I was fortunate to be the chair of the 2012 Morris Committee. Our winning title was WHERE THINGS COME BACK which, coincidentally, also won the Printz for distinction in YA literature. What a terrific weekend for John Corey Whaley. One of our shortlisted books, UNDER THE MESQUITE SUN, won the Pura Belpre award as well. Guadalupe Garcia McCall is a 7th grade English teacher here in Texas. Whaley was a teacher, too. How I would have loved to have them as my teachers.
I was almost hoarse after shouting my hurrahs as the awards were announced. There were a couple of books I had not read (yet), but I did know many of the titles. I was thrilled for Joan Bauer's Schenider Family Award for CLOSE TO FAMOUS and for the Newbery Medal for Jack Gantos who recently also won the O'Dell Award for DEAD END IN NORVELT. Ditto Chris Raschka for winning the Caldecott for A BALL FOR DAISY. I WANT MY HAT BACK was a Geisel Honor. Ashley Bryan was recognized for lifetime achievement by the CS King Committee who also gave awards to Kadir Nelson and Shane Evans. There were so many other books I loved and that the committees loved, too. Right now I am so tired that titles are escaping from my sleep deprived brain.
Did some of my favorite books not make the lists? Sure. Am I OK with that? Yes. They are still books I love and books I will share with teachers and librarians and students. I have served on enough committees for IRA, NCTE, and ALA to know that committees read more books and read them more often and have lengthy discussions and impassioned ones as well. I know how hard these groups work; I know they take their charges seriously. So, when the awards are announced, sometimes I cheer and other times I applaud and sometimes I think, "yeah, I have that book somewhere. Guess I need to add it to the TBR stack." And sometimes I read the award winners and find they are not my cup of tea. However, I am always able to identify their literary merit and how they meet the criteria for the award they received.
And then I think about my students, both the ones I had as a middle school teacher and the ones in my grad classes now. Some love Harry Potter and some don't. Some enjoy silly picture books and others do not. However, they are all able to talk about the books more objectively and identify a potential reader for the books. If you follow my blog, you know that I read tons of books. They are not all going to win awards. But I also know that each and every one of them will find a reader.
One final note: a blogger asked committee chairs to take a screen shot of the book our committee selected so that he could compare the Amazon rank/sales before and after the award was announced. WHERE THINGS COME BACK was already on the shortlist for Morris, so the numbers will be a tad skewed. However, on Saturday when the Morris Committee made it decision, the book ranked between 300, 000and 400,000 on Amazon. This morning, within an hour of the announcement, the book rose from there to 98,000. By 3 this afternoon, it was ranked 98 (and in the top 10 in teens). I hope all those who purchased Whaley's book will love it as much as the Morris and Printz Committees did and do. Having read the book 4 times (and now headed for another reading), I know it meets the charge of our committee and the charge of the Printz Committee as well. How others will view it, well, that is what reader response is all about.