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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal


Last year, Sharon led a discussion about THE SECRET OF THE ANDES in an attempt to discover why the Newbery committee selected it over CHARLOTTE’S WEB.  Since CHARLOTTE’S WEB did receive a Newbery Honor, it’s hard to argue that the book was truly robbed.  No, what I’m looking for are books that were heavily favored to win, and yet got nothing, zip, nada.  Perhaps the most famous example is TUCK EVERLASTING by Natale Babbitt.  Jane Yolen recently cited her book, THE DEVIL’S ARITHMETIC, as another.

So . . . which books got robbed?  SILENT TO THE BONE by E.L. Konigsburg?  THE PENDERWICKS by Jeanne Birdsall?  THE KING OF ATTOLIA by Megan Whalen Turner?  THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie?  Tell us which books got robbed and why they deserved at least a share of Newbery glory.

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. Nancy Werlin says:

    Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. 1964.

    What won instead? It’s Like You, Cat by Emily Neville. Honor books were Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era by Sterling North and The Loner by Ester Wier. Worst Newbery decision ever, in my humble opinion. My blood boils every time I think of it.

  2. I’m not sure Part Time Indian or Silent to the Bone would qualify for Newbery awards, but as Printz possibilities, yes.

    Another classic that is always perplexing as to why it is not on the Newbery list is Where the Red Fern Grows.

    Most recently? My votes go to City of Ember, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Alabama Moon, and Each Little Bird That Sings.

  3. I don’t know anything about what books have been buzzed, but the first one that comes to mind for me is The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton, which was published in 1962 and went unrecognized by the committee that gave the award to A Wrinkle in Time and honored Thistle and Thyme and Men of Athens. (I haven’t read the two honor books, but I should–I’ve always thought “wow, that must have been a thin year”, but maybe they’re actually brilliant.) The Diamond in the Window is the kind of book I like best–real characters, lots of funny parts, philosophy that makes you think, intriguing situations. I don’t have the slightest guess as to why it wouldn’t have been honored. (Sometimes I think I know, even if I love a book.)

    Other thoughts–The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (Sounder’s committee, 1971), Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry (A Gathering of Days’s committee, 1980), and, of course, The Green Glass Sea, which should have won in 2007; I tried unsuccessfully to bribe a committee member into telling me why it didn’t.

  4. Nancy, for what it’s worth (absolutely nothing), I LOVED It’s Like This, Cat and do not care for Harriet the Spy. I suppose we can find people who would say the same for any of these books…

    But wait, according to the copyright dates I’m finding, Harriet actually lost to Shadow of a Bull. This should in no way soothe your boiling blood, though. I don’t think Shadow was anything very special, and there’s only one honor book that year, Across Five Aprils.

  5. Kevin D. Washburn says:

    Ida B. by Katherine Hannigan got nothing the year a weak Kira-Kira won the medal. Ida B. is one of the most memorable characters in one of children’s literature’s most powerful stories. To have been completely ignored makes the 2005 committee less credible, at least in my eyes.

  6. Dominic was robbed by Julie of the Wolves and honor books Frog and Toad Together, The Upstairs Room and The Witches of Worm. I agree with a lot of the titles above, especially Penderwicks and Edward Tulane.

  7. Jonathan Hunt says:

    1. Ack! How could I forget HARRIET THE SPY? That’s usually mentioned in the same breath as TUCK EVERLASTING. And if it was published in 1964 then it would have been eligible for the 1965 Medal (as Wendy suggests), but I still don’t think that eases the sting . . .

    2. SILENT TO THE BONE and THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN could have been recognized be either the Newbery or Printz committees, but I do think many would have been uncomfortable with Newbery recognition.

    3. WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS was originally published as an adult book. It was still eligible, but you can hardly blame the committee for not finding it.

    4. I’m enjoying the other responses, even when I don’t agree with them.

  8. Ack, it’s actually worse that Harriet the Spy lost to “Shadow of a Bull” – which I thought was marginally worse than “It’s Like This, Cat” (sorry, Wendy).

    I still think that “The Thief” should have beat “The View from Saturday”. I’ll grant that “The King of Attolia” skews too old for the Newbery, but “The Thief” doesn’t!

  9. I can personally support the point that book that are often considered robbed still have people that would have hated to have seen them win. For me, the example wuld have been “Tuck Everlasting”. The first word that comes to mind for me when describing the book is eeeeewwww!!!!! Yes, I know that wouldn’t suffice in a commitee discussion. I have numerous reasons why I consider it one of the worst, or at least overrated, books of all time and, no, most of them are not related to any personal adgenda of mine. But I could go on for hours, so I won’t list them here.

    My personal “robbed!” choice would be “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” by Julie Andrews Edwards. It is one of those books that almost no one has heard of, but after they read it, they love it just as much as you do every time. While I find it personally enjoyable, I could also without a doubt stick up for its numerous outstanding literary merits; it’s pure children’s literature magic. What won in the year it recieved no mention? “M.C. Higgins the Great”, which in my opinion is one of the absolute worst Newbery winners of all time, blending an inconsequential story with murky writing. However, I have heard of reputable people who think it is one of the most beautifully done books they have ever read, so go figure. Argh!

    I’m so glad people brought up “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”! When I was on Nina’s commitee that year, I was the book’s most ardent defender. I still think that it is beautifully done. The winner that year was “The Higher Power of Lucky”, and honor books were “Penny from Heaven”, “Hattie Big Sky”, and “Rules”. I agree that Lucky was the best that year. Not an overwhelmingly popular choice, but, people, can you give me one reason that it isn’t distinguished literarily? I’ve also known kids of the age range that liked it, and I can assure you that they weren’t all nerdy bookworms. Anyway, besides that, I wholeheartedly support Penny for an honor (such a wonderful cast of characters!), but I think Hattie (repetitive plotline and unsatisfactory conclusion) and Rules (undistinguished style and cliches) were nowhere near honor book level. I consider Edward Tulane that year’s robbery along with “A Drowned Maiden’s Hair” and “A True and Faithful Narrative”, which recieved accolades at our Mock Newbery and were all outstanding and definitely deserving of Newbery recognition. Also, I didn’t like “The King of Attolia” that year, but I didn’t read the previous books in the series and didn’t have any idea what was going on. Which is, when you think about it, is probably why it didn’t win.

  10. For what it’s worth (yes, nothing), I couldn’t get through the first half of “Lucky”.

  11. Interesting to read everyone’s comments. Thanks for sharing

  12. “Not an overwhelmingly popular choice, but, people, can you give me one reason that it isn’t distinguished literarily?”

    Yes. Patron’s writing is sloppy. She tries to hard to write like a 10-11 year old and it doesn’t carry evenly throughout the text. The character of Brigette is way too far fetched and the plot is slow and downright boring.

    Not quite sure about CITY OF EMBER and IDA B being mentioned . . .

    THE PENDERWICKS, definitely!

  13. Monica Edinger says:

    Just to say that one person’s “eeeeewwww” is someone else’s “robbed.”

    When it comes to the older decisions, it seems easy for us today in retrospect to question certain choices when the overlooked books have now become such classics. I didn’t have access to a copy, but I very much appreciated last year’s consideration of SECRET OF The ANDES as it helped me to understand a bit why that particular committee selected it over CHARLOTTE’S WEB. (And I should say I did not especially like CW when I first read it. It took a scholar years later to show me how amazing it is. So I may well have not given it the medal either if I’d been on the committee that year. Horrors, I know.)

    The more recent books are trickier, it seems to me, to argue about. I personally adored THE KING OF ATTOLIA and would have worked my tail off to convince my fellow committee members that the obfuscations were stylistic and intentional rather than because it was part of a series. But I may not have been successful. That book and sequels generally are (as Jonathan has pointed out in a Horn Book article) truly at a disadvantage as the criteria forbids any consideration of books outside of the year of contention. That year I also loved A TRUE AND FAITHFUL NARRATIVE and A DROWNED MAIDEN’S HAIR, but I’m loath to say either were robbed as I like the books that did receive the awards and respect the committee’s decisions that year.

  14. Monica Edinger says:

    Or, for that matter, one person’s “robbed” is someone else’s “eeeeewwww.”

  15. I remember that many, many people expected Deborah Wiles’ Each Little Bird that Sings to walk away with a prize (although I was not one of them). Ditto with Gloria Whelans’ Listening for Lions.

    If there is anybody I truly feel sorry for, it is the authors of the Printz honor books from this year. Imagine that all-star lineup — Octavian Nothing, Tender Morsels, Nation, and Frankie Landau-Banks — all beaten by a waaaay-outta-left-field Australian novel nobody had really heard of. Oh, the pain.

  16. I didn’t think Jellicoe Road was out of left field at all. I’d been hearing quite a bit about it, and had it on a Printz-possible to-read list, though I hadn’t gotten to it yet when the announcements were made.

  17. Judy Freeman says:

    My favorite fiction book ever never won: Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. Just read it again, for the millionth time, and still love it like crazy.

  18. Well, I want to go read “Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” now because I hated “M.C. Higgins the Great” and I want to feel all outraged. OK, and I’m intrigued by the title.

  19. Oh, The Penderwicks! Definitely The Penderwicks! I did love King of Attolia and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, but I thought both of them skewed to the top end of the Newbery age range. I was shocked that Part-Time Indian didn’t get Printz recognition.

    On the other hand, I like The Higher Power of Lucky much better than The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane — I didn’t think Edward Tulane was particularly original; a friend referred to it as The Velveteen Rabbit meets Hitty, and I have to agree.

  20. Everyone has heard of Charlotte’s Web, so if it didn’t get a Newbery, I think you could say it didn’t NEED one. But, I think that if Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! hadn’t won in the following year, then no one would have heard of A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, and that would have been a tragedy. As it is that A True and Faithful Narrative went unrecognized. When a great book is passed over, it isn’t just that the book disappears without a trace, it’s that all the books that might have been written by an author are never published because her first book sold so few copies. Just thinking about it would give me hives if I were on the committee. No one’s mentioned Suzanne Freeman’s Cuckoo’s Child. Maybe no one remembers it. It was painful but brilliant and I think truly distinguished.

  21. I was shocked that Sherman Alexie’s Part Time Indian didn’t win the Printz! I kept looking at my screen in disbelief.

    My Printz favorite for 2010? Liar by Justine Larbalestier.8kheh

  22. “But, I think that if Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! hadn’t won in the following year, then no one would have heard of A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, and that would have been a tragedy.”

    True, but part of me still thinks that Shlitz was on readers’ minds that following year simply because A DROWNED MAIDEN was so “robbed”, so much so that GOOD MASTERS! may have been a tad overrated.

    Either way, A DROWNED MAIDEN is the better of the two in my mind. It deserved a medal! I liked GOOD MASTERS!, but not necessarily in “that” way!

  23. I am sure I didn’t say I was robbed because Devil’s Arithmetic didn’t win the Newbery. I probably said that it was highly touted by a lot of people. I wasn’t on the committee which named A JOYFUL NOISE (Paul Fleischman’s book of bug poems for two voice) nor was I then or now privy to their reasonings.

    But my take on awards has always been that it is all fairy dust. Sometimes you walk in the woods and get sprinkled by the good fairies, but the vast majority of the time you don’t. Besides, awards have to be dusted and sometimes (this has happened to me) they set your good coat on fire!


  24. emilynewmoon says:

    (children’s librarian) I agree that THE DIAMOND IN THE WINDOW was deserving of a Newbery (and a ticker-tape parade). Yes, I’m being sincere. I have seldom read a story, children’s or adults’, that challenges a reader’s mind as much (cognitive thinking and ethics) AND has such an enthralling plot. Sadly, none of Jane Langton’s other Hall Family Chronicles has quite lived up to the frist, but I was delighted to see THE FLEDGLING honored.

    Yes, THE PENDERWICKS (especially for those who also love Eager, Nesbit, and L. M. Montgomery). I mistakenly thought form an SLJ review that she was going to be making the futre Pernderwicks books more “edgy.” To my astonishement, Jeanne Birdsall actually wrote me BACK with a personal leter, promising me that she would never do such a thing — she wanted to give back to the world what Edward Eager, etc. had given her.

  25. It’s loverly to see so many who adore A TRUE AND FAITHFUL NARRATIVE and A DROWNED MAIDEN’S HAIR. The next book that springs to mind is 2004’s THE STAR OF KAZAN, by Eva Ibbotson. Yes, that was Despereaux’s year, but Kazan is brill. Also LEEPIKE RIDGE by N.D. Wilson. And TROUBLE, by Gary Schmidt. I can’t remember the last time I checked out Feathers or Elijah to a patron (08’s honors).

  26. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I think THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN is an interesting case. There are thirteen- and fourteen-year olds that will read the book, so I definitely think it falls in the Newbery field. There are a handful of crude and/or profane and/or sexual references that make the typical gatekeeper feel uncomfortable recommending this for a juvenile audience, and I’m guessing these derailed its Newbery chances, but that’s pure speculation.

    THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN was always a better fit in the Printz field, however, but the Printz, unlike the Newbery, can include books by foreign authors. I don’t think many people realize how competitive that group of books was. In addition to the three foreign titles recognized by the Printz committee–THE WHITE DARKNESS, ONE WHOLE AND PERFECT DAY, and DREAMQUAKE–there was a whole slew of foreign books that won major accolades, both here and in their native countries. Those books include A DARKLING PLAIN by Philip Reeve, ANGEL ISLE by Peter Dickinson, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS by J.K. Rowling, THE NEW POLICEMAN by Kate Thompson, RED SPIKES by Margo Lanagan, THE ARRIVAL by Shaun Tan, TAMAR by Mal Peet, A SWIFT PURE CRY by Siobhan Dowd, BEFORE I DIE by Jenny Downham, MISTIK LAKE by Martha Brooks, and DARKWING by Kenneth Oppel.

  27. A Drowned Maiden’s Hair and Coraline.

  28. a teacher says:

    Off topic question here:

    I’m using WALK TWO MOONS in my 5th grade class and while exploring some information about Sharon Creech, I found this quote about the phone call she received regarding her 1995 Newbery Medal:

    “She (Creech) went out into the backyard at her home in England to scream.”

    Elsewhere in this same text I found the line “Creech still lives in England . . .”

    I thought you had to be an American resident to win the Newbery? How did Creech win it for WALK TWO MOONS in 1995 if she was living (and still lives) in England?

    Just curious . . .

  29. Jonathan Hunt says:

    You have to be an American resident (e.g. Susan Cooper and Neil Gaiman both British citizens) or an American citizen (which Creech was, regardless of where she lived).

  30. The River Between Us by Richard Peck would be my addition to the list….I expect it was because he already had win/honor books, but I found this title (which won the Scott O’Dell award for historic fiction) to be particularly powerful.

    Strongly agree re Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton and The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (though at least it won the National book award).

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