ALA Annual Conference 2018 – Meeting with the Newbery Committee!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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

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

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

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!