MARQUETTE – Northern Michigan University education professor Sandra Imdieke has been appointed to the Newbery Award Selection Committee, which is charged with identifying authors of the most distinguished American children’s books published in 2005. The appointment fulfills a goal she has had since becoming involved in children’s literature. It is also an impressive complement to her previous service on the Caldecott Medal Selection Committee, which honors the top illustrators in the genre.
“It’s rewarding to know that I can play a role in making a permanent contribution to the field,” Imdieke said. “There is also a tremendous sense of responsibility because once books are selected for the Newbery Award, they carry that distinction forever, and they will be researched by doctoral students for years to come.”
During her term on the committee, Imdieke will receive 200-400 children’s books from publishers vying for consideration. In identifying “distinguished writing,” committee members will consider interpretation of the theme; presentation elements such as accuracy, clarity and organization; plot development; delineation of characters and setting; and appropriateness of style.
“The key for us is to consider the target audience, which is defined as children up to 14,” Imdieke added. “It’s difficult with that wide of an age range, but we are charged with selecting books that actually motivate and appeal to children, not books we think they should like. Committee members gather information in different ways. For the Caldecott, I asked teachers in one of my classes to share some books with their students and let me know what kind of input they received.”
Imdieke is one of 15 Newbery Award Selection Committee members nationwide who will serve a one-year term, beginning in January. When her task is completed, she plans to donate the books she reviews to the juvenile collection at NMU’s Olson Library.
“From a teacher education perspective, this process will benefit me professionally, giving me new insights and an understanding of where the field is moving. I will be able to share that with my students.”
Imdieke said a trend in children’s literature is the multi-genre format, in which the narrative is interspersed with other elements ranging from diary entries to e-mails to snippets of newspaper articles. She said graphic novels, bearing a resemblance to comic books, are increasingly popular, as are fantasies, fueled mainly by the popularity of the Harry Potter series. There are also more diverse perspectives represented. A critically acclaimed example is Bud, Not Buddy, published in 1999. Author Christopher Paul Curtis' tale of a 10-year-old African-American orphan in Depression-era Michigan received both the Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Medal.
The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association.