Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Followup to the Newbery Medal winner - the Kansas connection

When I asked Julie Tomlianivich if I could post her recent email about being on the selection committee for the Newbery Medal, she wrote back:


Absolutely! Post away. Thank you for thinking enough of the message
to do so. I love the Graveyard Book. It won the SCKLS Mock Newbery in
December, so my opinion is we are ahead of the curve. :) If you visit
Gaiman's website you can see and hear him read the book.

Posted Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009

As one of fifteen national Newbery Medal Committee Members, I have had an extraordinary year of reading and working with thoughtful and insightful people who care deeply about literature for children. From the moment I was asked to place my name on the Newbery selection committee ballot the anticipation began. When the phone call came with the good news that I had been elected to the 2009 Newbery committee I was overwhelmed. Little did I realize what it truly meant.

Boxes of books from publishers began to arrive as well as many self-published materials. Newbery committee rules stipulate that all the children’s books published during the year were to be considered. I was surprised at the number of authors who had no national publisher but consider their work to be “distinguished.” I did not remember receiving books from individual authors when I was on the Caldecott Committee but perhaps there are fewer artists than authors. Each box and package was a surprise and there was always the thought that maybe this box of books might contain the future medal or honor title. Then the reading began: reading, more reading and still more reading of nearly 600 titles.

As part of the Newbery selection process, committee members like me submitted up to three titles for consideration. Members of American Library Association’s (ALA) Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) were also asked to submit titles. With fifteen members of the committee and a wide variety of backgrounds, tastes and opinions, the list began to grow. And the reading continued…

The Newbery Award Committee met for the first time at the 2008 ALA Mid-Winter Conference in Philadelphia, again at the 2008 ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, CA and finally last week at the 2009 ALA Mid-Winter Conference in Denver, CO. The hours of reading and note taking came down to a weekend of discussion, questioning, persuasion and passion. The final process included hours of debate among the committee members who shared the responsibility and knowledge that what we decided would be the “most distinguished children’s book of the year.” We also knew our choice would be second- guessed, criticized and hopefully cheered.

Finally, we arrived at our choice, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman. After so much work, the emotion of our decision was stunning and everyone on the committee caught our breath. Four Honor books were also chosen: THE UNDERNEATH by Kathi Appelt; THE SURRENDER TREE: POEMS OF CUBA’S STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM by Margarita Engle; SAVVY by Ingrid Law; AFTER TUPAC & D FOSTER by Jacqueline Woodson. While many librarians and authors wondered which book and author the committee would chose, that night and most of the next day we knew something that no one else did.

On Monday, January 26, 2009 at 6:00 in the morning, our committee gathered at the Denver Convention Center. Our committee chair had previously placed a telephone call to inform Neil Gaiman that he was the 2009 Newbery recipient. He seemed stunned at news at that early hour of the day, but he was very humorous and charming once he was wide awake. What a fabulous way for a children’s author to be awakened!

At the convention center, the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Printz, Geisel and other children’s award committees had selected their winners and the anticipation of their announcements was palpable. Each committee sat together in a massive ballroom as their selections were announced and the covers of the books and videos flashed on large screens. The official announcement of the awards seemed to take forever. The last award to be announced was the Newbery.

It was my fear that whatever book our committee chose would leave the crowd speechless with only a smattering of applause. It soon became clear that my fear was pointless because as the author’s name, “Neil Gaiman” was announced and the cheers and applause seemed to roll from the back of the room toward us with an unbelievable force. And just like that the thousands of hours of reading, note taking and pressure to make a decision was over. Our choice for 2009 Newbery Award Medal recipient was official: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman.

I would like to thank SCKLS staff and system members who were so very helpful and supportive during this exciting year. //jt

Julie Tomlianovich

South Central KS Library System

Youth Services Consultant

321A N Main ST

South Hutchinson, KS 67505

1-800-234-0529 ext. 144

1-620-663-3211 ext. 144

FAX 1-620-663-9797

"Without a doubt, there is such a thing as too much order." Fables--Arnold Lobel

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