First, and most important: Thank you so much to the first round judges! I loved reading each decision; you all did fabulous jobs! Oh, and congratulations on spectacularly messing up my mock bracket. Not that I created a particularly smart mock bracket – I just forced myself to figure out which two of the books I’d pick. And so, in a battle that requests subjectivity, I had it coming.
That’s one thing I’m seeing that I really wanted the battle to bring out: I love how the writeups document everyone’s approaches to reading. Look at the differences in the ways the judges responded! From analytic approaches to long-held personal preferences to comparison of themes and complexity to breakdowns of characterization to one book grabbing the reader more.
I love that.
Of course, in a way all the winners are a fluke of the bracket – when sorting by alphabetical order, some books seem perfectly matched and some very mismatched. It’s fascinating to consider what might have happened in a The Cardturner vs. The School Story matchup, or a Jellicoe Road vs. The Road Home matchup, or a Kat, Incorrigible vs. Sorcery and Cecelia matchup.
In fact, I think I’ll use this post to celebrate the books that advanced and to mourn the books that were knocked out. I chose 16 books I love knowing that 8 books I love would be knocked out right away. This is in no way meant to diminish the judges’ criticisms, which are all valid. (And they serve as a reminder that no book is truly universal, loved as it may be, and that love doesn’t equal flawless material.) But these are all books that spoke to me – some are all-time favorites, sure, but some represent a moment in time so powerfully, or were so formative, or so funny, that there was no way I could leave them out.
And so this is the perfect place to remind you to read all the books, since winning a matchup might be luck of the draw in terms of position in the bracket and random assignment of judge. Go forth.
Also, I can’t say how happy I am that 3 MG books are still alive. The Newbery Curse (the year’s Newbery winner has never made it out of the first round) has been part of the SLJ battle for so long that two MG books beating two excellent YA novels is quite the thrill.
Some housekeeping notes to conclude: the site’s bracket has been updated to reflect the Round 2 matchups. And Round 2 will begin this Tuesday, March 18, which means you have time to read (or reread) the contenders. Thank you so much for participating!