Archive for the ‘Newbery Notes’ Category

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 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.

Newbery Notes – Finishing March 48-Hour Book Challenge

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

Okay, it’s the end of my 48-Hour Book Challenge for March 2018. Alas! My stats are nothing like I hoped they’d be.

But to be fair – I had a vestibular migraine the whole time, and I had some household tasks I wanted to get done. The migraine meant I took long naps each day. But bottom line is that I got more reading done than I would have if I’d spent the day at work, so it’s all good. I’m taking 4 days off in May, so my next 48-Hour Book Challenge, I should be able to devote it more fully to reading. (And do other things on the other 2 days off.)

I did spend 13 and a half hours on book-related activities.
7 hours and 40 minutes was reading.
1 hour and 35 minutes was writing reviews.
1 hour and 50 minutes was my regular posting reviews on Sonderbooks. (I like to do one per day – these are old reviews I wrote in the past. I really hope that while I’m reading for the Newbery and can’t post reviews of 2018 books, I’ll catch up and get all my old reviews posted!)
1 hour was other blogging (like this post).
And 1 hour and 25 minutes was messing with spreadsheets! You’d better believe I’m keeping track with spreadsheets all my Newbery reading. Now I’m starting to get books from publishers, so I made a new spreadsheet to track that.

I did finish 4 books that are eligible for the Newbery, though I’d started 2 of those before the challenge. But in the 7 hours and 40 minutes, I read a total of 957 pages.

Speaking of spreadsheets, let me give some totals for all my Newbery reading.

So far I’ve read 129 eligible books, but 64 of those are picture books and 65 are novels, for a total of 23,305 pages.

It’s interesting to me – I’ve read far more middle grade books – 49, than young adult books – 16, but I’ve actually read slightly more pages of young adult novels – 10,648 as opposed to 10,205 pages of middle grade books. I’ll probably be focusing more and more on middle grade books to change that. (But reading a young adult book now and then does break that up, and technically they are eligible if they have a 14-year-old audience.)

So – I’m going to treat my days off as a success. I’m plugging away, getting lots of reading done.

But I also want to announce a blog series I hope to start posting weekly – Newbery Notes.

I’ve had a lot of people ask about how I got on the committee and how the committee works and what it’s like to be on it. So – I thought it would be fun to blog about it.

Now, I’m way behind – I want to talk about how I got on the committee in the first place. But there’s plenty of time to talk about that. To keep from trying to catch up all at once, I’m setting my timer and plan to spend only 30 minutes per post. Plus, I don’t want to take time away from reading!

I will *not not not* talk about anything I’m reading or even if I read a book I enjoyed. People might try to guess based on when I read the book which book it was. I will talk about stats and fun things like so far, I have received 15 books from publishers – and they only started arriving last week! This is going to be more about how I’m arranging my life during my Newbery committee year.

I mentioned on the last post that my initial goal is to read 7 hours per week – but that’s a minimum. Then I’m doing one 24-hour Book Challenge per month and one 48-hour Book Challenge per quarter. I’m trying to take at least one day off to read each month. Toward the end of the year, I’m going to use 16 hours of Volunteer Leave to read. (I do have to check how my leave balances are doing. But so far, so good.)

Fortunately, I love to read. So far, I’m having fun doing this.

I’ve also gotten to talk about being on the Newbery committee in local schools. I’ve talked to a 4th grade class a 5th grade class, groups of 5th and 6th graders, an entire 6th grade at a school, and a Newbery Book Club I’m running at the library. So far, I’m just having that club try to read eligible books and give me their opinion, but by the end of the year, I hope we’ll be able to have the attendees vote on which book they think deserves the medal. Oh, and the “County Conversations” podcast interviewed me about being on the Newbery committee.

One of the most fun things I’ve added to my life is a Silent Book Club, every Thursday night from 7 pm to 9 pm. I read about Silent Book Clubs at just after I’d gotten my first advance reader copies of 2018 books last fall. I realized with delight that this was something social I could add into my life during my Newbery year! The timing was perfect – my church had just finished our new building, a community resource center, and was looking for activities that would appeal to our community. So they were happy to host the Silent Book Club as an “Activity Group.” You can sign up for it by joining our Facebook Group, “Dulles South Silent Book Club.”

We talk for the first and last 15 minutes and spend the hour and a half in the middle reading. You bring your own book. Several people use this to get books finished for another, talking, book club. We started out slow, but now regularly have 5 to 7 people there. There are now 11 people who have come at least once.

And my half-hour to post about life on the Newbery committee is done. Next week, I will try to tackle how I got on the committee.

Happy Reading!

March 2018 48-Hour Book Challenge: Newbery Edition

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

In case you haven’t heard: I am on the 2019 Newbery Committee!

I need to read lots and lots and lots of books!

So my initial goal for 2018 is to read for the Newbery at least 7 hours per week. But that’s not going to be enough. At all.

So my next goal is to throw myself a 24-Hour Book Blitz at least every month – but also a 48-Hour Book Challenge every quarter (acknowledging that the original idea came from Mother Reader).

So – I took Monday and Tuesday off this week. And I’m going to try to read as much as possible.

Now, this month I also happened to put off some other little things – like filing taxes – for these days off, so there are definitely going to be some interruptions to my reading time. And I’m also going to spend some time writing reviews of the books (to post after the Newbery) and I’m also going to count time spent posting old reviews (I’m super far behind, and like to try to post one per day). And I want to start blogging about the Newbery process. But I’m going to shoot for 8 hours per day of reading time. Let’s see how I do!

And – first I did some other stuff tonight, so there’s really not much reading time left. (The truth is that I’m not *really* going to have to make the Daylight Savings Time change until Thursday – because when I go back to work on Wednesday I’ve got the late shift.) But I officially began my 48-Hour Book Challenge at 11 pm tonight! Let’s go!

First Meeting of the 2019 Newbery Committee!!! – 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting, Part Two

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

I’m blogging after the fact about my attendance at ALA Midwinter Meeting 2018. Saturday afternoon was the highlight of the conference for me, because it was the first meeting of the 2019 Newbery Committee!!!!!

Our first meeting is not, actually, closed to anyone outside the committee. So – I can even post my notes about it.

Our chair is Ellen Riordan. 12 of the 15 of us were there. (The first meeting is strongly recommended, but not required.) We introduced ourselves and told about a past Newbery winner or honor book that meant a lot to us. I mentioned The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner, as I love the intricate plot that fools the reader, as well as the wonderfully drawn characters.

I thought about mentioning The Blue Sword or The Hero and the Crown, both by Robin McKinley, as they are the past winners I love the most. But I think excellent plotting or the opposite may end up being a theme of my committee service. (It has been when I’ve served on Cybils committees.) I thought maybe I should give the committee fair warning. (Besides, I love The Thief, too.)

Other books that were mentioned were The Witch of Blackbird Pond (another one I love!), Island of the Blue Dolphins, Holes, Caddie Woodlawn, The Perilous Gard, The Giver, A Single Shard, A Wrinkle in Time, Call It Courage, Out of the Dust, Lincoln: A Photobiography,, and The Hundred Penny Box. It’s fun how knowing a favorite Newbery helps you know about people.

Ellen gave us a pep talk first. We’re all so thrilled to be here, and she reminded us what a luxury it is to be on the committee. Every committee is different, but we’re beginning with respect: For the child reader and for each other. Toward the child reader, we’re keeping a sense that what’s being said is important. Toward each other, we will learn to listen to each other.

We will need to read past our own personal taste and to know our own biases, both objective and subjective. We will get familiar with the manual, particularly the criteria and eligibility. Our sense of the criteria will grow with us as a committee. The process works!

We talked about the timeline and calendar. We’re going to be sending suggestions to Ellen by the 15th of each month. We should only suggest if the book is striking and we think it’s distinguished. (I will have to shift gears from looking for the best 100 books of the year in Capitol Choices to looking for the best few.) A guideline is: “If you’re wondering about it, try to say No.”

By the end of each month, Ellen will send us the list of what has been suggested. We are required to read everything suggested. (This is why we shouldn’t go overboard.)

She told us to make room in our house for all the books publishers will send us! Someone asked how many books to expect. She said we’ll end up with “hundreds.” She wouldn’t give a number to how many hundreds, but it will be more than one hundred.

Then we talked about protecting the integrity of the award. She recommends going off social media altogether. At the very least, we should stop “liking” publisher posts about publishing. The important thing is never to give the impression a title is being considered. All titles written by an American author and published by an American publisher in 2018 are eligible – but don’t ever communicate which books are getting attention from the committee.

We were reminded that the world is watching us. So we must not talk about books online. “Anything that appears to be a conflict” is the problem.

All our communication is confidential, and we should only communicate about committee work through Ellen. We don’t want to have side conversations about books, because the whole committee is going to work together to make the decision.

She reminded us: “Take joy in every moment.” (Yes!)

We had a special guest speaker for the last half of our meeting, Deb Taylor, who’s been on numerous committees.

Her first piece of advice was: Trust the process!

We will go from being individuals to being a group.

It’s a joyous experience.

Reading is very personal, but do remember that we’re standing in for the kids, reading for our child readers, not for ourselves.

Deb’s experience has taught her not to question a committee’s choice. You simply don’t know what they considered or what factors made the difference. Only those people know.

We will own whatever we come up with. It’s almost alchemical.

The children’s book community is growing in diversity and reflecting the full tapestry of the world. We need to be considerate of all the children we love these books for. She recommends looking up Ta-Nahesi Coates on YouTube, “Why White People Shouldn’t Use the N Word.”

“I believe in the people this profession attracts.”

She said to be sure to enjoy the discussion – It’s super high-caliber. “Damn near Librarian Nirvana.”

We are reading differently, and we will have to learn about ourselves as a reader.

As far as a note-taking method, she used cards. She recommends the worksheet in the manual on page 27.

Then she told us about someone who reacted to the announcement of the win for Last Stop on Market Street by saying “The committee obviously put diversity over quality.” That made her realize why she loves the book so much. CJ is on a Hero’s Journey, a universal search. But part of the point is that people will criticize our decision.

The most daunting part of the process for her? Rereading. Going back and rereading books she already thought she knew. It’s a little easier at the “suggestion” stage. Tougher at the nomination stage.

The rereading process is tough. Have a separate set of questions and make the second reading dig deeper.

It also takes discipline to move on to the next book.

She did have a method for getting input from kids. She liked to find out how kids thought. What books engaged them more? If no kid connects with a book, it hasn’t done a great job.

I decided to use her idea of including a card with the book at my Newbery Book Club meetings and getting opinions from kids on the cards.

Yes, we can and should look at reviews. This is yet another perspective and may help us to notice things about the book.

After the meeting, energized and excited, I went back to my hotel room, where my brother and his wife picked me up and took me out to dinner! That was a wonderful finish to a fantastic day.

I’m ready to read!