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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

How Popular Is The Graveyard Book?

Before we turn our attention to the forthcoming Newbery Medal winner, I’d like to briefly revisit the previous one.  You’re all familiar, I’m sure, with the SLJ article about the lack of broad child appeal among the previous four Newbery Medal winners (KIRA KIRA, CRISS CROSS, THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY, and GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES!).  When THE GRAVEYARD BOOK won this past year, SLJ was quick to praise the book as one that would be embraced by children and adults alike.
While I was as pleased as anyone with the selection of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK–it was my own personal choice for the Newbery Medal–I do wonder if SLJ overstated the popularity of the book just a tad.  I don’t think, for example, that it has quite the universal appeal of HOLES or THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX.
What do you think?  Now that it’s been a year since the book was published, and your copies have made their way onto your bookshelves and into the hands of your eager young readers, what are your impressions about the popularity of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK?  How does it compare to the rest of the canon?  Any great anecdotal stories to share about the reactions of young readers?    
Jonathan Hunt About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at


  1. I work for a county library with 13 branches. 17 copies still have holds, and there are 28 copies on order…so it hasn’t made it to the shelves yet.
    I also work for an elementary school library in a large district where the book was delegated to the junior high schools and up, so none of the 677 students here have even seen it…

  2. I work for a county library with 23 branches, and here also I have yet to see it on the shelves. It looks like we have a good 70 or so copies, but there are still 71 holds. Interesting to me is that I personally have not ever had a child ask for it (unlike Wimpy Kid or Twilight). But I don’t think that many holds are going to be only librarians and teachers who heard about the Newbery.

  3. Monica Edinger says:

    I love the book as you know, but I still think its popularity is adult-driven. Gaiman has a huge fan base and last fall they were the ones talking up the book, writing about it. I rarely saw much about kid readers until after it won the Newbery. (I read it aloud because I wsn’t seeing kid responses so got my own.) I see it as being somewhat unique — it will be one of those continually popular books, but as a crossover book (even perhaps a cult book that high school and/or college kids will read), not as something purely for kids like HOLES or DESPEREAUX.

  4. I agree with Monica–much was made of The Graveyard Book already having been on best-seller lists, as I recall, but those seemed to be adult readers. I think SLJ (and others) overstated the popularity in response to the debate; it’s much more interesting to say “finally a popular book won” or “once again, the Newbery goes to an obscure book” than “this year they chose a good book that people have heard of”. Another year the headline might have been “books with male protagonists keep their stranglehold on the Newbery”.

  5. The middle school kids in my Mock Newbery were mixed on The Graveyard Book. Most thought it was “weird” and didn’t enjoy it. There are still a few hold requests for it, as it is recommended on lists now. Personally, I was glad to see it instead of another kind of Criss Cross.

  6. Out of the 21 copies in my county, 4 copies are currently sitting on the shelves. But as to kids vs adults asking for it, I don’t have any anecdotes.

  7. I’m coming to this days late, but as I have something to add here goes:

    In our student Mock Newbery, The Graveyard Book was not a contender; simply because when I purchased 2 copies in October I immediately book talked it and it went on hold for upwards of 50 students, thus blocking it from view of my Mockers.

    Of the countless students who checked it out I believe that there were quite a number who were unable to finish it. This year all four copies have been sitting on the shelf.

    On the other hand the 4 copies of the book that took our student Mock Newbery, Savvy, have spent the beginning of the year thus far in the hands of greedy little readers.

    I will echo that, although I believe TGB will have lasting appeal to many a young reader, it is not as accessible to the average Elementary age reader as a book like say Savvy.

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