Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Newbery Medal Series: In Which I Get All Piglet About This But Will Probably End Up Eeyorish

Photo by JD Hancock
Okay, whatever happens here, I am just so hoppily happily excited right now. As much as I always did enjoy researching and writing papers for school, there is something so purely, giddily exhilarating about researching and writing just for the hell of it. Also, at times like this I am just so glad that I haven't ever managed to brand my blog - not that I think I really could have, but every now and then I just revel in the sheer goofy joy of being able to slap ridiculous, un-SEO-able titles on posts and write about whatever the hell I want, and have people like Lynn and Mary Lynn make kick-ass comments that make me feel like we could crowd-source a hell of a series on the Newbery Medal that could CHANGE THINGS FOREVER....

Photo by JD Hancock
Except not. Because Award Committees are notoriously stodgy and un-goofy, and I have a Masters in Comparative Literature but haven't really done much with it, and, oh yeah, the Newbery Medal is an American thing and we're Canadian. And I'll probably get four books in and lose steam. And no one ever listens to me anyway. Sigh.

Ah, screw it. I'm still having fun.

So. Lynn's comment: "Kay, I am just reading through the entire historical list of winners and special mentions, and I have to say a) I have read a LOT fewer of these than I thought; b) no one other than Laura Ingalls Wilder (who is like, a six time runner up) had name recognition for me before the 50s; and c) the judging committee seems to really prefer "important" books, rather than a simple damn good read (see: the whole of the 50s, which includes titles such as "Theodore Roosevelt, Fighting Patriot" and "Gandhi, Fighter Without a Sword" and "Abraham Lincoln, Friend of the People". I'm sure they were keeping kids up at night dying to know how things turn out. SHEESH."

These are much the same thoughts that I had when I first took the quiz. I was quite surprised at how few of the books I had read, since it seemed to me that I vaguely remembered that gold stamp on the front of quite a few of my favourite books. I also had no idea how far back it went.

Mary Lynn's comment: "Aaaaanyway, I have to say I've always kinda wondered about the titles they choose for the Newbery award. I read voraciously as a kid, but I've only read three of the titles shown. One of the books, Jacob Have I Loved, I totally remember picking up on several bookstore shopping occasions, turning it over, reading the back, and then putting it back on the shelf again. Then I'd buy another Judy Bloom, Paula Danziger or Lois Duncan book.

I just find the books they choose to be so earnest and lacking in humour, which were not at all qualities I was looking for in books when I was a kid. Looking at the titles from more recent years, I think they are choosing more books that I would've been interested in...though actually, fewer of them are ones my daughter would be into. For instance, I loved When You Reach Me, but Hana read it when she was 9 and found the story too convoluted. But she'd read a Wrinkle in Time and enjoyed it.

I'll definitely run out and get her that Lincoln book! ;-) It looks AWESOME."

I had that EXACT SAME EXPERIENCE with Jacob Have I Loved. I remember clearly in elementary school, almost every library period I would take it out of the spinning powdered-wire book rack and read the back, and then put it back and borrow something else. It was actually one of the few I've read between taking the quiz and now, and it's quite good - for adult me. I think it actually might appeal to some young people, as far as issues of 'there's a favoured chid and I'm not it', but the main character is very prickly and almost revels in being unlikable, and I'm not sure how that would go over. It's really killing me that I can't time-machine myself back in order to make myself read them all at the intended age.

Many of the award decisions certainly seem to indicate that the committee zoomed in on the 'distinguished' part of the criteria and lost sight of the 'for children' part. This isn't a new criticism of awards, of course. There has always been this problem of 'popular' being sort of a dirty word. In the next post, I will talk about The Giver, where I kind of think they might have hit it right on both counts. 


Mary Lynn said...

Hmmm, now I'm thinking that whoever wrote the blurb on the back of Jacob Have I Loved just did a terrible job of selling the book to us. I should probably try reading it someday...

Nicole said...

I have never read Jacob Have I Loved, and I STILL haven't looked up the Newberry winners. MUST DO THIS IMMEDIATELY BEFORE I FORGET.

Nicole said...

Also, I pretty much adore your usage of Piglet and Eeyorish.

Swistle said...

My librarian was ALWAYS trying to get me to read Jacob Have I Loved! What IS it with that particular book? I remember wanting to want to read it, to please her---but really not being interested in it at all.

Steph Lovelady said...

I looked at the list for the 70s only, because that's the most relevant decade for me and I found these I've read:

The Westing Game
Bridge to Terabithia
Ramona and her Father
Philip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon Maybe
The Slave Dancer
Frog and Toad Together
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM
Summer of the Swans

Most of these were books I really liked. Maybe I was a serious, earnest sort of kid. I didn't count another few familiar titles I thought I might have read because I might have just seen them on library or book store shelves so many times I just thought I had read them.

Courtney said...

I actually read Jacob Have I Loved numerous times as a kid. My aunt had given it to me, but whether or not I would have picked it up on my own... that's extremely debatable. But yes, it was EXACTLY the "there's a favoured child and I'm not it" that appealed to me and really made this book resonate with me. I still remember some of the scenes quite vividly where the main character feels her sister is very much the favoured one.

Haven't read this one in years... I wonder how much I would enjoy it if I read it now...

clara said...

The title of the book is very familiar, so i bet I did the same thing as Mary Lynn (take it out of the rack, not read it, put it back). I'll have to look for it the next time I'm at the library.

I pretty much only remember reading Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, non-fiction books about witchcraft, and then Sweet Valley High. But. If I read along with you, perhaps I will remember more than I currently do.