Monday, October 6, 2008

The Great Newbery Debate

Every January I am glued to my computer. I wait for the announcement. What titles will win this year? What did they decide? Will I agree? Will my picks be honored or ignored?

I must admit, many a time in the recent years the winners have left me scratching my head, and now I know I am not the only one.

In the October 2008 SLJ opinion article by Anita Silvey , many feathers were ruffled with her suggestion that the latest winners were not up to children’s' likability snuff. I quite agree. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I believe the Newbery Award and Honor books should stand for excellence in a book that will grab a child's imagination and get them to read. According to the Terms and Criteria of the Newbery Award, the award is given to a "distinguished" piece of work. One that is supposed to "consider excellence of presentation for a child audience". Plot, characters, and setting are all to be considered. Nowhere in the in the official terms and criteria did it say that they have to pick "a good book". And what a shame. This is what children ask for. The good books, the good stories.
The books that engage children to read, that have them coming back and asking for more. These are the books to celebrate. There are thousands of books published for children a year, why is the committee trying so hard to go out of their way to find books that children rebel against reading? The one that not only would they never pick up off of a shelf, but librarians and booksellers cannot honestly recommend because they are not likeable or sometimes readable books.

The honor books from the past several years have been better contenders for the winners. These are the books I can recommend, enjoy, and I think are deserving of a seal on the cover. They are distinguished, they are excellence, and they are good stories.

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