It's the night before Newbery Awards will be announced, and I in my pj's is wondering what book will be selected this year. What message will the award committee be trying to send this year. In years past, the books that have been chosen were not top notch books, in my opinion. Not to bring up old news but when Patterson's book The Higher Power of Lucky was chosen in 2007, I felt it was lame and undeserving of the prize. The writing was not spectacular and the story way too depressing. Was there by any chance a suicide prevention group in the city? If there wasn't there should have been. How many support group could one little city have? Way too depressing, not even close to being believable. One of the runner up to the this book was Penny From Heaven by Holmes. I loved this book. It had a plot, it was nostalgic and it was perfect. That's probably why it didn't win. Who wants a normal story when there's a city on the edge of nowhere that has the power of disfuctional support groups?
In 2008, it came as a shock that Elijah of Buxton by Curtis came in as a runner up to a book that didn't even seem like it was on the radar. Curtis' book spoke volumes on the human spirit and the deep need in every soul to be free. How it came second to Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is still a mystery. In defense of the award committee, it is fair to say that Good Masters was different, and charming in it's own way. Definitely on the quirky side for a book that no child would really want to read, but still it is a teaching book. It's goal was to instruct readers on Medieval times with a little entertainment thrown into the mix.
The theme of the underdog or undermouse if you will, is one that will always capture the attention of award committees. Do not get me wrong, I love DiCamillo's books. Her stories are nothing short of imaginative rides that readers wish would never end. In 2004, The Tale of Despereaux won the honors and it was deserving of the prize. How could a reader not love a fairytale that has a tiny mouse act as the knight in shining armor? Not only that, but he loves to read! (Sometimes I wonder if author's have a hidden agenda to add libraries or librarians into their books in order to get us to read and promote their works. Hmm... conspiracy? Maybe, but that debate is for another day.)
Not convinced that quirky seems to win the day when it comes to the Newbery Awards? Last year's winner proves the theory beautifully. Gaiman's The Graveyard Book is off the beaten track. So off the track that a reader could say it's from the "other side" of life. The title threw this librarian off her game, and so much of me wanted to judge the book by it's cover. It came as a pleasant surprise that it was an enjoyable read. Sure it has the disfunctional family aspect. (When a child is raised by ghosts, can one really say they have a normal family life?) Having said that, it was quite imaginative and without being sappy, touching. Is it really possible to shed a tear over a ghost story? Well, it can happen if you hate goodbye scenes.
With a new decade, will the Newbery Award go to a book that will not fit the quirky mold? Will it be given to a writer who pens a story about "normal" life issues? Like Peck, Curtis or Holmes? Well, we shall see soon enough! Hopefully, it will not be a disappointing quirky choice!