2018 Sonderbooks Stand-outs and Newbery Notes

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!

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