*This article was recently published in the Granite Bay View
By Susan Belknap
Not too many people can say they’ve read 800 books in one year, but for Tony Carmack, reading so much is all in a day’s work. Carmack is the branch manager of the Granite Bay Library and while reading is a part of his job at the library, this past year as a member of the committee that selects the Newbery Medal book for 2017, he read so many books in order to determine which children’s book he thought was the best of the year.
The Newbery Medal, it is a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children to the author who has made “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” The award was named for John Newbery who was an 18th-century English publisher of juvenile books. The Newbery and the Caldecott Medal, which is an honor awarded to picture books, are considered to be the two most prestigious awards for children’s literature in the United States.
With such a full reading schedule we were lucky to catch him without his face in a book for a few moments to find out more!
GB VIEW: What a great honor to be able to decide which children’s book will be awarded the Newbery Medal. How were you selected to be on the committee?
CARMACK: I was chosen to be one of the 15 committee members by a vote from my peers, those who are members of the Association of Library Services for Children, the ALSC, which has about 3,000 members throughout the United States. We were each asked to nominate seven children’s books that were published in 2016 that we felt were the best. With each nomination we had to submit a justification for the books to be a medal winner and some distinguishing features of the books.
GB VIEW: We heard this isn’t the first time you’ve been voted to select a good children’s book.
CARMACK: Yes, I was also a member of the 2012 committee to determine the Caldecott award for the best picture book for children.
GB VIEW: You must really enjoy reading. Was it difficult to read 800 books in one year?
CARMACK: It was a lot of reading, but I really enjoy reading children’s books as they can do anything an adult book can do but with fewer words. Books can help us all grow emotionally and take you places you might never go. They can even change your life. It’s kind of funny but as a child I was never much of a reader. It wasn’t until I was much older and I majored in English where so much reading was required that I began to appreciate and enjoy reading.
GBVIEW: Did you receive any feedback from your library patrons about good books from 2016 and what was your favorite?
CARMACK: Because I’m on the Newbery Committee I can’t tell you my favorites or even the books I nominated. But I really enjoyed last year’s Newbery winner, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña. It is a powerful intergenerational book that masterfully uses few words to tell a salient message about diversity, beauty and gratitude. I’m also always interested to know what the children think of new books. One patron, Parker Fellows, even did video book reviews for me! Parker said two of his favorite books were Ollie’s Adventure and Wild Robot with Ollie’s Adventure his favorite because according to Parker, “the story plot was so in depth and it had an aspect of eeriness you could never duplicate. How the story folded together and played out was awe-inspiring and jaw dropping.”
GB VIEW: Are there any changes you’ve witnessed during your career as a librarian these past several years and what is popular with your Granite Bay patrons?
CARMACK: The biggest shift in libraries hasn’t been the wax or wane of membership but the way in which libraries are perceived and used. Whereas once libraries were the repository of knowledge (mostly in the forms of books), libraries today are community centers, maker spaces and a source for digital content. Heightened awareness of early language development and literacy has had an explosion of participation in emergent literacy programming. The most well-attended programs at the Granite Bay Library are the Mother Goose on the Loose classes, which are geared for those under 2.
Note to readers: Carmack and the other members of the Newbery committee convened in Atlanta on Jan. 18 to discuss and vote on the winner for the year. The 2017 Newbery Medal was announced on Jan. 23, which was after Granite Bay View deadlines. Check www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/newberymedal/newberymedal or www.ilovelibraries.org/booklovers/youth-media-awards to find out if your child’s favorite book won!