Subscribe to SLJ
Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

And the OTHER Winner is….

…Completely different from Jonathan’s group.

WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead

THE DUNDERHEADS by Paul Fleischman

Interestingly, it seems like the strongest similarity was in the way our two sets of ballots progressed, not in reference to titles, but in the way the votes fell out.  

Our first ballot did not result in a winner. WYRM had four first place votes, but the other first place votes were all over the place.  Only ALMOST ASTRONAUTS received no votes, and we removed it, had a little more discussion, and moved quickly to a second ballot.

The second ballot produced 6 first place votes for WYRM: with 11 voters, that’s the "more than half" we needed, as long as there was also a 6 point spread in total points above the next one on the list. Was there? Yes, by LOTS.  WYRM also had 3 2nd place votes and 1 3rd place votes…or: it was a selection of 10 out of 11 voters.  Pretty consensual. 

On to honors. THE DUNDERHEADS had done very well on both ballots, alsways coming in second with total points by a clear margin.   To some committees, this could indicate a situation for just one honor book…but, there were still strong and numerous votes for other titles, and so we did one more ballot for honor books.  Here, finally, the cutoff was more clear, both in total points, and in number of voters.  (All of our honor books received a vote from more than half the committee on the honor book ballot.)

Something that stood out to me in our voting was how strongly divided the first place votes seemed to be.  I think that this year, more than in others, we had very different types of books on the list, resulting in some "oranges to apples" selections.  I heard in discussion that where people felt two disimilar titles were both very strong, it was really hard to figure out which one was more distinguished.  I tried to offer my weird-visual-thinking method (involving lots of hand motions) in which I picture two titles, independently but side by side, being measured against the criteria, and try to "see which title is…um…denser."  That is, for the type of book it is and for it’s potential audience, how distinguished is: The Dunderheads…versus Claudette Colvin…versus When You Reach Me?

With limited time, we could only scratch the surface of this.  In the actual committee, the chair would try to allow for plenty of time for committee members to talk about these comparisons, as well as spend time in individual reflection before proceeding to another ballot.  (If there’s time for a meal break or a night’s sleep, committee members will even re-read a few titles.) The consensus is built not just around the title, but around why and how the committee arrived at it. 

We finished a little after 5, and everyone packed up and left…which always happens quickly (it’s a Sunday afterall).  But I was left with this horrible empty feeling: dang!  I didn’t get to sit at the table with Jonathan!  Oh well…we’ll just have to continue to pound it out at the keyboard for the rest of the week, until….

…the REAL announcements. Next Monday.

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. Monica Edinger says:

    Oh do I love those hand motions of yours!

    And I love that you did two groups so you can really show how two committees can do completely different things with the exact same set of book.

  2. Dean Schneider says:

    As Monica said, it really does show how different committees can make quite different choices–all distinguished books, but reflecting the make-up of the committees. When I was on the 2008 Newbery Committee (with Nina and Monica), I remember quite vividly being told by a previous committee member that we were not picking THE best book of the year; we were picking ONE of the best books of the year, that a different committee might well select a different medal winner.

    I’m glad Marching for Freedom was in the mix–an Honor from Jonathan’s group. It’s still the book I’m rooting hardest for. Such a good book….

    In the new January 2010 Book Links magazine, in my “Dean’s List” column, I make my own predictions. I wrote the column way back in the summertime, I believe, so it was a risky undertaking, but we’ll see how I do. Many of the books I discuss have been part of the Heavy Medal discussions over the last couple of months. The magazine’s cover is the cover from Margarita Engle’s Tropical Secrets, a book I liked a lot, and there’s a fine article by Jeannine Atkins about Engle. Also my article, “The Novel as Screenplay: Monster and Riot by Walter Dean Myers.” Laura Tillotson’s “Lasting Connections of 2009″ in this issue is always one of the important lists, with its emphasis on distinguished books with good curricular connections.

    Thanks to Nina & Jonathan for their giant efforts in making this discussion fun and challenging. See some of you in Boston!

  3. I hope you both will share more about the content of the discussions–I’m very interested. I’m especially interested in hearing why consensus seems to be around Claudette Colvin over Marching for Freedom; I thought the choice was clear, but in the other direction.

  4. Jonathan Hunt says:

    We admired MARCHING FOR FREEDOM for its combination of vivid, dramatic writing and wonderful research as evidenced by the primary source quotes and photog . . . er, um, the wondeerfully illuminating captions. Some found it hard to keep track of the various characters throughout the narrative, but that was mentioned later in our discussion. On the first go-round there were no concerns voiced about a book, a rare thing and one that indicates strongly that this is a book that consensus can be built around.

    We admired CLAUDETTE for many of the same reasons. We like the way that it complemented the Rosa Parks story. We found that Hoose’s narrative, in contrast, took us more deeply into a single viewpoint. Some found the book design confusing, especially compared with MARCHING FOR FREEDOM (a point which I strongly objected to).

    Some people voted for one book, some voted for the other, and some (like me) voted for both.

    I’ll also mention that we all universally praised THE DUNDERHEADS. The only concern raised was how to compare apples and oranges. I was the only one that voted for it, but we all said glowing things about it.

Speak Your Mind