And the Winner Is...

My children, grandchildren, students, friends, relatives – anyone who knows me at all will tell you that I love a good competition – and I am fond of winning. I have never “let” a child win a contest in my life, feeling that their pride will swell big time when they beat me honestly. [Just ask grandson Sam Butler who has now beat me at Scrabble or daughter Anna Lane who reminds us annually of the date she won at Trivial Pursuit.]

I don’t go quite as far as the mother who took me to look at the reading fair competition in a large cafeteria with back-to-back and side-to-side entries on every table. Her daughter won second place and her question was, “What’s wrong with my daughter’s board?” I wanted to say, “Gee, whilikers! With this many entries, why aren’t you jumping up and down for a second place win?” My father had a different attitude and was quite proud of the second place trophy in the picture. In 1981 he won it in the Choctaw County Mississippi domino tournament at an old timey county weekend festival. I, too, treasure it and keep it atop my office file.

I’m pulling for Eli Manning and the Giants to win the Super Bowl next Saturday. Quite honestly, I will be disappointed in a second place finish, but I can look at the large number of teams that didn’t get that far and know that second place isn’t a bad finish. [Feel free to remind me of this if they lose.]

This weekend I watched the US Figure Skating Finals and took pride that Army Brat Ashley Wagner took home first in the ladies’ competiton. [See my "Mardi Gras to Piper Reed" blog for the Army Brat significance.] But Alissa Czisny needn’t go home with her head down after an elegant second place program. Both advanced to the World’s Competition.

I could go on but I want to get to the competition that makes a difference for children. The American Library Association recently gave a series of awards to writers of children’s books. The most famous of these are the Newbery for outstanding contribution to children’s literature and the Caldecott for the most distinguished American picture book. I have followed a Newbery blog this year that seemed credible and did a lot of educated guessing about possible winners. Surprise! Surprise! Neither the ones they talked about, nor the one I was pulling for, was the winner. [For the complete list of winners, check the American Library Association website. You can add to your “To-Read List” as I am doing and enjoy!]

I know just a tad of how this works since one year I had a friend on the committee who asked me to read with her and pass along my opinions. [This is allowed. I just couldn’t know what the committee members were saying amongst themselves.] I read a lot of books – not nearly as many as she did – and chose my favorite. Wouldn’t you know it came in as an Honor Book? – not unlike a second place. I hold to my opinion that it was the best and will blog about it soon. It’s not the first time that I chose an Honor Book over the winner. By the time that cream gets to the top, and the committee is left with a few superb books, I would hate to be the one making that final choice. Instead, I give a big thank you to all those librarians who read carefully and discuss at length to find the very best in children’s literature. Children – and a few adults – look for those books with a gold or silver seal knowing they can trust them for a good read.

I will not mess up my blog with my other thoughts about the major networks who did not feel these book awards were worthy of mention on morning shows filled instead with celebrity marriages & divorces, recipes, weight losses or gains, the scandal of the week… You, truly, don’t want me to get started on that.