Heavy Medal blog discusses an issue I can really relate to. He talks about the increasing page count in books that are ostensibly meant for middle graders that push them into the YA realm...when they really aren't. He isn't specifically discussing the Newbery committee's work in his post but rather questioning the publishing industry.
I think he has a point. There are increasing numbers of bloated books over 300 pages coming out that have a great premise and are well-written - but just try getting a fourth-sixth grade kid to take it from your hand. They see the size and refuse it in favor of something shorter. I sometimes wonder if it is still the last left-over vestiges of the Harry Potter big book phenomena that saw kids wading - and sometimes wandering - through Rowling's massive texts.
I don't have anything against big books. I'm just wondering if all the verbiage is necessary and whether tighter editing might result in books that middle graders can read and relate to. Deep concepts don't always need a huge page count. Besides books that Hunt cites in his post, I think of Marian Dane Bauer's On My Honor and Cynthia DeFelice's Weasel that are tautly written. I'm sure that you can think of even more.
There are, of course, many great, short early elementary titles that appeal to readers in second and third grade. We don't lack material there. But I do worry about those fourth through sixth graders and having well-written, tightly edited material that comes in at 200 pages or less. We don't want to lose those fiction readers who aren't gifted or hyper -motivated. Publishers, can you hear me now?