Results for the Oakland Mock Newbery
Our Winner: THE FAMILY ROMANOV (11 1st place votes; 1 2nd; 2 3rd)
Our Two Honor Books: THE CROSSOVER (4 1st; 4 2nd; 2 3rd) and BROWN GIRL DREAMING (2 1st; 6 2nd; 4 3rd).
I’m posting our whiteboard so that you can see (sort of) the three ballots that it took to get to this result. We had 17 voters, so we were looking for 9 first place votes and a 9 point spread. The red is the first vote, and while most of the first place votes we for (and remained for) ROMANOVS, they were spread out enough that there was no clear winner. CROSSOVER and BROWN GIRL DREAMING stood out from the first ballot as the other contenders. We couldn’t take as much time as I’d have liked for more discussion, but we did a little each time and eventually got there, and just named the two honors from the winning ballot. I think that because of the foreshortened rediscussion and balloting, we squeezed the votes pretty quickly up there to the top. With a little more time, I’d have like to have seen a bit more play for WEST OF THE MOON and JOEY PIGZA as possible honors, and the votes might have spread themselves back out.
I’m going to offer brief thoughts summarizing some of our discussion on each, and invite those attending (all 20 of us–thank you!) to comment as well. If others of you have mock results you’d like to post here, please do. This week we’ll do some online voting as we await Jonathan’s San Diego results, and we’ll eventually turn back to some titles outside of our shortlist as we ramp up to the actual awards.
BROWN GIRL DREAMING. There was strong appreciation for scene setting, and setting the stage for themes that were carried through the book. Some disagreement and examples on both sides about whether the pieces stood alone as poems, but a general sense of careful and deliberate word selection and pacing. One person noted that while she generally doesn’t care for memoir (“why should I care about you?”) she was fully engaged here and thought the white space on the page invited her in, a sentiment echoed by younger readers through one participant “We are “inside” this book!” (I’m paraphrasing, I don’t think I got that exactly right.
CROSSOVER. Much appreciation for the voice, how quickly it establishes character, and immediate emotional heft. Some discussion of the obvious foreshadowing of plot and disagreement that carried through our reballoting. How much does this matter in the scheme of things? Noted that this book can be appreciated and is excellent as poetry, as sports narrative, as character drama. A plot flaw is only a flaw in one of these aspects.
FAMILY ROMANOV. Everything that’s been said on this blog. Towards the end, my sense is that votes were swayed to it because of the ambition of scale, and the overall solidness of excellence.
KEY THAT SWALLOWED JOEY PIGZA. An appreciation of tone and distinctiveness, and child appeal. Respect of audience: Joey save himself, no adult does, and there is no authorial adult judgment of his actions/situations…only what he comes to. Many had issues with dad as character, he seems only device (I suggested this could be seen as slapstick)…and not being able to “go there” with many leaps of faith. I thought this one was not going to get any votes, but 4 voters stuck with it all the way through…and didn’t include me, who’d already given it up as my third.
MADMAN OF PINEY WOODS. Appreciation of the fine crafting of prose, the deliberate way that Curtis takes the reader into deeply moving situations. This is one, I noted, that requires several re-reads, more than most of us could do (including me) to pull out all of the seamless tricks he does in his pacing, use of vernacular, use of Benji’s “gullible” perspective to bring enormity of depth to an historical fiction. Many noted that Red’s voice was hard to tell apart from Benji’s.
PORT CHICAGO 50. Appreciation for audience shows in it’s approach to topic and where it ends, leaving room to draw conclusions Keeps a tight focus, and make otherwise dry material dramatic (though some felt it was, still, dry). Someone noted how amazingly he tells a story about what people *didn’t* do. There was more appreciation for this than I expected in the discussion, but fewer votes than I anticipated, based on that.
REVOLUTION. Much appreciation along the lines of what has been said here, but a large number of people shared my sentiment that Raymond’s flatness and use in plotting shows him to be “device” so much that it sinks an otherwise outstanding book. (I did not have to convince people of this, btw). The use of the colloquial voice for the Black community, while not for the White southern community, also stood out sorely as making the Black community seem “other.”
WEST OF THE MOON. Much appreciation for tone, voice, the situation of this character re ethics and morals, much of what I’ve said here…though some questions about whether the “is this magic or not?” was consistent or misleading. This is a discussion I misjudged; I thought the many negative comments voiced at the end were minor, and in my facilitator role as someone who voted for this in first place, I just let them slide (didn’t want to insert myself too much). If it were the real committee, and I were chair, I *might* have tried, after the first ballot, to defend it a little more to keep in place for an honor.
How did I vote? Kind of all over the place. My first vote was: 1st place: WEST OF THE MOON; 2nd place: PORT CHICAGO 50; 3rd place: BROWN GIRL DREAMING. I actually had votes in my heart for ROMANOV, and JOEY PIGZA and CROSSOVER as longshot thirds, but I figured ROMANOVS would do fine, and the longshots were longshots. I was clearly wrong. Though I hated to, I gave up PORT CHICAGO completely in the 2nd ballot b/c I didn’t see it going anywhere. I slid WEST OF THE MOON to 2nd even though I still believed it was my first, and brought BROWN GIRL DREAMING all the way to 1st place, because it was the one among those top three I was feeling the most, and put ROMANOV third. But that 2nd ballot didn’t move the spread between the top three, it just moved more votes to the top. In the last ballot I put ROMANOVs 1st and BGD 3rd, to get us home, and many others clearly made a similar move. I stuck with my guns as much as I could with WEST OF THE MOON even though I knew nothing would happen; but you can see that quite a few of us did.
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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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