02 November 2006

Cybil Awards, or How I'll Spend My M. L. King Day Vacation

This posting is a little late, and not just because I'm postdating it from Friday. A few weeks ago a buncha Children's and YA Book Bloggers decided to launch a literary award for favorite books of 2006. In a vaguely acronymic way, the awards are called the Cybils. And I agreed to serve as one judge in the category of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

All readers are invited to go to the Cybils Award site to nominate one book or fewer in each of the categories: Picture Book Fiction, Picture Book Nonfiction, Middle Grade Fiction, etc., etc.

The Cybils are in many ways a response to the Quills, the new Bowker-owned awards that are a sort of "People's Choice" for literature. Those awards are an industry joke and will continue to be until they somehow turn out to drive sales--which will be impossible to tell since they go to books that are already bestsellers.

Ever since literature lost its perch stop public entertainment (if indeed it ever was there), it's disdained popularity as the measure of quality. We use the Latinate "literature" instead of the Germanic "book," after all. Literary awards have always been about getting above the din of popular taste. That's why it's so hard for the judges when a popular book is also a Very Good Book; award-givers don't think they're doing their job if they can't tell the public that no, really, they should be directing their attention over here. But all that is speculation; the Cybils are the first award I've helped to judge outside of Oz Club conventions.

Unlike Ms. Bird at Fuse #8, who's going to be on the Newbery Committee, I'm not removing any reviews or comments about recent books posted here to avoid "even the appearance of partiality," as the politicos say. I tend to be catching up on books published ten or 110 years ago. So I fully expect the five nominated titles to all be on either my "I really should read that someday" list or my "I never heard of that" list, and I'll spend January gulping them down.

In other bloggerdom news, the Eighth Carnival of Children's Literature is up at Scholar's Blog. As you'll see, I've finally mastered the process of submitting entries.

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