How does a book Win? Part 2: Discussion
We finished off with nominations over in Part 1 of this series, and now we find ourselves at Part 2, the discussion. This is the biggest piece of the puzzle of how a book wins. Hours and hours (and hours and hours) of discussion. All day and into the night for two days, until a decision is made. We’ll get into how that decision is made in part 3, tomorrow, but this is how discussion works.
Most likely, at first, each book will have time on the table. Depending on how the committee chair and the committee decide to run things, the format and timing might be a bit different. Maybe the first day would be divided to give each book an equal amount of time and the second day broken down to give more time to titles that need it. Maybe things would be more free-flowing. Maybe something in between. In any case, at some point, unless everyone at the table agrees to withdraw a book from the table, each book has its moment, short or long to be hashed out.
What does that look like? Generally these discussions follow the CCBC Book Discussion Guidelines, at least to some extent, and we definitely utilize those guidelines in our Mock Newbery discussion. Remember, of course, that each committee member has read and reread these books with the Newbery Manual right at their fingertips, and comes into discussion with notes on each title.
This is what the manual says about discussion:
Each book nominated or those that qualify as late suggestions will be considered. Many committees have found it helpful to go through the list once. Once this is completed, full discussion of each book remaining on the list takes place.
Committee members must always keep in mind that once a book has been eliminated it cannot be reintroduced. When any book is eliminated from consideration, it is removed from the table so that only the books still under consideration remain.
Some tips to keep in mind:
- Use good critical analysis, no vague words (cute, nice, good, etc.).
- Be cooperative—listen to each other, no side conversations.
- Refer back to the criteria to keep the discussion focused.
- Make comparisons only to books that were published in the year under consideration.
- Clarity—be clear in what you say. Think through the point you are making, and speak loudly enough to be heard by everyone.
- Be concise—be sure that what you have to say adds to the discussion; try not to repeat what others have said.
- Do not book talk or summarize the plot.
- Refrain from relating personal anecdotes.
Each committee will likely work the discussion slightly differently, but the way we do it in our mock is probably not uncommon.
We go around the table and talk, first, about what we found positive about the book and in what ways it merits consideration, always keeping the criteria in mind. We try to make sure that each person has a chance to talk, but at the same time are careful to limit repeated points being made (instead just expressing quick agreement) or personal anecdotes being involved. We also try to avoid any points that are not relevant to the Newbery criteria.
After this, we take the discussion to the downsides of the book in a very similar manner.
During both of these parts we might compare to other books on the table, as in, “I found the characterization stronger in Ghost than I did in this one.” At some point, maybe during this, or maybe during a second round of discussion, those comparisons likely get deeper and deeper as the committee has to narrow down large numbers of books to one final winner in just two short days! (Two verrrrry long days, actually, likely.) In our mock discussions we have a much narrower field of nominations making that part a little bit easier, but ultimately in both cases you have a group of people distinguishing between a vast field of very different books and selecting which they agree is the most distinguished!
And how much they come to that agreement? Stay tuned!
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About Sharon McKellar
Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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