When I signed on to the Caldecott Committee, it was with the clear understanding that our deliberations were confidential. I fully intend to honor this promise—and wonder whether all other committee members will be as faithful. There are rumors out there!
Despite my pledge, I would dearly love to talk about my experiences. Now, the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) is considering a proposal that would allow me to do just that. I support this!
Opening up the process after so many years would help new members see the range of possibilities more fully. The general public doesn’t know that on any given Newbery or Caldecott committee, some members may not agree at all with the choices, since votes don’t have to be unanimous. Books can and do fall under the bus each and every year—and nobody but committee members knows about them.
Dan Santat, 2015 Caldecott Medal recipient for The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
Kathleen T. Horning, director, Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
I hope that we can end the confidentiality requirement primarily because it would allow members to discuss those authors and illustrators who truly did fabulous work, but whose books weren’t winners or honorees. Dan Santat and other illustrators have spoken of the magic of mystery as reason to keep the confidentiality regulations in place. However, I believe that this now-secret information has the potential to save careers. I know of illustrators who doubt their ability and wonder whether they should keep plugging away. Some of their books are out of print. Maybe open discussions would have publishers reprinting some of these.
I’ve had way too many conversations with non-committee members in which this person or that wonders why my Caldecott committee did not consider this book or that. I hear, “They must not have received it because there is no way they could have and not given it the Caldecott or at least an honor!” There is nothing I can say. But I so want to tell them, “Yes, we did receive it! It did not win because it wasn’t eligible or because it was a horrible mess.”
I am also swayed in favor of removing the confidentiality restriction by simple curiosity. It would be so cool to know, perhaps, how close Jacqueline Woodson’s Show Way came to beating out Criss Cross for the Newbery. Did the committee talk about Julius Lester’s amazing Day of Tears? Why there were only two honors in 1964? What other books were considered 25 or 50 years ago?
So what about those who made comments expecting them to remain confidential? Is there a time limit on how long that potential embarrassment should seal the work of a committee?
I suggest that ALSC begin collecting releases from former committee members like me who wish to share their experiences. There must also be a way to protect the privacy of those who don’t share my blabbermouth tendencies. Certainly, the historical value of such information is enough to begin planning for a day in which committees are elected with the full knowledge that after ten years (or more), their nominations, vote totals, and other deliberations will serve the next generation of committee members and literature scholars.
A good compromise could be to begin a new policy for future committees and decide on a time limit that would allow others to share experiences. I could easily speak of contending books without violating anyone’s privacy. These conversations could potentially renew interest and sales of books that didn’t make the final cut. I am very proud of the books our 2009 committee selected. This consensus-driven process works quite well. However, future committee members, children’s literature scholars, and others would benefit from learning about the entire process. I want to blab!
Ed Spicer (@spicyreads) is an educator whose students have ranged from graduate students to kindergarteners. He will retire from teaching first grade in the summer of 2016 and hopes to publish his own writing. Spicer has served on the Caldecott, Printz, and many other ALA awards committees. He is a Cool Teacher winner in Michigan. Spicer has also published curriculum guides for Penguin, Random House, Houghton Mifflin, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and Eerdmans. Friend him on Facebook (spicyreads) and visit his website (currently under construction), www.spicyreads.org.
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