Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Only 30 Titles left...time to speculate

Way too much college basketball to be watched to do a full stats post tonight. I plan on doing a good long post when we know titles 100-21. Instead I thought I would open up the comments to predictions and pontifications.
For the last few weeks I've been making list after list trying to narrow down the titles that will most likely show up in the top 25. In this post I will share my list and my reasoning. Please question my thinking, point out my omissions, berate my candor or share your own guesses below.

When I first emailed fuse #8 my top ten (see side panel) I included my initial guesses for the top ten (immediately after sending it I realized that I had left off one shoo-in title) here is exactly what I sent as my initial speculative top ten (not in any order):
"Westing Game, Charlotte's Web, Mixed up Files..., Dark is Rising, Bridge to Terabithia, Holes, Wrinkle in Time, Tuck Everlasting, Island of the Blue Dolphin (yuck), and Witch of Blackbird Pond (double yuck)".

So yeah I left off Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I wish I could say that I speculated that the voters would split all the HP votes and none would make the top ten, but really I just forgot it.
It certainly appears that voters in most cases are going with the first of the series so HP#1 is top ten bound for sure.

I was happy to see Island of the Blue Dolphin appear relatively early at #50 and The Witch of Blackbird Pond come in at #41. These two titles are up there with my least favorite Newbery titles and I have never understood their appeal. Sign of the Beaver on the other hand just missed my personal top ten. I still can't believe that the Speare, the author of one of my favorite novels also wrote Bronze Bow (my least favorite medal winner) and Witch of Blackbird Pond (bottom ten as well). Proof again that authors get better with age, Speare was 75 when Sign of the Beaver was published! As for Island of the Blue Dolphin, I would just much rather read My Side of the Mountain/Hatchet followed by Hesse's too often ignored masterpiece The Music of Dolphins.

So two titles from my first speculative top 10 having already made appearances much higher than I guessed, now I can make some new predictions based on intuition and some trends we've seen in the 70 titles that have already appeared.

As stated above I think Sorcerer's Stone is in for sure. I also think Harriet the Spy will make it into the top ten. Here's why: while the 1990s are still leading the way with 14 titles on the list so far, the 1960s with only 8 titles is leading in first place votes (15). The 1990s even with six more titles only has 12 first place votes (as does the 2000s). So while lots of recent titles are making the list, the first place votes are skewing towards what I assume were the childhood favorite of the voters. Expect to see Harriet the Spy, A Wrinkle in Time and From the Mixed Up Files... garner lots of 1st place votes and make the top ten.

While we are on the childhood favorites, I don't think any explanation for Charlotte's Web making the top ten is necessary. It's the closest thing to a Where the Wild Things Are (huge consensus, few if any detractors) chapter book. I don't expect C-Webb to get the landslide victory Wild Things received last year, but its a sure bet for the top 3, if not the top spot.

Alright so for the new speculative top ten we have: Charlotte's Web, Harriet the Spy, Wrinkle in Time, From the Mixed Up Files..., and Sorcerer's Stone. Five down, five to go.

Anita Silvey's article from last winter (which i don't really agree with but does speak to the consensus tastes of book consumers) mentions two of the 1990s Newbery winners as worthy (as she sees it) of the award: Holes and The Giver. These two titles are read in classrooms all over the country every year and its must be because they are loved by the teachers assigning them. If a handful of said teachers are voting in this poll I would bet both titles make the top ten. Lowry's Number of Stars came in at #56 and Sachar's Sideways Stories appeared at #91. (just finished reading Sideways Stories to my 2nd graders last week, I hope to post about that experience at some point).

The 1970s had 3 titles between #100-45 (5% of the titles), in the last 14 titles announced (44-31) 4 1970s titles have emerged. That's 29% of the last 14 titles coming from the 1970s compared to just 5% of the first 56 titles coming from the 1970s. Early on I had a hunch that the 1970s would come on strong in the homestretch and now it appears they will. So with this in mind I don't think I am going out onto too much of a limb to wager that both The Westing Game and Bridge to Terabithia should find their way into the top 10. Both books are classics beyond compare. Our new Ambassador's Great Gilly Hopkins made it to #55 on the poll and I don't expect Terabithia to suffer too much Paterson vote splitting. Westing Game isn't likely to suffer any vote splitting, as much fun as Figgs & Phantoms, Leon (I Mean Noel) and Tattooed Potato are, I expect Raskin lovers to be strategic enough to vote for Westing Game over her other works to ensure her rightful place near the very top of the children's literature pantheon.

Let's recap again: Charlotte's Web, Harriet the Spy, Wrinkle in Time, From the Mixed Up Files..., Sorcerer's Stone, The Giver, Holes, Bridge to Terabithia, and The Westing Game.

One more title makes ten.
I don't think enough guys voted to get place Dark is Rising into the top ten (it just not Jonathan Hunt's year is it? first Claudette Colvin has to settle for an Honor and now Dark is Rising is left out of the top ten, in this case however I share his pain). I thought Charlie and the Chocolate Factory might be top ten material but with James and the Giant Peach appearing today at 33 I now think Charlie will be showing up sooner rather than later, vote splitting was inevitable with Dahl (looks like my favorite, Matilda won't even make the top 100).
Tuck Everlasting has its fans (lots of them), but it also has its detractors, top ten books need not only lots of 1st and 2nd place votes, but also a bunch of 8th and 9th place votes given by voters who feel it's their responsibility to include not only personal favorites but the canonical/significant titles they like and appreciate but don't love [see Millions of Cats in last year's picture book poll]. I see Tuck getting lots of love but I don't see its detractors giving it any "I don't LOVE it but I know it's great votes".

So will an ├╝ber-classics (pre 1920s titles) make the top ten? I guess Alice in Wonderland has the best shot, but my gut tells me Alice, along with Anne and Jo will get lots of votes (likely of the low point variety), but not enough to make the top 10.

So far series books make up 61% of the top 100 (note: I don't consider Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH as part of a series b/c O'Brien did not write the sequels). Of the 9 titles in the speculative list so far 3 books are part of proper series and two others (Holes and Harriet) have sequels of sorts (secondary characters in a shared universe). If the top ten follows what we've already seen I would guess that the final book in the speculative top ten will be a series book.

Looking again at the 9 titles above, seven have female authors. 63% of the authors of titles 100-31 are female but this number has been trending downward recently. I would expect another male author to fill the final spot in the top ten.

Additionally, only one of these titles was published outside of the United States. Whereas almost 25% of the titles revealed so far a were published outside of the United States. Conclusion: our top ten needs another international title, most likely British.

So to recap: we need a series book, written by a male, originally published in the United Kingdom. Have you figured it out yet?

The last final title will undoubtedly be C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Making my guesses for the top ten novels: (in no particular order)
Charlotte's Web
Harriet the Spy
A Wrinkle in Time
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Giver
Bridge to Terabithia
The Westing Game
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

I am certainly wrong about at least a couple of these picks (for one they are way too newbery heavy), I can't wait to see which ones.

The next 20? Below is the list of potentials I'm working from, what should I have omitted, what did I forget?

Maniac Magee
Tuck Everlasting
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Anne of Green Gables
Little Princess
Alice in Wonderland
Little Women
Dark is Rising
Because of Winn-Dixie
Phantom Tollbooth
Stuart Little
The Hobbit
Little Prince
Secret Garden
Little House in the Big Woods
Tale of Despereaux
Voyages of Doctor Doolittle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (my favorite HP but isn't this too YA)

So yeah I don't think HP #6 will make the top 100. Also my ignorance of all things Little House (haven't read any) prevents me from speculating on which other titles might make the list will voters but the give votes to Big Woods b/c its the first of the series or is there a later title fans consider the best?

Sad thoughts: Steig won't have a book in the top 100, either will Daniel Manus Pinkwater, John Bellairs, Jack Gantos or E. Nesbit.

Now please tell me how wrong I am, what I left out, or which authors or titles you are mourning.

Also if you are planning on submitting a Battle of the Books Bracket (and why wouldn't you be?) be sure to do so by Sunday night as I will close the bracket form Sunday (3/14) around 11:00 pm EST as winner of the first match will be announced Monday. Click here to fill out bracket the form with your picks.


Anonymous said...

Matilda was my Dahl vote, too! Yeah, as soon as I saw James make it, I knew it was out of the running...

I would be thrilled to see A Wrinkle In Time (my personal #1) make the top ten, but I find myself defending it to detractors too much to be TOO sure.

My Boaz's Ruth said...

I think you are wrong about Anne of Green Gables. From what I am reading around, I believe Anne of Green Gables is a shoe-in for top 10.

I do believe Charlotte's Web is going to be top 3 (though I don't personally like it that much). But its too much recommended as a very early "read to your child" book.

I would drop Harriet the Spy into top 20. And probably Westing Game too. Maybe Mixed Up Files... I LOVE that book but I'm surprised to have not seen it yet. Didn't realize it was THAT popular.

Alice in Wonderland, Little Princess and Dark is Rising appeared today (#30-26)

I voted for Little House in the Big Woods, but I almost think now we won't see it. Most people voted for "Little House on the Prairie" instead (perhaps because of the TV show? That was what I almost put down until I went and checked what the first in series was)

I am glad to see Lion Witch and Wardrobe on your book and I'm surprised to see you needing so much thinking about it! I would not be surprised to see this in top 3 either.

Z said...

"Sad thoughts: Steig won't have a book in the top 100, either will Daniel Manus Pinkwater, John Bellairs, Jack Gantos or E. Nesbit."

Especially Steig, Pinkwater and Gantos, but at least I understand Gantos---the one he'll forever be remembered for (HOLE IN MY LIFE) is his most amazingly outstandingly Gantos-ish book, but it's pretty adult...

Kate Coombs said...

I agree with most of your reasoning, but I'm betting Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be not only a Top 10 title, but might just be #2 to Charlotte's Web #1. The title I'd bump from your list is The Westing Game, much as I like it personally. And Mixed-Up Files, which I'd put a little farther down the list. Maybe replace that with a big classic like The Secret Garden.

Lenore said...

Holes and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe were pretty high in my top 10!

DaNae said...

I had Peter Pan, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Tom Sawyer and The Boxcar Children. In the “I'm not sure because they are not my kind of books, and I don't know how rabid their fan base is,” category are: Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, and Matilda.

Anne needs to be moved to the top ten, you can move The Giver down.

I also had The Little Prince, but would be more than happy to see it not make the cut.

Eric Carpenter said...

So i didn't have Winnie-the-Pooh on my list but in my defense it isn't really a novel. Collection of short stories about the same characters would be a more apt description no?

Lots of vocal Anne of Green Gables fans. Guess I need to add it to my summer reading list (along with the whole little house series and both Burnetts) how many very old girly books can I read in one summer? Will any of them challenge Ruth Sawyer's Roller Skates as the best of my least favorite genre?

Still think Charlie will suffer from too much Dahl vote splitting for Charlie to make the top 10, how many voters put two Dahls in their own top 10? I think that will determine Charlie's final placement.

Matt W. said...

Dang man, that is some serious thought processage. Nicely done.

My Boaz's Ruth said...

You might not like it. I had a conversation with my husband this morning in which I found out he did try to get into Anne of Green Gables and just couldn't. He says its a girl book.

ca said...

On my top 10: Wrinkle in Time for sure, Secret Garden, Lion Witch and Wardrobe, Bridge to Terabithia. I was hoping Dark is Rising (possibly my favorite children's book ever) would show up in the top 10, but I guess not.

I love Sign of the Beaver very very much too! I think Witch of Blackbird Pond was probably a better book but Beaver is my personal favorite.

Harriet the Spy, Westing Game, Charlotte's Web, Mixed-up Files, and Harry Potter I agree have a very good chance of making it though they aren't on my personal list. I hope The Giver doesn't make it; I didn't like that book at all. But I guess that's just me.