A Writer's Playground

Monthly Activities for Kids by Linda Martin Andersen

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Posts Tagged ‘history of the Newbery Award’

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

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