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Autumn Leaves and Shortlists

October is the month when Newbery committee members start to show their cards to each other. All year long they’ve been sending suggested titles to the chair, who sends a compiled, anonymous list back to the whole committee monthly.  But before the final deliberations in January, committee members each must formally nominate six titles–usually three in October and three in December. These nominations are accompanied by signed justification statements highlighting how the titles meet the Newbery criteria, and usually form the focus of the discussion in January. Right now, I expect, committee members are not only plowing through the eligible titles they have yet to crack, but are starting to re-read the nominated titles with great care, and perhaps a lot of post-its. (I used a different colored flag for each subsequent reading.)

We will never know this year’s nominated titles, because the strength of the Newbery consensus process rests in part on strict and permanent confidentiality.  However, October is also the month when Mock Newbery groups start formalizing final shortlists.  Other Mock Newbery groups are rigorous about posting comprehensive shortlists throughout the year, mining the full field for potential contenders.

I, however, have always taken a "freeloader" approach to Mock Newbery list building, and wait for others to glean the possibilities. Trying to predict the actual winner is a secondary motivation at best–because it’s ultimately impossible.  To me, the main point of a Mock Newbery is to give participants a taste of the experience of Newbery discussion.   Mimicking the real experience as much as possible gives participants a better understanding of how the award selections come about, and it’s the discussion and voting process that is the most illuminating. 

For the voting process to work, every participant has to have read every title.  Therefore, we limit the shortilst to 8 or 9 titles (2 hours of discussion), and try to make sure that some of them are short.  Also, the bulk of them have to be readily available in the public libraries. I try to make sure I have a couple of spare reading copies of every title to lend out.   Having a variety of genres lets participants explore the nuances of the criteria, and having titles that bear interesting comparisons makes for good debate. All of that is just as important as actually picking strong, eligible contenders.  (A note: a short shorlist has a downside too–if too short, it can actually undermine the voting process. More details on that later).

Very soon, Sharon and I will be unveiling our October shortlist–about half of the titles that we ask participants to read for the January 11th discussion. Stay tuned!

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’m interested in the strategies behind the nomination process. Do members sometimes avoid nominating a book that they think others will nominate so that they can get something less likely on the list? Does it matter how many people nominate a title? And what if a member discovers a book she thinks is deserving after the December nominations…does she still have a chance to get that into the final discussion?

  2. Love this post! We love to try to “predict” the Newbery, not to actually get it, but as an excuse to read as many new books as possible. When we started, it really helped us keep up with the new books coming out all year. Now, we follow blogs, etc. to continue this and chat informally. As teachers, keeping up with the good, new books is key. I am looking forward to your October shortlist!

  3. overlooked,” I think I will wonder if that book didn’t arrive in a nomination list, prompting her to reevaluate it.;

  4. While it is true that we won’t know all the nominees, or be 100% certain of any of them– if you have a blogger on the committee, who has been reviewing books all year as she reads them, and suddenly in October or November goes back to review a book published in the spring that she “overlooked,” I think I will wonder if that book didn’t arrive in a nomination list, prompting her to reevaluate it.

    (reposting, sorry, something seems to have gone wrong the first time.)

  5. Nina Lindsay says:

    Anonymous, that’s exactly why committee members are asked to be judicious in their online posting during their committee year. I don’t think you’ll catch it happening.

    I will provide some more background on the nomination process in a future post–I know it’s a hot topic!

  6. Monica Edinger says:

    Anonymous, I was blogging last year while on the Committee and stayed away from any mention of eligible books. I did do a series of Newbery posts focusing on genre, audience, sequels, and other things that are perennial issues for all as we try to determine what is best. I’m continuing them this year. (My most recent one was inspired by Sharon’s post on taste.)

  7. anonymous says:


    I didn’t see any eyebrow raising reviews on blogs last year. I think that some of the implications of blogging weren’t immediately apparent at first, but that the committee has gotten more savvy since. At least I hope so. I prefer the mystery of the Newbery and Caldecott process to other, more open, prize discussions. You can decide the Newbery by roach races in your closed room so long as you don’t tell me!

  8. Monica Edinger says:

    Anonymous, you wouldn’t have seen any blog reviews from committee members last year because the rules prohibited it. When I came onto the Committee in January 2007 the conflict-of-interest rules were being reviewed and there was a debate as to whether award committee members who blogged would be allowed to do so while serving. (At the time this affect myself and Roger Sutton who was on the Caldecott.) Fortunately the final revised rules allowed us to continue blogging, but we did not discuss the work of our respective committees. I can’t do URLs here, but there is an SLJ article about this dated 3/1/07 and an FAQ at the ALSC site, I believe. (Roach races? Interesting idea! ALSC, are you listening?)

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