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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

The Highway Cats

Here’s one that no one’s mentioned yet. Two mangy cats lay a bet on some kittens left in the median of a busy highway: which one will avoid becoming roadkill? Miraculously, they all make it. The kittens continue to work some miracles on the strays, including instantly-likeable tough-guy Shredder and the frightening Khalia Koo–a Siamese so disfigured from a fire she takes to wearing yogurt containers over her head.  This vision epitomizes the tone of the book: it’s scary, but tempered with the hilarious.  It moves at a very brisk pace with lots of action, and the good guys win. Yet there’s an unusual level of genuine tenderness and pathos for such a plot-oriented story, bearing very interesting comparison to The Underneath. What do you think?

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. EVA MITNICK says:

    I reviewed this for SLJ, although I don’t think the review has been published yet. At first, the contrast between the mystical (those mysterious kittens) and the slapstick (Khalia Koo’s yogurt cup mask) was jarring, but by the end those hard-bitten cats had won me over. The book doesn’t strike me as Newbery caliber; it didn’t linger with me the way some books do. But Lisle’s wry, slightly tongue-in-cheek tone is charming – this will be a kid-pleaser, if not an award-winner (watch me eat my words come January…!).

  2. Nina Lindsay says:

    “Not Newbery caliber” is exactly why I brought this for discussion…I think this gets’ back to Anita Silvey’s article and the claime that Newbery books are of a “type.” On the child_lit listserv discussion someone had a great post (someone out there remember who?) describing how the depth of our emotional reaction to a book can make it seem more “distinguished”…thus more “serious” books winning.

    Highway Cats strikes me as very artfully executed…and reading the reviews out there already it seemed others agreed. Whether or not it turns out to be one of the year’s most distinguished books, I think it’s important to stretch the definition of “distinguished” in as many directions as possible.

  3. EVA MITNICK says:

    You’re so right – I guess I (and apparently plenty of others as well) tend to look for some sort of emotional resonance. A Newbery book doesn’t necessarily have to knock your socks off – but it does have to have some sort of all-around fabulousness, right? And that can mean all sorts of things. (my SLJ review is positive, by the way!) Much to ponder…

  4. Nina Lindsay says:

    …or, maybe it should knock your socks off…just: whose socks?

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