Monday, July 6, 2015

Missing In Action

Dear Readers:

Sorry to have been away so long -- I had to go through a lengthy, thorough, and successful process to be reappointed at Rutgers, and am now working hard to finish up two books, but still this is a home and miss being here. During my absence I also went to San Francisco for ALA Annual, and I have some important good news from there.

I went to ALA because I had concerns about how nonfiction was being evaluated in both youth divisions: ALSC and YALSA. I communicated with both boards before the meeting, and that set the stage for SF. Here were the issues: ALSC, as you all know, is responsible for the Robert F. Sibert medal for informational books. Early on in its life, people who served as judges noticed that it focused only on text, not art. Correctly, they added consideration of art to the criteria. But in doing so they also added language about "originality" of text and art -- similar to language used for the Caldecott. I thought that that was a mistake, since in informational books originality is just as likely to come from the careful use and treatment of archival images and text as it is in newly-created art. I shared this concern with the ALSC board. While I do not yet have the exact results, I understand that they have made an adjustment in the criteria -- I'll post that here once I have it. This was most satisfying -- the sense of all of us working together to get it right.

For YALSA I had almost the opposite concern -- I didn't think they had misleading or inappropriate criteria for their Excellence in YA Nonfiction award, I thought there were not enough criteria at all. My sense is that, wonderfully, the forms and types of YA nonfiction are growing and changing. And so we need to think about what makes for an excellent YA memoir? an excellent YA nonfiction graphic novel? An excellent YA nonfiction book adapted from an adult book? Each of these -- should have criteria of its own. The board agreed that it would be a good idea for YALSA members to think about, learn about, discuss these questions -- and assigned me to work with their Chair to figure out the best venues for that conversation. Once again, most satisfying.

So friends, sorry to be away so long, but I hope you find these developments as encouraging as I do -- nonfiction is spreading its wings. 

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