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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Spring Fling?

Savvy and Shooting the Moon are two titles that I heard a lot about this spring, and which some of you mentioned as soon as we said we were looking for titles.  Both of these books have engaging voices, and well-paced and compelling narratives. They are fun and well done. Are they distinguished? I’ve yet to have someone convince me, using the Newbery Terms and Criteria.  I find both titles suffer in endings that don’t quite deliver…or that just deliver a slightly shabbier version of what was promised–like getting the wrong bike for your birthday.  It’s true that they are strong spring titles…and it can be difficult sometimes to locate the measure of  a "distinguished" book among spring returns.

I’ve heard from some publishers that they hold their "best" books for fall, because this is when award committees notice them most. Is this true?  If so, isn’t it just a self-fulfilling prophecy? From my stints on award committees, I can promise you that committee members are "noticing" titles all year long (that is, reading their butts off, 24/7/365). Another version of this goes that a spring title has a longer time to sink in estimation with committee members. Hm. Actually, I’ve found award committee members to be amazingly rigorous in exposing all flaws in every title (there is NO flawless book) and weighing them judiciously against each book’s strengths. It’s just that this work gets more intense in the fall… perhaps because publishers are holding on to their strongest titles? In that view, a spring title could be considered to have more time to "recuperate."

So, a hint to publishers: Fall ARCs in the spring or summer whenever possible are greatly appreciated by award committees. Committee members will follow up by reading the final copy when you send it. The more time members have to work with a title, the better they can articulate their thoughts on it. No book with a Newbery Medal has gotten it without having gone through the wringer first. In fact, one measure of "distinguished" might be how well a book holds up after several rounds through it.  Maybe a thread starts to pull, a non-essential button loosens. But doesn’t the whole thing still glow, maybe even with a richer hue? 

(Okay–someone take me on regarding Savvy or Shooting the Moon, but be convincing…)

Nina Lindsay About Nina Lindsay

Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at


  1. I LOVE Shooting the Moon and have Savvy on my pile because I keep hearing such great things about it. Not sure if either meets Newbery criteria but how about Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O’Connor? I’d like to throw that one in as a possibility. I think people have forgotten about it since it was out so early.

  2. Roger Sutton says:

    I think the weighting of big-buzz books into the fall has more to do with the opening of school and the November-December holidays, yes?

  3. Roger, I would think that the school year and the holidays has more to do with fall releases too…but publishers have told me explicitly that ”

  4. [sorry, flubbed by my own technology]. Roger, I would think that the school year and the holidays have more to do with fall releases too…but publishers have told me explicitly that since the Newbery winners tend to be fall releases, they hold their Newbery picks for the fall. The logic escapes me.

    Franki, thanks for the reminded about the Barbara O’Connor, which is on my pile!

  5. I personally felt that one of the strengths of Savvy was that it had enough plot points to hook a reader initially, yet not spoil the outcome, as in those instances when you see the best parts of a movie in its trailer. I also thought that the language was humorous, rich in vocabulary, and sounded pleasant in my head (as I think it would out loud). The characters were dynamic. I thought that the book treated religion in an interesting way, in that strong beliefs and church community could co-exist with secret magical super powers, rather than being presented as mutually exclusive. I hope these thoughts are helpful!

  6. Priscilla says:

    I read Shooting the Moon and loved it, but I had a strong and lingering sense that another book could easily come along and overshadow it. I felt the ending gave the book its solidity. I just finished the Adoration of Jenna Fox and thought it was powerful and intriguing. Can it be considered for a Newbery? I would like to think so.

  7. I enjoyed Savvy and Shooting the Moon, but I was much more impressed with Henkes’ Bird Lake Moon. It has powerful evocation of place, rich and complex characterization, and skillfully portrayed believable responses to difficult life situations.

  8. I think the publishers are wrong. I know for a fact that when I was on Newbery, the books I had time to re-read were the ones I got the earliest. They were also the ones I devoted the most time to, as I waited for those big boxes to arrive and force me to rush through later readings.

    As for Jenna Fox, well, I know Newbery goes up to age 14, but I would consider that a Printz contender rather than Newbery.

    I’ll keep my eye out for your ideas to put on my ever-increasing “to read” list.

  9. Jenna Fox can be considered as long as the author is a US Citizen or resident, which I believe she is. The committee would discuss whether they think this is a distinguished book for children through age 14. Newbery and Printz consideration are not mutually exclusive. Each committee is separate and each committee determines how well a book fits their criteria.

    Thanks Mia and others for the detailed comments about these books. It’s good to know which titles provide vigorous debate–which is one of the criteria for a good MOCK Newbery discussion title!

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