Thursday, February 18, 2010

Notes on Novels 100-51

Wow half way done already. Since my last post 20 titles have been announced and something became clear or at least better defined. You can of course see all the titles and read all of Fuse #8's thoughts plus lots of commentary on each title at her blog here: #100 - 91, #90-86, #85-81, #80-76, #75-71, #70-66, #65-61, #60-56, #55-51.

Right to the stats!

Country of original publication has not shifted much. There are now 37 titles from the USA, 11 from the UK and 2 from other countries (Sweden and Germany) . A boring pie cart is below.

In the last post I mentioned that Magic Pudding might be the Southern Hemisphere's best shot at the top 100. Now with only 50 spots remaining, I'm thinking that shot is pretty slim. Britain and America are sure to continue to dominate, but I still think France's The Little Prince will squeeze in.

Series books now represent 64% of the books on the list. This is a slight dip from the 70% they held until the last 10 titles announced (of which only 4 of 10 were series books). * A quick note about series classification. I somewhat arbitrarily decided that for the purposes of this list a series would be defined around a character or group of characters and not a setting or theme. Therefore books like A View from Saturday and Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher were not defined as series books. In the case of the former, while the story takes place in the fictional town of Epiphany, NY there are no character overlaps with Konigsburg's other Epiphany set stories such as Silent to the Bone or The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place. For the Coville title, I decide that other than the magic shop this title has no ties to Monster's Ring or any of the subsequent books, its more of a grouping than a series. Same thing for The Ballet Shoes (which I haven't read so I could certainly be wrong) from what I ascertained from the internets, the "Shoes"books do not follow the same characters.

Will this trend continue? I doubt it there are so many series books yet to make an appearance at all such Narnia, Dark Rising, and Oz (not sure on Dark Material's eligibility, too YA?), plus we are sure to have more Potter and Little House books to come. Not to mention books with one or two sequels like Alice in Wonderland, Holes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Giver. In the end I wouldn't be surprised to see the series books land right at 70%. Splitting up the series classification into proper series and books with a single sequel might be an avenue worth pursuing, hmmm......

On the awards front, we had the shock today of a Caldecott winner making the top 100, not so surprising in hindsight though. Of the 37 eligible books 9 won the Newbery Medal and 13 won the Newbery Honor, that's 59.5% of eligible books which is a drop from the last post, where 15 of the 22 eligible titles picked up an ALA award. Lots of sure thing winners still out there but I'm not so sure they'll be enough to get above 75%. Somewhere between 65-70% seems like a reasonable spot. A better question is how many eligible (USA post 1921) books that are still to appear are not medal/honor winners. Stuart Little, Dominic (wishful thinking I know), Penderwicks, Wizard of Earthsea, Devil's Arithmetic, a non-Honor winning Wilder, an Eager title, maybe a representative from a boy's series like The Great Brain or Soup what else?

Surprisingly half way to #1 and Beverly Cleary is the only 3 book author so far has amassed 166 points and 3 first place votes I'm hoping Cleary's Newbery Medal winner still has chance. Elizabeth Enright with just 2 books has 6 first place votes also has a medal winner which hasn't appeared. Women are still dominating with 68% of the books so far. There are 16 male authored books so far from 14 different male authors. While there is certainly no chance that the guys can catch up with the lady authors the top 50 might even out slightly more with big names like: White, Tolkien, Lewis, Dodson, Lofting, Stevenson, Baum, Eager, Paulman (YA?), at least one more for Sachar and Spinelli and as many as 3 more titles from Dahl. I would also guess that Christopher Paul Curtis will make at least one appearance, and I hope he is not the only other contribution from non-caucasian authors (Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon ensure us that the top 100 won't be entirely vanilla).

At my brother's high school graduation Orson Scott Card claimed that people do their best work before the age of thirty and never top it the rest of their lives (not such a good thing to say when most of your audience is filled with parents and grandparents). The results of the poll so far do nothing to convince me of this. The average age of the authors at the time of their book's original publication is 46.4 years. Almost half, 23 titles, where published when the author was in his or her forties. The bar graph below breaks down the titles so far by author's age.

The youngest author so far is Louis Sachar who was 24 when Wayside Stories from Sideway School was published. The oldest author is Laura Ingalls Wilder who was 70 years old when On the Banks of Plum Creek was published in 1937. Any authors publish their masterpiece(s) in their late 70s or even 80s? Any author publish a potentially top 50 book before the age of 24?

In terms of titles by decade. The 1990s continues to lead the way with 10 titles. Today's addition of Wind in the Willows is the first appearance of what I consider the über-classics, that is a book published prior to The Story of Doctor Doolittle in 1920. This division while arbitrary represents the pre and post Newbery age of children's literature. Yes I know it was The Voyages of Doctor Doolitte in 1922 which won the second Newbery Medal, but it seemed strange to me to have these two books split across the divide, plus 20 is a nicer number than 22.
How many more "über-classics" will make the list? I'm thinking Alice/Looking Glass, Secret Garden, Little Princess, Little Women, Black Beauty, Rebecca of..., Anne of..., Oz, some E. Nesbit, Stevenson, and Twain all have a chance but with Grahme not cracking the top 50, I doubt all of these will appear.

Below is a bar graph showing the distribution of titles by decade.

I was very surprised by the jump in points between title #56 Number of the Stars (65 points) and title #55 The Great Gilly Hopkins (74 points). This 9 point spread represents the largest jump in points between two rankings so far. No two ranks had been separated by more than 3 points before. In last year's picture book poll, points progressed fairly linearly until the top ten when things really took off. See the graph of last year's complete results below.

As you can see the point spread in the top ten was very dramatic. With Where the Wild Things Are claiming 505 points, which was an astonishing 6% of all points cast and almost twice Goodnight Moon, the #2 ranked picture book. For this year's poll, things are again very linear but you can see below there is a slight step up between #56 and #55.

If you apply a similar curve to this data (see below) and extrapolate, the very crude model predicts the #1 picture book will receive ~275 points. Which I think is quite low.

Unfortunately, without know the total number of voters its impossible to make very accurate predictions in terms of how my votes or number of #1 votes the top book will likely receive. We can look at the votes revealed so far though. Below is a bar graph showing the distribution of revealed votes so far.

Its fun to speculate as to why fifth place votes are appearing so often yet fourth place votes so rarely. Is it that we as voters placed our more obscure or personal favorites in the 4 spot on our lists over a consensus classic we knew didn't need the extra point which we placed in fifth? I think this chart has the potential of revealing how strategic voters were with their final ballots.

Books #100 - 51 have been really exciting and my to-read pile is growing higher everyday. Very excited to see how everything develops. Again if you have any questions, want to see stat broken down please email or leave a comment and I'll try my best to make it happen.


SchrefflerFamily said...

There are TOO MANY books that still need to appear. And not enough places!

(And Powell's puts Dark Materials right where it belongs, thankfully -- Young Adult. So ineligible for this poll)

Scribbler said...

Full realized blow by blow. Awesome!

ca said...

This is very cool! (got here from the 100-children's-books link)

(by the way, I think it very probable your brother went to high school with my sister, because I remember that OS Card speech... did he graduate in 1999?)

Eric Carpenter said...

yes, he was s&m c/o 99... i was s&m class of '00. So i might know your sister too. such a small world.

Z said...

"Here is a boring pie chart..."

Hey, I *adore* a good pie chart---have you seen these couple of pies?

Gosh, math *is* fun!