Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the “best of the best” in children’s books. According to the Notables Criteria, “notable” is defined as: “Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children’s books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children’s interests in exemplary ways.”
Among my favorite sessions to attend at ALA conferences are these Notable Children’s Books discussions. These open meetings allow a very interested audience to observe the discussions and learn about the Notable evaluation process. At conferences in the “before-Covid” times, the audience would sit theater-style – maintaining a respectful silence – as the committee discussed each of a long list of titles at the front of the room.
For the last several years, when conferences could not be held in person, the discussions have been made available to interested observers via Zoom.
In three days’ worth of conversations, the committee had interactive and thoughtful discussions of 75 fiction, nonfiction, picture book, and poetry titles for children; these discussions of the 2022 NCB Winter Discussion List were fascinating to watch; I always learn so much! Not only do I discover new titles which I want to read and/or want to be aware of to recommend to particular customers and friends, but I also love the modeling of good book discussion behaviors offered by the committee members as they consider important elements such as:
- the tension, structure, pacing, and arc of the plot
- the development of characters and complexity of relationships
- the honesty or clarity of the voice
- the authenticity of place
- the effectiveness of “world building”
- the “packaging” and overall design of the book including endpapers, cover art, font, backmatter, and more
- the relationship between image and text
Thanks to chairperson Alex Bell and to the whole Notable Children’s Books committee for well-orchestrated and thoughtful discussions. I can’t wait to learn which titles you select for your 2022 Notables list!
Mary R. Voors is the ALSC Blog Manager. She loves reading picture books, early chapter books, YA fiction & nonfiction, and the occasional book written for adults. She also LOVES learning about new titles for youth, discussing these books, and participating in Mock Election programs at her local public library and online.