Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Newbery Means What?

Oh what the hell, everyone else is posting about it.

The latest What is the Newbery discussion. Looking for an idea of the linkage out there? Check out Fairrosa's Reading.

My scattered thoughts:

To those who disagree with Anita Silvey's article: why do you assume she, or others who raise questions about Newbery winners, hasn't read the rules? Some comments seem to be along the lines "if you only read the rules, you wouldn't think that." It may not be about whether the rules are being read, it's how those rules are being interpreted.

To the "the Newbery doesn't mean what you think it means" argument. Goodness knows, I agree with this. But. If there are that many people out there, including professional librarians, who don't "get" what the Newbery is about, whose fault is it? I'm a bit reminded of a time in fifth grade where my entire class failed a test. My mother, a teacher, told me that while I still needed to do my best, etc., that when that many children in a class didn't "get" the material, the fault was as much on the teacher as the students. Where are those who don't "get" it getting their impressions from? I'm wondering if there is a bit of having ones cake and eating it, too, going on. On the one hand, literary award (and see what Carlie has to say about what that means.) But are we (global we, libraries, librarians, etc.) promoting it as something else, resulting in people thinking the Newbery is something it isn't?

Finally, yes this argument happens enough we could turn it into a drinking game. Still, I am disturbed by just how insulted people get over people raising questions about the Newbery winners. I love discussions of things and different viewpoints, and the idea that there can only be one viewpoint for the Newbery (either you agree totally with every selection, or you're someone who didn't read the rules, don't get the award, and is blinded by 'popularity') bothers me.

My introduction to the Newbery was the gift of a boxed set of Newbery winners. Do they still do that? They were books I wouldn't have picked up on my own, but because now they were there, I was bored, I read them and enjoyed them. (Come to think of it, being bored plus access to books at home led to many great discoveries of books I would never have picked up otherwise.)


Anonymous said...

Hey, Liz. Until I started blogging, I did not know that the Newbery or the Caldecott was sponsored by the American Library Association.

Sometimes I think, "Best, schmest. Literature and children's books are not a competition." Other times (obviously, since I participate in the Cybils), I realize that winnowing down the enormous list of books published each year and pointing to a handful of great ones is really helpful.

Anonymous said...

I would be insulted if my choices were attacked by ANONYMOUS people in a magazine article. I love discussions with different viewpoints too--but I think if people aren't willing to stand behind their views, School Library Journal shouldn't be publishing them. Why wouldn't the people Silvey interviewed go on record--and when they wouldn't, why didn't she find people who would?

Laurie Amster-Burton
School Librarian

Liz B said...

Laurie, I don't think I've seen the anonymous nature of many of the statements addressed elsewhere. I know that some people cannot put their employer down or mention their employer in regards to these types of things absent specific permission, so that may be one reason. Rightly or wrongly, maybe they also feared backlash? I'm not sure & am interested in why people felt they couldn't use their names.

Anonymous said...

Amen about the debate, Liz. I first read the article when Susan linked to it over at Chicken Spaghetti, and I thought, "Oh, no. Here we go."

That is so true about having nothing else to do and picking up a book that just happened to be sitting around the house. I discovered so many authors that way, and I am forever encouraging parents who want their kids to read certain things to make sure their house has the types of books they want their kids to be reading visible and accessible. It isn't the strategy that pays off tomorrow, but I think it's one that can really win out in the long run.

Melissa Rabey said...

Thanks for reminding us all to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I agree with what Anita Silvey is saying, and got told to go read the Newbery rules. And I read them, and I still think there's grounds to talk about the recent winners and express dissatisfaction with how the process has seemed to work out in the past few years.

And civility in any discussion is never a bad thing! Thanks for doing your part to smooth troubled waters.