Roger Sutton (and friends!*) on the Newbery.
This year we have four books, all middle-grade realistic fiction, all with white female protagonists. Not to say that the four books aren't distinct from each other, but look at what all of them aren't: picture books, poetry, easy-reader, fantasy, science fiction, biography or other nonfiction. What gives?
Be forewarned -- I'm about to ramble a bit here. Also, I might make some (hooray!) sweeping generalizations.
First of all, can I just say how happy I am that there were no animal books on the list this year? I hate animal books. (Okay, that's a sweeping generalization. More specifically, I hate animal books that make me cry. How many HAPPY books about animals have won the Newbery Award? Not many.)
Okay. After scanning the bookshelves in the Children's Room, it seems to me that there are a whole lot more middle grade books that deal with Serious Issues** and Deep Thoughts about girls than boys. And the award winners do tend to be*** the ones that deal with Serious Issues and Deep Thoughts****.
Or maybe I should say that there are more funny middle grade***** books about boys than about girls. Funny books about boys tend to get the Newbery Honor (Al Capone Does My Shirts, Hoot, Surviving the Applewhites, Joey Pigza Loses Control), but they don't win all that often.
So what's the deal? Are funny, they-won't-make-you-cry books always short on fab writing and nuanced portrayals? Of course not. Rules, one of this year's Honor Books is a good example -- it didn't make me belly laugh, but it made me smile a whole lot and it wasn't heavy and I loved the characters and hey, neat -- nobody died, not even a fish. Maybe there are just far, far less of them than of the weepers? I dunno.
I'm not really going anywhere with all of this. Awards season just always gets me thinking.
Also check out J. L. Bell's post on the same topic.
*Wouldn't that be a great variety show? I'd watch it.
**That, of course, lead to a Sense of Hope. I'm with J. L. Bell on this one.
***Oooo, look at that. I avoided the sweeping generalization.
****Yes, yes. There are exceptions. Holes (minus the lynching), Midwife's Apprentice and a couple of others could be described as funny. But I'd hesitate to describe more than five of the last twenty winners as such.
*****Not so with the YA books, as Liz B pointed out -- four of the five Printz books this year were about guys, and two of those were DEFINITELY not funny.