Friday, April 22, 2016

The Asterisk Wars: A Glimpse into the Life of an Academic Librarian

As an academic librarian, I don't get to purchase many children's books. From picture books to YA, I have to be very picky about the materials I buy. Personally, I'd love to collect a bunch, but budgets are tight and although we have a Children's Literature class, I can't go crazy.

:crazy

So, that means I spend a lot of time each year creating a list of the best children's books of each year based on a variety of criteria.

First, I keep track of all the starred reviews. This used to be a tedious task, but then I found Jenn J of the Spreadsheets, who has a wonderful resource for all librarians (or book lovers) who collect children's and YA books. Each year, she keeps track of all the starred reviews from the major reviewers (Booklist, Bulletin, Horn, Kirkus, PW, and SLJ) and puts them into this spreadsheet.

Thank You Jenn!

I add all the books that get four or more starred reviews to a document and put a number of asterisks next to it equal to the starred reviews.

Gold Star

Second, at the end of each year, I keep track of all the best book of the year lists that come out. Each time a book is on one of those lists, I put another asterisk next to it.

Third, I look at Amazon and see what "normal" people are saying about a book. I've seen some six star books have low ratings on Amazon. However, I don't let that hurt the overall score. Instead, if I see a book get 80%+ 5 stars (there needs to be at least ten reviews), I give the book another asterisk.

Party Time

Lastly, when award season rolls around, I straight-up purchase the winners of the major awards.

Congratulations

So, in 2015 here are what the top five books in each category looked like on my collection development sheet:

Picture Books and Early Readers

***************Last Stop on Market Street Matt de la Peña, illus. by Christian Robinson.
(Stars: Kirkus, Horn, PW; Best Book: Bookbag, Good Reads, Horn, Kirkus, NPR, NYPL, NYT, PW; Newberry Award winner; Caldecott Honor)

***************Waiting Kevin Henkes.
(Stars: Booklist, Horn, Kirkus, PW, SLJ; Best Book: Amazon, Horn, Kirkus, NPR, NYPL, NYT, PW, SLJ; Caldecot Honor)

*************Sidewalk Flowers JonArno Lawson illus. by Sydney Smith.
(Stars: Booklist, Kirkus, PW, SLJ; NYT Best Illustrated Book; Best Book: Good Reads, Horn, Kirkus, National Post, NYPL, PW, SLJ; +80% on Amazon)

************Finding Winnie Lindsay Mattick, illus. by Sophie Blackall.
(Stars: Booklist, Horn, PW, SLJ; Best Book: Bookbag, Horn, NYPL, NYT, PW; Caldecott winner; +80% on Amazon)

**********The Princess and the Pony Kate Beaton.
(Stars: Booklist, Kirkus, PW, SLJ; Best Book: Amazon, Goodreads, Kirkus, National Post, NYPL, PW)

Middle Grade

****************March: Book Two John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.
(Stars: Booklist, Horn, Kirkus, PW, SLJ; Best Book: AV Club, B&N, Forbes, Good Reads, GQ, Horn, Kirkus, NPR, PW, Washingston Post; +80% on Amazon)

****************Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan.
(Stars: Amazon, Bulletin, Kirkus, PW, SLJ: Best Book: Amazon, Good Reads, Kirkus, NPR, NYPL, NYT, PW, Washington Post; Kirkus Prize Winner; Newberry Honor)

***************Goodbye Stranger Rebecca Stead.
(Stars: Booklist, Bulletin, Horn, Kirkus, PW, SLJ; Best Book: Amazon, Good Reads, Horn, NPR, NYPL, NYT, PW, Washington Post, SLJ)

**************The Thing about Jellyfish Ali Benjamin.
(Stars: Booklist, Kirkus, PW, SLJ, VOYA; National Book Award longlist; Best Book: Amazon, Good Reads, Kirkus, NPR, NYPL, NYT, PW, SLJ)

**************Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras Duncan Tonatiuh.
(Stars: Booklist, Horn, Kirkus, PW, SLJ; NYT Best Illustrated Book; Best Book: Horn, Kirkus, NYPL, SLJ, Washington Post; Kirkus Prize Finalist; Sibert winner)

Young Adult

********************Nimona Noelle Stevenson.
(Stars: Bulletin, Kirkus, PW, SLJ; Eisner Nomination for Best Webcomic; National Book Award longlist; Best Book: Amazon, AV Club, B&N, Bookbag, Comics Alliance, Forbes, Good Reads, GQ, Kirkus, NPR, NYT, PW, SLJ; +80% 5-star rating on Amazon)

******************Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War Steve Sheinkin.
(Stars: Booklist, Bulletin, Horn, Kirkus, PW, SLJ; National Book Award longlist; Best Book: Amazon, Bookbag, Horn, Kirkus, NYPL, NYT, PW, SLJ Washington Post, YALSA; +80% 5-star rating on Amazon)

***************Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
(Stars: Booklist, Bulletin, Horn, Kirkus, PW, SLJ; Boston Globe/Horn Best Fiction Honor; National Book Award longlist; National Book Award winner; Best Book: Bookbag, Horn, Kirkus, NYPL, PW, SLJ)

**************Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad M.T. Anderson.
(Stars: Booklist, Bulletin, Kirkus, SLJ; National Book Award longlist; Best Book: Bookbag, Boston Globe, Kirkus, NYPL, NYT, PW, SLJ, YALSA)

************Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Becky Albertalli
(Stars: Amazon, Booklist, Bulletin, Kirkus, PW; National Book Award longlist; Best Book: Amazon, Good Reads, Kirkus, NYPL, PW; Morris Award Finalist)

*************Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans Don Brown.
(Stars: Booklist, Bulletin, Horn, Kirkus, PW, SLJ; Best Book: Horn, Kirkus, NYPL, PW, SLJ; +80% 5-star rating on Amazon; Sibert honor)

You may have noticed that graphic novels have a few more opportunities to gather best book of the year awards, this is because I also collect for the graphic novel section and so I can squeeze some of these children/YA graphic novels into that budget so they get some extra love on my personal list.

Hearts

Anyway, if you are looking for some of the best books from last year to read. These are an excellent starting point. Hope you all find this post helpful, if you do, let me know and I'll try to do some more like it in the future.

Best Wishes,
Joseph

4 comments:

  1. Oh, my. It is good you are thorough and thus well suited for this process.

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  2. I'd go crazy with a task like this, too. So many good books (and yet not all of them have been entered into awards). I've read Sidewalk Flowers and am looking forward to reading Finding Winnie. Thanks for the list, Joseph! (What a job you have!)

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome! Enjoy the good reads. ;)

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