Tuesday, January 06, 2009

All's Well That Ends Well

I know I've mentioned it a few times, but I absolutely love serving on a Cybils Committee and I know a few of you are curious about the whole process so here's my update.  After some reshuffling to get a few books into the categories where they properly belonged, we ended up with a total list of 186 books in the fiction picture book category (most of our additions came from books nominated for the non-fiction category that didn't actually belong in the non-fiction category).  Of those 186 books, I read 159 and my committee members all did about the same.  I would have loved to read all of them, but there were several independent or self-published titles that could not be located. Believe me, we made valiant efforts to find each and everyone that we could.  We searched our libraries and local bookshops, where I'm sure we became familiar faces. Sheila from Wands and Worlds did a fantastic job contacting publishers and self-published authors for review copies and maintaining the database so we could see what was coming and what others on the committee were able to read or found.  
My book shelf of Cybils review copies ended up looking like this (minus a few that might have been on my desk at the moment).  That's over a 100 titles there!  Thanks to the publishers who sent review copies because it made discussions a lot easier when we could pull a copy off the shelf and refresh our minds.  I also kept a large stack of all the library copies I could get my hands on so I had direct access to most of the books during discussion.

As we read the books, there was a space in the database for each judge to leave a comment and mark whether or not they wanted the book on their shortlist of books they considered top contenders.  We all ended up with about 18 titles on our shortlists and it was clear that we were not all in agreement because the compiled list of all our shortlists was anything but short.  The week before our final discussion, Mother Reader asked everyone to narrow down their shortlist to 12 books.  Her judging criteria that directed the discussion covered five things: Story, Illustration, Kid-Appeal, Parent-Appeal, That Something Special that makes it Unforgettable.

The final discussion took place in a group forum over IM.  I think each committee does this differently, as my first time serving the discussion took place via voting over email for a few weeks.  Before discussion even started, we could see from the database that there were two books that everyone shortlisted so there automatically became finalists.  Oh, I wish that I could tell you what those two titles are, but we don't want to influence the judges trying to select the winner for our category!  You may think it wouldn't matter, but I think it would.  When I served on the middle grade fiction committee, we had an easy time agreeing on the first four finalists but really struggled to come up with a fifth title so we were all surprised when the fifth title was the book that won!

Once we were all in agreement on the first to books, we started down the shortlists starting with those most of us had listed and working our way down to those the least had shortlisted.  We went through one title at a time and everyone had a chance to make their case for why a book should or should not make the list.  We'd go through the criteria and argue that one book was excellent, but in all honesty would not appeal to a kid which was why the Cybils started; another had huge kid appeal, but wasn't what we'd called a literary achievement and we were trying to pick books that had both, etc.  We also tried to include some diversity in culture, style, and reading level.  As you might guess, there was a lot of disagreement, but it was great to get five very different perspectives. 

A few short hours later, we were all relatively happy with the list.  Were we all in agreement on every single book that made the list?  No way, I'd be worried if we were. In the end, each of us had some favorites that we fought for that did not make the list (ahem, Patrick the Somnambulist, Little Hoot, and Dinosaur vs Bedtime, I promise, I did try!) and each of us did not absolutely love a book or two that made the final list (and again I can't tell you mine, but I wish that I could), but there were no books on that list that anyone strongly objected to and each judge had several books that they loved make it on the final list.  I'm glad to say that as discussion ended, each judge seemed happy and approving of the final list. I hope that the rest of you pick them up and enjoy them too!

Now I just have to sit on my hands and wait with the rest of you to the winner to be announced on Valentine's Day

7 comments:

Lindsay said...

Thank you--I have indeed wondered. I am happy to know about these cybils and the judging criteria sounds excellent. Can't wait!

Katie said...

So, I was just perusing your really cool blog about Children's Literature and thinking "This gal has great taste!" Scrolling through old posts I realized, "Holy Cow! That's Stephanie. No wonder I like her taste." So much fun to run into you in the blog-o-sphere.

Hollywood

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Terry said...

What a great recap of the process. I wondered how y'all made it through so many books ... we had around a dozen for Easy Readers and even some of those weren't easy to locae.

Scope Notes said...

Is it okay that I am already feeling nostalgic for Cybils judging? Great recap.

Charlotte said...

I was a panelist for sci fi/fantasy...I miss it! It takes up so much of ones life, and one gets to know such great people, and then...it's over. Thanks for bringing the memories back!

Jake said...

My family started using Readeo.com
Its nice because my kids can read bed-time stories with their grandpa who lives 5 states away! My dad isnt very techy, but he finds it easy to use and very enjoyable. Its like skyping and children's eBooks rolled into one.