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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Graveyard Book and the Newbery

Ok. I am SUPERBLY excited about The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, won the Newbery. But, I'd have to point out to all those who have been writing/thinking along the line of, "finally, a Newbery winner that has been very popular with kids -- see it's been on the New York Times Bestselling List for children, like, forever" that if you REALLY look into who have been reading The Graveyard Book (and see who the 15,865 Neil twitter followers, who attend his Graveyard Book reading events and bought the book then, and who have written to him on his blog about this book,) you can EASILY find that the book has been a lot more popular with his adult fans. The New York City Graveyard Book reading event that I attended had about 500 people in the audience and only about 10 (or fewer) of them were children.

My husband read the book aloud, and loved every moment of it, to our 10-year-old daughter who really enjoyed listening to this intriguing and beautifully crafted story. And some of my students have read it and thoroughly enjoyed it as well. But, that is not to say that The Graveyard Book has been extremely popular with children (at least, not like the trendy but not as delicately crafted Twilight Saga, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Warriors series, Princess Diaries, or Cirque du Freak series - and dozens of others)

The Graveyard Book won the Newbery because it contains linguistic nuances, humor, dramatic tension, vivid and memorable characters, and unique world building -- and because these qualities are recognized and awarded by the 2009 Newbery Committee members.

It seems to me insulting all around to imply that 1. the Newbery Committee members did not examine the work for its literary and artistic achievements, but simply went with a "bestseller" and 2. Neil Gaiman did not win the award for his fine literary craftsmanship but for being a popular kid author -- which, he has really not been and we don't know what the future brings.

Like I said, being a HUGE fan of Gaiman's and The Graveyard Book, I am tickled all colors of the rainbow to see that the book got the recognition it deserves, but, please, folks, do not jump to conclusions!

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3 Comments:

At 11:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

But that's actually the point of the Newbery, isn't it?

It's to single out a kid's book whose intended audience is primarily adults.

The only kid-friendly Newberies I can think of are HOLES and DESPERAUX---the rest of them are are pretty much adult themes and interests mascarading as kiddie lit.

Oh, not to say that kids don't sometimes enjoy reading the odd Newbery---and more kids will enjoy reading GRAVEYARD than they will KIRA KIRA or UNIVERSE or SHARD (to pick a couple of yawners).

Certainly the committee picked a fine book with adult-driven sales...granted, most Newberies get the benefit of adult-driven sales after the announcement, but before, after, doesn't matter, does it?

A

 
At 2:44 PM , Blogger fairrosa said...

That is simply untrue -- I've encountered many many children who enjoy many Newbery winners: my students love The Giver, Number the Stars, The Westing Game, From the Mixed-up Files, Maniac Magee, Out of the Dust, The View from Saturday, Joyful Noise, The Hero and the Crown, Dear Mr. Henshaw, Walk Two Moons, The High King, and many others.

My own daughter, who is 10, is a GREAT fan of Higher Power of Lucky (without any adult prompting) and many students have expressed their "enjoyment" (if one can say that to a sad sad book) of Kira Kira, or Bridge to Terabithia.

(I refrain from commenting on A Single Shard because I was on the Committee that chose it for the winner and I do resent when people seem to think that we had some sort of agenda rather than just choosing the most distinguished book for children of the year!)

I think it is completely unfounded to say that the Newbery medal is for books that only adults like. I merely wished to point out that people using Gaiman's win as an "Ah-Ha, we've gotcha!" statement simply did not grasp the reality of its pre-Award status.

As I said, don't get me wrong, the book is a most marvelous book for children and it can be savored on many many levels. The BEST kind :)

 
At 8:27 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think it is completely unfounded to say that the Newbery medal is for books that only adults like"

Nope, didn't say "only adults", I said "primarily adults".


With standards set by adults for books written by adults and marketed pretty much exclusively to adults, how in the world could it be otherwise?

In fact, it's sort of a miracle that as many children (as you point out) can make it through as many Newberies as they do!


I did manage to see another post of yours yesterday? About the three kinds of book reading (forgive me, but I'm going from memory here):

the candy-eating kind (ie just for fun!)


the literate kind (a book that the reader reads to "have under his belt" so to speak; it's book a literate person knows he needs to be able to discuss)

and the soulful kind (you mentioned DARK MATERIALS and CHARLOTTE's WEB specifically, and felt that GRAVEYARD BOOK was also this kind of book).

And tho I read and run, I remember thinking: "hmm. Don't most Newberies fall into the second category rather than the third?

And if that's true, then what ten year-old reads a book in order to be able to "have it under his belt" so to speak? So that in his high school years he can pipe up with trenchant observations about GOOD MASTERS?

...I mean...isn't that kind of a grown up way to look at kid's books? They'll read it because it's good for them, they'll thank me when they're twenty?"

(and wasn't it telling that in the "soulful" category you mentioned two titles that actually...aren't Newberies (WEB with it's honor, of course...and the whole reason WEB didn't win the big gold sticker was because it wasn't deemed "literate" enough...all those talking animals and marginalization of humans!)

And I'm sorry, fairrosa----I didn't know you were on the SHARD committee. I sincerely withdraw my comment about SHARD. You may edit/delete my comments as necessary.

And certainly we are in agreement----I also think GRAVEYARD is a fine example of the Newbery genre, and I'm as puzzled as you in wondering why it should matter if it sells (or doesn't sell).

Sales, after all, are definitely not part of the criteria!

A

 

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