Archive for the ‘Newbery Notes’ Category

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!

Newbery Notes – 48-Hour Book Challenge May 2018

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Yes! I took almost a week off this week (all but Monday) for my “annual personal spiritual retreat” (Hey, I made it up, but I love it – I began last year.) – which this year is including a 48-Hour Book Challenge.

I can’t imagine a better beginning than I had yesterday. The weather has turned lovely – highs in the 70s, with gentle breezes and sunny skies. In the morning, I spent some extra time praying and thinking about goals. (Right now my goals are pretty simple: Read! A lot!) I began a walking program that I’ve done in previous years but usually give up on when the sun stops getting up early. After lunch, I visited Burnside Farms and took pictures of tulips.

I even brought some home.

After that, my plan was to get my house clean (vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom and kitchen, dusting… that sort of thing) before I began the serious work of reading. But it’s hard to face housework – so during the rest of the afternoon, I alternated spending a half-hour on my balcony reading and then spending fifteen minutes cleaning my house. And I had such a lovely time on the balcony, with the breezes practically caressing me they were so gentle, and the sun shining brightly and the birds singing… it spilled over into enjoying doing the housework.

By the time it got dark, I could envision finishing – and then being able to read the rest of the week and not having to do any housework! And I did it!

What does all that have to do with reading for the Newbery? Well, see how you have to arrange your life to find more time to read? I’m trying to do a 48-Hour Book Challenge once per quarter and a 24-Hour Book Challenge once a month. (I didn’t bother to blog about last month’s.) But I’m excited to have this time smack in the middle of the year. Because, yes, I’m feeling behind.

Here are my current stats, before I started the 48-Hour Book Challenge at 1:30 pm today. Yes! I’ve made progress since I last posted on April 17. Of course, I am fated to always fall further behind. No matter how many books I get read, it will not be as many as I’d like to get read.

But so far, this is how many Newbery-eligible books I’ve read:

Middle grade books: 99 books (11 not finished) and 21,197 pages.
Young adult books: 31 books (2 not finished) and 9,864 pages.
Picture books: 180 books and 6,802 pages.

This comes to a grand total of 310 books (more than half picture books) and 37,863 pages.

It sounds like a lot – but I don’t think I’ve even read half of the eligible books published so far.

And I have received 225 books from publishers so far. I haven’t read half of those.

However, I’ve got fourteen other committee members out there looking for good books. Also, I’ve asked the kids in the Newbery Book Club to alert me when they read a good book.

And that reminds me of one of the highlights of the time since I blogged about Newbery reading – I got to talk to a middle school group and an entire fifth grade at a local elementary school. The day after my talk to the fifth grade, two of the kids sent suggestions, via their school librarian, of titles I should be sure to read. This makes me happy that they were so engaged.

The day after that, I had a meeting of the Newbery Book Club at the library. I had some regulars return, and I had a new boy come. He brought in a copy of a book that had just been published the day before – was a little bothered that I had it in an advance reader copy when he’d just bought it. But then he got excited about the advance reader copies I was offering to the kids and asked if he could bring some extra for his friends. I said sure as long as he gets them to give me their opinions. (I’m asking the kids to rate the books with one to five stars and put their opinion on an index card. I’m collecting these during the year. We’ll have a vote among the kids at the end of the year among books they rated with 5 stars.)

It makes me happy that I do have quite a few kids now who are interested in letting me know which of the new books being published are the really good ones that I shouldn’t miss. Hooray for getting kids excited about reading!

Of course, I’m hoping to have higher totals at the end of 48 hours. The one catch is that, besides needing to get more books read, before I even started the challenge, I’ve got a stack of 7 books that I’ve read already and need to write reviews for. That’s not counting new books I get read during the Challenge. (I’m writing reviews to post after we select our winner. That’s the only way I can remember what the different books were about.)

So – a lot of the 48 hours will be spent writing reviews and not just reading. And I’m also allowing blogging time (like this) and posting old reviews. I still have a backlog of 164 reviews I wrote before 2018 began. I’d like to get all those posted before we announce our winner and I can do 2018 reviews – but I need to try to post a review every day. (Of course, then I’ll have a new backlog of 2018 books. At some point, I’ll probably give up and decide I don’t have to post all the reviews. We’ll see.)

And now I’ve had enough of a break – I’m going back out on my balcony to do some more reading!

Newbery Notes – Reading, Reading

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

It’s time for Newbery Notes – I’m blogging about the process of being on the Newbery committee – without mentioning ANY eligible books by name.

I’d hoped to do this weekly, but it’s going to fall off. I need to be reading! I need to be reading! That’s what life is now – a struggle to find time to read.

I got to go home three hours early today (because of working three hours on another day) – and I was very frustrated with myself that I took a nap. I did get in my regular two hours of reading (my current goal), but had hoped for extra.

Anyway, I’m also hoping to get this Newbery Notes post written! When I write these, I set the timer for one half-hour. However much I can write in that time is what will get posted.

No matter how much I read – the books I want to read are piling up faster. But the good part is that this is fun! I love to read! There are nice things about having to make my favorite activity a priority.

And tomorrow I get to visit a local middle school and talk about the Newbery with students! I’ve done this at several other schools, various grades, and it’s really fun. It’s impossible to disguise how excited I am about the process, and that comes across. If this gets kids all the more interested – that’s a super cool result of my committee service.

Now, the past couple weeks, I hadn’t received many books from publishers – then yesterday four different packages arrived, containing a total of 25 books! So now I have received a total of 151 books from publishers. And it is only April.

My reading totals are as follows:
Middle grade books: 77 books, 16,190 pages (9 not finished)
Young adult books: 27 books, 8,367 pages (2 not finished)
Picture books: 149 books, 5,648 pages

That comes to a total of 253 books and 30,205 pages. Oh, and one of those books was a reread. There will be a whole lot more of that as time goes on.

Let’s just say that the pile of books I need to read is a whole lot bigger than the pile of books I have read!

So that’s what I’m trying to do at this stage in the process: Read, read, read. Last weekend, I was finally able to do some out on my balcony! And of course my weekly Silent Book Club is an awesome way to get a couple hours in – with friends!

People ask if there is a list of eligible books. Nope. Any book published in English by an American publisher with an American author (citizen or resident) is eligible. So the job of the committee at this point is to read as much as we possibly can. We don’t want to miss wonderful books.

There’s also a suggestion process. All 15 committee members submit Suggestions each month to our committee chair. We’re submitting on the 15th of the month, so I just made my suggestions for April. When I get the list of books others have suggested, I will make sure I’ve read all of them. March was our first month making suggestions, and I was a happy that I’d read all of the suggested books – and agreed that almost all of them were worthy of consideration. (We’re going to have a good list!)

Did you know that ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children) can also make suggestions to the committee? We’ll read all suggested books. The ones suggested before ALA Annual conference in June we’ll discuss there – though our official decision won’t be made until January 2019.

And there’s my half-hour up. I’d better get back to reading!

Newbery Notes – Getting on the Committee

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

It’s time for Newbery Notes! I’m going to try to blog about my time on the Newbery committee. Though we’ll see how long I last – I’m already feeling like any time I’m not reading is time squandered.

But I’m setting my alarm for 30 minutes, and I thought it would be fun to try to blog about the process – WITHOUT mentioning any particular books – each week.

Let’s start with the current stats! I have now received 119 books from publishers. Though 42 of those were advance reader copies – and I’m trying to limit myself to reading published books now that I have so many to choose from. Because any book that is a contender, I will need to read in published form – so might as well start that way. But the point is – there are a lot of books. And I’ve only been receiving books from publishers for a few weeks, and it is only April.

Newbery-eligible books I’ve read so far:
68 Middle Grade books – 14,237 pages
21 Young Adult books – 6,804 pages
111 Picture books – 4,364 pages

Grand total: 200 books even! And 25,405 pages.

And the truth is, I’ve hardly made a dent in the books I’d like to get read. I need to be ruthless and not finish a lot more of the ones I start. (Those totals, by the way include 10 books that I did not finish once I figured out they weren’t really in the running.)

There are 15 committee members. Now what we’re trying to do is get as many books read as possible – to try to catch all the books that should be contenders. And we suggest books to the rest of the committee each month. In fact, I have a book I read much earlier in the year that I think I’m going to reread in published form to figure out if I should suggest it. Suggestions are books that everyone in the committee will read – but we’ve been asked that if we can resist suggesting a book, to do so.

But I was going to talk about how I got on the committee in the first place.

Newbery committee members are all members of ALSC, the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of ALA, the American Library Association.

8 of the committee members are elected by ALSC membership from a ballot of 16 people. The rest are appointed by the ALSC president. I was elected.

But how do you get elected? Well, that’s something of a mystery. Some of my ALA member friends were just discussing on Facebook what factors they take into consideration when voting. I was first on the ballot four years ago, and missed it by 15 votes (out of about 800). At the time, I’d thought that my website of book reviews would make me a natural choice. But apparently not all children’s librarians think that writing a blog is the experience I think it is!

My first step was attending the William Morris Seminar on Book Evaluation. These seminars are offered every two years at ALA Midwinter Meeting, and were designed to train people to be on book and media evaluation committees such as the Newbery committee.

The catch is that you have to apply to go to the seminar. I applied to the first seminar in 2008 – and did not get accepted. I applied again in 2010 – and did not get accepted. I applied again in 2012 – and got to go! The staff of the seminar included committee chairs from several different committees and we practiced discussing books and talked about the requirements, and it was an awesome day.

At the seminar, I did ask how you get on the committee. They encouraged us to put our own names forward – so I did. I nominated myself in 2012 and was on the ballot in 2013 – that’s how long the process is.

But they also said that you have a better chance of getting appointed to the committee if you are active on other ALSC committees. So I spent two years on the Children and Technology committee, two years on the Grant Administration committee, and then served for a year as the chair of the Grant Administration committee.

Then in 2016, I was finally ready to put my name forward again. In the meantime, they’d tightened up the policy – I CANNOT write one word online about any eligible book until after our decision is announced. I also cannot ever say anything about any opinion of the committee – only my own personal opinions.

Well, as it happens, I have 170 book reviews written that I haven’t posted yet – before my Newbery year even started. So I’m looking at it as a year to catch up on posting old reviews. (If I can find time to do so between reading books.) I’m also writing reviews of the books I read – in order to remember them. And I’m writing the reviews before I’ve spoken with *anyone* else about the books – so it is only my own opinion. I can post those reviews after our decision is announced.

In September 2016, they told me that my name would indeed be on the ballot. But I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone until the roster of candidates was officially announced. This time, I asked them when I would be able to tell people (the first time, I’d forgotten to ask that). They said early November. Well, it ended up being the same day we found out who won the national election – so people weren’t terribly interested in my news, but I did make a webpage explaining why people should vote for me.

And, yes, I campaigned. This time, I went to ALA Midwinter meeting and passed out cards. What’s more, that year there was a mini-ALSC Institute going on, so I was able to target ALSC members.

The cool thing about passing out the cards was that these were children’s librarians, and I met some great people. Almost all of them thought being on the Newbery committee would be a wonderful thing, and some asked how I got on the ballot. I hope I inspired others to try in the future!

Voting was mid-March to early April, and on April 12, 2017, I learned I was on the 2019 Newbery committee! You can see it’s a very long process.

And I’ll talk more about the process next week.

Newbery Notes!

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

As anybody who’s talked to me in the last year knows (I might have mentioned it a few times!), I’m on the 2019 Newbery committee.

Now, I’m also someone who likes to blog. A lot of people have expressed interest in how I got on the Newbery committee and what the process is like now that I’m serving, so I’m going to try to blog about the process.

I’m not going to say ONE WORD about any book I’m reading for the award, until the winners are announced next January. But I thought it would be fun to make a record of the process.

My plan is to post something once a week, probably on Tuesday nights (though that’s not when I’m starting). I’m going to set a timer for a half-hour and not go past that, so that I don’t take too much time from reading time.

Blogging may very well slow down as the year progresses and I need more reading time. But this is how it will start out.

Now, I want to catch people up with how I got on the committee, but I’m going to start with where I stand now.

I’ve been reading since October, when the Youth Materials Selector at the library found me some Advance Reader Copies of 2018 books so I could get a head start. Up to today, of eligible books, I’ve read:

84 picture books (3,204 pages)
55 middle grade books (11,302 pages)
20 young adult books (6,333 pages)

For a grand total of 156 books and 20,839 pages.

I began receiving books from publishers, mailed to my doorstep, a couple weeks ago. Now almost every day brings some more. So far I have received 53 books. Of those, I’ve only read 21.

So I need to step up my reading! At the start of 2018, I was trying to read at least 7 hours per week, and that’s simply not enough.

One of my favorite things I’m doing this year is I started a Silent Book Club. I heard about it from an email for librarians that referenced the site silentbookclub.com. I realized that here was a social activity I could add to my life while reading for the Newbery! At the same time, my church had just finished our new building, a community resource center – and they were looking to fill it with community activities.

So, every Thursday night, from 7 to 9 pm, at Gateway Community Church in South Riding, Virginia, I meet with friends, and we read! We talk the first and last fifteen minutes, and we show each other what we’re reading, but it’s mostly an appointment for reading.

Last week, I wasn’t able to attend – and I was thinking about how I get so much reading done on Thursday nights. Then I thought – what if I read from 7 to 9 every night? I get home from work about 6:45 most nights.

Of course, I couldn’t do that on Wednesdays, the day I work the late shift. But wait – why not set my alarm on those days (after all) and read from 7 to 9 in the morning? And on my days off, I can do both am and pm!

So I’ve been doing this new system for a week, and it’s been going great! We even had a snow day on Wednesday, and I got 5 hours of reading in, with one extra hour in between the morning and evening 7 to 9. This should help!

At this point in the process, I’m simply trying to read as many books as I can, in hopes that between the 15 committee members, we’ll find all the worthy books.

I’m also a member of Capitol Choices, a group that chooses the best 100 children’s books of the year, and it’s interesting what a different mindset it is to read for the Newbery. In that group, any good book is considered – for the Newbery, we’re looking for a *few* good books. (Each committee decides how many honor books to name.) And only one Medal winner.

Today I was at the first Capitol Choices meeting of the 2018 reading year. It was fun to go to a meeting where I’ve read most of the books! (Since I’ve been reading 2018 books since October, it was easier for me than everyone else.) These meetings will help me hear other librarians’ opinions on the books and help me notice things I missed. They also may help me notice books I might have overlooked.

The Newbery committee also submitted our first round of suggestions in March – committee members submit titles that they think are contenders. Our chair told us that if we can resist submitting a book, to do so – we want to look at only the best. So I really worked at refraining from listing every good title I’d read. To my delight, quite a few of the titles I’d thought about submitting were submitted by someone else.

In fact, I looked at the list of suggestions for March and realized that if we were to choose the winner today – I believe I would be happy and proud of our list. And it’s only going to get better as we read more books!

So if anyone ever says this isn’t a “good Newbery year,” I beg to differ.

And I am having tremendous fun searching for books that are contenders.