Newbery Notes!

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.

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