Sunday, January 11, 2009

And the winner is....

As we go into our last couple of weeks before the ALA Youth Media Awards Announcements (and I sneak away from massive amounts of rereading to post this), I'm thinking, of course, about the reactions people have to awards.

Monica at Educating Alice has a great post up about the Newbery and appeal; Franki at A Year of Reading reminds us that every book has its passionate child supporters.

Monica starts her post with the observation that "There will delighted cheers, shocked silences, and polite clapping at the press conference. Criticism will be cautious as, of course, no one will want to insult the winners or the hard-working committee. But it will be there, I’m sure. Is there ever a winner of any sort of award without it?"*

There has been and continues to be much said about the Newbery (as well as other awards).

Maybe my opinion at this will change after the Announcements, but right now I don't think criticism is an insult; or that disagreement is an insult. If everyone would agree with the choices a committee makes, then, well, they're doing it wrong. And if we cannot question, what is the point of the discussion? Do we really want people to say, "the committee is hard working and I'm going to trust the process so I'm going to agree with what happens a hundred percent?"

Questioning the winners shows that people are invested in literature and the meaning of books in people's lives. It shows people care. It shows people are thinking and considering and are involved.

Do I hope the questioning is fully informed? That the award's policies and rules as they are written are considered? That the eligible and winning books are read and examined from an award perspective rather than an "I loved it"/"I hated it" personal reaction? That the discussion does not insult the books, the committees, and the readers?

Of course. But asking the question "what were they thinking" is not an insult. Asking why -- and coming to a different conclusion -- is not an insult.

*In classic blogger fashion, I am writing on a totally separate point than the one Monica makes. I use her post to springboard to what I want to say rather than what Monica is saying. And for the record: I'm not saying Monica is saying that disagreement = insult. This part of her post caught my eye (i.e., no one is going to "boo" at the Announcements because it would be insulting), and it reminded me that I do see that disagreement= wrong in some of the comments I've read when people write about disagreeing with the awards.


Monica Edinger said...

"Criticism will be cautious" is what I wrote and I think it is especially true immediately after the announcement because people do want to honor the decision. I think people do worry about being perceived as insulting (I know I would). I found it interesting that the first serious criticism about our 2008 choice only came onto my radar (but perhaps my radar is unduly weak:) this fall in those Newbery articles. I could certainly read between the lines, but the issue of popularity didn't seem to come up until recently. I think it has been an excellent debate and got me refining my beliefs about the award and its criteria.

Unknown said...

I think the trouble is that there ARE people around who I think are rude or insulting in their criticism, and that perhaps it's put all of our backs up--so the first response to criticism is defensiveness. There's a big difference between "that's not the book I would have chosen because of this and this" and "the librarians on the committee are so out of touch; why do they always choose unreadable books?", but it's easy to assume that someone saying the first is also thinking the second.

The criticisms that seems to me to be the least useful, and often the most "insulting", are when people make generalizations about several past winners instead of responding to specific books that either won or did not win.