Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Small Rant on Newbery Awards

I've taken up Mother Reader on the blog comment challenge, and have found some very interesting blogs! Here is an article close to my heart, entitled Has the Newbery Lost Its Way? by Anita Silvey. She points out all of the faults of the latest Newbery winners exactly as I have seen them. The big trouble with awards is that people do use them to foist books on children that children do not enjoy.

The most important thing about getting books to young readers is to provide them with materials they like so that they keep reading. So many times, students HAVE to read so many things that they don't enjoy that they start to feel that they don't enjoy reading itself. The top single reason that students don't enjoy books are that they are boring. Nothing happens. A book can be well-written and contain an explosion in the first chapter; children will like this. It can be well-written and contain introspective navel-gazing; children will not like this. Is Rick Riordan's prose perfect? No. Is it well-crafted, funny, fast-pacing and engaging? Yes! The same is true of Anthony Horowitz. If the next Alex Rider book were to deal more with Alex's conflicted feelings for his father, discussed at length while staring at the sea in Cornwall rather than a spy mission to Africa, it would win awards.

There are lots of books that are both beautifully writtten, literary AND appeal to children. They may be hard to find, but that is the sort of thing that needs to be an award winner.


  1. And that is EXACTLY what we're trying to express with the Cybils awards. Thanks for putting it so well.

    To be fair to the Newbery Awards, kid appeal isn't directly part of the criteria. But that makes all the more reason why we need to find other ways to highlight those beautifully written books in which exciting things happen.

  2. Anonymous9:45 PM EST

    I started all this blogging thinking like a "mock newbery" and the criteria linger but please see my short lists for 2009 and all the dozens of amazing books we have posted just in 2008! There are books that might fit the Newbery and many that do way more! The authors NOT from the USA for just one example ---

  3. Anonymous10:19 PM EST

    I have mixed feelings about the Newberys. They do seem to be picked more from an adult standpoint. I agree with you that there are some books that can appeal to both adult and children, and they are harder to find. But they are there. On the other hand, I don't know if I would have seen Lizzie Bright if it hadn't been a Newbery, and it is definitely noteworthy. Don't know if it can be appreciated by under 16 yrs, but it is excellent.

    I think the Cybil awards are a great idea and am curious to see whether they will at some point start influencing the Newbery choices (as well as our blogs).

  4. Yup, I second Jen in hoping that the Cybils turn out to (again) be books that are high quality and have great kid appeal.

    I'm also a big advocate of state book awards for that reason. Since kids vote for a winner the lists of nominated books are normally pretty appealing for kids. Plus, there's a lot of variety in the types of books nominated so hopefully there's something everyone can enjoy!