Subscribe to The Horn Book

Moving moments No. 2

TernRockCindy found this one, The Light at Tern Rock by Julia Sauer, a Newbery Honor Book in 1952–and originally published in the Horn Book Magazine in 1949. This would seem to break the award’s rule about “original work,” that the “text is presented here for the first time and has not been previously published elsewhere in this or any other form.” But maybe the rule was different then? Or perhaps here as so often, he says, drawing his emeralds warmly about him*, the Horn Book was above any such petty restrictions as criteria.

K.T. Horning, do you know?

*Dorothy Parker.

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.



  1. KT Horning says:

    There were always terms and criteria, but they weren’t spelled out to the extent they are now. The ALSC Board has always been charged with setting the terms and criteria, and back then, the ALSC president, past president, and president-elect all served on the Newbery Caldecott Committee (along with the chairs of the other committees, a few appointees from the school library group, and four members at large). The president-elect served as the N/C chair, and then remained on the committee for two more years, lending both continuity and institutional knowledge. This arrangement would have made it possible for them to make judgment calls and set the terms as they went along. If there were any questions of eligibility that came up that they felt they couldn’t deal with, they were referred to Frederic Melcher, who had the last word. Mostly Melcher trusted the librarians to figure it out and do what they thought was best. and they did. An example of the type of question that was referred to Mr. Melcher was back in the 1930s when the Newbery committee felt shorter illustrated books were getting overlooked, and they wondered if there would be some way to acknowledge the art. That was what led to the creation of the Caldecott Award.

    Once the ALSC Executive Committee no longer served on the N/C committee, the terms and criteria had to be codified and spelled out, especially since the proceeding were secret and committee members only served one year. The lengthy manual we have today is based on years of the sorts of eligibility questions that come up, sometimes new, but usually of the “something similar happened five years ago and here’s what was decided then.” Prior to that there was a “secret notebook” that passed from chair to chair, filled with examples of eligibility questions.

    While it would be unrealistic for the ALSC Executive Committee to serve on the award committees today, I think there were a lot of advantages to this arrangement. It allowed for more flexibility and change. The terms and criteria haven’t changed much since 1980, when the Newbery and Caldecott Committees became separate committees.

    One more thing the amazing early Newbery/Caldecott Committees did: they also selected the Notable books, back then called “Books of Distinction.” And they did it all by mail. There were no committee meetings in the early years. Today ALSC would call that a virtual committee.

  2. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Thanks KT! Shades of Harriet the Spy (about whom KT has a terrific article coming up in the May HB)–any trace of that secret notebook today?

  3. Sam Bloom says:

    Wow: in reference to the Executive Committee on Newb/Cald; the fact that the Newb/Cald committees were combined (which I knew, but still…); that there was a “secret notebook”; that this supercommittee also chose Notables. Unbelievable! Makes one feel like a slacker for “only” serving on one of the committees today!

  4. KT Horning says:

    I last saw it in Jan 1996 when I turned it over at ALA Midwinter to the Newbery chair who took over from me. (Now I can’t remember who that was.) I think chairs from about 2000 on didn’t know it existed, so it must be with one of those chairs from the late 1990s.

    Susan Roman always pretended she didn’t know it existed. The notebook passed from chair to chair without any official ALSC sanction. The system actually worked quite well.

    I meant to say in my original response: the complete text of “The Dark Frigate” (Newbery 1925) had earlier been serialized in a boys’ magazine called The Open Road, edited by Charles Boardman Hawes. I have a photo of my dad’s cousin from the early 1920s reading The Open Road and I always wonder if he’s reading The Dark Frigate.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind