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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

After Tupac & D Foster

Ok, I’m a sucker for a Jacqueline Woodson book.  I will admit that.  Feathers was a Newbery Honor winner last year.  But remember, that is not a topic that is up for discussion when considering this year’s books.   According to the Newbery Terms & Criteria, "The committee in its deliberations is to consider only the books eligible for the award, as specified in the terms."  So we can only look at After Tupac and D Foster in comparison to other books being considered for this year’s Newbery (or Mock Newbery) and any thoughts or feelings we might have about Feathers or past awards won by the author or inconsequential in this discussion.

I’ve been surprised that no one has mentioned this book yet.  Maybe it’s just me, but I found it certainly distinguished.  This is not an especially plot-driven book (no crazy adventures or wacky misunderstandings), but Woodson has nailed the characters.  There is such a quiet beauty to the way this story is told through the voice of a girl growing up with a passion for friends, for family, and for music.  The story of Tupac Shakur, both his life and death, helps tell the story of three girls living lives that are at times both rough and happy.  The music becomes a character all its own, as does Tupac himself.  

This is one of those kinds of stories where we want to ask, "but who is the audience"?  In terms of Newbery this doesn’t matter – as long as the audience is children – persons of ages up to and including 14.  And this clearly fits that criteria.  Nina gets deeper into this discussion (popularity of Newbery winners) on her last post and I think it’s an important discussion to have. And as an aside, I do think there is an audience for this book.   

What do you think?  Is it distinguished?

Sharon McKellar About Sharon McKellar

Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at



    Well, I had a reply here, but SLJ told me it didn’t like my post and completely erased everything I had written. Anyway, here are my thoughts.

    1. I also think it is distinguished, and I would be disappointed if it wasn’t named for the Honor.

    2. I heard a complaint that Tash is a stereotypical character. Since I thought his story was exceptionally written, I was taken aback by that comment. However, I am probably not the best judge of that. I do know that Tash’s return to the neighborhood-the two men who made faces and laughed, and the way Tash tried to act like that didn’t bother him in the least-is something that I will not soon forget.

    3. Woodson has many stories going-urban working class life, foster children, incarceration, etc-but I never felt that the stories overwhelmed each other or that one story was expendable.

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