Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Looking Forward, Looking Backward

I began yesterday thinking about the future and ended the day thinking about the past.

Over the weekend a friend asked my top five picks for this coming year's Newbery Award. I didn't have many suggestions to offer, but tossed out a few likely contenders: THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins (though some may find the themes too violent and mature for a children's book award), maybe THE PENDERWICKS ON GARDAM STREET by Jeanne Birdsall (a good, old-fashioned family story, though perhaps a bit too sweet.) Patricia Reilly Giff's ELEVEN seems a possibility. Meanwhile, fantasy fans are saying good things about THE UNDERNEATH by Kathi Appelt and SAVVY by Ingrid Law. And the second volume in M.T. Anderson's "Ovtavian Nothing" series will no doubt get people talking. Perhaps the winning title is a spring book that slipped past without notice...or one of the fall books that will be published in the coming months.

Whatever the case, my friend's query made me realize that, as the days get shorter and the summer comes to an end, it's time to start looking toward the future and anticipating the autumn crop of books...the National Book Awards in November...the Christmas bestsellers...and the big awards that will be announced in January.

Then I got news of something coming even farther in the future.

Yesterday morning I was reading the website of my favorite author, M.E. Kerr, and was surprised and excited to see a message from Ms. Kerr saying that she's begun a new young adult novel "tentatively called RECOVERING FROM CLARA. Just began it a few hours ago although I've been researching it for a few months."

How neat to learn about this new novel just a few hours after she began writing it! And though I know it will take several months to write the book...and then many more months for it to go through the publication process...just knowing that the future holds a new M.E. Kerr novel makes me a happy guy!

So, after spending the day thinking about the future, I came home from work and found a small package in the mail that took me back to the past. It was an old Children's Book Council bookmark that I had found on eBay and purchased for $6.50.

One side lists the Newbery winners from 1922 to 1949. (You can click on the image to get a better view of the bookmark.)

The other side contains the Caldecott winners from 1938 to 1949:

Can you imagine a time when the Caldecott list only contained eleven titles? A time when the Newbery roster didn't include Eleanor Estes, E.L. Konigsburg, Beverly Cleary, or A WRINKLE IN TIME?

I love owning a little piece of history like this. It makes me think about how the world of children's books has changed in the nearly sixty years since Marguerite Henry's KING OF THE WIND won the Newbery and Berta and Elmer Hader's THE BIG SNOW won the Caldecott. And it gets me wondering about the future of children's books as well. What title will win the Newbery in 2009? And how will children's books change in the sixty years beyond that?

Like every book collector, I go through life with one eye looking over my shoulder, honoring and appreciating children's books of past, and the other firmly fixed on the horizon, anticipating what's yet to come.

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