAR AWAY: 2 (3rd)=4 points
IF YOU WANT TO BE A WHALE: 1 (1st), 1 (3rd)=8 points
PS BE ELEVEN: 2 (2nd), 4 (3rd) = 14 points
THING ABOUT LUCK: 9 (1st), 4 (2nd), 1 (3rd) = 50 points
LUCK had the 9 1st place votes it needed to be the 1st choice of more than half of our committee. But it only had a 4 point spread over CLEMENTINE. If we were the real committee, we’d have needed to shift some points, still. But we agreed to call LUCK our winner. We talked about whether to call CLEMENTINE our only Honor, or to include it and ERUPTION, but there was grumbling on that point. We were also tired, and out of time.
If this were the committee, and I were the chair, after that first ballot I could see a long and hard move to consensus. If possible, I’d have had some discussion, and sent everyone back to sleep, or for a break, before moving to consensus. If time did not allow, I’d have pushed to the bloody consensus…and then, asked us to take a brief break, brief re-discussion, and re-ballot for the the Honors (which is also what I think our group today would have liked to have done…we were just out of time). I think that that battle for two camps in some ways distorted the way we voted for other titles. The first place votes really HAD to all go to one, or the other, CLEMENTINE or LUCK, and it still might have been close. I think that with some re-reading of ERUPTION, and re-discusison of some of the other titles, we might easily have seen PS BE ELEVEN and IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE join ERUPTION and CLEMENTINE as possible honors.
So…what the heck did we see in CLEMENTINE and LUCK, as opposed to Jonathan’s group? He mentions that with CLEMENTINE: “We liked this book, and found it distinguished in many respects, but ultimately found it wanting. For example,as good as Clementine’s voice is we thought it was surpassed by Delphine’s and Jacob’s.” Our group could not find it wanting in any respect. For its intended reader, we found it marvelous, and more meticulously and tightly crafted–for what it was–than PS or FAR.
With LUCK, Jonathan’s says: “We also loved the family dynamics here, the surprisingly interesting world of wheat harvesting, and the scene-stealing Obaachan, but we found this one also ended abruptly, and this book just didn’t resonate with some of us, or we thought we’d read other books like this that had left a stronger impression.” Maybe this was our issue with TRUE BLUE SCOUTS. We found LUCK to do what it set out to do magnificently…we appreciated the introduction of wheat harvesting as a mostly unlikely but successful plot arc to bind together a story about being twelve. We liked in particular her voice which seemed naturally to speak directly to the reader in a colloquial, but never overburdened, way.
I think it’s also worth mentioning IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE which you see kept its devotees in our discussion. We appreciated how it took complex ideas and represented them in a way that would be understood by a very young audience… the fact that the book is not about what it claims to be about, but is about what it says it isn’t about (i.e., you SHOULD look at the pelicans) blew some minds.
I hope that others who were there will chime in with their perceptions and thoughts! Thanks to all for a rousing discussion.
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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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