Friday, December 19, 2008

The Newbery Wars?

I've been chatting, so to speak with a couple of people about the interest general papers have been showing in Anita Silvey's School Library Journal essay on the Newbery Award. Yesterday I realized these "Is the Newbery doing its job?" articles remind me of the Mommy War pieces you used to see in the '90s. They were feature articles that were designed to be divisive and polarize women into two camps--working versus so-called nonworking mothers. The Newbery articles seem similar to me, an attempt to set up Newbery detractors and supporters who can then gather into opposing camps. Conflict is newsworthy and presumably sells magazines and papers.

I can't see this going very far, though. For one thing, though children's literature does inspire volatile feelings (children's titles make up a big part of banned book lists), those feelings are nowhere near as personal as those enflamed when a person thinks her parenting skills are under fire. Whether or not I'm a good mother will determine how successful I am at getting and keeping my genes in the gene pool. We're talking primal here! Whether or not I think last year's Newbery winner was any good? Eh.

In addition, we're told over and over again that people aren't reading. The number of people who know what the Newbery is and which book won it last year (ah...ah...Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!) is nowhere near as great as the number of people who have given birth.

So, really, I think this is a conflict that's going to sputter along but never erupt into a real war.

1 comment:

beckylevine said...

You're right--it does feel just that way! While I, too, get frustrated at what school's are assigning, sometimes, I also love many of the Newburys I've read. I just wish we could go for more balance (sounds like the Mommy thing all over again) and recognize that a nice mix of "try this" and "oh, just go escape with whatever book you want" might be the way to go. :)