>I agree with everybody

>Pirate Pete asked my thoughts on the Almagor/Flake debate. I was unable to post while it was at its height and did not want to stomp in at the end, but I felt like they were both right, a situation made possible because they weren’t talking about the same thing.

It’s the same dilemma we see presented by the Coretta Scott King Awards. Why is there not more overlap between the CSK Awards and the Newbery and Caldecott? While some have speculated, evidence be damned, that the Newbery and Caldecott committees sometimes pass over books by African Americans because they figure the CSK committee will fill in the blanks, I think it is because the committees have radically different criteria for their choices.

Where the terms for both the Newbery and Caldecott specifically say that those awards “[are] not for didactic intent,” here is the CSK explicitly endorsing didacticism: “Given to African American authors and illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions, the Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society.”

The current dominant mode of children’s-book evaluation at least nominally disdains “didacticism,” by which it means preachiness or sermonizing. But the provision of explicitly uplifting messages (and, in picture books, the explicitly sermon-structured text) is a prevailing, if by no means absolute, characteristic of contemporary African American literature for young people. Whether this is because of the CSK criteria or whether the criteria and the literature spring from the same aesthetic, I don’t know, but I think that the arguments on the Debating Black Books thread demonstrated more than anything an underlying disagreement of terms.

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

Comments

  1. >I've followed the entire Almagor-Flake conversation with great interest; i didn't realize til i clicked through that almagor had responded. I get the feeling that a lot of people haven't seen it, are you gonna post that separately?

    Thanks for the wonderfully instructive stuff.

  2. Christine says:

    >"…..Given to African American authors and illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions, the Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society."

    And isn't that the rub? That publishers, feeling there is little market for a black interest book, tend to acquire and saturate the market with those books written by African Americans that fit the CSK criterian?

    If the above statement is true, then why aren't books written by ethnic authors about any multiculturalism considered. Why narrowly define the goal as African Americans who write ONLY about African Americans if the goal is to promote iunderstanding of all cultures.

    In the CSK, Martin Luther King's "dream" is sorely lacking in execution.

    There is another "elephant" in the room. Do the books get the same editorial support and stand up to the same literary quality as the Newbery, Caldecott and Prinz awards.

    If they aren't even on the radar during the nominations process, and publishers almost always provides the books with next to no marketing support is lack of longevity a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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