One reason comes from my own childhood reading, and another is my experience from years of reading with kids of many ages in classrooms and beyond. The bottom line is that readers' favorites will change over time, and many individual's favorites may never make a finalist or award list. The specific book that touches the deepest core of a young reader may have a title not even known by a teacher, blogger, or classmate.
For example, I remember fondly a yearlong love affair with books by Lear, Thurber, and Steig, even though it seemed that none of my friends knew about the work of those clever authors. There was also a critical period during which I found a book called CLAY FINGERS. I renewed and reread my library copy endlessly. It, too, was unknown to teachers or classmates. It was a pivotal book in shaping my eventual career, (which was NOT working in ceramics).
All of the above raise a serious question- WHY would I volunteer to serve on a committee whose purpose is to label books as finalists and winners of awards in a variety of categories. (BTW, click on that category at the top of this post to get a glimpse of the variety and depth of the fields in both categories this year.)
Back to that existential question, WHY? Here's my reply:
When lists of "bests" or finalists or award-winners are shared, they may (and should!) lead readers to new titles, even keeping books in print or on library shelves long after a publisher or librarian might otherwise do so. Participating also offers me both opportunity and incentive to read books I might have missed, then to read them again and probe deeply into the qualities that make some especially appealing to kids and outstanding as material for young readers.
- This process improves me as a reader.
- My expanded knowledge allows me a better base of titles from which to recommend books to readers in my efforts to provide core-catching matches.
- And I only ever offer to serve on the finalist panel, freeing me from the excruciating task of deciding on single winners.
So, as December nears I'll be sharing more full reviews of the books that have been rising into the very small pool from which I'll have to make my short-short list in discussions with the other panelists in these categories. Until then, I'll do some speed-dating posts to share my comments from among my 2500+ Goodreads postings. I hope you'll take a look.
Here are just a few, if you're interested in my thoughts about:
MARWAN'S JOURNEY (A refugee story)
FIRST LAUGH (Cultural tradition of Navajo - Dine - with infants.)
THE DAY WAR CAME (A refugee story with an empowering child-view of choices)
I urge you to take a look, and I'll return soon with suggestions for more picture books and board books that deserve your attention.