It’s the Night Before Newbery.
Will you be getting up early tomorrow to watch the award announcements on your computer via the live webcast at 7:45 AM Central Standard Time?
Or will you already be at work, sneaking a peek at the ALA website to watch the proceedings?
At 6:30 AM on January 22, 2007, Susan Patron was up fixing a chicken sandwich to take to work that day. She was a librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library and planned to head in early to watch the live webcast of the book awards with her colleagues. That’s when she got the call informing her that she’d won the Newbery for THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY. After a few moments of disbelief, the new medalist ran up the stairs to tell her husband, then showed up at work to watch the webcast, not telling her fellow librarians that she had won the prize. One can only imagine how they reacted when the winner was announced and they learned the latest Newbery winner was sitting amongst them!
Stories of “The Call” – arriving in the middle of the night or in the early hours of the morning, are now part of the Newbery/Caldecott legend, yet there was once a time when the news arrived via a regular letter in the mail. And at one time the author learned of the award in midwinter, but had to keep it secret until the public announcement in the spring.
Long-time readers of this blog have already heard my stories of trying to find out the winners every year as a kid. At first it was simply a matter of asking the librarian at the local library a few days after the announcements where made. But then it reached a point where I wanted to know right away. In fact, I wanted to know first. So I’d take a pocketful of change from my piggybank and call the American Library Association in Chicago from a payphone. Sometimes I’d get the information there. Other times they’d give me the number to the “press room” of the convention and I’d call some far-off city, asking for the press room and pretending to be a reporter. (I’m sure I fooled no one.)
Next I had to find the books. When I was a kid, that meant borrowing them from the library -- often waiting for the library to order and receive them. When I got older and began collecting books, it meant visiting bookstores. If the books weren’t in stock, I had to order them and wait some more. It wasn’t until the late eighties/early nineties that I noticed any kind of frenzy associated with the awards. Then it became a matter of RACING – once during a blizzard – with a scrawled list of the winning books. In the bookstore, I’d often encounter other people already seeking the same titles, while the phone would ring repeatedly and I’d hear the clerk saying, “WALK TWO MOONS? Let me check our computer. …And what are the other titles? CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY and THE EYE, THE EAR, AND THE ARM? Let me see….”
I’ve never known for sure if all the people who rush to bookstores or drive the winners to the top of the Amazon.com sales charts on Newbery Day are collectors, like me, or simply people who want to read the winning books right away. 2012 may be the year we figure that out. If sales for the e-editions of these books go crazy, we’ll know that many people are seeking the experience of READING the winning titles; if hard copies of these books sell big, we can assume that many of the buyers are collectors.
SO WHAT’S GOING TO WIN?
I don’t know.
Heavy Medal , the School Library Journal blog, voted for AMELIA LOST by Candace Fleming as the winner, with A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness and I BROKE MY TRUNK by Mo Willems as Honor Books.
Elizabeth Bird from Fuse #8 is also predicting AMELIA LOST for the winner, with Gary D. Schmidt’s OKAY FOR NOW as an Honor Book, along with THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA by Jennifer L. Holm and JEFFERSON’S SONS by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.
School Library Journal’s Someday My Printz Will Come blog , gave its Mock Honors to CHIME by Franny Billingsley, with a MONSTER CALLS and Mal Peet’s LIFE : AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM as Honors.
Over at the Horn Book, the Calling Caldecott blog gave their top prize to ME…JANE by Patrick McDonnell, with Honors going to BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY : THE TRUE STORY OF THE PUPPETEER OF MACY’S PARADE by Melissa Sweet; BLACKOUT by John Rocco; GRANDPA GREEN by Lane Smith, and I WANT MY HAT BACK by Jon Klassen.
As for my selections…?
I still don’t know.
When I imagine this year's Newbery list, I sort of see a big hole up there at the top, with no particular book rising to the very highest level. Earlier in the year, SPARROW ROAD by Sheila O’Connor struck me as a strong possibility, acknowledging even then that its plot and themes were so reminiscent of past Newberys(including last year’s winner!) that I really couldn’t see it being chosen. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack Gantos, a book that seems somewhat flawed to me as an adult…yet a novel I know I would have loved as a kid. Although I don’t know what will win, I do think the following titles have a good shot as Newbery Honors this year: A MONSTER CALLS, AMELIA LOST, THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA (Jennifer Holm’s fourth Newbery Honor?), BLUE FISH (Pat Schmatz), THE FRIENDSHIP DOLL (Kirby Larson) and BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys. And is there room for the graphic novel/big old picture book WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick on the list, or will it be recognized by the Caldecott committee?
I’m not any better at selecting Printz winners. Earlier this year I started my own Mock Printz blog but, due to time restraints and serious family issues, it never really got off the ground, reviewing no more than a dozen Printz possibilities. I’m going to fix that this year, renaming the blog “Printz Picks 2013” and adding titles to it all year so that it’s more helpful to readers. As for Printz 2012, I have a feeling that BLINK & CAUTION by Tim Wynne-Jones may win the gold. Unlike the Newbery and Caldecott, the Printz award places a limit on its Honor Books. Only four may be chosen. I think those four will be drawn from this pool of six: CHIME, PAPER COVERS ROCK (Jenny Hubbard), A MONSTER CALLS, THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT (Allan Wolf), LIFE : AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM, JASPER JONES (Craig Silvey), and IMAGINARY GIRLS.
If I was voting, the following books would be Printz contenders: QUEEN OF HEARTS by Martha Brooks, RECOVERY ROAD by Blake Nelson, FIVE 4THS OF JULY by Pat Raccio Hughes, MY NAME IS MINA by David Almond (a bit young, I guess, but its companion, SKELLIG was an Honor, so why not?) and – probably my favorite – THE BIG CRUNCH by Pete Hautman. But these books have gotten so little “buzz” that I doubt we’ll see a single one on the list.
On the other hand, a few YA books that have received lots of buzz – EVERYONE SEES THE ANTS by A.S. King, WHERE THINGS COME BACK by John Corley Whaley, and THE PIPER’S SON by Melina Marchetta – are all strong contenders, though I myself was a not a fan of them.
All these predictions…prognostications…guesses…hopes…and still…you never know!
Last year’s Newbery winner seemed to come out of NOWHERE. I’m not sure if it appeared on any Mock Newbery lists. I did see the title bandied around a tiny bit, but it never seemed to have much buzz or support.
But here’s something funny….
A year ago today, as I wrote my night-before-the-Newbery post for 2012’s winners, the very first person who left a comment mentioned MOON OVER MANIFEST as their selection.
And then it won!
So today I’m extra curious what you all are thinking.
What books will be honored tomorrow?
Please leave your comments! The worst that can happen is that we’ll all be wrong.
The best that can happen is that you’ll be the sole person to pick an out-of-left-field winner and you'll have your prescient comment memorialized online, just like Kristen did last year!
I got a kick out of Betsy Bird’s theory that Newbery books follow patterns. According to Betsy, here’s how the pattern works: "The Year of Breaking Barriers followed by The Year of Playing It Safe followed by The Year of the Givens followed by The Year of the Wild Cards.”
I’m not sure it’s that cut-and-dried, but it is interesting to consider.
And it got me wondering if other Newbery “years” or even decades could be titled.
Here’s what I came up with:
THE DECADE OF MEN, since all the winners were male.
THE DECADE OF FIRSTS, since the winners were mostly firsts of their kind. That is, first nonfiction winner (THE STORY OF MANKIND), first western (SMOKY), etc. However, even within that truncated decade (the award wasn’t given in 1920 or 1921), there is a little repetition in the awards. For example, the 1925 winner, TALES FROM SILVER LANDS, is the first collection of short stories…but then, strangely, the 1926 winner, SHEN OF THE SEA, was also a collection of short stories. That’s especially strange since there have been no prize story collections since.
THE DECADE OF WOMEN, since all the winners were female.
THE DECADE OF LOOKING BACK AND LOOKING BEYOND. This decade was about looking “back” at America’s history (HITTY : HER FIRST HUNDRED YEARS, INVINCIBLE LOUISA, CADDIE WOODLAWN, ROLLER SKATES) and exploring lesser-known cultures within our country (WATERLESS MOUNTAIN) or beyond our shores (Japan, China, Bulgaria, and Hungary.) The only book with a contemporary, “typically” American feel was the last winner for that decade, THIMBLE SUMMER.)
THE YEARS OF WAR, PEACE, AND SOCIAL JUSTICE, touching on themes of conflict, courage, war, and peace, the winners DANIEL BOONE, CALL IT COURAGE, THE MATCHLOCK GUN, JOHNNY TREMAIN and even RABBIT HILL (with its message “There is enough for all”) reflect the ongoing war years. STRAWBERRY GIRL looks at a social issue within this country. The only exception is the 1943 winner, ADAM OF THE ROAD, which seems to be mostly a “past due” prize for multiple honor winner Elizabeth Janet Gray. Interestingly, she would later play a small postward role in uniting former enemies Japan and the USA when she served as the private tutor to the Crown Prince of Japan.
THE YEARS OF READING FOR ENJOYMENT. Now that the war was over, books such as MISS HICKORY, THE TWENTY-ONE BALLOONS, and KING OF THE WIND took the top prizes – solid, entertaining novels for the post-war era.
THE YEAR OF HISTORY, with winner THE DOOR IN THE WALL and four of the five Honor Books set in historical times.
THE YEAR OF BIOGRAPHY, with winner AMOS FORTUNE, FREE MAN and three of the four Honor Books being biographical. This never happened before or since.
THE YEAR OF MAKING UP, with Eleanor Estes winning for GINGER PYE, a good book which many consider somewhat inferior to her early Honor Books about The Moffat family and THE HUNDRED DRESSES.
THE YEAR OF HUH? People are still scratching their heads over SECRETS OF THE ANDES winning over CHARLOTTE’S WEB.
THE YEARS OF DEJONG. With two Honors in 1954 (HURRY HOME, CANDY and SHADRACH…the first and only time an author has scored two Honors in the same year) and THE WHEEL ON THE SCHOOL winning in 1955, the fifties were dominated by this Dutch-born writer, who also received Honors in 1957 and 1959. Strangely, his later work never achieved the same critical acclaim or popularity as the books he wrote during his golden decade.
THE YEARS OF SURPRISES. Many authors win the Newbery after having written several popular or acclaimed books…or having previous Newbery Honors. During these years, three solid authors, Jean Lee Latham, Virginia Sorensen, and Harold Keith, came out of nowhere to receive the top prize. None would ever write anything this highly acclaimed or popular again.
THE YEAR OF UNANIMITY. For the first and only time that we know of, a Newbery winner, THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, won with a rare unanimous vote.
THE YEAR OF SECOND HELPINGS. For the first time, an author (1954 winner Joseph Krumgold) returned for a second Newbery. Strangely, his second winner is not considered one of the better Newbery choices. In fact, two of that year’s Honor Books, MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN and THE GAMMAGE CUP have gone on to become classics.
THE YEAR OF WHERE DID HE COME FROM? At 62 years or age, Scott O’Dell published his first children’s book and immediately won the Big N. No flash in the pan, he went on to write three more Newbery Honors in the 1960s.
THE SECOND YEAR OF SECOND HELPINGS. Elizabeth George Speare won her second Newbery for THE BRONZE BOW, a rare historical novel set during the era of the Bible.
To quote Betsy Bird, these are THE YEARS OF BREAKING BARRIERS. The winners include a science fiction classic (A WRINKLE IN TIME), a very contemporary NYC kid story (IT’S LIKE THIS, CAT), a stark, polarizing novel about bullfighting (SHADOW OF A BULL), and an unusual novel featuring a black protagonist who is an adult for most of the book (I, JUAN DE PAREJA.)
THE YEAR OF PLAYING IT SAFE. Irene Hunt’s UP A ROAD SLOWLY is an old-fashioned novel that harkens back to an earlier era.
THE YEAR OF MODERN VOICES. E.L. Konigsburg scored with both the year’s winner (FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES…) and an Honor Book (JENNIFER, HECATE, MACBETH…) – the first time an author received both prizes in a single year. These two titles, plus Honor Book THE EGYPT GAME by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, seemed to speak to a more modern generation than most previous winners.
THE YEAR OF FANTASY. THE HIGH KING ushered in an era of fantasy fiction winners and Honor Books.
More YEARS OF BREAKING BARRIERS, with a novels featuring an African-American family (SOUNDER) and concerning a mentally-retarded boy (THE SUMMER OF THE SWANS.)
THE YEAR OF CHANGE. Though the winner was an old-fashioned animal story (MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH) that quickly became a modern classic, the other books on the slate included an adult novel (INCIDENT AT HAWK’S HILL), a picture book (ANNIE AND THE OLD ONE), a high-end fantasy (THE TOMBS OF ATUAN), a mystery (THE HEADLESS CUPID) and a sophisticated urban tale (THE PLANET OF JUNIOR BROWN.) For the first time, these books were called Honor Books (from 1922-1971 they’d been “runners-ups”) and were now given their own silver seals for the front cover. This retroactive change ushered in a new era of appreciation for Honor Books.
I’m not sure what to call the year that JULIE OF THE WOLVES won. A year for ecology? A year of rewarding favorite authors (in addition to Jean Craighead George, Arnold Lobel and multi-Newbery-Honor author Zilpha Keatley Snyder were honored.)
THE LITERARY YEARS. They may not appeal to every young reader, but there is no doubt that THE SLAVE DANCER, M.C. HIGGINS THE GREAT and THE GREY KING are written with a touch of literary brilliance.
THE YEARS OF CLASSROOM FAVORITES. With ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY and BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, the Newbery crowned two books that would be used in classrooms for decades to come.
A WILD CARD YEAR. Not just a mystery, but a comic-mystery, THE WESTING GAME is unlike any other Newbery winner…and coincidentally happens to be many readers’ choice for all-time favorite Newbery.
THE SERIOUS YEAR. Perhaps as a response to the previous year’s comic romp, A GATHERING OF DAYS was a slow, sober historical novel – and an out-of-left-field winner.
Again, I’m stumped on how to describe this year. JACOB HAVE I LOVED was certainly a worthy winner, neither expected nor totally unexpected. Perhaps this is a year for “older readers” since the protagonist of JACOB is a teenager (and later adult) in the final chapters of the book, and one of the Honors, A RING OF ENDLESS LIGHT also focuses on a teenager character.
THE YEAR OF BREAKING BARRIERS, with the first poetry winner, A VISIT TO WILLIAM BLAKE’S INN.
THE YEARS OF GIVENS, with the award expectedly going to sequels DICEY’S SONG and THE HERO AND THE CROWN, and belatedly given to the great Beverly Cleary. 1986 seems like a given as well, with instant-classic SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL getting acclaim from the moment of publication.
THE MAKE-UP YEAR. I can’t get excited about any of the books on the 1987 slate. It was either a bad year for books or a bad committee. But it was nice that Sid Fleischman finally got the prize after many years of excellent books.
MORE YEARS OF BREAKING BARRIERS with poetry and nonfiction taking the top prizes.
ANOTHER MAKE-UP YEAR. I can’t get enthusiastic about this year’s selections either, with NUMBER THE STARS feeling like a rather humdrum “classroom” book, perhaps given to Lois Lowry in recognition of earlier, better books. However, if they’d only waited a couple years they could have given it to Lowry's THE GIVER, one of the best-ever novels to win the Newbery.
THE YEARS OF STEPPING INTO THE SPOTLIGHT. After a long apprenticeship, Jerry Spinelli went from a solid, reliable writer to a brilliant author with winner MANIAC MAGEE. Avi did the same with that year’s Honor Book THE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE. The following year, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, who had already written dozens of books, wrote the novel that changed the course of her career, SHILOH.
ANOTHER YEAR OF THE GIVEN. MISSING MAY received strong reviews upon publication, plus it won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. Its selection for the Newbery was expected…but now seems a bland, unexciting choice.
AN EXPECTED YEAR. From the moment THE GIVER was published, it seemed to be the de facto Newbery winner. Expected, but still a highlight among winners.
AN UNEXPECTED YEAR. A little known book from a new author, WALK TWO MOONS, stunned Newbery watchers.
ANOTHER EXPECTED YEAR. Karen Cushman got a Newbery Honor for CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY, and this year the committee gave her the whole enchilada for THE MIDWIFE’S APPRENTICE.
A YEAR OF RETURNS. E.L. Konigsburg returned for her second Newbery, while Nancy Farmer and Eloise McGraw were back for more silver. (It had been 35 years since McGraw’s last Newbery Honor and 43 years since her first. This was a new record.)
A YEAR OF BREAKING BARRIERS with OUT OF THE DUST the first novel-in-verse to win the Newbery.
THE YEAR OF BREAK THROUGHS. Like 1991 and 1992, this was a year for previously unrecognized authors to step into the spotlight. Louis Sachar had mostly written undistinguished fiction before suddenly spinning literary gold with HOLES. Richard Peck had written many wonderful books, but most seemed more “young adult” than children’s volumes. With A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO, he finally received Newbery recognition.
YEARS OF GIVENS. After writing an instant-classic (and Newbery Honor) with THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM – 1963, it seemed an obvious choice for Christopher Paul Curtis’s second, well-received novel, BUD, NOT BUDDY, to win. Richard Peck’s 2001 win for A YEAR DOWN YONDER didn’t seem obvious in the days leading up to the Newbery ceremony, but as soon as most people heard the sequel to A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO won, they thought, “Oh, of course.”
ANOTHER SURPRISING YEAR. Linda Sue Park’s A SINGLE SHARD had been out for nearly a year before it won the Newbery. When the award was announced, surprised collectors scrambled for the few remaining first editions.
ANOTHER MAKE-UP YEAR. With five solid Honor Books, it wasn’t as if 2003 lacked in good children’s books, yet somehow the award went to CRISPIN : CROSS OF LEAD by Avi, an author who has written many, many better books (including this year’s CITY OF ORPHANS.) Was it a “career” award for his entire body of work?
A BORING YEAR. Everyone expected THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX to win.
A SURPRISING YEAR. No one expected KIRA-KIRA to win.
A STRETCHING YEAR. Everything about this year’s selections points to expansion and opening up. The winning book, CRISS CROSS, featured multiple points of view and the Honor Books encompassed a wide range of genres – nonfiction, picture book, fantasy.
THE YEAR FROM LEFT FIELD
None of the books on the slate had received much talk before the Newbery announcement.
A YEAR OF SURPRISES. A book of medieval monologues winning the Newbery? It can happen.
THE YEARS OF THE GIVENS. Both winners, WHEN YOU REACH ME and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK were touted for so long and by so many that a riot might have broken out at ALA if they hadn’t won.
THE YEAR OF SURPRISES. There was a gasp when the winning title was announced.
????? We’ll know tomorrow morning….
This week someone sent an interesting comment to this blog:
My advisor in library school…was on the Newbery Committee in 1974 and was often quite candid about what it was like. During her year, the committee was completely divided over which of two books should win the gold: The Slave Dancer or The Dark is Rising. It was a tie, and the argument got so heated that all other books simply fell into the background. Finally, at 5:00 a.m. the committee chair stood up and said something to the effect of, "That's enough! I say Slave Dancer wins, and Dark is Rising will be the only honor book." The rest was history.
[The advisor’s] theory is that whenever you have a year with just one Newbery Honor book, a similar argument took place in the committee meeting. Heh.
Needless to say, I found this fascinating! Personally, I have often wondered at the super-secrecy of the award committees. Is it truly necessary? Would it hinder debate/selection if the discussions held in the jury room were made public? What if they were held secret for a specified time (say five years) and then made known? Would that hurt the process? Just in the interest of literary history (not to mention personal nosiness) I’d love to know what titles were discussed each year…why some were eventually dismissed…why others rose to the top. And if negotitations were made so that a so-so book ended up winning over two or three brilliant but divisive titles.
How do you feel about this?
I also wonder how you feel about the number of Honor Books every year. In the early days of the Newbery, it was not unusual to have six Honor Books. One year there were even eight! Do a large number of Honors dilute the distinction of the award? Personally, I love it when there are multiple Honors and hate when there’s just a single Honor title.
Finally, want to hazard a guess on how many Honors we’ll see for this year’s Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz? The Printz is limited to four, but the other actually have no limit that I know of. There have been four Newbery Honors for the past three years. There were five in 2003, but only one in 1999. What’s your guess for tomorrow?
And, again, what are your guesses for the winning and Honor Books? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section. I’d love to hear them!
Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books! See you tomorrow!