A Writer's Playground

Monthly Activities for Kids by Linda Martin Andersen

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Interview with a Judge of Newbery and Caldecott Awards

Posted by lindamartinandersen on October 7, 2012

“Interview with a Judge of Newbery and Caldecott Awards” by Linda Martin Andersen

“A Writer’s Playground”–A place to find wordplay, writing, and monthly   calendar activities for kids and those young at heart.

Do you know anyone who has  judged a contest?  What type?  Beauty Contest, Spelling Bee, Battle of the Books, or Woodman of America Speech Contest?  Others?

Have you ever read a children’s book with an embossed medal on its cover?  These medals distinguish Caldecott and Newbery winning books.  One medal is for the best story and one is for the best illustrations.  Do you know the difference?  Never fear, someone is here to help straighten out any confusion.

October 7-13 is Great Books Week.  To celebrate, “A Writer’s Playground” has invited Meg Smith to share about judging great books.

I am very pleased to know and introduce Meg Smith to you.  She is the manager for the Hope Mills Branch of the Cumberland County Public Library & Information Center (right outside Fayetteville, North Carolina).  She is also …

*Drum roll*….a former judge of the Caldecott Award and has been selected as a judge of the Newbery Award for 2014.  Please give a big round of applause and repeat after me, “We love great books!  Welcome, Judge Smith.”

*Applause.*  “We love great books!  Welcome Judge Smith.

Meg Smith, manager for the Hope Mills Branch of the Cumberland County Public Library & Information Center. Copyright 2012.

 1.  First–three questions in one:  Please begin by telling us what is the Caldecott Award?  What is the Newbery Award?  How can readers keep from confusing the two awards?

The Newbery and Caldecott Medals are two of the most prestigious children’s literature awards in the world.  The Caldecott Medal is given in our country to the illustrator of the most distinguished picture book for children published that year.  The Newbery Medal is given to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published that year.  The Newbery Medal is the oldest children’s book award in the world.  There are a lot of similarities in terms of how these awards are determined, but for the Newbery Award, we focus on the writing and for the Caldecott Award, we focus on the art.

2.  When you were a child, did you ever dream of judging great books?

I loved reading as a child and remember enjoying so many Newbery and Caldecott books.  When I decided to pursue a career as a children’s librarian, I learned so much more about children’s literature.  Though I dreamed of serving as a judge for the Newbery or Caldecott Awards, I never really thought it would be feasible in reality!  It is truly a dream come true for me to have served as a judge for the Caldecott Award.  I am thrilled to now serve on the Newbery Award Committee.

3.  I heard that you wanted to be a librarian when you grew up.  What did you think would be the best thing about the job?

I’ve always loved working with kids and wanted to share great books with them.  As a youth librarian, I thought promoting and discussing books with children would be the best thing about that job, and I was right!

4.  Now that you are the branch manager of a public library, what would you say is the best thing about the job?

I am the manager for the Hope Mills Branch of the Cumberland County Public Library & Information Center.  I love working with this team of staff at my library.  It is so exciting to see how each library department works together to serve our customers.  My library branch serves a lot of children and families in this community, so I still feel that I am helping kids find the right books for them – it’s just in a different way.

5.  How were the 15 judges selected for the 2014 Newbery Award?

The chair of the committee is now appointed by the President of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC).  ALSC is a division of the American Library Association.  Eight of the members are elected.  The remaining six members are appointed by the ALSC President.  The chair and the elected members are announced at the same time in the spring.  The appointed members are announced that fall after the chair and elected members are announced.  I was asked if I would place my name on the ballot for the Newbery Committee in August 2011; ALSC members voted on the 16 candidates in the spring of 2012 and the candidates with the top 8 votes were elected.  My first committee meeting is in January 2013 and our banquet is June 2014. 

6.  Are school-aged children going to be included in the judging?  If so, how?

Though the Newbery Award is not given for popularity, it is so important to see how children respond to these selections.  When I was on the Caldecott Committee, I worked with area schools and shared possible contenders with different ages of students.  It was fascinating to see how children viewed these books, and I learned so much through this process!  I will also work with classes as we discuss books eligible for the Newbery Award.  Seeing how children understand these books heightens my own appreciation for these titles!  We may even have our own mock Newbery election and pick our own mock Newbery winner!

7.  How many books will you be reading and what genres?  When does the reading begin?

We are required to have evaluated anything eligible for the Newbery Medal.  Anything originally published in the United States by an American citizen or resident written for children from birth through age 14 is under consideration.  The 2014 Committee reads books published in 2013.  Any genre is considered, including reading nonfiction books and picture books.  We are looking at the whole spectrum!  Committee members read hundreds and hundreds of books and will read many of the selections several times before the final committee meetings.

8.  How long does it take to judge the Newbery Award?

The committee meets in January 2013 for our first meeting.  We meet again that summer.  Our deliberations will be held over several days in January 2014 and will conclude with our award announcement.  The Newbery Medalist will receive his or her Medal in the summer of 2014.

9.  Is it necessary for Newbery judges to travel?  If so, where will you travel and for how long?

Though we do communicate electronically, the committee discusses the books in person.  The Award is also given in person.  We meet based on the schedule of the American Library Association’s Mid-Winter and Annual conferences.  Meetings and events last over a period of several days.  I will travel four times for my Newbery Committee work (January 2013 – Seattle, Washington             June-July 2013 – Chicago, Illinois              January 2014 – Philadelphia June-July 2014 – Las Vegas.)

10. What does the Newbery Award winner receive?

The Award is presented at a formal banquet that summer at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference.  The Award also allows the author to have the freedom to try more creative projects in the future.  According to “Publisher’s Weekly,” “the Newbery and Caldecott awards are widely known for selling books, thousands, sometimes millions of them. And they may just be the most coveted book awards in publishing.”

11.  Are there runner-up awards?  Tell about them.

The committee can award a book or books as honor books if the committee decides to do so.  There are rules in the committee manual to detail how the committee must award the winner and any honor titles.

12.  Meg, you have judged a Caldecott Award and now a Newbery Award.  Would you like to do it again?

I would be thrilled to serve on the Caldecott Committee or Newbery Committee again if the opportunity was given to me!

13.  What other book awards, if any, would you like to be able to judge?

The Association for Library Service to Children gives out numerous book awards.   Information on the awards may be found at http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia.  It would be a wonderful experience to serve on any of these committees.  It would be such a thrill to serve again on the Newbery or Caldecott Committees!

14.  What compensation/pay does a judge receive?

To ensure the integrity of the awards, there is no pay given to committee members.  Though not a requirement, many publishers send their eligible titles to the committee members, and I will donate these hundreds and hundreds of books to our library system after I have completed my committee work!  My library system has been so supportive of my work on the Caldecott and Newbery Committees, and this is such a blessing to me.  It will be such an amazing experience to meet the Medalist during the banquet!

15.  What is the best thing about being a judge of great books?

It is a wonderful experience to serve on the committee to help select the winner and to impact children’s literature!

16.  How can children learn about the history of the Newbery and Caldecott Awards?

Children and their parents can learn more about the awards at http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/newberymedal/newberymedal and http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/caldecottmedal.  Children can find a list of all the books that have won these awards on the ALSC website!

17.  Any other comments you’d like to share?

I would love to share more information on how to watch the press conference live when we get closer to the award announcements in January.  It is now possible to watch the press conference from your computer!  Thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about the Newbery Award!

Meg Smith, thank you so much for visiting “A Writer’s Playground.”  Have fun reading all those great books and selecting the best of the best.  What an awesome job!

Copyright © 2012 Linda Martin Andersen

Coming next:   Red Ribbon Week and Responsibility

32 Responses to “Interview with a Judge of Newbery and Caldecott Awards”

  1. Joan Y. Edwards said

    Dear Linda, thank you for sharing the scoop on Meg Smith’s experiences as a judge for the Caldecott and Newbery Awards. It is good to find out about what an outstanding librarian she is and how the judging process goes.

    Dear Meg, Congratulations on achieving your dreams as a judge for great books for children. Thanks for sharing, too.

    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

    • Joan,
      I appreciate your stopping by to thank Meg for her services and to congratulate her on fulfilling her dream. I’m thankful that she would take time to visit here and blog about judging for the Newbery. She is indeed an outstanding librarian who gives so much of herself for children’s literature. Go Meg!

  2. lauraboffa said

    Wow, that’s so many books to read! I didn’t realize such a range of genres was considered for the Newbery. Has a picture book or non-fiction ever won?

    • I agree with Laura… That’s a lot of books! WOW! Great interview!

      • Laura and Donna,
        Yes so many to read! I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. Laura, I haven’t been able to find a list that tells the genre of Newbery winners, but I did find that in 1982 a picture book won. It’s title is– A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard. It was also a Caldecott Honor book. Anyone else out there know where to locate a list by genre?

    • Laura,
      I found a recent nonfiction title winner for you. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schitz. Also the first Newbery winner (1922) was a nonfiction book called The Story of Mankind by Van Loon. I also learned that the Newbery Companion for Book Talks (reference in many public libraries) by John T. Gillespie and Croinne Naden tells the genre of each winning title. I hope this helps. Great question! Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

    • lauraboffa said

      Thanks so much for doing that research and taking the time to answer my question! And a very interesting answer, too 🙂

  3. Thank you for posting such a wonderful interview Linda. I ‘d like to say thank you Meg, for explaining the awards and going into depth on how the process works. Also I’m grateful for the links you have supplied. Wishing you great success in your 2014 judging endeavor.

    • Susan,
      Thanks for leaving Meg encouragement and comments about the contest process and links. I’m sure she’ll appreciate it! I’m so glad you enjoyed the interview. Please visit “A Writer’s Playground” again soon and bring a friend. Thank you!

  4. What an honor for Meg and for North Carolina! Great blog, Linda.

    • Gretchen,
      I’m glad you enjoyed reading about the Newbery judging process. Thanks for the compliments for Meg and me. Meg honors all who value outstanding literature for children. Cumberland County, NC is especially blessed by her presence. And I’m thrilled that she let me interview her. Lucky me.

  5. June said

    As a new childrens book writer, I didn’t know to much about the Newberry awards. Meg gave such wonderful Information. Thank you, Meg and thank you Linda for having Meg come and “talk” to us.

    • June,
      I’m so glad you got to hear all about Newbery judging from Meg. She’s going to be busy. I’d like to encourage you to check the websites Meg shared for a list of Newbery books. There’s plenty of good reading there.

  6. What fun– judging a Newbery–and responsibility too!

    • Carol,
      Yes, you’re right. Judging the Newbery is fun and responsibility. I guess that makes it fun work. I think writers share that combination too. Don’t you? Thanks for taking time to visit and comment. I appreciate you!

  7. joycemoyerhostetter said

    I always love getting the inside scoop on how awards are chosen. Thanks a bunch for the interview.

    • Joyce,
      Meg did share the inside scoop, didn’t she? I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. It was my pleasure. Meg is a terrific librarian and I’m so happy that she’s part of this awesome process.

  8. I never realized how much trouble it is to be a judge! I suppose it must be nervewracking, though…so many recipients to choose from. Meg is certain;y a dedicated lady.
    Thanks, Linda, for your thoughtful and enjoyable post! I remain your fan.

    • Maureen,
      I guess it is nervewracking to be a judge. I imagine they try to look at reaching mini goals until completing their final one. I’m glad you enjoyed the Newbery post. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

      Wow! You’re MY fan? What a great compliment. I’m thrilled. I didn’t know I had fans. Thanks for the ego boost. You made my day! I know I’m a fan of you and your many talents. Go Maureen!

  9. Jean Hall said

    Very intersting and informative, Linda and Meg. Thanks for sharing with us.


    • Jean,
      Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. I think each time I see a Newbery Medal from now on, it will have more significance than ever. Glad you enjoyed the interview. Isn’t Meg great? Keep writing and organizing quality workshops and conferences for writers.

  10. I love hearing about people who are passionate about their work – it is obvious that Meg falls into that category! Thanks for conducting the interview, Linda. I, too, am interested in the different genres which have won the Newbery. As a nonfiction writer, I’m a bit biased that way!

    • Heather,
      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. I am glad you got to hear Meg share her passion for children’s literature.

      Hang in there Heather. Readers need variety. I, for one, love nonfiction. Nonfiction is gaining fans. You can say Linda said so, if you like.

      Hope you’ll visit again soon and bring a friend.

  11. Meg Smith said

    If I may answer any questions about this process, please let me know. Our first committee meeting is in January and then our work will really get started! Thank you so much for your interest in the Newbery Award and your kind comments! Meg

    • HI Meg,
      Thanks so much for joining in on the discussion and an extra big thank you for all you’re doing for children’s literature. I hope you’ll be able to visit us again after your first committee meeting. I’d love to stay informed. I think others would too.

      • June said

        I loved Megs chat too. I hope she able to come share with us again..

      • Meg is willing to visit again. I thought I’d check back with her in late January, after her first committee meeting. Hopefully, she’ll be back. Thanks for letting me know that you really enjoyed her chat. I’m sure she appreciates hearing that.

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    This post actually made my day. You cann’t imagine just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

    • Jami,
      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I plan to have a follow-up to this post about the Newberry judging soon. Meg Smith has agreed to return. I hope you will find other topics interesting as well.

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