A Mark Twain Experience

Last spring I was asked to be on the Mark Twain Award Committee for the Missouri Association of School Librarians. I was the public library representative. It was our job to read hundreds of books of which one would eventually be chosen to be the Mark Twain Award book of 2014.

For several months I gave up even the thought of reading any adult literature and poured over the volumes of books that arrived on my front porch each day from different publishers. It was like Christmas every day for several months. I would come home to find a box of brand new books (which I later donated to school libraries in our state) waiting for me. I opened each box with anticipation of finding THE story that would capture my imagination and heart and would become the beloved Mark Twain Award winner of 2014.

The guidelines for choosing the books are as follows:

  1.  Books should interest children in grades four through six.
  2. Books should be an original work written by an author living in the United States.
  3. Books should be of literary value which may enrich children’s personal lives.
  4. Books should be published two years prior to nomination on a Master List of 12 nominees.

Some books were immediately cast aside. They may have been entertaining to an elementary age child but they certainly were not going to enrich their lives. Some books were just boring or not very well written. Some books jumped out and grabbed the imagination and were immediately sent to the top of the list.

We had a panel of nine librarians from around the state of Missouri. A blog was formed and a scoring sheet created and as we read the books we scored each one. On most of the books, we scored them very similarly but on some, our opinions were quite diverse. We eventually came down to a final list of 25 books.

These 25 books are now being read by a panel of “readers”. The readers are adults and students from all around our state of Missouri. They are voting and evaluating the 25 books our Committee chose. From the 25 books, the top 12 will become the final Nominee List or 2013/14. Those 12 books will then be read and voted on by Missouri children in grades four through six. It is their vote that will decide the winner of the 2014 Mark Twain Award Book.

I’m so very anxious to find out which book will receive the honor but I still have a year and half to wait to see which author will take home the bust of Mark Twain at the awards banquet in the spring of 2014.

I feel very honored to be asked to serve on the Committee and found it a really interesting and rewarding experience. We are so lucky to have so many talented and imaginative authors enriching our children’s (and adults’) lives with their wonderful tales. If you are ever looking for a “good read”, just look for the Mark Twain label on the spines of the books in the “J” section of the library. It will be a proven winner.

– Peggy Yoakum, Children’s Library Specialist, Northern Resource Center (Belton)

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