Sunday, July 09, 2006

Who's Missing?

Watching Amelie Mauresmo beat that dirty, no-good, rotten, pig-stealing, uh, I mean, the plucky little Belgian Justine Henin yesterday at Wimbledon, I was pleased to see the French player's vindication. Amelie, you might remember, won the Australian Open earlier this year over Henin only after Henin, losing soundly, pleaded illness and defaulted, thus leaving a little question mark forever over Amelie's victory, her first Grand Slam win.

It happened before, in 1921, when the legendary Suzanne Lenglen faced the U.S. champ Molla Mallory in the American championship at Forest Hills. The supposedly uncrackable Lenglen was losing 2-6, love-thirty, when she retired to the sound of hisses in the crowd. The next summer, the two players again faced each other in the final of Wimbledon, which Lenglen won 6-2, 6-0. Billie Jean King tells the story this way:

Afterwards, Lenglen reportedly told her opponent, "Now, Mrs. Mallory, I have proved to you today what I could have done to you in New York last year." To which Molla reportedly replied, "Mlle. Lenglen, you have done to me today what I did to you in New York last year; you have beaten me.


Snap! But there are many great players who never won a Grand Slam, and it makes me think about acclaimed writers who have never won a Newbery Medal. For years, Avi was the perpetual bridesmaid, but he finally made it with Crispin: Cross of Lead in 2003. So who's missing? Gary Paulsen, for one, Nancy Farmer, Bruce Brooks: all have won at least two Newbery Honors while still seeing the big prize remain out of reach. Anyone wanna place a bet?

18 comments:

KT Horning said...

I think Jerry Pinkney may win the prize in this area for racking up the honors without ever having won the Caldecott.

fusenumber8 said...

This year Kimberly Willis Holt may have a good chance at a Newbery proper. She's received an Honor in the past but this year she's sporting a particularly librarian-friendly book that may sweep the competition aside.

Roger Sutton said...

Amen to Jerry and Kimberly (who I don't think has a Newbery Honor but did win the National Book Award for When Zachary Beaver Came to Town). I'd be happy to see 'em both up on the podium. I wonder if Jerry has the Tomie dePaola problem--lots of books with a distinct resemblance to each other. The style itself, unmistakable in both artists, may be trumping the distinction of individual titles. I know that the judging criteria says to ignore that (each book is compared only to others published that year), but judges have memories.

Andy Laties said...

Well, some of us here at the Eric Carle Museum are quite alert to Eric's never having won a Caldecott. We were especially hopeful about "Mister Seahorse" in 1994. Now Eric says he's retired; there are no new picture books in the pipeline.

He told me once that his own favorite, among his books, is "Do You Want To Be My Friend" (1976).

Andy Laties said...

Ahem -- Mr. Seahorse was published in 2004. I do have a tendency to live in the past.

GraceAnne said...

Paulsen's Legend of Bass Reeves, a gorgeous blend of history and fiction, is utterly terrific. It would make a great movie. It might be a bit old for Newbery, but maybe not.

rindawriter said...

I'll stick my neck waaaaaaay out here: I like Carl Hiaasen's work for children. A great deal. I realize that some folks aren't going to think his work "literary enough, but, but, but...in my private reading space...there he is.

rindawriter said...

P.S. I still think Rosemary Wells' picture book work has been far too long sort of passed over. Another dark horse, here, I know, I know...but....

Elizabeth said...

KT, I was talking to Roger this morning when he told me about his blog post, and I said "What about most passed over for the Caldecott and and Jerry Pinkney?" You beat me to the punch there, but I remember being very happy when Paul Zelinski won after 3 honor books. (And by the way, I think Lane Smith's contribution to children's illustration is greater than the one Honor Medal he currently holds.)

Now bloggers, you may think Roger is stretching the topic a bit when he posts about tennis, but I assure you, children's books are always on his mind. In the same conversation I mentioned above, Roger remarked that Wimbledon Men's Finalist Rafael Nadal looked like "one of those evil species they're always fighting against in Redwall."

Ellizabeth said...

While we're on the subject of Newbery and Caldecott, I've been meaning to post the full story about the Harcourt Publisher who didn't know that Smoky Night had won the Caldecott until it was announced at the press conference.

The story goes that the Sunday night before the press conference, Harcourt editor Linda Zuckerman had her coat stolen (or misplaced) at the restaurant where Harcourt was hosting a dinner. ALA was in Philadelphia and it was 11 degrees out. Since Harcourt hadn't gotten the call about any winners, publisher Rubin Pfeffer lent Linda his coat to wear to the press conference the next morning, and decided to skip the announcements and stay in his hotel room. When it was time to announce the Caldecott, several Harcourt staffers thought they saw Smoky Night, but it took them a moment to believe it. Someone rushed to call Rubin and he flew over to the announcements. According to Rubin "I felt that I was flying about a foot off the sidewalk and it didn't even feel cold."

Interestingly, I believe that's still remembered as a pretty controversial year. And ironically, given the comments attached to this post, both Zelinski and Pinkney were runners up.

rindambyers said...

P.S.S.

Gary Paulson, too. Long overdue.

KT Horning said...

Just out of curiosity, which of Paulsen's books do you feel ought to have won the Newbery?

I think his books suffer from the dePaola problem Roger cited above. Although the plots differ from book to book, his writing style is always the same. And, yes, the committee is not supposed to compare an author's books to his/her other books from previous years, but when an author is prolific, as Paulsen is, with 2 or more books out per year, he can actually be compared to himself, which may work against him.

Roger Sutton said...

It took me a long time to warm up to Paulsen's writing, but in retrospect I would give it to Hatchet. And I would give him credit for stylistic variety too--some of it is too purple for words, but some of it is dramatic and immediate and some very funny indeed.

KT Horning said...

Would you have given it to Hatchet over Lincoln: A Photobiography (the book that won the year Hatchet was an honor book)?

Anonymous said...

Gary Paulsen is already unbelievably overrated. Gary Soto, too. Maybe men named Gary shouldn't write books.

Roger Sutton said...

Would I have given it to Hatchet over Lincoln? No. But in retrospect? Yes. Of course, the awards don't--and can't--work that way.

Jane said...

Natalie Babbit, E. B. White (well, too late for that!), Virginia Euwer Wolff, Patricia McKillip, and I still have dreams
myself. . .

Jane

Joshua said...

It should be noted that Henin-Hardenne actually played more tennis than Mauresmo at the Australian, as Mauresmo's semi-finals opponent, (the other pig-eating Belgian, Kim Clijsters) retired from that match as well. I don't think there's any shame or asterisks necessary in winning a tournament in this fashion (anymore than it looks poorly upon Ljubicic that he made it to the French semis without playing a top 20 player) but at the same time those of us who doubted Mauresmo's ability to stick out a tough tournament were justified in wondering if she could have managed it against healthy players. She proved it at Wimbledon, and good for her! But she still can't find it in herself to beat Lindsay Davenport, a player with more injuries than the Operation patient who hasn't played for most of the year, in any event. Which means that she may also have lucked out at Wimbledon, where Henin-Hardenne took care of Clijsters and Davenport and the Williams sisters took care of themselves. Mauresmo's a fantastic player and I hope she manages to actually prove, in the next several years, that she deserves her number one ranking, but the fact remains that in terms of sheer tennis talent, cunning and skill Henin-Hardenne is the best player in the world.