But, on the day that Kira-Kira was announced as the winner of the Newbery Award, I was totally annoyed. Not only had I not read the book but I'd never even HEARD of it. I could not figure out what the committee had been thinking... I had spent my whole year reading great children's literature and making predictions about what might win. I understood that my pick probably wouldn't win, but to have a book win that I'd never heard of was quite heartbreaking.
As a dutiful 5th grade teacher, I bought a copy of the book (hard to find since no one seemed to have it on their radar) and read it in a sitting or two. I read it quickly so I could bring it into my classroom. It was okay. I enjoyed it okay. I didn't love it and I certainly did not think it deserved to win the Newbery.
The next Monday, I brought it into class. I did a semi-pathetic book talk and said to my class, "This is the book that won this year's Newbery. I read it this weekend. It was good. I didn't think it was great but it was good. I am not sure why it won the Newbery, but it did. If you want to read it, here it is." (maybe not that pathetic, but close!). Well, one of my avid readers, Katie, jumped on it. She said she wanted to read it and off she went.
About 3 days later, Katie requested a conference with me. She came to the table with my copy of Kira-Kira filled with sticky notes. She said, "Mrs. Sibberson, I think you need to read this book again. You said you didn't think it was that great but I started marking these amazing lines in the text and look at how many there are! I think you must have really missed a lot of this book because it DEFINITELY deserved to win the Newbery."
I have since reread Kira Kira (as did many other students in that 5th grade class) and it is one brilliant book. It is a book that has stayed with me for years and years and years. I am now a huge fan of the author and am dismayed with myself for not being open to the book during my first read. Instead of being annoyed at it winning, I should have been thrilled at the chance to discover a new book that I had not known about before the award announcement. And I have Katie to thank for helping me see what I could not see on my own.
So, every year at this time, especially on this day, I thank Katie for everything she taught me that day. She taught me about books and awards and about being a reader. It is on the eve of the ALA announcements, when I am wishing, wishing, wishing for my favorite books to win awards, that I try to remember to be open-minded and to celebrate the winner--no matter what happens. I remember that I may have missed lots in a book that others could see so clearly. I remember that there are so many good books and I love the journey of discovering them far more than I love award day. And I remember that no matter which book wins, this is another great opportunity to have amazing conversations with fellow readers.
Thank you, Katie and Happy Newbery Eve, Everybody!
(And to help you understand tomorrow's decision a bit better, don't miss Monica Edinger's post at Nerdy Book Club, Top Ten Things You May Not Know About the Newbery Award.