Friday, January 24, 2014

I'm the One Who Mocks

The polar vortex cancelled my first Mock Newbery at the Saul Silber Memorial Library of Hebrew Theological College. As much as I heart books, I couldn't imagine asking my students to risk their safety to make their way to our library. So, when I rescheduled our Mock Newbery for the following week on January 12, the Sunday before final exams. I expected that most of my students would be busy cramming and writing papers and our attendance for this new event would be low. I coudn't be more wrong. Many of my students, as well as wonderful faculty members, braved the cold and ignored their looming deadlines to spend an afternoon talking about book evaluation and promoting award winners. And while I did offer a suitcase of free books as an incentive (thanks to the generosity of publishers who distribute Advance Reader Copies), it became very clear that my students were intrinsically interested in discovering the best books for children.  

The set up of our Mock Newbery was a bit different than the others I've encountered. It was a meta exercise in how to plan Mock award events themselves with resources below that I've gathered. We started by creating a framework for critical evaluation. K.T. Horning's excellent book, From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books, was an essential resource in developing these ideas. The students themselves also had thoughtful opinions about the process of evaluation. Due to the timing of the semester, my students didn't have time to read all of the possible candidates, so we evaluated our Mock Newbery books as books that peaked their interest and they would select to read next. Mock Newbery events can be targeted to the population you're working with, whether it's about read alouds, the next book to read in a book club, or booktalking a list of excellent books. 

We used the Mock Newbery page we set up on our library website to discuss each book from a list of possible contenders. Thankfully, most books have either publisher or fan-made trailers, which were great introductions to the books and helped get a sense of the tone of the text. We even had a chance to read some poetry from Ulysses from Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, examine the illustrations in Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad by Monica Edinger, and discuss the importance of extensive source notes in Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America's First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone. Then, we voted. Here are our results:

Winner: One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

Honor: Doll Bones by Holly Black

The best part of this experience was that at the end of the meeting, my students clamored for the chance to start a book club and have more events like this one. While we have tried book clubs before, the truth is that they are more successful when they are student-driven and inspired. And from the responses during our meeting, our first book will probably be One Came Home.

In the meantime, we'll all be waiting with bated breath until the awards announcement on Monday. You can watch the live webcast here. And don't forget to check out the pre-game and post-game show with Betsy Bird. I'll be there and I hope my students will be there virtually, too.

Mock Book Awards Resources

CCBC book discussion guidelines

How to Hold a Mock Newbery 

Blogs to Follow:
Heavy Medal
A Fuse #8 Production  
Someday my Printz will Come 

Newbery and Caldecott Mock Elections Tool Kit**

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