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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

The Great Lakewood Newbery Book Club

When the winners are announced–and especially if they are unpopular–people will complain that the committee members must not actually know any real live children if they were able to make those selections.  Nothing could be further from the truth, of course.  Most, if not all, committee members have a group of children that they regularly consult with, whether it is a group of public library patrons, students at a nearby school, or an odd assortment of friends and relatives.  The diversity on the committee, both in terms of geography and job experience, ensures that a wide cross-section of children are being monitored for their response to various titles.  While many of us can make very good educated guesses about the child appeal of various titles, the Newbery committee is several months ahead of us.  They don’t need to make educated guesses.  They know.  And if they have picked a book with a small audience, they must have found it excellent rather than popular (which is what the criteria direct them to do, anyway, isn’t it?).
 
In preparation for attending Nina’s mock Newbery, I decided to run a mock Newbery with fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students here at Lakewood School.  This group meets twice a week during lunchtime to discuss all things Newbery.  They have to read at least ten books in order to join the final discussion and voting, but they don’t necessarily read the same ten titles because I want them to have the experience of reading widely and deeply in the field, of separating the wheat from the chaff.  We’ve been meeting for just over a month now and several students have already reached that goal with a couple more on the brink.  It is a great group of voracious readers (about a dozen and a half) that can provide me with solid feedback, even on the fringe titles.  I have about sixty to seventy titles in my personal classroom collection (and I would have had more if I had not thoughtfully disposed of review copies and advanced reading copies before deciding to do this very late in the year–darn!).  The students are also encouraged to find books through the public library or bookstore.  Here’s a snapshot of our reading progress to date.  Let us know what you think!
 
nine readers
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE LAST STRAW by Jeff Kinney
 
eight readers
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS by Jeff Kinney
 
seven readers
CAT BURGLAR BLACK by Richard Sala
 
six readers
THE DUNDERHEADS by Paul Fleischman
 
five readers
CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
THE LAST OLYMPIAN by Rick Riordan
 
four readers
CLAUDETTE COLVIN by Phillip Hoose
THE STORM IN THE BARN by Matt Phelan
FABLEHAVEN: SECRETS OF THE DRAGON SANCTUARY by Brandon Mull
 
three readers
WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead
MURDER AT MIDNIGHT by Avi
SCAT by Carl Hiassen
BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS by Nic Bishop
CHASING LINCOLN’S KILLER by James Swanson
EMMALINE AND THE BUNNY by Katherine Hannigan
A SEASON OF GIFTS by Richard Peck
THE FROG SCIENTIST by Pamela Turner
 
two readers
THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT by Kate DiCamillo
THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly
TENTACLES by Roland Smith
TRUCE by Jim Murphy
LIPS TOUCH by Laini Taylor
MUDSHARK by Gary Paulsen
ZOOBREAK by Gordon Korman
THE MOSTLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF HOMER P. FIGG by Rodman Philbrick
AVALON series by Rachel Roberts
 
one reader
THE DEMON KING by Cinda Williams Chima
THE WITCH’S GUIDE TO COOKING WITH CHILDREN by Keith McGowan
THE DRAGON OF TRELIAN by Michelle Knudsen
LUCY LONG AGO by Catherine Thimmesh
CHARLES AND EMMA by Deborah Heiligman
ON VINEY’S MOUNTAIN by Joan Donaldson
T-MINUS by Jim Ottaviani
THE SQUIRE’S QUEST by Gerald Morris
FRANKIE PICKLE AND THE CLOSET OF DOOM by Eric Wight
101 ANIMAL SECRETS by Melvin Berger
EMMA JEAN LAZARUS FELL IN LOVE by Lauren Tarshis   
share save 171 16 The Great Lakewood Newbery Book Club
Jonathan Hunt About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the County Schools Librarian at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at hunt_yellow@yahoo.com

Comments

  1. Briar says:

    I am doing a Mock Newbery with 4th Graders and they recently cut (meaning no one was interested in defending it as “distinguished” for the next round):
    A Season of Gifts
    Al Capone Shines My Shoes
    Anything But Typical
    Captain Nobody
    Emmaline and the Bunny
    Happenstance Found
    How Oliver Olson Changed the World
    Homer P. Figg
    Melonhead
    Mudshark
    Neil Armstrong is my Uncle
    Operation Redwood
    Rissa Bartholomew’s Declaration of Independence
    Wild Things
    Wings

    Still In The Running:
    Also Known As Harper *
    Any Which Wall
    Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) *
    Born to Fly
    Brooklyn Nine
    Camille McPhee
    Carolina Harmony
    Darkwood
    Dormia
    Escape Under the Forever Sun
    Heart of a Shepherd
    Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow
    Kaleidoscope Eyes *
    Love, Aubrey *
    Lucky Breaks
    Mudville
    Murder at Midnight *
    Paris Pan Takes the Dare
    Peace, Locomotion
    Problem with the Puddles
    Return to Sender
    Scat *
    Slob
    Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run
    The Amaranth Enchantment
    The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.
    The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate *
    The Locked Garden
    The Seven Keys of Balabad
    Tropical Secrets
    Unfinished Angel
    When the Whistle Blows
    When You Reach Me *
    Wild Girl
    Year the Swallows Came Early
    Zoobreak

    Asterisks denote three kids ready to defend as “distinguished”, but many others have a couple of bigtime cheerleaders! We will get down to roughly five titles next week.

  2. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Thanks for posting your longlist, Briar. I hope you’ll weigh in again with your shortlist when you finalize it. I’m going to ask each of my participants to give me their top three just before we go on winter break so that we can all focus on the same titles over the last month. Looking at your list of strongly supported titles, I’ll say that our strong student responses intersect at two titles: WHEN YOU REACH ME and MURDER AT MIDNIGHT.

  3. Staci Shaw says:

    I am considering using Tentacles by Roland Smith for one of our summer reading programs. Would you consider the book appropriate for 4th-5th graders?

  4. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Yes, I would consider TENTACLES appropriate for 4th and 5th graders. It’s a bit long at 320 pages, but it’s written with lots of dialogue, short paragraphs, and brisk pacing. It’s also the sequel to CRYPTID HUNTERS, but I think it stands alone well.

  5. Staci Shaw says:

    Thank you- Looking forward to seeing what your students think of the books on your list so far1

  6. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Okay, I surveyed my serious readers for their top three at this point–

    three votes–
    DIARY OF A WIMPY KID
    WHEN YOU REACH ME
    THE LAST OLYMPIAN

    two votes–
    THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT
    AVALON
    ON VINEY’S MOUNTAIN
    MURDER AT MIDNIGHT
    THE STORM IN THE BARN
    ZOOBREAK

    one vote–
    T-MINUS
    THE DEMON KING
    FRANKIE PICKLE
    MOONSHOT
    SILKSINGER
    FABLEHAVEN
    CATCHING FIRE
    THE CRIMSON CAP
    MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY
    LIPS TOUCH
    BEASTOLOGY
    CLAUDETTE COLVIN

  7. Nina says:

    Jonathan, can you give a little more about what kind (if any) criteria you’re asking the kids to consider…i.e., how closely you’re trying to map this to the Newbery? (For instance: Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Storm in the Barn…).

    Ok. I’ll re-read Magician’s Elephant.

  8. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I’m having them consider all of the Newbery criteria. I normally do mini-lessons on them when I am in the classroom, but as this is an informal lunch discussion with lots of side conversations, and it’s been challenging to do that. We have discussed that the award needs to be based on the text and when that is brought up in our final discussion, I suspect that books like WIMPY KID and STORM IN THE BARN will be taken off the table.

    I can’t send mixed messages: Read! Read! Read! But, oh dear, don’t read THAT! Every reading of a book eligible by copyright date and residency/citizenship is honored in our group. I’m striving for voracious reading across a wide range of texts. To date, my top reader has 17 books in 6 weeks.

  9. a teacher says:

    Seeing WIMPY KID mentioned made me laugh . . . because it hits home the idea that this is an award honoring the best in CHILDREN’S literature, yet ADULTS vote on it. Adults decide what’s “distinguished” for children and what’s not. Why can’t Kinney’s writing and style be considered “distinguished”? I’ll bet a lot of kids would have something to say about that . . .

    Imagine . . . a room full of children discussing these books and ultimately making the decision? Percy Jackson may have won a Newbery by now!

  10. Jonathan Hunt says:

    One of my frustrations with the Newbery whining is that people complain that the Newbery books aren’t popular, but they really don’t want popular books; they don’t want Wimpy Kid and Percy Jackson. Rather, they want something that is a little bit good *and* a little bit popular. Hmpf.

  11. a teacher says:

    I’m not whining that the Newbery books have to be “popular”, I’d just like them to be good. Except for the 3 recent years of HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY, CRISS CROSS, and KIRA KIRA, I don’t have too many complaints as of late. But those three, oofta!

    I was just speaking hypothetically. Can you imagine a room full of children (the target audience) making this decision? And talking about what’s “distinguished” and what’s not?

  12. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Not accusing you, specifically, of whining, just a general statement. One of the reasons I do include the fluffy books in my mock Newbery is that I want to see if kids can use their critical thinking skills to apply the criteria and separate the wheat from the chaff. My experience is that when we pick our titles that they will be a mix of gatekeeper-approved titles and kid-centric ones.

  13. Briar says:

    That seems smart, Jonathan. I didn’t include the “popular” titles this year (my first time doing the Newbery club) because all my kids read those books anyway, so my focus was more to get my big readers reading something they might not normally pick up. But it’s a good idea.

    Here is our 12 book “short” list, with total points (we did Newbery style nominations of first, second and third favorites across 4th, 5th and 6th grade, roughly 36 kids):

    Calpurnia Tate 18
    Slob 18
    Locked Garden 16
    Darkwood 15
    Scat 15
    When You Reach Me 13
    Zoobreak 12
    Amaranth Enchantment 10
    Dormia 10
    Escape Under the Forever Sky 10
    Love, Aubrey 10
    Peace, Locomotion 10

    Of these, I would say that I am hearing the most 4th Grade buzz about Love, Aubrey – it arrived late so didn’t get as many readers before the vote but kids are recommending it left and right. They love to weep.

    We’re going to do another round of nominations before Winter Break.

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