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Responses to January 1996 editorial

The letters below were all in response to the January/February 1996 editorial by Martha V. Parravano and Lauren Adams, “A Wider Vision for the Newbery.”

I just read the editorial in the January/February issue of the Horn Book. Right on! I did not realize that a Newbery Medal had not been awarded to a non-white author for nearly twenty years, and therefore you were right and bold to call attention to the omission of some fine writers from this prestigious award.

If we are to achieve the diverse, pluralistic society that is necessary for our survival, it will only be because people recognize its importance. Diverse membership on the Newbery awards committee would heighten insights into literature from parallel cultures. There is definitely a need to reflect this notion when considering nominations for the committee. Your thoughtful editorial needs careful reflection.

Lois F. Anderson
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

As a subscriber to Horn Book for over twenty-five years, I have truly exulted in the high quality of the Magazine and constantly cited it as an example of sustained high standards. However, the January /February editorial, “A Wider Vision for the Newbery,” seems to me an appalling piece of “politically correct” nonsense, and I am very troubled by its implication for the future of the Magazine. Such a serious implied charge of prejudice on the part of the prize committee demands more substantiation than is given. Surely the issue in the awarding of the prize must be literary quality and not ethnic diversity. That such a treasured and respected magazine of children’s literature as the Horn Book suggests there is a bias toward white middle class middle-grade works is a criticism of the selection committee that I find totally unwarranted on the basis of the lack of evidence in the editorial. To narrow the world of fiction by prescribing the color of authors or characters is intolerable, and I find your editorial endorsement of that kind of narrowness unacceptable.

B. Gabel
New York, New York

Concerning the ever-so-politically-correct editorial musings of Senior Editors Parravano and Adams: Nonsense. At such a time that the criteria for Newbery and Caldecott Awards are changed to specify political correctness rather than the current guidelines, the arrogant suggestion of the Horn Book’s senior editors may be in order. For the moment, though, the awards are merely a group’s opinion on what is currently thought to be “the most distinguished contribution” without over-burdening the selection with too many cultural underpinnings. And why, pray tell, were only books of Latino and African-American cultures offered by the senior editor? Surely other cultures by authors with different backgrounds have also been represented in 1995. No? What books would you have substituted for the medalists over the last decade? Specifics, please.

I, of course, shall demand that books set in Friuli in northeastern Italy be considered before all others. Fair?

Ruth I. Gordon
Cloverdale, California

Your recent editorial advances the notion that the Newbery judges ought to factor in race when making their selections. This is an absurdity.

It’s equally dangerous to attempt to lead the committee by the nose in making its selection. You might easily have cost Karen Cushman this year’s Newbery. The judges, characteristically independent minded, could hardly have welcomed the Horn Book’s attempt to counsel them on how to vote, in a magazine issue timed just before the mid-winter conference.

Sid Fleischman
Santa Monica, California

Editors’ reply:

We would like to assure Mr. Fleischman that as editors of a review journal we do not presume to have the power to influence the Newbery committee or any other award committee. We recognize that after a year’s worth of consideration and discussion, the Newbery committee will make its own informed decisions. Our January/February editorial was intended to remind all of our readers of “the extraordinary richness and scope of children’s books” and “to look to the whole body of children’s literature for the year’s best.” We are in agreement with reader B. Gabel in that we, too, find any kind of narrowness unacceptable, and we prescribe instead “a wider vision,” as the editorial’s title indicates.


From the March/April 1996 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.

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