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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

The Porcupine Year

Louise Erdrich’s The Porcupine Year received multiple starred reviews and showed up on a bunch of blogs when it was released in September (including Debbie Reese‘s and Fuse#8’s). And if you take a look at it on Goodreads, you see that fairrosa calls it "one of the better books of the year" and Monica‘s tagged it "award worthy."  Yet it doesn’t seem to be on the tip-of-the-tongue when I ask people for their thoughts on Newbery contenders. Why not? I find the tone of this book to be one of its most distinguished characteristics. Devastating, hopeful, and funny. Where else do we see that breadth of tone accomplished so well this year?  I suspect that this one comes down to a "taste" issue, because it doesn’t have the kind of plot that many readers need to find a book engaging. It does, however, speak to a particular type of kid appeal…for those readers who find most engrossing the details of how people lived. Thoughts?

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. Monica Edinger says:

    It would seem to be one that would be more able to build consensus around than others so I too am surprised there hasn’t been more buzz about it. I should have written more about it myself, but I was lazy. I did give it five stars on goodreads (and I’m fairly stingy with those stars, but not as much as you are:). I do agree with you wholeheartedly on tone. What was the old thing for some movie? Makes you laugh, cry, etc. I’m wowed by Erdich’s character development, ability to switch gears so ably (from a light scene of amusement to one of incredible pathos). I thought the ending of The Game of Silence was extraordinary, but there are moments just like it in this book. (Hmm…this is beginning to read like a Newbery nomination.)

  2. Nan Hoekstra says:

    Yes! This perfect book is on Anokaberry’s latest short list – with about 40 others…

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