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This book is the community-wide reading title for Hamilton-Wenham. I live in Hamilton, and when they announced this selection I was a little surprised and wondered how it would work out. But as a former Children’s Librarian and lifelong lover of children’s literature, I should have known that nearly everyone has a favorite children’s book and that people would love to talk about them!
What We Learned From Children’s Books — The library has been posting short essays by members of the library staff and the community on their favorite children’s books and what they learned from them on their website, and some have also been featured in the Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle and their website.
I think this has been very effective. Library Director Jan Dempsey wrote about her favorite, Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, also a favorite of mine. I saw Jan in the library a few days after I had read this online, and rushed over to tell her how much I also liked this book. A woman who was checking out books looked over and said, “Oh, me, too!” and the three of us just stood their smiling in the warmth of shared memory. (That was when I decided, “This is a really great community read idea!”)
Anita Silvey’s article about the Newbery Awards in School Library Journal asks
“Are children, librarians, and other book lovers still rushing to read the latest Newbery winners? Or has the most prestigious award in children’s literature lost some of its luster?”
The issue isn’t new. Back when I was a Children’s Librarian, I remember a kid who came in looking for something to read for a book report who loudly declared, “Don’t give me any of those books with that gold thing on the cover!” And he added that those books provide a disappointing reading experience — that’s a paraphrase. A few other kids jumped in with their agreement, citing a number of truly awful books they had been forced to read by teachers, all because of “those gold things!” It made me want to rip the gold seals off all my Newberys. One girl said, “Some of the books with the silver thing are OK, though,” which made me feel better. I thought it was interesting how aware the kids were of these seals of approval, and how free they felt to express their own dissenting opinions.
Has the Newbery Lost Its Way? “Snubbed by kids, disappointing to librarians, the recent winners have few fans”
Anita Silvey — School Library Journal, 10/1/2008