One-Minute Book Reviews

January 26, 2009

Newbery and Caldecott Medals Don’t Determine the Long-Term Fate of a Children’s Book (Quote of the Day / Barbara Barstow)

How much difference will Newbery and Caldecott medals make to the winners named today? In the short run, a lot. Newbery and Caldecott medalists typically become bestsellers. They also gain prestige and a longer life on bookstore and library shelves.

But do medals determine the ultimate fate of a book? Not according to former Newbery judge Barbara Barstow, the retired head of youth services for the Cuyahoga County Public Library System and co-author of Beyond Picture Books: Subject Access to Best Books for Beginning Readers (Libraries Unlimited, 2007).

As the book editor of the Plain Dealer, I interviewed Barstow about children’s books that didn’t win a Newbery or Caldecott medal, including Charlotte’s Web. E.B. White’s classic earned an Honor Book citation but lost the top prize to Ann Nolan Clark’s Secret of the Andes.

“How do I feel about that?” Barstow asked. “I feel it was very tragic. But it didn’t matter ultimately because children made E. B. White immortal. Secret of the Andes is still there, and it’s like putting teeth to get a child to read it. If we make mistakes, the children rectify them.”

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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