For the last many months, Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Chair Joanna Rudge Long, fellow committee member Betsy Bird, and I, have been reading and communicating electronically about excellent books for young readers published between June 1st, 2015 and May 31st, 2016. This past weekend, we finally met face to face and discussed our nominated titles for these three categories: Fiction and Poetry, Nonfiction, and Picture Book. For each category, we were to select one winner and up to two honor books.
On Saturday afternoon, we started with 50 nominated titles. (Selected from more than a thousand submitted titles.) Discussions went smoothly but like all book selection committees, some compromises must be made — and some strong opinions were shared!
By the end of the evening, we managed to talk about every single title, expressing our appreciations: from superb character development, to excellent presentation of complex historical accounts, to a particularly delightful visual surprise, and also voicing critical evaluations: be it a weak link in the plot progression, a slightly less affecting tone in a nonfiction narrative, or a layout that could have been more fluid and supportive of the text. We agreed on which titles to eliminate from our final discussions and brought down the number of book for further discussion to below 30.
Sunday was devoted to making tough decisions.
For each category, we figured out a different way to further narrow down our choices. Once we reduced the number of contenders even more (after careful consideration,) we could allot more time for in-depth and rigorous discourses on each title most likely to receive the award. Professionalism, courtesy, and plenty of humor marked our work together. By the end of the day, we had our winners and honor titles for all of the categories!
Did we initially all agree on the final choices? Of course not! But did we come to consensus and will we support our choices as a team? You betcha! I feel grateful to have had the opportunity working with these two thoughtful and knowledgeable literary critics who helped me see certain aspects of many books that I didn’t notice before and who also listened attentively to my views on many titles. All three of us changed our minds multiple times to serve the communal goal.
The perfect team work was made even better by the hospitality of our hosts: Joanna and her husband Norwood. They opened their home to Betsy and me and cooked every meal for us. I loved every book discussion, every casual chat, every short hike, and every bite of all the meals this weekend! And I will never forget Brym for being a perfect, quiet, and gentle companion!
Here are a few photos to commemorate this occurrence — (I didn’t take pictures of the books that we discussed but will share some of my favorites after the official announcement is made this coming Thursday – June 2nd.)