I just noticed something: we’ve got two middle grade (yup, still fighting you on that, Jo) novels meeting in the final round. We also had two in the final round last year – A Face Like Glass and Year of the Griffin. Which is surprising, I think, because I know I’m not the only person who gives YA as a genre an automatic leg up over MG – in theory, at least! (Obviously comparing the merits of two particular books presents an entirely different scenario than YA vs. MG in the abstract.)
The upcoming matchup also fascinates me because it’s one I never predicted in all the permutations I imagined were possible. Which makes this the second year that’s happened. I love it. Thank you so much to the fabulous judges!
I want to touch on the “underappreciated” aspect of the battle a bit, too. The final round matchup will be between a recent, fairly well-known title and a much older, nearly forgotten one. Which means there are two separate aspects of underappreciated here: one, why was a great new book overlooked by awards committees – especially if you, like I do, consider it one of the most distinguished children’s books of the year; and two, why is a great Newbery book so unavailable today, and why isn’t it discussed more?
Those are both factors that go into my decisions when I put together books for this battle. Mostly, I go with my gut when I choose the books, and I try to have a mix of both categories. It’s interesting to think that it’s rare to find an old, non-decorated, really great book. Have they all been forgotten? Why didn’t anyone put them into my hands when I was growing up?
Katie pointed out that I’m not a fan of a lot of recent award winners and asked if I think the winners are getting worse. I should say that I’ve only been following the awards closely for the last five years or so, and that librarians and teachers who are older than me have much more knowledge in this area. (Quite frankly by “awards” I mean the Newbery and various MG awards; I think the Printz has been pretty universally terrible. You’ve probably heard me say that before.) It’s certainly possible there are always great books that aren’t awarded medals, and the fact that I can’t think of any older MG books that haven’t been decorated, or written by authors whose other books have won medals, makes me a little wary for Greenglass House‘s future, and very grateful for the 1975 Newbery committee.
FYI, from the ALA –
1975 Medal Winner: M. C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton
- Figgs & Phantoms by Ellen Raskin
- My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier
- The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
- Philip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon Maybe by Bette Greene
That’s some year. Could something as great as those books, published the same year, have been forgotten? I’d really like to think not.