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and oh my goodness I didn’t even tell you why I liked the books. What am I becoming?

Good Brother, Bad Brother and Hitler Youth were both good gripping history with great photographs to accentuate the text. My main reservation with Hitler Youth is that I don’t think it would be nearly as good without photos. And we’re not really supposed to weigh photos unless they distract from the text. (I love the phrase “the text,” by the way.) There’s also a new bio out on Eleanor Roosevelt that I peeked at that’s supposed to be good, although it wasn’t on our list to consider since it just came out. And I still hold to my philosophy that if you want to learn about a subject without totally diving into it, children’s books are the way to go. I’m all into non-fiction now! Another one on our short list was Guinea Pig Scientists which, gasp, actually makes science interesting. To me, at least.

Maude March was just good fun. The main characters all felt like they lived and breathed (even the dead aunt), the style was consistent, there are great newspaper excerpts included, it’s thought-provoking, not just fluff. Love Maude and Sallie.

Each Little Bird was fun. If there were an award for best character names, it would win. Maybe a bit over the top, but recommendable.

Chicken Boy was just not what I expected. I expected: depressing, hicks, a boy-book. Instead there were great characters, spare style, a great narrator, and a look into the soul of the chicken.

So I bet you’re all just dying to know what the Oregon Library Association (or whatever they’re called) (or rather, those of us who bothered to drive to our fair capital this morning in the pouring rain) chose in our mock Newbery! Yes, dying! Well, now I’m the one dying to see what the ALA will choose this year (or rather, those lucky 15 who have to look at over 400 books during a year and then be secluded for three days while they choose).

After two rounds of balloting, not quite official Newbery style, we picked Hitler Youth (by Susan Campbell Bartoletti). Which, shamefully, was one I hadn’t finished reading. It was my bedtime story last night, but I put myself to bed relatively early because I had to meet my carpool at 7:30 this morning – for me, an ungodly hour. The year of nonfiction! Our honor choices were Criss Cross (Lynne Rae Perkins), Chicken Boy (Frances O’Roark Dowell), and Each Little Bird That Sings (Deborah Wiles).

There were about 30 librarians there – we were in three tables. First we covered the criteria for the Newbery, and the woman leading the workshop talked about her experiences on the real committee last year (that would be the committee that gave us…Kira-Kira. I don’t know anyone who likes Kira-Kira. Anyone? She was a big fan of Lizzy Bright and the Buckminster Boy, one of the honor books, so I suppose that redeemed her.) Then we discussed each of the fifteen books in our small groups, and had our first round of voting. Between the three groups, that gave us I think seven titles. We discussed those as a large group, and then did our next round of voting, which produced a winner.

The amazing thing to me was how people LOVED books that I couldn’t even make myself finish, and how other people tore to pieces the ones that I loved.

My top five, because you’re dying to know, would probably be (in no particular order):

Chicken Boy
Good Brother, Bad Brother
The Misadventures of Maude March
Each Little Bird That Sings
Hitler Youth (although I’m not quite finished with it…)

The best part was sitting there with a bunch of people and hashing it out. Pros and cons. Fiction vs nonfiction. I kept thinking of people like these and what they would contribute to the discussion. Would you slap us silly? Pat us on the back? What’s the most distinguished?

January 2006

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