We've got two more blurbs for you, our inquiringly-minded readers, giving you a sneak peek at what it was like for our Round I judges to narrow down such a fantastic (and, in some cases, fantastically huge) field of nominations. Today, check out the story being Fantasy and Science Fiction and Fiction Picture Books.
Sheila Ruth, Fantasy and Science Fiction: The popularity of fantasy and science fiction continues to grow; this year we had 98 eligible nominees in the elementary/middle level, and 134 in the teen level. For the first time, we had so many nominees that we had to create two SFF panels: one for the middle-grade books and one for the teen books.
Paranormal books continued to dominate the YA group, with many stories about vampires, werewolves, zombies, and ghosts. Fairies were also popular in both age groups, and angels emerged as an up and coming interest. The panelists were sad at the dearth of real science fiction; we had a few good science fiction books nominated, but not many. It was also a strong year for short fiction, with The Serial Garden and Lips Touch earning spots on the shortlists, and several other excellent anthologies on the longlist, some of which were serious candidates.
Defining the boundaries of SFF was an interesting challenge, and both panelists and organizers had some interesting discussions about which books should be in the SFF category and which ones belonged in the regular Middle-Grade or YA fiction categories. In one example, YA organizer Jackie Parker and I discussed two books about girls in comas, and decided to place one in SFF and the other in YA fiction based on differences in how each story was handled.
Pam Coughlan, Fiction Picture Books: It may seem that the judging in the Fiction Picture Book category is easy because the books are - no getting around this - short. But what we don't have in length is made up in volume, with 175 nominations in this category for 2009. To make sure that we read this many books, our first-round judges hit the libraries, walking out balancing stacks of nominated books. Our judges have been known to sit in the aisles of bookstores, reading elusive titles.
As we made our way through the nominations, we faced the real challenge of narrowing down this amazing wealth of stories to a personal top fifteen. This year that approach didn't narrow the field enough, so we each submitted a Fight for Five list, with reasons to include our top choices. Our final discussion took place with these lists as context, putting in with relative ease the books that found a certain consensus and arguing the merits of one title over another for many others. The goal was to bring a list that showed not just the best picture books, but also a shortlist that represented the diversity of genre, style, culture, and audience that falls under the broad umbrella of picture books. So much for an easy gig.