Monday, September 29, 2014

Newbery Criteria—Theirs, Mine & Yours

This time of year I’m busy reading books that have turned up on lists of potential winners of the Newbery Award.

A few good places to look include:

The American Library Association will hand out this year’s Newbery Award (for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year”) on Monday, February 2, 2015, at the annual midwinter meeting in Chicago.

Newbery Committee members have already been reading and meeting for months, using the following criteria:

In identifying “distinguished contribution to American literature,” defined as text, in a book for children, Committee members need to consider the following:
       Interpretation of the theme or concept
       Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity, and organization
       Development of a plot
       Delineation of characters
       Delineation of a setting
       Appropriateness of style.
Note: Because the literary qualities to be considered will vary depending on content, the committee need not expect to find excellence in each of the named elements. The book should, however, have distinguished qualities in all of the elements pertinent to it.
Committee members must consider excellence of presentation for a child audience.

These are great criteria for judging a book, but they miss a few points, go on too long (and I’ve given you the SHORT version!), and get just a bit too serious.

My Newbery Criteria are short and simple.

For each book, just ask:

1. Does it keep you turning the pages, wanting to read on?
2. Does the writing make you think or consider things anew?
3. What’s beautiful and moving about it? 
4. Are there characters you love?
5. Can you vividly remember it (the overall feeling of it) days, weeks, months, and years later?

What would you add, or subtract if you were formulating your own Newbery Criteria?

In upcoming posts, I’ll be putting my sweet but simple criteria to work, looking at some Newbery contenders published in 2014.