My musing for today is, who selects which books intended for children receive a Newbery Medal and how do they do it?
Here’s how I imagine (and embellish upon) it:
A group of women between the ages thirty and sixty sitting at a San Diego Comic Con celebrity panel-style table, each engrossed in a 100 to 250-page book comes to mind. (That last bit about the celebrity panel is purely my imagination, sparked by the word “panel”.)
I imagine these women to be school teachers or librarians or of similar careers relating to children and/or the educational system, and that they would much rather read novels for adults, like Harlequin novels about forbidden love and other more “exciting” things. Hence, they are extremely bored by the simplistic, “namby-pamby” children’s books they’re presented with.
But then one of the nominated books has some illicit behavior in it, or talk of something really, really controversial from a child-appropriate perspective — just like in their favorite adult novels. Now, these panelists’ interests are piqued! Of all the books they’d perused that day (or, to be realistic, in a longer time frame), they have finally found a book that holds their interest, that stands out from the other childish (duh) books they’ve seen. Unfortunately, though, they’ve lost sight of what audience these books were written for.
And so they give that book — the one with the iffy stuff — an award for being a “distinguished” (AKA notably different from every other) nominated contribution to literature (due to its controversial/inappropriate materials no other children’s author dares to include), but they’re only dimly aware of what genre of literature this was intended for: children.
Here’s how they say it is:
…The original Newbery was based on votes by a selected jury of Children’s Librarian Section officers. Books were first nominated by any librarian, then the jury voted for one favorite. Hendrik van Loon’s non-fiction history book The Story of Mankind won with 163 votes out of 212.:11 In 1924 the process was changed, and instead of using popular vote it was decided that a special award committee would be formed to select the winner. The award committee was made up of the Children’s Librarian Section executive board, their book evaluation committee and three members at large. In 1929 it was changed again to the four officers, the chairs of the standing committees and the ex president. Nominations were still taken from members at large.:13
In 1937 the American Library Association added the Caldecott Award, for “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the United States”. That year an award committee selected the medal and honor books for both awards.:7 In 1978 the rules were changed and two committees were formed of fifteen people each, one for each award. A new committee is formed every year,with “eight elected, six appointed, and one appointed Chair”.:7 Committee members are chosen to represent a wide variety of libraries, teachers and book reviewers. They read the books on their own time, then meet twice a year for closed discussions. Any book that qualifies is eligible, it does not have to have been nominated. Newbery winners are announced at the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association, held in January or February. The results of the committee vote is kept secret, and winners are notified by phone shortly before the award is announced.:8
–Wikipedia, “Newbery Medal“
Continue reading “Who Picks the Newbery Awards?”