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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Discussion List, Issue 1

As promised, here is the first half of the list of titles we’ll be discussing at the live Mock Newbery in Oakland CA on January 10th.  As you can see, we’ve decided to go with nonfiction titles for at least half of the discussion, each of which will prove for interesting and fruitful debate:

Almost Astronauts by Tanya Stone
Previous discussion here and here suggest that the difference of opinion on this titles lies in the criteria: "Interpretation of the theme or concept." 

Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman
Sure to push the "age level" discussion that Jonathan is currently stirring.  It’s a long book, which can be a challenge for a live Mock Newbery discussion, as the voting only works when every participant has read every title. But this one’s been available all year, and with the NBA nomination, hopefully will be on people’s radar.

Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose
Another NBA nomination (prompting a similar discussion over at Marc’s "Nonfiction Matters") was previously discussed here, and bears such a striking resemblance in content and form to:

Marching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge
…that these will certainly make for good discussion on the minutiae of craft. In regards to Partridge’s, the literary craft will have to be dissected from the visual.

Discussing nonfiction in regards to the Newbery is often difficult.  Much good nonfiction stands equally on the quality of its visual aspects, which can’t be considered in Newbery discussion.   "Presentation of information including accuracy…," however, is paramount–yet who on a committee can claim to be an authority on the content of every book considered?  How do you judge accuracy, especially with nonfiction?

Many committee members turn to content experts; that is, asking someone who does have the background to read the book and comment on its accuracy, or presentation of the facts.  Such "content reviews," are generally shared with the entire committee, and may be used to inform members final opinions just as critical literary reviews, or child reader reviews, may.

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. Dean Schneider says:

    This is a great list, though I haven’t yet read Almost Astronauts. Marching for Freedom is my favorite book of the year and would love to see a Newbery sticker on it. I was on the 2008 Newbery Committee with Nina, and would have seen this as a strong contender. We can’t consider the stunning photographs or Partridge’s stellar body of nonfiction writing, but this is so much more than a pretty book. I think it’s distinguished in all six of the Newbery criteria: theme, information, plot, character, setting and style. It’s a perfect example of the photo-essay. Just read the first page: great lead, subtle prose that reveals a young girl’s misunderstanding of the unfolding events–the CLOSED FOR LUNCH sign, the ride on the bus…. Partridge has done a superb job of interviewing adults and recreating the world when they were children in Selma, and mixing their words with the words of civil rights leaders. The children are memorable characters, and their story and the march a plot that will carry readers along like the best of novels. Selma is a setting poignantly rendered. And the theme and information are clearly and accurately presented, rooted in an extensive and easy-to-use bibliography. Partridge’s writing style is deceptively matter of fact, weaving in subtle humor, a child’s-eye view of events, and a large amount of information presented with a light touch. I appreciate the focus and brevity of the text, telling a lot but staying rooted in one chapter of the movement, without needing to tell it all. I hope this great volume gets the attention it deserves from the Newbery and Sibert committees, along with Claudette Colvin and Charles & Emma, which I also think are excellent.

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