It was a sad day for me last week when I learned that Rush Limbaugh had won the Children's Book Council Author of the Year Honor. I began to question whether I should read this book, although I hated to pay for it and read it on my Kindle, but the shame of interlibrary loaning it and going to pick it up from the library! I would not be able to look the librarians in the eye while picking up this book.
Thankfully, it won't be necessary for me to read Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims because some brave and respected book reviewers fell on their sword and did the hard work for me!
Travis Jonker, librarian and blogger for School Library Journal, posted a round-up of commentary, all of which is insightful and quite civil. I personally found the review from Vicky Smith, Kirkus editor, and the commentary from Roger Sutton, Horn Book editor, particularly interesting. Vicky puts aside the politics, historical inaccuracies and concentrates on the poor writing and even more disappointing editing. She makes a very well-reasoned argument. Roger points out that this is a popularity contest, and that Rush Revere was never even sent to reviewers, nor was the Sophia the First series book that earned it's illustrator the top prize.
This episode brings into question the entire CBC Children's Choice Award process. These awards are based on sales numbers, pure and simple. Typically the books and authors that are nominated are writing dynamic, plot-driven, but ultimately average books. This award is not the Newbery. It is not meant to award the finest in literature, rather, it's meant to recognize the book that kids and teens are reading with passion.
This is where state and regional children's choice awards do a better job. Take the Rebecca Caudill Award. I've often been critical of the Caudill, but in order to be in the running for the award, the book must be nominated and reviewed by a panel of librarians. This leads to an interesting mix of books every year--some bestsellers, which ultimately go on to win, and some mid-list sleeper books. At least for the Caudill Award, participants must read three books, and they are likely to read something of substance before voting for the latest blockbuster book.
There are no such checks and balances in place with the CBC awards, and I think that is going to change after this year. There is nothing wrong with recognizing the success of a big-time children's author like Jeff Kinney or Veronica Roth, especially since they are bringing thousands of children and teens to books, but there is something wrong with honoring a person that has no children's writing experience and that has produced a book that is barely edited. It's a quality issue really. Not just a quality of writing issue, although that bullet point wasn't met either in this case, but the quality of a product. Lots of people worked on this book I'm sure, but they didn't take enough time to make it something to be proud of.
My two cents, and that's all!
But, if you want to read a great book about the pilgrims and this time period, check out Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone. It's much more historically accurate, has a great plot and will leave readers wanting more.