Newbery Notes – Catching up my Reviews

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 ala.unikron.com 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!)

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