So, the results are out, we know the winners, many of whom I think thoroughly deserve their prizes. If you, like I do, wonder how the judges reach their decisions you might want to check out the judges reports. This perhaps goes some way towards explaining how some books make the lists of the finalists, and why some of our students favored books don’t get a look in. Every year I am surprised by what the judges decide are the worthy winners and what I feel is a disconnect between them and the people who write the books that our students love. I often find myself wondering about the criteria used, how can some of these books which are chosen as the best and brightest shining lights in the NZ children’s literary world make the grade, over and above books which have real appeal to students. I often wonder about how well connected to actual children the judges are!
Yes, I know there is the children’s choice award – only the one, but given that that is hard to manage in a secondary school, and that because of that it is always going to be a picture book which wins that prize, it seems that if you allowed an online voting system as well you would get quite different results. As an aside I would say that in my school the overall winner this year is a huge success, you can see my review of it here!
Angela posted the link to the awesome Kate De Goldi interview on Kim Hill’s Saturday morning show on the listserv yesterday and also there is this one from Doris Mousdale which was on Kathryn Ryan’s show the other day.
People I really respect have been part of the judging panel, but I really wonder what goes on behind the scenes. I’m on our local Otago NZ Post Awards Committee, we spend our time organising events for children in our region using the author that we are given by NZ Post and as well arranging shows, workshops, competitions and activities which we feel will appeal to the children for whom the books are written. We are the only region where the committee is not part of a public library. We love taking authors out to schools and engaging children with books in lots of different ways. But, when large numbers of children seem to be really connecting with a particular book and that book is passed over – as happens very regularly – then one does wonder who exactly are the books selected appealing to?
I’m not disparaging any of the books in the competition I’m just really saying that if it is a competition based on what children’s books are the best in any given year, then why is it that so often the ones that really appeal to them, are not the winners? It makes for a hard discussion when faced with a bunch of enthusiastic readers who have read all the books I can tell you!
One day I’d love to hear the judges discuss this. I’m sure they have valid reasons for choosing one book over another but when every year it is disappointing to the children the books are written for you just have to ask why. I know that there are conspiracy theories and I do dismiss those but I have to say I’ve read some great NZ fiction this year and some of those books either can’t have been entered (why wouldn’t you enter the books?) or the judges found them to be faulty in some way. Does a book have to be ‘worthy’ for you to choose it? And what makes it so? I love having local books to show our students, and they love reading them, but they do have questions, as I do about what makes a good one and what doesn’t according to the judges.
Come on guys, get out there and really talk about why you choose the books you choose, and do it in a way which explains it to the children whose books you are judging.
Authors write the books for a particular audience, perhaps it isn’t a judging panel, perhaps the children need a bigger voice in the prizes. What do you think?