Tuesday, January 15, 2008

This line struck me from the article below :

(”Hugo Cabret” has also proved popular with children, which is not a requirement of either award: “literary excellence” is.)

How does one determine that a relatively new book is 'popular with children'? They normally themselves don't buy books . And they wouldn't necessarily find these books themselves among the hundreds or thousands of children's books in bookstores or libraries unless someone guides them to them , or they are heavily marketed with a giant display and stacks of books with eye-catching covers .

Perhaps parents are buying a lot of them and they are a commercial success. OK this can be quantified and is probable. And perhaps then the feedback from some parents is that the kids liked the books ? But this information can be anecdotal at best, there are no polls or cumulative data to back up the statement that the book is 'popular with children' . This is almost certainly unprovable but it is presented here as some 'objective fact' .

The truth in this case appears to be that the reporter is equating 'marketing success' = 'popular with children' .

This shows how relatively small subjective use of words/phrases are sometimes casually thrown into 'objective' articles where they then become hard facts and incontrovertible.

The winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for most distinguished picture book for children was announced this morning at the American Library Association’s annual midwinter meeting: it was “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” by Brian Selznick (Scholastic). The equally prestigious Newbery Medal went to “Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village,” by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick).
Interestingly, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” an illustrated novel, was perhaps more talked about as a favorite for the Newbery than the Caldecott, a rare case of a book that could meet the criterion of either prize. (”Hugo Cabret” has also proved popular with children, which is not a requirement of either award: “literary excellence” is.)
One main difference between prizes like the Caldecott and the Newbery and, say, the National Book Award or the Pulitzer, is that the children’s prizes actually sell books. Those familiar gold medals on a children’s book cover mean lasting honor for the author or illustrator and dollars to the publisher, because libraries and schools will order thousands of additional copies. (They also impress parents at the bookstore).

Since the A.L.A. committees work in secret and don’t make nominations, the announcement of the medal and honor winners generate suspense and debate on listservs in the weeks leading up to the midwinter meeting. Maybe less so this year, though. The Children’s Book Council listserv devoted January to discussing the contenders for the Caldecott, but some participants found the discussion a little flat. “Does the lack of discussion and the disparity of titles seem to point to disinterest due to this being a year of rather dull picture books?” posted one participant yesterday.
But as Lisa Von Drasek, a librarian at the conference, told me today: “That’s ridiculous; there was no discussion because we were all here!” No matter; the nearly 1,000 librarians and children’s books editors and publicists in the audience seemed plenty excited.

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