Monday, April 12, 2010

Breaking down the completed top 100

This morning Fuse#8 announced to no one's surprise that E.B. White's Charlotte's Web was indeed the #1 children's novel. With this announcement, the top 100 is finally complete. There is no longer a need to make predictions so this post will focus on breaking down the top 100 titles in a variety of ways.

When all was said and done, 73 of the titles were originally published in the United States (this includes Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which was published on this side of the Atlantic before it was published in the UK). Twenty four of the titles on the list were first published in the United Kingdom. The remaining three titles came from: Germany (Inkheart), Sweden (Pippi Longstocking) and Canada (Anne of Green Gables). These percentages where pretty steady throughout the countdown. The final top ten included 7 American titles, 2 British titles and one Canadian title.

Series books accounted for 61 of the titles in the top 100. While titles 100-61 held at a steady 70% series books. The numbers began fluctuating pretty wildly for the rest of the countdown. Interestingly enough, titles 10-1 feature 6 series books, right on the average for the whole list. The bar graph below how the series numbers fluctuated.

Throughout the countdown the 1990s and 2000s lead in number of titles. The 1990s ended up with 19 titles and the 2000s had 17 titles. The 1960s picked up steam at towards the end of the countdown end finished with 13 titles. The bar graph below shows the full distribution of titles. The right hand side of the graph shows a dirth of older titles. Only 7 titles from the decades prior to the creation of the Newbery Medal.

Which single year had the most titles? It was a tie actually. Both 1997 and 2003 had four titles in the top 100. 1997 titles are: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (#3), Out of the Dust (#76), The Thief (#83) and Ella Enchanted (#92). 2003 titles are: The Tale of Despereaux (#22), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (#38), Inkheart (#59) and The City of Ember (#77).

Number of titles however is only half the story. When we examine the distribution of points, votes and 1st place votes by decade, the 00s drops to fourth place behind 1990s, 1960s and 1950s. The chart below shows the points, votes, and 1st place votes as a percentage of all points or votes counted by decade.

(click on the graphs to see a larger/clearer copy)

While their are 6 more titles from the 2000s than the 1970s, the 1970s actually earned one more 1st place vote than the first decade of this century. Thanks to Charlotte's Web's 31 first place votes, the 1950s had one more first place vote (51) than the 1960s (50) and 1990s (50).

Another statistic which has remained pretty constant over the course of the countdown is the age of the author at time of publication. It seems as though an author's 40s really are his or her most productive years. 43% of the top 100 were published when the author was between the ages of 40-49. If we expand this range a mere two years in both directions we end up with nine more titles - 52 titles written by authors between the ages of 38 and 51. The pie chart below shows the entire breakdown by age decade. Louis Sachar remained the youngest author on the list. He was 24 when Sideway Stories from Wayside School was first published (he was 42 when title #6 Holes was published). Roald Dahl is our oldest author. He published Matilda at the age of 72, Matilda was also Dahl's highest ranking title (17th).

When we breakdown the titles by gender we can see that 62 titles where written by a female. The graph below shows the percentage of titles written by females by ranking group (quintile in this case).

Fifteen authors have more than one title in the top 100. J.K. Rowling led the way with 6 titles, followed by Roald Dahl with 5, and Beverly Cleary with 4.

Here's a list of all the multiple title authors: (arranged by number of titles followed by total points accumulated)

J.K. Rowling
Roald Dahl
Beverly Cleary
Kate DiCamillo
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Francis Hodgson Burnett
E.L. Konigsburg
Lois Lowry
Louis Sachar
Katherine Paterson
Jerry Spinelli
Judy Blume
Christopher Paul Curtis
Elizabeth Enright
Sharon Creech
Lloyd Alexander

This is a veritable pantheon of children's literature greatness. The tonnage of medals, honors and lifetime achievement awards encompassed by these fifteen authors is quite staggering when you stop and think about it.

Votes, first place votes and total points really skyrocketed with the top ten. Below is a graph showing the points earned by each titles.

As you can see the trend is very linear until #16 and then starting at #11 really starts increasing rapidly. Titles 9 - 5 (Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, The Giver, Holes, From the Mixed Up Files...) were all quite close and then titles 4 - 1 again showed lots of separation.

751 points for Charlotte's Web is really quite astonishing. As I mentioned in the comment section of Fuse8's post, Charlotte's Web not only earned an incredible amount of points, but did so with lots of top votes. 31 of Charlotte's Web's 101 votes were 1st place votes and 75.2% were top 5 votes. Only 83 of Charlotte's Web's 751 points came from 10th - 6th place votes. In other words Charlotte's Web would have still come in 1st place even if all the 1oth-6th place votes were ignored. That's a whole lot of love for Charlotte's Web!

Looking at the bar graph below, which shows the total votes and first place votes by ranking group, you can really appreciate the remarkable amount of consensus reached by all the voters.

Well over twice as many votes were seen in titles 1-10 than 11-20!

Below is the distribution of all the votes counted in the top 100 titles. 263 1st place votes were counted. We know somewhere between 300-400 people submitted top 10s so there are lots of books that received 1st place votes but failed to make the list. Can't wait to see all the titles that didn't make the cut.

Unfortunately googledoc's spreadsheet application cannot execute all the formulas I had to employ to get my spreadsheet to work properly so I can't just post it as a viewable spreadsheet, but I will email it to anyone you would like to see all the data I've compiled. Just send me an email and I'll send it right off to you.

Tomorrow I will post some alternate Top 100s found by using different scoring methods. Check back tomorrow to see how Anne of Green Gables can make it into the top 5 and how Percy Jackson can get booted all the way down to #41!

Questions, comments and corrections are always appreciated. I will get to a breakdown by publisher eventually but that one is quite time consuming.


Betsy said...

Eric, you are a wonder. Would somebody out there freakin' hire this man to do this for money? Just amazing.

Julie Larios said...

Incredible - what a ton of information. Thanks so much!

Mandaladreamer said...

This is the first time I've thought statistics were interesting! Clearly, my college courses weren't talking about children's books.
It would have been fun in the grand scheme of things to get the ages of the voters!

Miriam said...

Thanks, Eric!

Betsy said in this morning's post that a good estimate is 366 lists were in the poll, so that's about 100 #1 vote getters that didn't make it (including mine—there is insufficient love for The Ordinary Princess).

I'd also be interested in how many books made the list without any #1 votes. (I'd be happy to count, but I wouldn't want to steal any of Eric's well-deserved thunder).

Eric Carpenter said...


I quick countblank found 32 titles without a single first place vote. Winnie the Pooh at #20 was the highest finishing title without a first place vote. (Last year Millions of Cats made the top ten w/o a first place vote)

Miriam said...

Thanks, Eric. Pooh is an impressive little guy—but probably going to drop significantly when you start playing around with other scoring mechanisms.

Chelsea said...

What a talent! Thanks for all the great infomation.