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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

A Good Discussion List

Ah…Thanksgiving on the horizon. That means: final nominations due soon for the Newbery committee.  

The Newbery Manual doesn’t actually provide a fixed schedule for these nominations, but the final round generally happens in December: enough time for members to ferret out all the eligible books…enough time for everyone to re-read nominations and prepare for discussion in January.

It’s also around the time I intended to have our final discussion list for our January 10th live Mock Newbery ready…to give people the Thanksgiving weekend to get started. But I’m having a hard time.  The first four titles are posted (and include the newly announced National Book Award winner!) leaving room for four more. Nothing we’re considering will come as a surprise, when we do announce.  I’m just dithering, and also waiting to get my hands on a couple more titles that’ve been slow in coming to me…and which I might need the holiday weekend myself for final decisions.

Our discussion at What Are Children? has got us in a loop about Lips Touch.  I don’t think I’m expressing myself well in my comments back and forth with Jonathan…


Nina commented:

Ok, but is it really distinguished for an eleven year old. That’s the question.


Jonathan Hunt commented:

Nina, I’m still not quite sure what your question is. The style is certainly distinguished, as evidenced by the brief passages that I quoted, and I certainly think an 11-year old can appreciate the language. The setting, the world-building, is absolutely distinguished, and an 11-year old can fully appreciate it. The characters, both characterization and character development are distinguished, and while a 13- or 14-year-old would appreciate them more, or perhaps appreciate them on a different level, than a 10- or 11-year-old would, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that this literary element is less distinguished. And I would say the same for theme. So does the book appeal to children, or at least some children? Absolutely. Does it display respect for their understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Yes, it does. It allows them to take from each story what they are ready for developmentally. I think it’s a sign of great literature, personally, when a text lends itself to multiple readings like this.

I agree with Jonathan, actually, but the question I’m trying to ask is (let me try this again)…  taking that the book works on different levels for different ages, is the book–as it works for a "child" audience as defined by the award– AS distinguished as it is for an older, non-child audience?  I don’t think so.  This doesn’t mean it ISN’T distinguished for a child audience, but I do think we have to look very closely at how well it works for that audience, and I’m not sure if at that level it would stand up against some of the other contenders.  For instance, I don’t think that "interpretation of theme or concept" stands out that well for Lips Touch without an adult sensibility…understanding the morality plays inherent in each of the stories…that what Taylor is doing is taking the assumed standard of "true love conquers all" and overlaying it on scenarios which readers might otherwise find morally repugnant (using other peoples bodies and souls and messing around with their lifespan for personal gain; measuring some lives worths against others and making trades), and therefore forcing us to examine both.  I think that 13 and 14 year olds will get a lot of out this situation, but not as much, or not the same, as an adult reader. They are, in essensce, reading a different book than I am.  They’re reading experience of it is as valuable as mine, but…in the bigger picture, which Newbery contender serves them best?

(I also feel like the final story–the longest–actually should have been longer. That it needed a full novel. Which character was being developed and why? They all began to feel victims of a very fascinating and complex plot which it felt like Taylor was trying to spill out as quickly as she could.  Like she was trying to devour an enormous sundae before it melted, and so missing the full breadth of the interplay of temperature and texture.)

Still, it might make for good discussion.  And that’s the decision I’m trying to make at the moment…which four books, among the clearly strong contenders, would best round out a broad and fruitful discussion?   I’m down to about 6, all of which have already gotten play on this site. (Don’t forget I still have two to read.  Silksinger and The Rock and The River.)  Am open to suggestions–but please tell us why you think it needs to be on the discussion list.

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. If you are down to about six books, and you think that they are all discussion worthy, then why don’t you simply incluse six? As I recall, when I attended a few years ago the discussion list listed ten books. I’m sure we (or I, at least) who are attending or at least reading and following the blog can all handle two exta books…especially if they’re good!:)

  2. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I just started SILKSINGER . . .

  3. I’m getting LIPS TOUCH tomorrow at my local Barnes and Noble. I’ve gotta read it . . .

  4. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Nina while I’ve continued this discussion in my latest post, I want to respond specifically to a couple things you’ve said here.

    1. You state that without an adult understanding the theme of LIPS TOUCH is not nearly as distinguished, that it would have a hard time standing up against some of the other contenders. Can you explain how theme is really strong in some of those contenders? How is the theme in WHEN YOU REACH ME, A SEASON OF GIFTS, CALPURNIA TATE, and other juvenile books stronger? Because, honestly, even with a watered-down understanding of theme, I think LIPS TOUCH is pretty competitive.

    2. You ask which Newbery contender serves them best. Well, it depends on who *them* is, doesn’t it? If you traveled back in time to survey my 11-year-old self he, being a high fantasy reader and all, would tell you that LIPS TOUCH serves him better than WHEN YOU REACH ME, et. al. He would also remind you that he has just as much right to expect his favorite book to win as anybody else does. I don’t think you adhere to this line of thinking, Nina, but I just want to make sure that we are not going down the greatest-book-for-the-greatest-number-of-readers road that eventually leads us to popularity.

  5. I have a question about establishing whether someone qualifies as a “Resident” under the Newbery criteria. I’m getting ready to start reading “Mare’s War” by Tania S. Davis. It lists on the back flap of the book that she is a native Calfornian, but she is currently living in Glasgow, Scotland. Does this make her eligible for the Newbery? Thanks.

  6. Oh good! You’re reading SILKSINGER! Only after all that, I feel a little guilty urging you to read it if you haven’t read BLACKBRINGER, where she sets up the world — but that will be a good test if it can stand alone.

  7. Jonathan Hunt says:

    They have to be either an American citizen OR a resident. Tanita Davis probably hasn’t relinquished her American citizenship even though she currently lives in Scotland. I may be mistaken, but I think Sharon Creech was living in England when she won for WALK TWO MOONS.

  8. The Brain Lair says:

    I think you should go with The Rock and The River. I loved that the pov was a child whose father embraced nonviolence and a brother who followed The Black Panthers.

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