Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SLJ Bob: Washington Gets Defeated

In the next SLJ BOB matchup: Chains pulls through, leaving Washington at Valley Forge. Stay warm, George!

The partial surprise here is that the judge is Elizabeth Partridge, known for her non-fiction. Those of us trying to play "guess the Judge's decision" rather than "who we want to win" may be surprised that she went for the novel. But, who better to appreciate historical fiction than someone who knows the facts?

Partridge clearly likes both books and respects the craft that went into both books, making her decision that much harder. Partridge's transparency in her thought process makes it clear that these judges are not taking the easy way out; but are giving it a lot of thought.

So what basis does Partridge use to pick one over the other? "I’m more interested in a scrappy underdog heroine than a war hero." Oh, Americans. We do love our underdogs, don't we? And, while technically, George Washington was an underdog for a good part of his life, let's concentrate more on the good luck of his elder brothers dying without heirs, a marriage to a rich widow, and ultimate triumph in war & politics as opposed to his being the younger son of a second wife and the general in a war whose end was not obvious.

It's no surprise that in this type of battle, a judge's own preferences will weigh in more than other factors. Something has to be used to pick one over the other. Partridge is refreshingly honest about what she likes, rather than masking personal bias in a seemingly-objective standard. She goes with the main character who holds her interest. What will happen when Chains goes against a main character just as interesting?

( I don't know if it's me or the School Library Journal site, but I'm having a devil of a time connecting. When I do, I'll fix the links).

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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