Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mock Results and Mental Illness

I think I’m developing a couple of disorders. First off I seem to be suffering from a bizarre form of Tourettes. Yesterday I told my daughter to turn the Newbery off. I told my husband that the Newbery was out of gas. And announced that I was much too tired to make Newbery and maybe we should just order pizza.

My husband, who by day is a school psychologist, is worried his wife is becoming further entrenched in the Autistic spectrum. He pointed out that I seemed to be showing signs of a full blown “special focus”. Merely because I arranged to have my school security turned off a half hour early, and convinced our most generous and accommodating custodian to meet me at the school in order to unlock the door at 5:30 AM so I could be assured of getting the best band-width available to watch the ALSC webcast. I’m not sure of this diagnosis but then again I don’t always have the best social skills either. . . I prefer to think of my current pre-occupation in the terms that my fellow Mock Newberyer, Shannon, put it, “Some people have fantasy Football teams, we have fantasy Newberys”.

Speaking of which, here is a recap of our 1st annual Northern Utah Fantasy Newbery (we still need to come up with a name). By some accounts it might not be considered a triumph, as there were only four of us present, and only two of us had read all the books. On the other hand we managed to fill up over three hours with intelligent conversation of the books at hand and the Newbery criteria. It helped that the other three present were indeed brilliant.

Here is a quick recap: (very quick as it is late and I have an early morning)

The Participants:

  • Shannon: beautiful and brilliant 5th grade teacher. The kind of teacher you would slip your principal a $50 to ensure your kid got into her class, (but then we have five 5th grade teachers like that, guaranteeing that our principal has plenty of spending money) Shannon can also sit down and whip through hundreds of page at a single sitting. As a member of my book club she had read all the books with the exception of Claudette. She was able polish it off hours before the festivities.
  • Matt: Soon to be published author, school psychologist, Azure’s husband, and very insightful commenter at Mock Newberys. He had read ¾ of When You Reach Me.
  • Azure: One of the smartest most focused people I’ve shared space with, (I honestly feel smarter after speaking with her), school psychologist, Matt’s wife, and close examiner of Newbery Terms and Criteria, holding us to a high standard of evaluation. She had read none of the books, but forced me to consider elements beyond “But I really liked it.”
I don’t have time to go over the discussion on each of the books. I do think it is important, considering the results, for you to know that I went in knowing which book I wanted to win; secure nothing could sway my choice, especially with only one other voting entity on the committee.

Shannon, teacher that she is, whipped up a Rubric graph with the Newbery Criteria across the top and the books down the side.

We went over each title talking about the elements of:

• Interpretation of the theme or concept
• Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity, and organization
• Development of a plot
• Delineation of characters
• Delineation of a setting
• Appropriateness of style
• Distinguished contribution to Children’s Literature

Once the dust had settled and we looked at the cold, hard numbers, my choice did not have the highest score (and I conceded that it did not meet the highest standard in terms of accuracy, clarity, and organization).

The winner of the NUFN 2010 is:

  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Three-way tie for honors:

  • When you Reach Me
  • Wild Things
  • Claudette Colvin (Shannon did not want to give a non-fiction book the award, stating that reading non-fiction was not the same experience as fiction. She was told to get over it)

    We will see what happens tomorrow.

Two insightful comments by Matt:

  • In referring to the criticism that Calpurnia was too long and meandering, without much action “But isn’t evolution a long and slow process with just the tiniest of variation when it happens”.
  • “Anne of Green Gables is one of most influential female characters in children’s literature. Writers who have never read the book are still being influenced by works that are 3 or 4 times removed.”

You may remember that I predicted that Where the Mountain Meets the Moon will walk with gold. Shannon took a copy home with her after we wrapped up. I recieved this comment from her in my e-mail today:

    “Ok - so I just finished reading Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and surprisingly I really liked it - as you know I do not generally gravitate towards books with dragons.... I really think it could be contender for the Newberry. Using the 'rubric' we used on the other books - in my opinion it has great character and plot development - the setting was vivid and I would say developed to the point of being a character in the book. Even though it was fairy-talish (is that an adjective?) I did find myself connected to and caring about the characters. It is appropriate for children and I think contributes excellence to children's literature- the style is unlike any other book we read. I love the way Grace Lin integrated the folktales from her childhood into a cohesive story. I definitely think the writing was superb, and the theme simple yet complex as the layers of the various stories came together. In a nutshell - in my mind it is distinguished and unique. Although it's not my favorite genre - and not a book I would typically pick up, I think based on the Newberry criteria it may now be my number one pick... Just curious to hear what you think if you've read the book. I have my class read folktales from other countries & then write their own folktales, and I think this would be a great read-a-loud to introduce Chinese folktales. See you tomorrow morning - I can't wait to see what books the committee chooses - we'll see if they are as wise as us.”

Told you she was intelligent.

I will shed no tears if Garce Lin gets the call either.

Only a few hours left!

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