Conference Corner: Newbery/Caldecott/Legacy Banquet!

On Sunday of ALA Annual Conference, I had big plans. I had a full day’s schedule worked out and was planning to change clothes for the banquet in a hotel restroom. And I managed to get out of bed. And I thought to myself Why? And I went back to bed.

I ate a late and leisurely lunch and got dressed for the banquet and left around 3:30 to get to the 5:00 Cocktail Party for those sitting at the HarperCollins table, including Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Brian Lies (Caldecott Honor winner), their family members, and some more committee members.

The party was on a top-floor terrace of the same hotel where the banquet was happening. I do not know why I did not take any pictures. It was lovely.

Around 5:45, we went to the Green Room. There, lots of pictures were taken. I’ll just include ones I took, though many of them aren’t very good. (My camera doesn’t do a great job in low light.)

First, we met the John Newbery Baby! Yes, Emily gave birth the Saturday before deliberations began on Friday! Yes, she came and deliberated! And her baby is completely adorable!

With Lali:

With his Mom:

I was all dressed up:

Ellen Riordan, our committee chair, with our winners: Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Veera Hiranandani, and Meg Medina:

All the winners! Left to right, back row: Veera Hiranandani, Christopher Myers, Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Oge Mora, Brian Lies.
front row: Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Sophie Blackall, Juana Martinez-Neal

With Meg (and noticing we have almost identical glasses):

With Veera and Catherine:

At the banquet, I got to sit next to Catherine! There are always really wonderful programs made by the Caldecott Medalist.

With Ellen during the break after the meal:

I decided for once not to take notes on the speeches, because they had a card with links to the speeches on the table, and I knew they’d be printed in Horn Book Magazine.

First was Sophie Blackall’s Caldecott Speech:

Then Ellen took the podium to give out our awards!

There we are! (Rats! I was in a hurry to take the picture before standing up, so it’s blurry.)

I got a close up look at Catherine’s Honor Citation!

(I tried to take Veera’s picture collecting her citation, but it came out too blurry, alas!)

Then it was time for Meg’s speech!

I noticed I had a nice angle on some committee members and Meg’s daughter watching the speech:

A couple things happened at the actual speech that weren’t in the pre-written speech that is on the website. Meg did name all committee members in her speech — but instead of listing our full names, she called us all by our first names, and she used Sondy for me instead of Sondra. She also mentioned the amazing evening we’d had together the night before.

Another thing was that the night before Candlewick had given us bicycle bells in honor of Merci. Written on them, it says, “Take a deep breath and ride” — Merci Suárez

Well, naturally I brought mine to the banquet to ring every time the crowd was applauding Meg. Toward the end of the speech, she thanked Candlewick for the bicycle bells, and naturally I rang the bell then — but this time everyone heard me do it and the entire enormous ballroom laughed! (I immediately hid the bell and pretended it wasn’t me.)

The next speech was Christopher Myers accepting the Children’s Literature Legacy Award on behalf of his father, Walter Dean Myers.

And finally, when the banquet was all done, I got a picture with one of my all-time favorite authors, Shannon Hale!

The whole thing added up to an amazing evening, the culmination of our two years (really) on the Newbery committee!

Conference Corner: Newbery Winner Dinner!

On Saturday of ALA Annual Conference, Candlewick Press hosted a dinner for the Newbery committee and the Newbery Medalist, Meg Medina.

It happened at a restaurant with a light and airy room. At first, we milled around and chatted.

When we were seated, we were all at one big table, and this time we could hear not only the person next to us, but what anyone had to say.

That night was extra special because after eating, we had a great big conversation together. First we asked Meg some questions.

She told us that one surprising result of winning the Newbery was that past winners got in touch with her. They urged her to learn right away to say No to speaking engagements and to take time for herself.

She told a fun story about when she’d been at a conference with Kate DiCamillo, who has won the Newbery three times. Kate called her hotel room and bought her burgers and talked her through a lot of things she’d need to think about. It was super sweet.

I asked Meg about a story she’d told a year before at a breakfast about Merci. I’d been mentioning this in my booktalks, I wanted everyone to hear it, and I wanted to make sure I had the details right.

It turns out that yes, the incident in Merci Suárez Changes Gears where a kid’s eyebrows had to be cut off to get out of a plaster cast really did happen! When Meg was a brand-new 6th grade teacher, she was super enthusiastic about projects. (She said that she was childless at the time, and the parents must not have appreciated it.) She had them transform the classroom into an Egyptian tomb.

She remembered the name of the boy they used to make the mummy case. They put garbage bags around his body, but for the mask, they forgot to put Vaseline on his eyebrows — and he had to be cut out. She said she used round-tipped scissors in hope she wouldn’t poke his eye out! Meg did a wonderful job of putting that mortification onto the page!

Meg also asked the committee questions. She had said during the initial call, “I know how little separates the books.” It turns out that she had once served on the National Book Award Committee — so she really did know how difficult the decision is and how a different committee would probably pick a different book, because there are so many good ones. She thanked us for picking Merci.

Next, Meg signed a new book for each one of us.

We’d also been given a bicycle bell in honor of Merci. It made joyous applause!

And the night finished with more talking and hugging and picture-taking!

Conference Corner: Opening Night ALA Annual Conference 2019

After a delightful ALSC Preconference on June 21, I headed to the Washington Convention Center and was on time to hear Jason Reynolds speak at the Opening Session — though I had to listen in the Overflow Room.

He called his talk “This Is the Ridiculous and Absurd Study of Architecture,” and the structure imitated the style of his new book, Look Both Ways.

Part One: He told the story of his mother’s first funeral.

She was at an old-fashioned funeral and was fumbled as they passed the little girl over the casket. (He told it much, much more colorfully than that!) She became obsessed with death.

At 17 years old, she began studying Buddhism and Hinduism.
She eventually joined the Catholic church because it was quiet and meditative.
When Jason was 12 years old, he said he didn’t want to go to church, and she said, “Okay.”

Part Two: Sundays at his friend Aaron’s house

On Sundays he’d sleep a little later and visit his best friend Aaron’s house.
Their family had 5 kids. Nobody had time to clean.
It was a place of freedom for Jason. (Jason’s house was a place of comfort for Aaron.)
Sunday was fried chicken at Aaron’s house.
Then they’d climb on the roof and share stories and dreams.

Part Three: The Library of Alexandria

In 300 BCE Alexander the Great was in Egypt. First thing he decided to do was build a library. Biggest library on earth. At its peak, it held 400,000 papyrus documents on its shelves. They created an overflow library that shared space with a temple.
Nobody knows what it looked like or how it disappeared.
The theory that’s most true: The Roman empire came in and they got rid of anything against it and burned the books.

Part Four: Rewind. Words from his mother:

“I don’t wanna go to church.” “Okay.”
“My job is to help you find your path, not stop you from looking for it.”
“Your body is a temple.”
“Anything that makes you feel bigger than your burden is sacred.”

Part Five: Principles

Come as you are.
All are welcome.
Turn away no one.
Build community.
Enact service.

Share stories to build community.
Narrative is what we use to fortify us.
Something’s the matter when people try to stop the narrative flow.

Every sacred thing suffers persecution.

Think about this:
Maybe what librarians truly are is architects.
Maybe we’re building walking, talking libraries.
Telling each other stories is storing books in our personal stacks.
Imagine training young people to actually be safe spaces.

The role of an architect:

1) Build a building that pays homage to you.
2) Build a building that services the world.

We’re creating walking, talking libraries.

He’s preaching to the choir — but choirs need to practice.


After that inspirational message, I went back to my car to get my wheeled bag (I have a doctor’s note) and hit the exhibits after the first wave of the Running of the Librarians had subsided.

I had some fun:

And I picked up some loot:

Finally, I headed to a restaurant right next to where I’d parked, where the complete Newbery committee was being treated to a nice dinner with the two Honor authors, Catherine Gilbert Murdock and Veera Hiranandani. It was the first we’d seen each other since January.

Here’s my place card:

We were at two tables, with an author at the center of each:

They spoke to us after dinner:

And traded tables during dessert:

After eating, they signed books for all of us.

Lali showed off her beautiful tattoo from the cover of The Night Diary.

Here are our two honor winners, Veera and Catherine:

And here are most of us with the authors (Alas! Abby, Eric, Pam, and Sue got cut out):

It was a joyous night!

Newbery Notes – Choosing the Winner!

I’m back from ALA 2019 Midwinter Meeting in Seattle – and the culmination of more than a year of work on the Newbery committee! So it’s time to give some last notes about the process.

The content of our discussions is top secret, and I can never reveal what was said. But an outline of how things went is fine.

I arrived on Thursday, January 24. That evening, those of us who were there met for dinner. We learned that we were down one person, so only 14 of us would be deliberating. But we did learn that the member who’d had a baby the previous Saturday was still going to make it! She left her baby with her husband and mother and was coming only the minimum possible time, leaving Sunday before the announcement.

Friday morning, we met in a locked room beginning at 8:00 am. ALSC sent a copy of all the nominated books in a locked trunk. Only our chair, Ellen Riordan, had the key.

The rest of us were assigned some books to bring a second copy of. Only books nominated by the committee were discussed. But we each had 7 nominations. That was a lot of books! (But I won’t say how many. Minimum possible was 7 and maximum 98. We were somewhere in the middle.)

We put all the books on the table. Our mission that first day was to reduce the number. We did discuss all the books. Then we decided which ones to eliminate.

I wasn’t actually well-prepared for that step. It is in the manual — but the procedure isn’t as defined ahead of time, so I had overlooked it. It was hard to let some of the books go, though we made clear that we honored all of the books and appreciated what wonderful books they were. In fact, some of us channeled Marie Kondo and thanked the books as we put them back in the trunk.

Fortunately, we had a Deliberation Giraffe on hand to hug when we were mourning the departure of a loved book.

The next day, we had far fewer books to discuss. Again, I can’t say how many. But discuss them we did! In much greater detail than the day before.

And eventually, we made our choice. It was not easy, and we were there from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. We ordered lunch in and only had a short break for dinner. But before the day was done — we had chosen a winner and two honor books.

The next day, we wrote our press releases. We put stickers on the winning books and took them to the ALA Press Office, heavily wrapped up. I loved the “Ooooo” that came out of the woman who received the books.

We got a picture of the full committee including Emily, who was going home to her baby that evening.

Then Monday was the day of celebration, the reward for all our labor. We arrived at 5:50 am to call the winning authors. I was very glad to still be on east coast time!

They first put us in a tiny closet, but the phone there didn’t work, so they moved us to a beautiful conference room. We called all the authors and got to hear the moment when their lives changed. (We didn’t consider this, but I loved it that all three are first-time honorees.) It took three tries to reach Meg Medina, the Medal winner, and she was heart-touchingly eloquent, so thankful, realizing that there’s not much separating all the books, and so happy that we loved Merci, and excited for what this would mean to Latino girls and boys.

The wonderful thing about the conference room was that we stayed there after the phone calls were done. Many times during the process, Ellen had gone around the room and asked us how we were feeling. We did that one more time — and it was especially meaningful, talking about the journey we’d been on all year. Some members of the committee had an especially challenging year, and we were so glad they made it through. (We were missing the two who started the journey but weren’t able to finish, even though the person who stepped into the gap had done a fine job.) Ellen expressed appreciation to each one of us, and we were all feeling so thankful to be part of this distinguished group of people.

Then came the Youth Media Awards, beginning at 8:00, when all the awards were announced, Newbery last.

Remember how I was sad to see books go earlier? Well, the Youth Media Awards really mitigated that sadness. Remember that we read lots and lots of children’s and young adult books this year. That meant that a huge percentage of books that won awards — for both children’s and young adult — were books we had read and loved. And also a very high percentage were ones we had seriously considered for the Newbery. And, yes, some were ones I was personally a bit sad had not been chosen by us — and seeing them win other awards mitigated that sadness. Yay! Just because they weren’t in our committee’s top three didn’t mean they weren’t magnificent books.

This year there weren’t a lot of books that got multiple awards. And that made me happy. It shows that there were many wonderful books published this year and lots and lots of book love to spread around. In fact, our winners didn’t get any other awards — which makes me all the more glad they were chosen by us.

And finally came the moment we’d been waiting for — the announcement of the winner of the 2019 John Newbery Medal and two honor books.

After the announcement, I went to the publishers’ booths in the exhibit hall and got pictures with “our” winners.

I am so happy about our choices! And looking forward to the banquet in June in Washington, D.C., when the awards will be presented and we’ll get to meet the authors.

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 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!)

2018 Sonderbooks Stand-outs and Newbery Notes

It’s time to post my 2018 Sonderbooks Stand-outs! *Here’s the link added later: 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!

Newbery Notes – Crunch Time Gets Crunchier!

I haven’t posted a Newbery Notes post in awhile, and 2018 is finishing up! Today I finished reading my 300th Newbery-eligible book that’s longer than a picture book!

Now, I’ve also begun 33 books I didn’t finish and read 576 picture books. This adds up to 98,391 pages! Yes, I will hit 100,000 pages very soon.

To put it in perspective, though, today I received my 676th book from publishers. So I have not at all read every book I have received. I’ve looked at them all, though! And there are 15 committee members all keeping their eyes open for great books.

Why is it crunch time? Well, in December our final nominations are due. Nominated books are the only books we will discuss and consider for the Newbery Medal when the committee meets January 24 to 27. We have already nominated three in October and two in December — and there’s not much time left to choose the final two.

In the last couple weeks, I finished reading all the books that committee members have suggested — and now I don’t have much time left to read all the interesting books that have been beckoning in order to discover any overlooked gems. I also want to reread four or five of my favorite books to decide which two get my last nominations.

It’s dawned on me that I get seven nominations — but I will only get three votes! So we really do only want the very best books nominated. And I won’t end up getting to vote for all the books that I nominated.

So things will get easier after I choose my final two nominations, right?

Well, not so much!

If everyone nominates a different book, there will be 105 books nominated. I can’t tell you actual numbers, but let’s just say that’s not likely to happen. My guess would be somewhere around half of that, so let’s say that 40 to 60 books are nominated.

Now, I’ve read every book suggested so far. But in order to bring my best to the discussion, what I *want* to do is reread every nominated book and take detailed notes. And print reviews. And think hard about the Newbery criteria.

But let’s look at numbers. Today, there are 50 days left until the committee meets. But we won’t have the nominated books for another couple weeks. So I’m going to have not much more than 30 days to reread 40 to 60 books. I’m going to have to prioritize.

Fortunately, I did write reviews or at least notes after reading the books. So if a book only gets one nomination, and I can remember the book from my review — that’s going to be a lower priority than a book with several nominations that I know is a serious contender.

But I’m going to want to be reading and reading and reading!

I’m hoping, by the way, to post the reviews after the award winners are announced. But since I currently have 310 or so reviews — they won’t all get posted any time soon. In fact, you may have noticed I’m still posting reviews now. Well, when I started my Newbery reading last year, I had 289 review drafts of 2016 and 2017 books on my website. I’d really like to “catch up” and get all those posted before the Newbery is announced. So that’s why I’m trying to post a review every day — I only have 42 drafts left, but I am reading a few adult nonfiction books that I’ll probably finish before then, so I don’t want to slack off.

I do want to make my annual Sonderbooks Stand-outs list this year — but I can’t post it until after our winners are announced. I think I’ll make the list, though, on New Year’s Day as usual — that way I can say that the list only reflects my opinion and has no input from the committee.

And all this is why I won’t be sending out Christmas cards this year. Or thinking a whole lot about Christmas.

But I am looking forward to the most awesome book discussion of my life!

We are going to be in a locked room in Seattle January 24 to 27. We’ll discuss all the nominated books — and these are outstanding books and really knowledgeable people who will have read the books multiple times. It’s going to be awesome!

Monday, January 28, bright and early, we’re going to call the winners on speakerphone and congratulate them on writing such a truly distinguished book. Then at 8 am Seattle time, the awards announcements will commence to let the world know!

How’s it been reading for the Newbery committee? Completely and totally awesome.

Yes, I wish I’d read *more* books — but I think between the other committee members and me, we’ve discovered some truly outstanding writing that’s been done this year.

Yes, I’ve done a lot of reading. My co-worker said she’s glad I’m not tired of it yet — and the truth is, I’m just not. Yes, last weekend I had a small string of Did-Not-Finish books. But whenever I hit lackluster books — it’s never long before I find a book I truly enjoy. Today I finished two books in that category. There will probably never be another time in my life when I can rationalize so much time spent reading — and honestly, I’m going to miss it.

Anyway, it’s not over yet! I should sign off and get back to reading!

PS Got any questions about the process? Ask in the comments!

Newbery Notes – 24-Hour Book Blitz Finish Line

I finished my 24-Hour Book Blitz! And yes, some of that reading was done out on my balcony, even though it was a hot day for it.

My time stats are that I did manage to use more than half the time for book-related activities, a total of 13 hours and 50 minutes.

I spent 8 hours, 50 minutes reading,
1 hour, 15 minutes blogging (counting my Starting Line post and posting Sonderquotes last night),
2 hours, 15 minutes writing reviews,
and 1 hour, 30 minutes “housekeeping” — entering data into spreadsheets. This last included recording all the books I received from publishers in the last week — my grand total of books received is now 438 books.

As for what I got done, I finished reading 10 books and read 2 partial books. Most of the books I read were quite short, but the total was 1,305 pages read. (And remember that all pages are not created equal.)

I wrote 3,256 words.

I discovered that some books were missing from my spreadsheet when I wrote the Starting Line post, and my Picture Book worksheet wasn’t totaling all the pages. But these new totals should be correct for all the Newbery-eligible reading I’ve done so far:

196 Middle Grade Books (20 of those not finished) — 42,008 pages
53 Young Adult Books (7 not finished) — 14,924 pages
400 Picture Books (400 even!) — 14,935 pages.

Grand total: 622 finished books, and 71,867 pages.

It’s always fun to spend a day reading, though I didn’t really hit on treasures this time. I read a lot of short books, thinking I’d have time to write reviews — but didn’t get many reviews written. I now have a stack of 9 books to review (up from the 5 or 6 I started with), which I hope I can get to tonight before I do more reading.

Still, it feels good to mostly use my time off well — and I love that reading is using my time well! How lucky am I?

My next Book Blitz I hope will be Columbus Day, and the weekend after, I’m taking a 4-day weekend away for a reading retreat. Meanwhile, happy reading!

Newbery Notes – September 24-Hour Book Blitz

I’m beginning a 24-Hour Book Blitz. My first reading marathon since May.

At the time, I hoped to do a 24-Hour Book Blitz every month, and a 48-Hour Book Challenge every quarter. Well, summer got away from me. Last week, I got my first reading day off since the summer began (too busy with Summer Reading Program!) — and I only got in 4 hours of reading. Yikes!

But Labor Day was coming up! So I spent Saturday cleaning my house — to get rid of distractions. And tonight at 6:50 pm, I began a 24-Hour Book Blitz. The idea is to focus on nothing in that time except reading — and writing reviews.

Okay, but I also have about 30 books received from publishers that I need to enter in my spreadsheet. Before I began reading, I had a stack of 5 books to review — and in those two hours, I was reading short books and need to write more reviews. I didn’t do my daily posting of a review and Sonderquotes yet today, so I’m going to allow that — so we’ll see.

But it’s all good. I will certainly get more reading done than on a normal day off. And, believe me, I need to write those reviews as soon as possible after I finish a book. With all the reading I’m doing, I am *definitely* forgetting what individual books are about.

I had other things to think about in the summer, and now things will begin heating up. The schedule is that the committee is still suggesting books to each other on the 15 of every month. We all read all of those books. So far, 90 books have been suggested. I’ve read all but 3 of those.

But in October, the nominations start! Each committee member nominates 3 books in October, 2 books in November, and 2 in December.

There’s a strategy to nominations. Those are the only books we will consider for the award (except possibly books published in December that someone suggests at the last minute). My plan is pretty simple: I’ll nominate my top three books in October. But in November and December, I will probably not necessarily nominate my next favorites. I will probably choose books that have not already been nominated, to get them on the table. But we’ll see. It’s possible I will read a nominated book for the first time and decide that’s the one I want to win, and want to put my name behind it, too.

At this point, I think I know what my top three (for October) will be. But it’s an interesting place now. Imagine this: You read a book that you wholeheartedly love. Now you have to ask yourself: Why do I love it? Do I love it because it’s a distinguished book? Or just because I have a special connection to it? Or maybe because it’s my favorite genre?

Mind you, if I do have a special connection to it — for example, suppose it’s set in the neighborhood where I grew up (and no eligible book fits that, by the way — but there are other connections) — well, maybe that means I’m better equipped to notice how well the author portrayed that. Or am I just biased?

Again, if it’s a book in my favorite genre, just exactly the sort of story I like best — does that mean I’m better equipped to tell if this particular example is distinguished, or am I just biased?

On top of that, I need to not only determine whether a book is distinguished, but also be prepared to convince 14 other people that it is distinguished. What pages, what chapters, what plot points can I point to in order to show this book is distinguished?

The good part of that is that I’m going to be rereading my favorites many times. The down side of that is that I’m going to be rereading the nominees that are not my favorites many times, too. Though I may notice new riches.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that certain ideas seem to come in waves. I won’t give any examples, because I don’t want people to know what I’m talking about — except that sometimes it’s simply odd when two books have a similar detail. But there are several that have a very similar scenario as the basic idea. I’m afraid that the second or third time I read about a set-up — even if it’s done more skillfully than the previous books — some of the impact is lost. This is a downside of reading every new children’s book you can get your hands on!

However, that’s part of the good part of working with a committee. The process of choosing a Newbery winner — with 15 people you have to convince — actually works well. The cream rises to the top. Already there have been wonderful suggestions. And somebody’s going to notice if the third instance of one particular scenario is the most distinguished one.

I also want to talk about my book reviews. When the Newbery reading year started, I was way, way behind on posting reviews I’d written. Now, I’m not allowed to say one word online about any eligible book. So I was afraid I’d have to give up my website for a year.

But — it turns out that I was so very far behind in posting reviews, pretty much ever since I was on the 2016 Cybils panel for YA Speculative Fiction — that I still have 100 reviews yet to post. I am trying to post an old review every day — and I very much hope I will catch up before the Newbery is announced.

Now, I’m also writing reviews of Newbery-eligible books as I read them — the only way I can possibly remember what I’ve read. I will post my favorites after we make the announcement. After that, I’ll probably keep the reviews in reserve in case I ever don’t have a review ready to go and I want to post. We’ll see.

Anyway, I’ve been rambling on long enough. Let me give my stats before my 24-Hour Book Blitz. Then we’ll see how much they change by tomorrow night. Here are the Newbery-eligible books I’ve read (beginning last October or so):

Middle-Grade Books (Newbery winners usually come from this category, but they don’t have to. Books for ages 0 to 14 are eligible): I’ve read 190 books, 18 of which I did not finish, for a total of 41,230 pages.
Young Adult Books: 49 books, 7 not finished, for a total of 14,165 pages.
Picture Books: 396 books, for a total of 13,607 pages.

The grand total is 610 books finished, at 69,002 pages!

I’ll let you know the new totals after my 24-Hour Book Blitz!

Newbery Notes

As of the beginning of August, I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with the task of trying to find the best books of the year.

So far, I’ve received 375 books from publishers. I’m also reading library books.

How to decide what to read? Well, of course I read everything suggested by the committee. So far, members have suggested 79 books. (Did you know ALSC members can also suggest books? The committee will all read suggested books.)

I also read any book that a kid member of my Newbery Book Club at City of Fairfax Regional Library gives 5 out of 5 stars to.

After that? Well, let’s just say I’m trying to get pickier and pickier.

I’m still trying to read at least two hours every day and four hours on days off – but I’ve been falling off of that the last week. I was trying to take a day off for reading each month and do at least one 48-hour Book Challenge per quarter, but that didn’t happen in July because the summer is just too busy.

However, I should get back in the groove of that at the end of August – and I just booked a 4-day weekend reading getaway to Harper’s Ferry in October.

So – it’s still a challenge, but a wonderful one. I’m also starting to figure out which three books I want to nominate in October. I will probably go with my three favorites. (I already have two that will be hard to knock out of the running in my mind. But the fun part is that it could still happen!) Then to nominate two more in November and two more in December – I will also consider whether my next choices have been nominated by someone else or not.

It is the nominated books that we will discuss and consider for the award when we meet together next January.

Oh, and we got some potentially lovely news: One of the Newbery committee members is expecting a baby – due 5 days before we start deliberating! So if baby comes late, she will have to drop out. But if all goes well and Baby is on time or early, and healthy – we will get to deliberate with a tiny baby in the room!

And here are my reading totals as of August 3, 2018:

Middle Grade Books: 164 books (17 not finished), 34,998 pages.
Young Adult Books: 48 books (7 not finished), 14,101 pages.
Picture Books: 348 books, 13,112 pages.

Grand totals: 560 eligible books read, (536 completely), for a total of 62,211 pages.

Clearly, I need to step it up!