Friday, April 6, 2012

Wisconsin Children's Book Award Committee Starts Work

This year's Wisconsin Children's Book Award Committee has started work at selecting the most distinguished book for youth, written or illustrated by an author with significant Wisconsin connections. This book will receive the Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla Award in June. The committee will also select several outstanding titles to honor.

I talked with Ruhama Kordatzky, this year's committee chair, about the process, which seems sort of mysterious if you aren't in on it.

First, the Chair compiles a list of all the books published by authors or illustrators with significant Wisconsin ties and sends it off to committee members. The committee reads like crazy, and then meets in March, April and May. The Cooperative Children's Book Center helps us out by pulling the titles on the list for us to examine at the first two meetings--it helps to be able to look at the books as we discuss them! At the first two meetings, we discuss each book and decide if it is the best of its type, as we read the gamut, from picture books to teen fiction to juvenile nonfiction! If a book doesn't seem it will be the best on this year's list, we cross it off. The last meeting is when the voting happens: we go through what's left on the list one last time, then do a vote to decide who our winner is for that year. After that, we decide on the honor books. We also pick a notable author or illustrator, based on that artist's body of work. He or she must also have significant ties to Wisconsin.

How many books were on your initial list? How many are on it now?

We started with 61 titles, and our new list for round two has 40.

Can you give me a title or two you have been really excited about? Or is that too confidential?

Well, it wouldn't be fair to say too much, but the list has a lot of great authors and illustrators on it, and we're looking forward to hashing out which one we think is best! The CCBC always has the list we start from, if you want to take a peek at what they've compiled.

Anything else you want to mention?

One thing that is sometimes hard to do is to set aside personal feelings about a book. It's nice that each book gets a chance to be defended at our meetings, thanks to such a diverse committee. Speaking of, our committee this year consists of me, as Chair, Elizabeth Timmins, Barbara Huntington, Jeni Schomber, Jennifer McNaughton, Dawn Wacek and Arin Wilken. If someone's interested in being on this committee, they need to send a note to the YSS Chair (this year, that's Sue Abrahamson), who will then give more instructions about joining.

See past winners here.
See titles selected as outstanding titles here.

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