I had the privilege serving on the 2019 Newbery Committee where we selected Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina as the medalist and The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani and The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock as our Honor Books.
I had a lot of thoughts about what I could put in this blog post: how the Newbery impacted me (it did), what I learned during my experience (a lot), what surprised me the most (the magnitude of books and the secrecy). I decided to answer some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received about my experience.
Now that it’s over, can you talk about it? What books were you down to?
All of the books that were suggested, nominated or discussed were and remain confidential among committee members. Conversations in the committee room will go with me to the grave! This will really test my secret keeping skills.
How many books did you read? Did you read all of them?
The goal is to consider every eligible book that was published in 2019. I tried to at least read a large portion of every book I could, which I believe was around 1000. Luckily there are 15 people on the committee so plenty of eyes to catch the books you may have missed!
Did it ever get intense in the committee room?
Imagine sitting in a room for 12 plus hours at a time with the same 15 people. This is why everyone is called a “Newbery” family, because that is how family bonding is done!
How did you get on the Newbery Committee?
There are 15 members on the committee, one chair and 6 members appointed from the ALSC membership at large, and 8 members elected by the ALSC membership. Nina Lindsay, ALSC President at the time appointed me to the committee. I say that filling out my volunteer form, writing on the ALSC Blog (heyy!) and being friendly helped me get on. The appointments are made to balance any gaps in the committee- gender, profession, background, nationality etc. etc.
Are you on the committee forever now?
No way. You are on the committee for a two-year term but only read and evaluate the books from one year. To do that multiple years in a row would be NUTS.
How do you determine what makes a book good?
I hate reading things that aren’t children’s literature, but the criteria and manual are so, so helpful. Hey, you can even read them if you’re not on the committee! Have fun! I wrote the main criteria on post-it notes all around my apartment to help me focus (theme, plot, setting, presentation,
Would you do it again?
We’ll see! I think there are so many other interesting committees (and awards)- and so many people who want this experience! But only time will tell!
Do you have to be a librarian to be on the Newbery Committee?
You need to be an active member of ALSC to be on the committee (so join ALSC, yay!!!). We had a mix of school and public librarians, managers, supervisors, children’s literature experts and professors on the committee!
Any more questions, throw them in the comments. I love talking about what I’m allowed to talk about!!