Fuse #8

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Newbery Blue

Not too long ago author Rick Riordan posted a piece on his blog about his son's battle with the Newbery Award winning Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes. I'm a bit ashamed to say that I've never read any Estes myself. About a year ago I had the childlike optimism to believe that I'd read through all the Newbery winners from oldest to most recent. And boy, let me tell you, after slogging through Dolbry, The Dark Frigate, and Waterless Mountain, something as engaging as Caddie Woodlawn was like an oasis of readability in the midst of good litera-toor.

So I'm sympathetic with Riordan's post. It's a little early in the season, though. Usually the Is the Newbery Award Worth It? type articles don't start cropping up until at least October. Looks like Rick's got a jump on the season.

4 Comments:

At 5:52 AM , Blogger Monica Edinger said...

Rick and I corresponded about his post. Here's what I wrote him.

Now I'm not a fan of required summer reading and think it is dreadful that the one book those kids had to read was GINGER PYE. If a teacher really loves that book then he/she should read it with/to them during the school year, not forced them to deal with it on their own. And at age eight? Crazy. Terrible idea, I agree completely.

But on the other hand I think you are a bit too harsh on the book itself and the 1952 Newbery Committee. I was born in 1952 and quite liked GINGER PYE when I was old enough to read it (although I liked RUFUS M. better). I think there are Newberys that are not crowd pleasers, but suspect that GINGER PYE was actually quite well liked in its time (and I still have students today who come in with it and seem to like it).

As for that poor 1952 Newbery Committee, I'm going to be on one starting in January and so have studied the manual and talked to others a lot about it. They are focused on finding the "best book" whether it is popular or not. I'm currently chairing NCTE's Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts Committee (and we have THE LIGHTNING THIEF on our most recent list:) and our criteria does include attention to child audience and so we do think about that classroom full of, "twenty to thirty reluctant readers." I feel strongly that we select books to recommend to teachers that they will actually use and that is totally different from what the Newbery Committee does. So instead of sitting with 6 others figuring out the best 30 books from 2006 for teachers to use in classrooms (the NCTE list), I'll be sitting with 14 others figuring out the best book from 2007 for children, whatever we determine that means.

I feel terrible for Patrick and his classmates. GINGER PYE was a terrible choice; I can't imagine a single book for a large varied group of 8 year olds to read over the summer. I've seen some peculiar choices for kids at all levels. My guess is that the book was selected at some point by someone who truly loved it and it stayed around because no one cared later about any book enough to make a change. Sad, but true. You taught and you must know that not all teachers are readers (even in the private schools of our worlds.)

 
At 10:45 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Beautifully put. I should add, by the way, that the recent "Ginger Pye" paperback release (of which my branch owns 3 or 4 copies) is constantly off the shelf and in the arms of happy readers. Ditto Rufus M, The Moffats, and everything else Estes ever cared to write.

Lovely response, Monica. Nobody could have said it better.

 
At 1:17 PM , Anonymous Susan Patron said...

I, too, missed Estes at the time of publication. Recent posts by CCBC discussion group members inspired me to check out the Recorded Books audio for "Ginger Pye" and the print version of "Pinky Pye." So I was listening to Estes by day during my commute and reading her by night, a kind of extreme immersion. The recorded book went down easily, its leisurely pace palatable and its references to a long-gone lifestyle and type of childhood understandable in the audio context. The print version was more slow-going, and would probably feel weighty to many contemporary children, as Rick's son could testify. So I agree with Monica: teachers wedded to books they love should read them aloud (or, I would urge, promote the spoken version if one exists). A good many Newbery titles can enjoy extended lives and popularity when experienced aloud.

 
At 4:04 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Thank you fellow librarian, Susan Patron. I understand you know a Mr. Gregory K. Give him a big ole howdy from me next time you see him.

I did something similar half a year ago with Elizabeth Enright. I'd just gotten my new bright n' sparkly iPod and decided to listen to children's books to and from work. I began with "The Saturdays", and it worked rather well. Likes Estes, though, I'm not sure how well Enright holds up when you read her firsthand.

 

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