Archive for the ‘Newbery Notes’ Category

Newbery Notes – Choosing the Winner!

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

I’m back from ALA 2019 Midwinter Meeting in Seattle – and the culmination of more than a year of work on the Newbery committee! So it’s time to give some last notes about the process.

The content of our discussions is top secret, and I can never reveal what was said. But an outline of how things went is fine.

I arrived on Thursday, January 24. That evening, those of us who were there met for dinner. We learned that we were down one person, so only 14 of us would be deliberating. But we did learn that the member who’d had a baby the previous Saturday was still going to make it! She left her baby with her husband and mother and was coming only the minimum possible time, leaving Sunday before the announcement.

Friday morning, we met in a locked room beginning at 8:00 am. ALSC sent a copy of all the nominated books in a locked trunk. Only our chair, Ellen Riordan, had the key.

The rest of us were assigned some books to bring a second copy of. Only books nominated by the committee were discussed. But we each had 7 nominations. That was a lot of books! (But I won’t say how many. Minimum possible was 7 and maximum 98. We were somewhere in the middle.)

We put all the books on the table. Our mission that first day was to reduce the number. We did discuss all the books. Then we decided which ones to eliminate.

I wasn’t actually well-prepared for that step. It is in the manual — but the procedure isn’t as defined ahead of time, so I had overlooked it. It was hard to let some of the books go, though we made clear that we honored all of the books and appreciated what wonderful books they were. In fact, some of us channeled Marie Kondo and thanked the books as we put them back in the trunk.

Fortunately, we had a Deliberation Giraffe on hand to hug when we were mourning the departure of a loved book.

The next day, we had far fewer books to discuss. Again, I can’t say how many. But discuss them we did! In much greater detail than the day before.

And eventually, we made our choice. It was not easy, and we were there from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. We ordered lunch in and only had a short break for dinner. But before the day was done — we had chosen a winner and two honor books.

The next day, we wrote our press releases. We put stickers on the winning books and took them to the ALA Press Office, heavily wrapped up. I loved the “Ooooo” that came out of the woman who received the books.

We got a picture of the full committee including Emily, who was going home to her baby that evening.

Then Monday was the day of celebration, the reward for all our labor. We arrived at 5:50 am to call the winning authors. I was very glad to still be on east coast time!

They first put us in a tiny closet, but the phone there didn’t work, so they moved us to a beautiful conference room. We called all the authors and got to hear the moment when their lives changed. (We didn’t consider this, but I loved it that all three are first-time honorees.) It took three tries to reach Meg Medina, the Medal winner, and she was heart-touchingly eloquent, so thankful, realizing that there’s not much separating all the books, and so happy that we loved Merci, and excited for what this would mean to Latino girls and boys.

The wonderful thing about the conference room was that we stayed there after the phone calls were done. Many times during the process, Ellen had gone around the room and asked us how we were feeling. We did that one more time — and it was especially meaningful, talking about the journey we’d been on all year. Some members of the committee had an especially challenging year, and we were so glad they made it through. (We were missing the two who started the journey but weren’t able to finish, even though the person who stepped into the gap had done a fine job.) Ellen expressed appreciation to each one of us, and we were all feeling so thankful to be part of this distinguished group of people.

Then came the Youth Media Awards, beginning at 8:00, when all the awards were announced, Newbery last.

Remember how I was sad to see books go earlier? Well, the Youth Media Awards really mitigated that sadness. Remember that we read lots and lots of children’s and young adult books this year. That meant that a huge percentage of books that won awards — for both children’s and young adult — were books we had read and loved. And also a very high percentage were ones we had seriously considered for the Newbery. And, yes, some were ones I was personally a bit sad had not been chosen by us — and seeing them win other awards mitigated that sadness. Yay! Just because they weren’t in our committee’s top three didn’t mean they weren’t magnificent books.

This year there weren’t a lot of books that got multiple awards. And that made me happy. It shows that there were many wonderful books published this year and lots and lots of book love to spread around. In fact, our winners didn’t get any other awards — which makes me all the more glad they were chosen by us.

And finally came the moment we’d been waiting for — the announcement of the winner of the 2019 John Newbery Medal and two honor books.

After the announcement, I went to the publishers’ booths in the exhibit hall and got pictures with “our” winners.

I am so happy about our choices! And looking forward to the banquet in June in Washington, D.C., when the awards will be presented and we’ll get to meet the authors.

Newbery Notes – Catching up my Reviews

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

I DID IT! Tonight I finally finished posting the reviews I’d written in 2016 and 2017.

When I started reading books for the 2019 Newbery Medal (children’s books written in 2018), I was around 300 reviews behind — reviews I’d written but hadn’t posted.

One of the drawbacks to being on the Newbery committee was that I can’t post reviews of any eligible book before we announce the winners. I thought that would mean I wouldn’t be able to blog for a year. Well, that would have been true if I’d gotten on the committee the first time I tried, four years earlier. But this year — I was already so far behind, I had enough reviews to last the whole year!

Of course, I’m still way behind. If I didn’t forget to list any, I now have 317 reviews of 2018 children’s books written. However, I can use those as filler when I don’t have a current review to post. I’m going to try not to cry if I don’t get all of these posted. After all, the main reason I wrote them was so I’d have a chance to remember what I liked about each book I read, in case it got nominated.

Also, those 317 reviews are still Word documents. The other reviews were written here on the blog and saved as drafts — so it will be easier to forget about the 2018 reviews and not feel as overwhelmed by their existence if I don’t get them posted.

I’m also going to try to get a little bit choosier about which books I review. But my reading is almost certainly going to slow down after next week — so now I will still have reviews I can post. It’s going to feel great to be able to tell people about the amazingly wonderful books that were published in 2018!

I also still plan to post my 2018 Sonderbooks Stand-outs — my personal favorite — not necessarily the most distinguished — books I read in 2018.

But let me talk a little bit about how this next week is going to go. It’s almost here! The weekend I’ve been looking forward to for two years!

Thursday very early (extra early if the shutdown is still going on), I’m going to the airport to board a plane to fly to Seattle. The Newbery committee is going to meet for dinner that night to be sure we all make it, even though this is the middle of winter. (Also, one committee member is expecting a baby — I think I heard the baby was due today — so we really hope the baby cooperates and is born today if not before and Mom is able to participate. I’m hoping we’ll get to deliberate with a newborn in the room.)

Friday and Saturday, a room is booked for our discussion from 8 am to 10 pm! The room has restrooms attached! We are bringing snacks, but I presume we will emerge for meals. We’ve also been told we won’t necessarily work until 10 pm.

I have fun telling school groups that ALSC will ship all the nominated books to the conference in a locked trunk. Only our committee chair has the key! Committee members have been assigned to bring a second copy of some of the books we nominated. I’m planning to reread one of my favorites on the plane — am in the process of looking for an older book with the same size cover that I can use to camouflage what that title is, in case other librarians are on the plane.

Yes, deliberations are Top Secret! I can never tell what books I nominated or voted for or argued for. I can never tell the opinions of anyone else on the committee.

I am so looking forward to it! Each committee member has nominated 7 books. And yes, there has been some overlap, but I won’t say how much. At this point, I’m envying the Caldecott committee, who evaluate picture books, because I have not had time to reread every single nominated book. (But I had already read everything at least once and written a review.) So that’s where I had to prioritize — based on which books got the most nominations as well as which books I want to speak up for. And let’s be honest, which books I wanted to read again.

I did find that most of the nominated books I wasn’t crazy about the first time — when I read them again, I noticed how much craft went into writing them and gained a new appreciation for them. This is going to be a TOUGH decision! The upside of that is I am absolutely confident that we are going to choose outstanding books, and certainly some books I deeply love will be included.

We had 7 nominations. However, when it comes time to vote — we only get 3 votes — 4 points for 1st place, 3 points for 2nd, and 2 points for 3rd. You might think, Why would anyone vote for a book they didn’t nominate, if they don’t get as many votes as nominations?

Well, there’s a requirement in the Newbery Manual that the Medal-winning book must have at least 8 first-place votes. (There are 15 people on the committee, including the chair.) My conclusion about that is that I doubt the Medal winner is often chosen on the first ballot. Though perhaps our discussion will reach a consensus before we start voting.

Anyway, we only have two hours, 8 am to 10 am, scheduled in the room on Sunday morning — so we’re going to have to reach a decision. The rest of Sunday, I think there are details with ALA’s press office (still very top secret). And at 6 am on the morning of Monday, January 28, 2019, we will call the winning authors on speakerphone! I will get to hear someone’s reaction at the moment when their life changes.

The decision is announced to the world at the Youth Media Awards press conference at 8:00 (Seattle time) that morning. It will be live-streamed at Many other awards will be announced as well, with the Newbery, the oldest and most prestigious children’s book award, going last.

That won’t be quite the end. There will be a banquet where the awards will be officially presented at ALA Annual Conference in June — which happens in Washington, DC, this year. So that one I won’t have to fly to.

But first, we get to make the decision! And NOW I need to get back to rereading books and taking notes! (Guess how my day off will be spent!)

2018 Sonderbooks Stand-outs and Newbery Notes

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

It’s time to post my 2018 Sonderbooks Stand-outs!

It’s time — but I’m not going to do it!

I’m on the 2019 John Newbery Medal Selection Committee — and I can’t say one word about eligible books until after our winner is announced on January 28, 2019.

I am compiling my list today, though — so you can be absolutely sure that the choices reflect my opinion only and not the opinion of anyone else on the committee.

The list will also just be a ranking of how much I, personally, enjoyed the book, and not a ranking of how I distinguished I think the book is. They are two different things. I will stress that again when I post the Stand-outs. I can say even now that the order of the Stand-outs does not reflect my nominations or my votes for the Newbery.

I also will break the children’s books into categories — for example contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and speculative fiction, so I don’t have to compare as many books with each other.

But they are about spreading the word about good books! I have read so many, many wonderful books that we will not be able to honor!

In fact, I’ve written 315 reviews of eligible books that I haven’t been able to post. I hope to get them posted, eventually, after the Newbery is announced. After all, this year, I’ve been able to catch up on posting reviews from 2016 and 2017 that I hadn’t gotten posted yet. Or at least I’ll be caught up after posting 18 more reviews.

But let me give the numbers for my 2018 calendar year of reading. I was reading for the Newbery, so not too many adult books. I did read:

4 novels for grown-ups (all on audiobook)
38 nonfiction books for adults or young adults
49 novels for teens
174 books of children’s fiction
207 books of children’s nonfiction (many of those picture books)
595 picture books
13 books reread

My Newbery totals have been somewhat different. I began reading in 2017. And I only counted eligible books — which means a lot of picture books in translation were left out. The Newbery totals so far, counting books I reread in with the total are:

904 books read, 592 of them being picture books, for a total of 102,390 pages read, with 22,168 of those pages coming from picture books.

Now that it is 2019, a few friends mistakenly asked me about things winding down — again, they are not winding down but still ramping up.

I have 24 days before our discussion begins on January 25. The room is reserved for us from 8 am in the morning to 10 pm at night on both Friday and Saturday. Much shorter on Sunday, only 8 am to 10 am. We’re going to call the winner on 6 am on Monday morning, January 28, and the announcement ceremony happens at 8 am.

Now I am only reading nominated books (so I can’t just read 96 more picture books to get my total to 1,000). What I very much want to do is reread all the nominated books and take detailed notes and plan out what I think the strengths and weaknesses are.

I can’t tell how many books are nominated — it’s all top secret — but I will confess that there are more than 24. So realistically, I will probably not be able to reread them all as carefully as I would like to. I’m going to have to prioritize.

A fun thing about this stage of the process is how much you notice about books the second or third time through. You really do notice the strengths and weaknesses with fresh eyes. You begin to see all the craft that went into writing the book.

Anyway, it has been a wonderful ride… and I’d better get back to it!

Newbery Notes – Crunch Time Gets Crunchier!

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

I haven’t posted a Newbery Notes post in awhile, and 2018 is finishing up! Today I finished reading my 300th Newbery-eligible book that’s longer than a picture book!

Now, I’ve also begun 33 books I didn’t finish and read 576 picture books. This adds up to 98,391 pages! Yes, I will hit 100,000 pages very soon.

To put it in perspective, though, today I received my 676th book from publishers. So I have not at all read every book I have received. I’ve looked at them all, though! And there are 15 committee members all keeping their eyes open for great books.

Why is it crunch time? Well, in December our final nominations are due. Nominated books are the only books we will discuss and consider for the Newbery Medal when the committee meets January 24 to 27. We have already nominated three in October and two in December — and there’s not much time left to choose the final two.

In the last couple weeks, I finished reading all the books that committee members have suggested — and now I don’t have much time left to read all the interesting books that have been beckoning in order to discover any overlooked gems. I also want to reread four or five of my favorite books to decide which two get my last nominations.

It’s dawned on me that I get seven nominations — but I will only get three votes! So we really do only want the very best books nominated. And I won’t end up getting to vote for all the books that I nominated.

So things will get easier after I choose my final two nominations, right?

Well, not so much!

If everyone nominates a different book, there will be 105 books nominated. I can’t tell you actual numbers, but let’s just say that’s not likely to happen. My guess would be somewhere around half of that, so let’s say that 40 to 60 books are nominated.

Now, I’ve read every book suggested so far. But in order to bring my best to the discussion, what I *want* to do is reread every nominated book and take detailed notes. And print reviews. And think hard about the Newbery criteria.

But let’s look at numbers. Today, there are 50 days left until the committee meets. But we won’t have the nominated books for another couple weeks. So I’m going to have not much more than 30 days to reread 40 to 60 books. I’m going to have to prioritize.

Fortunately, I did write reviews or at least notes after reading the books. So if a book only gets one nomination, and I can remember the book from my review — that’s going to be a lower priority than a book with several nominations that I know is a serious contender.

But I’m going to want to be reading and reading and reading!

I’m hoping, by the way, to post the reviews after the award winners are announced. But since I currently have 310 or so reviews — they won’t all get posted any time soon. In fact, you may have noticed I’m still posting reviews now. Well, when I started my Newbery reading last year, I had 289 review drafts of 2016 and 2017 books on my website. I’d really like to “catch up” and get all those posted before the Newbery is announced. So that’s why I’m trying to post a review every day — I only have 42 drafts left, but I am reading a few adult nonfiction books that I’ll probably finish before then, so I don’t want to slack off.

I do want to make my annual Sonderbooks Stand-outs list this year — but I can’t post it until after our winners are announced. I think I’ll make the list, though, on New Year’s Day as usual — that way I can say that the list only reflects my opinion and has no input from the committee.

And all this is why I won’t be sending out Christmas cards this year. Or thinking a whole lot about Christmas.

But I am looking forward to the most awesome book discussion of my life!

We are going to be in a locked room in Seattle January 24 to 27. We’ll discuss all the nominated books — and these are outstanding books and really knowledgeable people who will have read the books multiple times. It’s going to be awesome!

Monday, January 28, bright and early, we’re going to call the winners on speakerphone and congratulate them on writing such a truly distinguished book. Then at 8 am Seattle time, the awards announcements will commence to let the world know!

How’s it been reading for the Newbery committee? Completely and totally awesome.

Yes, I wish I’d read *more* books — but I think between the other committee members and me, we’ve discovered some truly outstanding writing that’s been done this year.

Yes, I’ve done a lot of reading. My co-worker said she’s glad I’m not tired of it yet — and the truth is, I’m just not. Yes, last weekend I had a small string of Did-Not-Finish books. But whenever I hit lackluster books — it’s never long before I find a book I truly enjoy. Today I finished two books in that category. There will probably never be another time in my life when I can rationalize so much time spent reading — and honestly, I’m going to miss it.

Anyway, it’s not over yet! I should sign off and get back to reading!

PS Got any questions about the process? Ask in the comments!

Newbery Notes – 24-Hour Book Blitz Finish Line

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

I finished my 24-Hour Book Blitz! And yes, some of that reading was done out on my balcony, even though it was a hot day for it.

My time stats are that I did manage to use more than half the time for book-related activities, a total of 13 hours and 50 minutes.

I spent 8 hours, 50 minutes reading,
1 hour, 15 minutes blogging (counting my Starting Line post and posting Sonderquotes last night),
2 hours, 15 minutes writing reviews,
and 1 hour, 30 minutes “housekeeping” — entering data into spreadsheets. This last included recording all the books I received from publishers in the last week — my grand total of books received is now 438 books.

As for what I got done, I finished reading 10 books and read 2 partial books. Most of the books I read were quite short, but the total was 1,305 pages read. (And remember that all pages are not created equal.)

I wrote 3,256 words.

I discovered that some books were missing from my spreadsheet when I wrote the Starting Line post, and my Picture Book worksheet wasn’t totaling all the pages. But these new totals should be correct for all the Newbery-eligible reading I’ve done so far:

196 Middle Grade Books (20 of those not finished) — 42,008 pages
53 Young Adult Books (7 not finished) — 14,924 pages
400 Picture Books (400 even!) — 14,935 pages.

Grand total: 622 finished books, and 71,867 pages.

It’s always fun to spend a day reading, though I didn’t really hit on treasures this time. I read a lot of short books, thinking I’d have time to write reviews — but didn’t get many reviews written. I now have a stack of 9 books to review (up from the 5 or 6 I started with), which I hope I can get to tonight before I do more reading.

Still, it feels good to mostly use my time off well — and I love that reading is using my time well! How lucky am I?

My next Book Blitz I hope will be Columbus Day, and the weekend after, I’m taking a 4-day weekend away for a reading retreat. Meanwhile, happy reading!

Newbery Notes – September 24-Hour Book Blitz

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

I’m beginning a 24-Hour Book Blitz. My first reading marathon since May.

At the time, I hoped to do a 24-Hour Book Blitz every month, and a 48-Hour Book Challenge every quarter. Well, summer got away from me. Last week, I got my first reading day off since the summer began (too busy with Summer Reading Program!) — and I only got in 4 hours of reading. Yikes!

But Labor Day was coming up! So I spent Saturday cleaning my house — to get rid of distractions. And tonight at 6:50 pm, I began a 24-Hour Book Blitz. The idea is to focus on nothing in that time except reading — and writing reviews.

Okay, but I also have about 30 books received from publishers that I need to enter in my spreadsheet. Before I began reading, I had a stack of 5 books to review — and in those two hours, I was reading short books and need to write more reviews. I didn’t do my daily posting of a review and Sonderquotes yet today, so I’m going to allow that — so we’ll see.

But it’s all good. I will certainly get more reading done than on a normal day off. And, believe me, I need to write those reviews as soon as possible after I finish a book. With all the reading I’m doing, I am *definitely* forgetting what individual books are about.

I had other things to think about in the summer, and now things will begin heating up. The schedule is that the committee is still suggesting books to each other on the 15 of every month. We all read all of those books. So far, 90 books have been suggested. I’ve read all but 3 of those.

But in October, the nominations start! Each committee member nominates 3 books in October, 2 books in November, and 2 in December.

There’s a strategy to nominations. Those are the only books we will consider for the award (except possibly books published in December that someone suggests at the last minute). My plan is pretty simple: I’ll nominate my top three books in October. But in November and December, I will probably not necessarily nominate my next favorites. I will probably choose books that have not already been nominated, to get them on the table. But we’ll see. It’s possible I will read a nominated book for the first time and decide that’s the one I want to win, and want to put my name behind it, too.

At this point, I think I know what my top three (for October) will be. But it’s an interesting place now. Imagine this: You read a book that you wholeheartedly love. Now you have to ask yourself: Why do I love it? Do I love it because it’s a distinguished book? Or just because I have a special connection to it? Or maybe because it’s my favorite genre?

Mind you, if I do have a special connection to it — for example, suppose it’s set in the neighborhood where I grew up (and no eligible book fits that, by the way — but there are other connections) — well, maybe that means I’m better equipped to notice how well the author portrayed that. Or am I just biased?

Again, if it’s a book in my favorite genre, just exactly the sort of story I like best — does that mean I’m better equipped to tell if this particular example is distinguished, or am I just biased?

On top of that, I need to not only determine whether a book is distinguished, but also be prepared to convince 14 other people that it is distinguished. What pages, what chapters, what plot points can I point to in order to show this book is distinguished?

The good part of that is that I’m going to be rereading my favorites many times. The down side of that is that I’m going to be rereading the nominees that are not my favorites many times, too. Though I may notice new riches.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that certain ideas seem to come in waves. I won’t give any examples, because I don’t want people to know what I’m talking about — except that sometimes it’s simply odd when two books have a similar detail. But there are several that have a very similar scenario as the basic idea. I’m afraid that the second or third time I read about a set-up — even if it’s done more skillfully than the previous books — some of the impact is lost. This is a downside of reading every new children’s book you can get your hands on!

However, that’s part of the good part of working with a committee. The process of choosing a Newbery winner — with 15 people you have to convince — actually works well. The cream rises to the top. Already there have been wonderful suggestions. And somebody’s going to notice if the third instance of one particular scenario is the most distinguished one.

I also want to talk about my book reviews. When the Newbery reading year started, I was way, way behind on posting reviews I’d written. Now, I’m not allowed to say one word online about any eligible book. So I was afraid I’d have to give up my website for a year.

But — it turns out that I was so very far behind in posting reviews, pretty much ever since I was on the 2016 Cybils panel for YA Speculative Fiction — that I still have 100 reviews yet to post. I am trying to post an old review every day — and I very much hope I will catch up before the Newbery is announced.

Now, I’m also writing reviews of Newbery-eligible books as I read them — the only way I can possibly remember what I’ve read. I will post my favorites after we make the announcement. After that, I’ll probably keep the reviews in reserve in case I ever don’t have a review ready to go and I want to post. We’ll see.

Anyway, I’ve been rambling on long enough. Let me give my stats before my 24-Hour Book Blitz. Then we’ll see how much they change by tomorrow night. Here are the Newbery-eligible books I’ve read (beginning last October or so):

Middle-Grade Books (Newbery winners usually come from this category, but they don’t have to. Books for ages 0 to 14 are eligible): I’ve read 190 books, 18 of which I did not finish, for a total of 41,230 pages.
Young Adult Books: 49 books, 7 not finished, for a total of 14,165 pages.
Picture Books: 396 books, for a total of 13,607 pages.

The grand total is 610 books finished, at 69,002 pages!

I’ll let you know the new totals after my 24-Hour Book Blitz!

Newbery Notes

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

As of the beginning of August, I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with the task of trying to find the best books of the year.

So far, I’ve received 375 books from publishers. I’m also reading library books.

How to decide what to read? Well, of course I read everything suggested by the committee. So far, members have suggested 79 books. (Did you know ALSC members can also suggest books? The committee will all read suggested books.)

I also read any book that a kid member of my Newbery Book Club at City of Fairfax Regional Library gives 5 out of 5 stars to.

After that? Well, let’s just say I’m trying to get pickier and pickier.

I’m still trying to read at least two hours every day and four hours on days off – but I’ve been falling off of that the last week. I was trying to take a day off for reading each month and do at least one 48-hour Book Challenge per quarter, but that didn’t happen in July because the summer is just too busy.

However, I should get back in the groove of that at the end of August – and I just booked a 4-day weekend reading getaway to Harper’s Ferry in October.

So – it’s still a challenge, but a wonderful one. I’m also starting to figure out which three books I want to nominate in October. I will probably go with my three favorites. (I already have two that will be hard to knock out of the running in my mind. But the fun part is that it could still happen!) Then to nominate two more in November and two more in December – I will also consider whether my next choices have been nominated by someone else or not.

It is the nominated books that we will discuss and consider for the award when we meet together next January.

Oh, and we got some potentially lovely news: One of the Newbery committee members is expecting a baby – due 5 days before we start deliberating! So if baby comes late, she will have to drop out. But if all goes well and Baby is on time or early, and healthy – we will get to deliberate with a tiny baby in the room!

And here are my reading totals as of August 3, 2018:

Middle Grade Books: 164 books (17 not finished), 34,998 pages.
Young Adult Books: 48 books (7 not finished), 14,101 pages.
Picture Books: 348 books, 13,112 pages.

Grand totals: 560 eligible books read, (536 completely), for a total of 62,211 pages.

Clearly, I need to step it up!

ALA Annual Conference 2018 – Meeting with the Newbery Committee!!!

Saturday, June 30th, 2018

On Saturday from 1:00 to 5:30 and Sunday from 8:30 to 11:30 – I met with the 2019 Newbery committee!

All 15 of us were together for the first time. (A few hadn’t been able to be at ALA Midwinter Meeting in February in Denver.)

On Saturday we talked about logistics. We went over the manual, looking hard at the criteria, reminding ourselves what we’re looking at, and what’s eligible and what’s not.

We talked about methods of storing and keeping track of all the books we’ve received from publishers. (I’ve received 328 as of today. Not every single one is even eligible.)

We talked about the nominating process – We will each nominate 3 books in September, 2 in October, and 2 in December, while continuing to suggest books. But only the nominated books will be discussed in Seattle.

One member asked how many pages our nomination justifications should be, and the chair answered, “No pages!”

In Seattle next January, we’re going to meet for preliminaries on Thursday evening, then meet all day in a locked room on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We have to have our decision made by Sunday afternoon. We’ll get up early on Monday morning and call the author.

Our chair told us that ALSC is going to mail a locked trunk to the conference. It will contain all the books that were nominated by committee members – the only books we’ll be discussing. There is one key to the trunk, and our chair will be the one who has it! We also discussed tricks for reading nominated books on the plane ride to Seattle. I liked the idea of taking off the book cover and replacing it with a cover from an older book. Top secret!

On Saturday, we had practice discussions! We each presented one book and then discussed it, listing strengths first – being very specific – and then concerns, also being very specific. This discussion didn’t “count,” but we got the idea of how it works and how long it will take. And perhaps our opinions about those particular books may have changed. We also got an idea of how the committee as a whole feels about some of the issues that come up. (I won’t be specific about that, but if you’ve ever wondered, “Can such and such a type of book win the Newbery?” – we may have looked at some of those type of books.)

At the end of the discussions – I may not exactly have 14 new best friends, but do have 14 new friends, and I am part of a Team that works together well, and I’m super excited about the selections we’re going to make together next January!

When I got home from ALA, 22 books were on my doorstep waiting for me, in 6 different packages. I always like to include current stats in my Newbery Notes posts, so here they are. So far, I’ve read this many eligible books:

Middle grade books (or parts of books): 143, a total of 29,466 pages.
Young adult books (or parts of books): 43, a total of 12,765 pages.
Picture books: 293, a total of 11,002 pages.

Grand total: 479 books, 53,233 pages.

And I need to read a whole lot more than that before the end of the year! Better get busy!

Newbery Notes – Midyear Edition

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

This is me, reading on my balcony.

It’s the middle of the year, and the number of books I’d *like* to have read is exploding. But I am making lots of time to read out on my balcony.

In fact, just tonight I realized I’d spent an hour reading the start of a book by a British author – and therefore not eligible! Ouch!

But of eligible books, so far I have read:
127 Middle Grade books, 15 of those not finished, for a total of 27,331 pages.
40 books for Young Adults, 4 of those not finished, for a total of 11,882 pages.
267 picture books, for a total of 10,038 pages.

Grand totals are 434 books (19 not finished), for a total of 49,251 pages. Should hit 50,000 in a day or two!

From publishers, I have already received 273 books. 8 arrived tonight.

Where the Newbery committee is in the process is that we’re all reading madly and Suggesting books to the committee each month. The first two months, I’d read most of the suggested books, but the May suggestion list had 7 I hadn’t read. All committee members will read all suggested books.

We’re meeting for our first mandatory meeting ten days from now in New Orleans at ALA Annual Conference! Each committee member (except the chair) is going to present one book for practice discussion – so right there are 14 books I’d like to reread in the next week. (It probably won’t happen.)

I’ve decided for this round of rereading, I’m going to read only a few chapters at a time (maybe a half-hour) and do this at home and take copious notes. I’ll still keep first-time reading as my pleasure reading and write a review as my first impression (to post after the Newbery).

The stress of not reading as many books as I’d like to have read is good stress! I’m trying to make peace with it – When I was a Cybils judge we kept track of our page and book counts and I was usually in the middle of the pack. Some will read more than me and some will read fewer. I’m going to try to remember to enjoy the process.

I have to say that tonight when I began my rereading (No, I won’t get nearly all 14 re-read. But I will re-read the nominated books before January’s meeting – this is just practice.) – I was delighted with how many things I noticed just in the first chapter – things about the craft of the book. It’s true what former committee members say – you do examine the book more closely when you’re on the committee. I’m only beginning to get a taste of that. (And the book I was rereading tonight is one I’d already read twice. But taking notes while I read is helping.)

Anyway, I’m still scheming how I’m going to manage to take some time off to read during our busy summer. But I’m hoping for the best! And I’m trying to be more disciplined about spending 7 to 9 reading every day.

Tomorrow we finish Booktalking for this year in the local elementary schools. And it was all the better this year because I’d read so very many children’s books. I didn’t get at all bored with repeating the same books over and over – because I have a lot of great books to choose from.

The year is only half over, but let no one say that this is not a good year for Newbery eligible books. I am already sure: We’re going to pick a good one!

Newbery Notes – 48-Hour Book Challenge Finish Line

Friday, May 11th, 2018

I did it! I focused on reading and reviewing for a solid 48 hours, and now I’m ready to report.

I’m a little disappointed in my totals, since I’ve broken 30 hours in previous years, but since I still have the weekend, it’s still good.

Here are my totals for the 48 hours from 1:30 on May 9 to 1:30 on May 11:

Grand Total of time spent: 26 hours, 5 minutes

15 hours and 45 minutes of that time was reading.
4 hours and 20 minutes was writing reviews.
2 hours and 10 minutes was other blogging.
2 hours and 15 minutes was messing with my spreadsheets and gathering books. (!)
15 minutes was listening to an audiobook while I drove to and from Silent Book Club.
1 hour and 20 minutes was posting two reviews.

In that time, I read 15 complete books and 4 partial books, but 9 of those complete books were picture books. I read a total of 2,090 pages.

I wrote 12 reviews, posted 2 reviews, the Starting Line post, and 2 Sonderquotes posts, for a total of 5,537 words written.

This brings my totals for Newbery-eligible books to:
229 books received from publishers (including now 2 duplicates).
107 middle grade books read, including 14 not finished, for a total of 22,504 pages.
32 young adult books read, including 2 not finished, for a total of 10,253 pages.
188 picture books read, for a total of 7,090 pages.

Grand total: 327 books read, 39,847 pages.

Best of all, this year’s 48-Hour Book Challenge was fun! The weather has been glorious, just perfect for sitting out on my balcony and reading. I also got caught up on writing reviews – though I still need to write reviews of the last two books I read. So far, I’ve been able to mostly vary the styles of books enough that I’m not getting bored. (I began each hour of reading by reading a picture book, for example.)

And here are parts of my view while reading:

There are still an awful lot of books left that I need and want to read. But at least I’m having fun doing it!