Newbery and notable: Investigating trends in children's literature 2000–2009




Follis, Marianne Crandall

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Given the prestige and longevity of the Newbery award winning books, they are often used as historical samples of children's literature. This use is questioned in this study since the Newbery award winning title is but one in thousands published in any given year.

This study asked: Should the Newbery award winning books be placed in a position of serving as landmarks of the past? Do they reflect what typically occurred in the time period during which they were produced? Can assumptions be made about the whole year's worth of children's literature through the examination of one book?

In order to answer these questions, a larger, yet similar sample data set was needed. The Notable Children's books list was selected due to its similarities in selection committee makeup and book selection criteria. Using the standardized Library of Congress subject headings, an open coding method, based in grounded theory, was applied, resulting in created inclusive groupings, called "supersets." Frequencies and analyses were gathered and reported for the study showing there were six years in which the Notable book list and the Newbery award winning title shared a superset heading. After examining aggregate data for the studied years, 2000-2009, five superset headings were shared by both lists: "animal (wild)," "family," "fantasy," "friends" and "traditional literature."

One of the findings this study reported was that the top ten superset headings occurring in the Notable books list accounted for not quite half, 47%, of the listings of superset headings; 1272 occurrences out of a possible 2709. Of the 88 superset headings created by the researcher, a mere ten of the 88 constituted almost half of the entries. This would seem to show a concentration in these areas of content for the Notable books list: "biography," "poetry," "animal (wild)," "traditional literature," "science," "occupation," "family," "fantasy," "books and reading," and "friends."

In conclusion it is important to note that while breaking the books down into subject headings in this study may seem to anonymize the titles or reduce them to their base elements, in this case their subject headings, each of these books is really a single drop in the sum total of children's publishing. However, the impact of the Newbery award winning titles on individual readers is what makes them truly unique.



Communication and the arts, Children's literature, Newbery Award, Notable children's books, Library science