Fuse #8

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Shakes Head In Mild Disbelief

I mean no offense.
I'm entirely certain that Kidsreads.com is a remarkable site.
I'm certain that its staff is charming and that due to their efforts thousands of children have learned to love reading. They seem like they come from good people.
I tell you all this because I've just seen their list of the Best Books of 2006 and I ... wow.

Solely my opinion, of course. And I'm in strong agreement on some of the titles.
But... wow.
Just, wow.
Weirdest list ev-ah.


At 8:04 AM , Blogger Mary Lee said...

YIKES! Makes you wonder...

At 8:27 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The list makes me think that they only choose wildly popular books or books that even people who don't know children's books have heard of. Because that's what I see when I look at the list. I'm surprised there's no A-List or Gossip Girls on there, given the apparent criteria.

At 10:15 AM , Blogger Jennifer Schultz said...

I don't think this is entirely fair, guys. The criteria for a School Library Journal's/Horn Book's/Library Journal's best books and kidsreads.com's criteria are going to be different. Although they say "Best Books," this is a favorites list. If I were to make a list of what I thought were the best of 2006 and what were my favorites, several titles would not overlap.

Getting a little off subject...can I just say that I am sick of "Best Of" lists, because too often books that were published earlier are usually not listed. I haven't seen one of my 2006 favorites-Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters-listed in many lists. I remember seeing it in one place, and that was on the Cybils primary nomination list for middle grade fiction. It was published in the summer, and it's all but forgotten. It wasn't *the* best of 2006, but it was better than some of the others I've seen in the more well regarded lists (such as the SLJ list, and SLJ gave it a great starred review). I'm going off on a rant, but these lists are becoming ridiculous. Pretty soon we'll have a "Best Of Best of List" list.

I agree that some on the kidsreads list are not the ones I would have chosen, but they are a different breed of animal than SLJ and Horn Book.

Sorry, Betsy, for hijacking the comments. Didn't think I would get so riled up. I have extra time on my hands this morning, because it is absolutely DEAD here (my library, not the blog) this morning, and I leave at 1 today. So everyone here gets the benefit of that. Aren't you lucky.

At 10:43 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

No no. Not a problem. If I didn't want comments I wouldn't have enabled the function, after all.

By the way, the reason the A-List and Gossip Girl titles aren't here is because this is the children's list. They have separate teen listing elsewhere.

A Best of the Best Lists List, eh? Hmmmm....

No, I'm kidding. You've an interesting note on how titles published early in the year don't make it onto these things. Tulane is obviously the exception here. It'd be interesting if there was a July vs. December best list comparison done every year by someone. Do you think the Newbery fails to consider older titles as well, or do they do a good job of looking at the spread of a year?

At 11:46 AM , Blogger MotherReader said...

I'm beginning to think that these Best Books Lists are like the Oscars in that way, that things released earlier in the year don't get picked up. The movie industry has fueled this by releasing it's best stuff late in the year. Will the book industry follow? And yet for books, I think sometimes the buzz about them is what fuels their selection at all for the lists - which would seem to indicate that earlier releases do better. I actually find it very frustrating that these lists come out and most of the books haven't even made it to the library yet. So, another comparison to the Oscars where the list comes out and most of the people haven't seen them.

At 11:56 AM , Blogger J. L. Bell said...

The kidsreads.com list seems to lean heavily toward books by adult authors: Cussler, Smith, Barry and Pearson, Feinstein, and Truss are all bestselling authors on the adult lists.

At 12:02 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

I thought at first that the titles on the list seemed to be books that appear on more big name bookstore shelves like B&N. My co-worker said that the list was heavily influenced by kid votes. Your point that the titles include a lot of adults makes me wonder if bookstores are more inclined to put adult-authors-turned-kidlit front and center on their shelves than their all-child-all-the-time counterparts.

At 12:07 PM , Blogger Jennifer Schultz said...

Sure Tulane is the exception. Kate DiCamillo has the name and the means to have publicity to make sure her book isn't forgotten. First time authors like Leslie Blume might not have that luxury. And since Edward Tulane has caused such interest and controversy among librarians, reviewers, children's literature professors, and the like (I haven't heard that kind of hoopla from parents), it's engineered more spilled ink and more second reads, I bet. It's absolutely fabulous for DiCamillo. Starred reviews are given every month, but that doesn't mean they will be remembered at the end of the year and at Midwinter. The field of children's publishing grows like Topsy every single year, and the average age/grade level for YA is getting younger. That means that kids are leaving the children's room and heading for YA much younger than when they used to switch to YA (and are leaving YA at an earlier age than when they used to, and some skip it all together). And that presents a very big challenge on which I will not elaborate. And with the emphasis on Accelerated Reader lists in my community, the situation is not getting easier. I hate those things. I could go on and on about them. They are being abused beyond their original intent. But they are one more thing that is pushing children away from the children's section earlier than when children used to "grow out" of the children's section.

So...anyway. This means that a children's book has to have a different kick to it to get noticed. And that's why there are some really great books that are being ignored.

I honestly don't know where I am going with this, or if what I wrote made any kind of sense. I usually eat lunch around this time, and I'm not because I leave early. I've eaten two candy canes in the last few minutes and I'm a little hopped up.

As for the Newbery question, I would have to research that before I can answer that question. And since the nomination lists are forever kept a secret, there's really no way of fully answering that question. I will say that with the enormous glut of titles published every year, it is quite impossible and futile for the committee to honestly name *the* best book of the year. It's the one the children's authors dream of, and it generates great sales. But it's a committee decision. One of my library school professors was on one of the committees, and since they can't really talk about it much, all she said was that it was difficult, exasperating at times, and a lot of hard work. That's probably why we are seeing multiple titled selected for the Honor citation, when the norm was one title for the Medal and one for the Honor. I was delighted that there were multiple Honor citations last year. I do not envy committee members at all. I know some love to hate the Newbery, but I don't. Sometimes my favorites don't get chosen, but that's okay. I'll keep talking about those to my patrons.
I do love the fact that the Medalists and the Honor winners get to be on national television, because that's really the only time children's literature and children's authors get serious notice from the media, unless you're J.K. Rowling or Daniel Handler with a new book out and there are parties at bookstores and libraries for your latest book.

At 12:17 PM , Blogger Brooke said...

Actually, the "norm" for the ALSC awards has never been for one Medalist and one Honor book.

Back in the Days of Yore, the Newbery awards were chosen simply by all ALSC members sending in their favorite book for the year. Whichever had the most votes was the winner. And the runners-up were the Honor books. That's why, for the winners in the '20s there are some ten-odd Honor books.

There were only some 200 members of the ALSC back then, and not nearly as many titles published for kids. The winner would often have two or three times as many votes as any other book. Funny, that.

(I did a research project on this in library school, can you tell?)

As for the Kidsreads list: we-eird. Who the heck chose the picture books?!? Where's Waldo? The Berenstain Bears? Zuh?

At 12:21 PM , Blogger Jennifer Schultz said...

Let me explain a little bit, because I don't want to cause hurt feelings. When I said futile, I didn't mean that I think the Newbery should be done away with. It's a great honor and a joy for a children's author to win, and since children's literature is never considered for the other literary prizes, it is imperative to recognize children's authors. That is all. I should have used a different word. But I think it is a momentous task for the Newbery to name a title, and not one that I know they take lightly.

Brooke, thank you for correcting me. That's what happens when I assume things.

At 12:49 PM , Blogger Jennifer Schultz said...

"When I said futile, I didn't mean that I think the Newbery should be done away with."

Really, God. What a comment.

I hope everyone has a great holiday, if you're celebrating something. If not, I hope you have some days off anyway.

At 2:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to work at Kids Reads and Teen Reads; both sites are a part of The Book Report. I assume the founder/main "editor" there hasn't changed much, so I would say that the list has less to do with what is good and more to do with what publishers gave the site marketing dollars this year.

At 4:52 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Y'know, if I had bet good money on which posting would get more comments, the new Harry Potter title or another Best Books list, you can guess where I would have put down my cold hard cash. Thank God I'm not a betting woman. Just a Bets. hee hee.

At 8:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wrote to KidsReads and TeenReads multiple times years ago, offering services as a reviewer. They never wrote back. I didn't know then that they were tied-in with The Book Report.

At 8:36 PM , Blogger Little Willow said...

Jennifer: I absolutely loved Cornelia! For what it's worth, I included it on my Best Books of 2006 list - and check my blog tonight for an interview with the author!


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