Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Digressions: Okay for Newbery

Meanwhile, on Google chat... 

Sam:  Man, I hope Wonder doesn't win.

Me:  I think it probably won't, but I would actually rather have Wonder win than something that's both flawed and unappealing. coughsummerofthegypsymothscough... 

Sam:  Gah. I'm trying to think how many of this year's books I'd actually be ok with winning.

Me:   Good question!

It is a good question, isn't it? At some point in the discussion and voting process, I guess that's what the committee members have to decide: not only which book they're pushing for, but which ones they would accept as winners. Which books would leave them at the "I'm not super excited, but I am at peace with this choice" level on the consensus meter.

For me (and these are, of course, my feelings prior to the Mock Newbery discussion next Monday, so everything is subject to change), the list looks something like this. 

Top Choices (totally behind any of these; smiley face on the consensus meter) 
  • Twelve Kinds of Ice (my actual first choice right now)
  • Splendors and Glooms
  • Liar and Spy
  • Starry River of the Sky
  • Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, Detectives Extraordinaire 

Second Tier (wouldn't go away from the table seething; "meh" face on the consensus meter) 
  • Wonder
  • The One and Only Ivan
  • No Crystal Stair
  • Crow
  • Moonbird

I won't go into my third tier. I've already mentioned my non-fandom re: Summer of the Gypsy Moths, but to delve further would be petty. 

How about you guys?


  1. For the record, mine looks more or less like this:

    First tier:
    ~Twelve Kinds of Ice
    ~The One and Only Ivan
    ~Breathing Room
    ~Wooden Bones
    ~Mr. & Mrs. Bunny

    Second Tier:
    ~Liar & Spy
    ~The Great Unexpected
    ~The Lions of Little Rock

  2. Yeah, Lions of Little Rock probably belongs in my second tier too.

  3. first tier:
    ~Liar & Spy

    second tier:
    ~Mr. & Mrs. Bunny
    ~Twelve Kinds of Ice
    ~Splendors and Glooms
    ~Dumpling Days

    third tier: (please no anything but this, i might actually cry)

  4. I just want to say I love that conversation so much. Yes. Yes. And yes.

    my first tier:
    Liar & Spy
    Water Sings Blue
    The One and Only Ivan

    my second tier:
    Splendors and Glooms

    Also I really love this site. I've been following it for some time but never commented. *waves hi*

    1. *wave wave*

      Thanks! And I'll have to check out Water Sings Blue. I haven't read any poetry this year other than Forget-Me-Nots (great anthology, but not relevant to the Newbery).

  5. Wow. I gotta know. Why do you guys hate "Wonder" so much?? I read your reviews, and agree it has flaws. But I wouldn't be disappointed if it won the Newbery. I actually thought it was a lovely book. Am I missing something? Is it cool to hate "Wonder," like it's cool now to hate "Twilight?" (And if so, do books like this circle back to being cool to like as long as you liked them before they were "cool?" in a populist sense?)

    1. Well, Rachael has Wonder in her second tier, so I guess this is more me than her. I don't actually hate it -- it's a fine book, it does certain things very well, and if it shows up on the Notables list, I won't complain. I think my issue more is that I feel like its structural flaws seriously undercut what it's trying to do; it comes perilously close to becoming a Deconstructivist version of itself. And yet, I feel like it's been given too much of a critical pass in many circles because its message has such resonance.

      I'm all for the message -- I hope that we learn to treat every person with dignity and respect, to be a little kinder, a little more understanding of the struggles that we all face. I just don't want the importance of the message to make it so that we don't evaluate it on its literary merits -- which I think are below the level of the year's very top books.

    2. Haha. I don't hate Wonder - I just think there are better books this year. Of course, interestingly, the list of the books I think are the best in a literary sense is a different list from the books I enjoyed the most this year... the second list would include The Spindlers, which is probably going to come up with a whole lot of nothing when awards are announced.

    3. Okay, well I'm glad you don't actually hate "Wonder." I think that'd sort of be like hating butterflies or rainbows. I often forget (I don't know how I forget this, being on an ALA award committee for the past two years) that this is a *literary* award. Not the award for "book that most makes you want to pump your fist in the air." Because if that was the criteria for the Newbery I think "Wonder" would be a shoe in. However, let us not forget that the winner of this prestigious award will have a place in every school and library in this country, not to mention recieve a load of press, and probably a big boost in sales. Something the committee members probably can't help but take into account is "Is this book I think every kid should read?" Because considering that exclusively, I'd be more inclined to put a medal on "Wonder" than I would "Splendors and Glooms" or "Mr. and Mrs. Bunny," although those books are arguably more masterfully crafted or cleverer. Have I ranted enough? I'm gonna go turn my brain off now :)

    4. Having never served on a committee, I can't comment directly on that, though I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who can!

      The Newbery criteria do include the note that: "The committee should keep in mind that the award is for literary quality and quality presentation for children. The award is not for didactic content or popularity." So, according to its own rules, the committee is really supposed to keep "should every kid read this?" out of their discussions. That's one of my issues with a lot of the evaluations of Wonder, really -- because the moral center of the book is so timely and so dear to our hearts, there's a great tendency to evaluate it on that, rather than on its purely literary qualities, which I think fall short of the year's top contenders.

    5. Well, as someone who has served on an ALA literary award committee, perhaps not one as prestigious as the Newbery, but still, I will just say, even when given criteria, you as an individual have your own criteria, which range from such deep thoughts as "Do I personally stand behind publically recognizing this book as the best of the year?" to such superficial thoughts as "Will this author come to an award ceremony and give a good speech?" and EVERYTHING in between. And when you have a committee of 15 or so unique individuals it is very, very difficult to totally agree on much. I think this leads to committees choosing things people might deem "safe" (and subsequently "poorly chosen"). I find it very difficult to criticize ALA committees for their choices now that I've "been there done that" because I know: being on a committee is ridiculously hard work, and an absolute labor of love. So whatever book is announced this year at the YMAs I will cheer for, without a "meh" face :)

  6. The fourth grade at Brooklyn Friends School totally agrees with you, Tess. They are fans of "Wonder"

  7. Ivan was nice, Mr. and Mrs. clever but at times a bit much - Wonder all the way! Please no more tired historical fiction books that are suppose to be funny and insightful but have very little kid appeal.

  8. I need to get more organized for next year - I'm having a hard time keeping straight what I read, loved, liked, hated, etc. But off the top of my head, here is my list:

    1st tier:
    * No Crystal Stair
    * Moonbird
    * Mr and Mrs Bunny
    * Liar & Spy
    * Temple Grandin
    * Seraphina
    * Bomb

    2nd tier:
    * We've got a job
    * One and Only Ivan
    * Splendors and Glooms
    * Starry River of the Sky
    * Wonder
    * Lions of Little Rock

    3rd tier:
    * Summer of the Gypsy Moths

    Fun exercise!

    btw, I was on Newbery, and yes, there absolutely is a sense of, "Will kids read this?" That being said, it takes a back seat to the terms and criteria - the "Bible" of the committee. But of course there's no way a human being who works with kids can NOT think about kid appeal when you're on a committee like this.

    And please, no more comments about how past books "have very little kid appeal." I find that kind of thing so tired - can't we agree that kids' tastes are as varied as those of adults? I for one am lukewarm toward Splendors & Glooms because I don't think it is huge on the widespread kid appeal, but that doesn't mean I won't be excited to handsell it to certain young readers at my Library. Because there are kids out there that like that sort of thing! Just like there are (MANY) kids out there who love historical fiction.

    1. "Can't we agree that kids' tastes are as varied as those of adults?"

      You sir, are my new hero.

  9. "My kids" chose their Mock Awards Friday. They came up with Wonder for the award, with Splendors and Glooms, Son, and Lions of Little Rock as Honors. They read 225 books since April and came up with their own nomination list, so I'm just a "little" proud of them.