Saturday, December 30, 2006

MockNomination for Weedflower

Sumiko is the most intensely lifelike character in any of the books on our list. Kadohata gets inside her head, communicating feelings, thoughts, and observations with clarity and a wonderful sense of humor. Through this character she excellently presents this slice of history to her audience. Though the audience will benefit from getting background information elsewhere, Kadohata has presented a story that is successful even without this information, in which a girl comes-of-age in a society that marginalizes and criminalizes her. The cultural sentiments of Gaman and haji, that are so important in understanding what happened to Nikkei, are exemplified through the well-drawn side characters in a way that any first-generation immigrant young readers will be able to empathize with.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

MockNomination for Freedom Walkers

Freedman makes this history dramatic and engaging through his clear and concise reportage of events. He gives a dramatic arc to narrative without twisting the truth, providing gripping chapter closures and beginnings, and incorporates dialogue in an engaging way, while documenting sources very clearly. For an audience that recognizes the leadership of Parks and King, here is the full story made accessible: in which these leaders are created and supported by their community, and in which ordinary people prove powerful and victorious armed with nothing but their feet, their voice, their courage and resolve.

better late?

Sorry to all you who've been stymied trying to post a comment--I've reset it so that you don't need an account to post.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

6 down...

...3 more nomination statements coming shortly--I hope. This is the time of year I ask myself why I'm doing this to myself again this year! That is, cramming in the re-reading. On the actual committee, I'd be reading some of these for the third time, marking pages with post-its and sketching out for each title (of several dozen) an argument for or against, with specific examples to justify. I'm only doing a vague approximation of that here. Like the kid asked to clean her room who just shoves everything under the bed...

But judging a book by the Newbery criteria is a very different way of looking a book than most of us do on a casual read. You have to explicitly UNconsider:
  • The lovely illustrations or quality of the pages and binding (unless they detract from the writing.)
  • Other books it is similar too, except for those being discussing. It’s not a valid criterium that the book is the best of this author yet…or just like another book that was written last year.
  • Personal reading preferences!: whether or not this is a book that you just "like" or "don't like" don't matter. Unless you can explain...very specifically...why.

It's a fabulous excercise, but a heckuva lot of work, and I'm whining about doing not one-hundredth of it. If you know someone on the Newbery Committee this year, now's the time NOT to invite them to the movies. Give them a kiss, a pat on the head, a good light, and some reading glasses.

MockNomination for The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Camillo’s intricate voice, rhythm, and word choice is vibrant and not at all patronizing, nor sappy—despite the heartwrenching-and-warmingness of her tale. She uses image, sound, and smell to fine effect, creating an immediate setting. That and the vivid characterization within a brief and allegorical narrative leave readers speechless and truly believing in the heart of the china rabbit. It is amazingly crafted to reach and appeal a very wide audience, even within the age group governed by our criteria.

MockNomination for Gossamer

Here are characters and plot that are simple and undressed, but emotionally real. They are clearly allegorical; the situation of the dream givers takes shape as dialogue between Gossamer and her teachers, almost as if the writer were asking herself questions and then answering herself. The simple delivery and short length allows direct access to her young audience, who learn—really—how to create not dreams, but stories, and how these stories then help us in our lives: “you must include the sad parts, because they are part of the story, and they have to be part of the dreams.” (p.96)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

MockNomination for The King of Attolia

“Delineation of plot” and “Development of characters.” What other book this year could I hold up as a “truly distinguished” example of these qualities but The King of Attloia? Here is narrative that is vivid, suspenseful, and funny. The story is told as much in gesture as in action or emotion, so that the reader can picture the motions and facial expressions as if in a movie. And as in a movie, what is not said as is important as what is, as the development often occurs just below the surface. Political intrigue, treachery, and triumphant trickery that is engaging and appealing to a young audience is delivered up with complexity that doesn’t patronize.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

MockNomination for A True and Faithful Narrative

(I'll remind you too to check out Monica Edinger's well-drawn thoughts on this one. She's posted several times about it, so just put the title in her search bar to get them all. And feel free to comment on my nomination statements if you disagree...)

In her work of historical fiction Sturtevant presents details of setting and custom seamlessly through the presentation of her narrative, and communicates the perspectives of people in 17th century England through her characters’ differences in opinion. These characters are vivid, and realistic to their time. Even Meg, a “modern” woman in many ways, is understandably closed-minded when it comes to people of other colors and faiths. Sturtevant has also created an engaging coming-of-age novel with elements of romance and adventure. She creates tension through gesture and conversation, creating layers that the readers understand without needing to be told. No other book on our list (with the possible exception of King of Attolia) exhibits such distinguish craft in writing.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

MockNomination for Alabama Moon

Watt has crafted characters that both exist as convincing individuals, and serve as structures through which young readers can see things in a new way, questioning and analyzing what is usually considered “acceptable.” Kit and Hal are the perfect sidekicks through which to explore the boundaries of friendship. Their time in the woods together serves as a backdrop for Moon to demonstrate his survival skills to the reader. Minor characters (Hal’s father Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Wellington the lawyer, Sanders the cop, Mr. Abroscotto the storekeeper) serve as archetypes of adulthood as a child audience is often frustrated by it: loving but unreliable; fair-to-the-point-of-unfairness; powerful and dangerous; informative but ineffectual. This is one-sided to be sure, but Watt uses these battling perspectives to create a drama of human conditions that is fascinating and accessible to a young audience by dressing it as a suspenseful, fascinating, funny, and ultimately satisfying adventure.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

MockNomination for A Drowned Maiden's Hair

(As promised, here's the first of my "justification" statments for the books on our discussion list. If I were on the committee, I'd be writing this in order to convince other committee members that this book (which they might not care for) does stand up to the Newbery award criteria. No plot summary necessary, since everyone's read it. You get about a hundred words in which to make your colleagues re-read the book with a different eye, in the hopes that when you come to the discussion table, most of your persuasion has already done its work....)

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair stands out for its complexity within a predictable form, and distinctively engaging narrative. Schlitz takes her time to develop a plot and characters, but the pace never lags. Her talents as a playwright show in the way she sets a scene, develops tension, and uses conversation. She has a dramatic flair, right from the opening sentence, that shows an attention to and appreciation for her audience, framing the story in two parts or “acts” with a coda, that has the pacing of a play. The climaxes in action serve to further unveil the complex Hawthorne sisters to Maud and the reader, resulting in a deeply nuanced version of a classic orphan story.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Don't forget to take a look at other Mock Newbery lists

Thanks fuse#8 for collecting a few more links to other Mock Newberies. You'll find em on the sidebar--maybe there's one in your area?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The final discussion list

Because I have to say "stop" sometime, here we are--a mock short-list of nine titles to discuss on January 7th.

How did I decide what to include? Well, first I was looking for books that I truly like, with writing that I feel stands up to the Newbery criteria. Second, I'm looking for a little diversity and interesting discussion. "Diversity" means in genre, style, first-time vs. "proven" authors, well as in all the other expected categories. It's not possible to come up with a perfectly diverse list of course, but I do want to make the discussion enlightening as to the process of the actual award, and since we really only have time to discuss eight or nine titles, and the real committee is discussing usually thirty or forty or fifty...

How does the acutal committee come up with their discussion list? Feel free to take a look at the whole manual if you're so inclined, but here's the short version. Committee members have been reading all year long--hundreds of books. They keep each other informed, through the chair, monthly, of titles they want to make sure are being considered by all members. Towards the end of the year, each committee member formally nominates six titles (three in October, and three in December); there's always some overlap, so between fifteen members with six nominations apiece, that's how you end up with the 30-40-50 range. These nominations usually comprise the discussion list, though there's always room to throw in late contenders or second-thoughts if necessary. This discussion list is never made public.

When a committtee member nominates a title, they have to write a 100 word justification of why they think it meets the Newbery criteria. I'll start posting my mock nominations of these nine titles in these weeks leading up to our discussion, to give you a taste of what we'll be focusing on...and a head start in case you want to build your own attack or defense! Feel free also to post comments to these justifications to start an online discussion.

Interested in coming to the discussion? See the previous post about participating, and make sure to let me know.

Trying to get your hands on the books? If you've got an Oakland Public Library Card, you can check them out by requesting the item to be sent to your local branch. I'm replacing the title links in the sidebar from Powells to the OPL Catalog page, as that title comes available in our catalog. (Patience...some are still coming through the order process!)