Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Many Mysteries of Children's Choices

Huh? seems to be the main question directed at the Children's Book Council's just-announced Children's Choice Book Awards, an Internet election for "Favorite Books," "Favorite Author," and "Favorite Illustrator." The five nominees, "compiled from a review of bestseller lists, including those prepared by BookScan, The New York Times and USA Today," for each of the latter two categories include the expected names (Rowling, Horowitz, Willems, Brett, etc.). But the "favorite books," with five nominees for each of three age categories are more surprising in that they include no books from any of the favorite authors or illustrators, nor, as Betsy Bird points out, any novels at all among the nominees for the Grades 5-6 category. Maybe the Horn Book really is an ivory tower, but I confess no more than a passing acquaintance with a dozen of the fifteen nominated titles, all 2007 books.

According to the CBC, these fifteen "finalists were determined by the IRA-CBC Children's Choices Program." Watch out for the passive voice, it bites you in the ass almost every time. The Children's Choices program has been around since 1975, enrolling children in schools around the country in a system of book discussion of several hundred books (nominated by their publishers) that results in a list of 100 titles each year. As far as I know, this list has no "top fifteen," so we don't know how these "finalists" were chosen. I suppose it could be that these books are the ones the Children's Choice children did like best, but their relative obscurity prompted the CBC to supplement those choices with ballots for the authors and illustrators who were unaccountably ignored. Ya got me.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

If this is anything like the regular Children's Choices selection, the choices are skewed from the beginning. Adults pre-select the list of books children can choose from. My guess is this entire list has been selected by adults who selected it from Children's Choices, chosen by children from a list of books pre-selected by adults.

I can see the advantages to having adults pre-select, but if you're going to end up with a list like this, you might as well let the kids have at it from the get-go, without any outside intervention from adults.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Roger,

I've been a member of the IRA for a long time. Our school system once participated in Teacher's Choices. I was one of the teachers on the panel evaluating books. I was given a number of books to read and review. (Many were good.) I can't recall how many books--but it wasn't hundreds. I'm not sure how the books for Teacher's Choices and Children's Choices are pre-selected. I do know this: When I was weeding books from my school library a few years ago, some of the ones I tossed were stamped "Children's Choices." Those picture books had been in our library for quite some time. I think the quality of books has really improved over the years.

Are the Children's Choice Book Awards something new? I've never heard of them. Shame on me! I guess I should know already. I'm serving my third term as president of our local reading council of IRA.

Roger Sutton said...

Elaine, I don't think any one group of children participating in Children's Choices sees the whole lot of nominated titles, which is why there has never been any ranking beyond inclusion in the hundred. The Children's Choice Book Awards are new and thus far dubious, given the opacity of the criteria and nomination process.

MotherReader said...

It's not just your ivory tower. I'm in a large public library system, we get tons of books, and I didn't know many of the titles at all. Of the ones that I knew, I only thought a few of them were great. And I'm talking great with the kid-friendly caveat, not even Newbery winner great. I thought I was missing something, but after seeing your and Betsy's reaction, I know it's not just me.