Yes, I know it is late, like two thousand and eight, but I do have a few reasons for bringing up the Newbery Awards now. First, I just got all the books. Second, it’s the topic of the DC KidLit Book Club meeting this Sunday. And third, it’s been burning within me to discuss since I read the winner.
I was disappointed with the Newbery Awards this year. Less because of the specific winning titles — though I have issues with each — than for the lameness of the list in general. Four out of five titles were historical fiction. Two of those were the same time period. Three of the books have a stunning similarity. Don’t see it? Three books about girls sent on their own in the summer to a new place where they will learn more about their parents, but at the same time discover a little something about themselves, all the while observing more than participating.
Now people will say that the Newbery is about finding the best books, not a comprehensive list. I agree to an extent, but would also in that case like to request my copy of the Children’s Literature Excellence Checklist (CLEC), because there appears to be a sort of consensus as to quality in children’s literature of which I am unaware. Also, the fact that the winners are bought in libraries everywhere does to me to imply a certain thoughtfulness needed in presenting a better variety of books.
While all of the winning titles are good, solid books, the fact that they are mostly of one genre and three are kind of the same book says more to me about the particular taste of this committee than the excellence of literature this year. Seriously, no contemporary fiction or fantasy or nonfiction reached the same level? Is it possible that we are subscribing to a view of literary quality that doesn’t reflect children’s literature today?
I’ll be talking about the specific titles this week, and encourage your participation in the discussion. Tomorrow, the gold medal winner.