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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Why I do this

This has always been my favorite time of year.  Fall colors, new school supplies, my birthday…

…and now, with it firmly in the blogosphere, the start of book award season.  On Friday, Betsy “stepped up her game” at Fuse #8, and Roger put the trend of speculation-frenzy into perspective. The first week of blogging here coincided with Fashion Week, and both prompted similar reactions of overindulgence in anticipation, a slight bloatedness of enthusiasm, and finally a more realistic and refreshed perspective.

You each may participate in award speculation for different reasons, but I’ve never been in it primarily for the prediction.  I started doing a Mock Newbery in 2003, when I was on the committee, in order to get some in-depth feedback on some of the books I was reading.  At that first one I discovered how fun and rewarding it was to get other adults enthused about the award:  its criteria, procedures, and history…and I’ve done it ever year since then.  I select a discussion list that will provoke, I hope, the most diverse discussion.  And it’s the best way I know how to make sure I’ve read most of the possible contenders before the real announcements. 

This speculation never takes away from the excitement of the real award annoucements for me (read my article in the July/Aug 2010 Horn Book if you don’t believe me).  I think this is because, having been on the committee, I know how tip-of-the-iceberg even these time-consuming Mock discussions are.   The actual committee reads more, more closely, and more focussed on a particular set of criteria, than any otherwise sane person would do…  and there is truly no way of predicting the results, even for those on the committee.  As Roger reminds us, “the Newbery and Caldecott announcements rarely prompt us to say, ‘That’s nice,’ or ‘Who cares?'”  And truthfully, except for the return of the long skirt, I can’t quite say the same for Fashion Week.

Jonathan and I will comment more on the committee procedures, criteria, and experience over the course of the blog, but if you’re not familiar with it, I really encourage you to browse through the manual.  I think it’s wonderful that it’s available online.

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. I think it’s interesting that several people have commented that all the discussion last year supposedly turned When You Reach Me’s win into a yawn. I don’t think it was so much the discussion as that WYRM was pretty plainly the best book of the year. If anything, I think the talk about WYRM just made people contrary. I remain extremely puzzled by anyone who says the book “doesn’t seem like Newbery quality” (and I’ve yet to hear any really well-reasoned or well-written explanation; contrariness is my only explanation). I can understand that some felt other books might have been better, or that it didn’t quite live up to the love of people like me, but to say that it isn’t Newbery quality at all seems frankly strange.

    It’ll be fun, this year, with less consensus at the outset. I thought at first that we were going to have a repeat performance with One Crazy Summer, but that doesn’t seem to be getting quite the level of praise that WYRM did.

  2. Hmmm. I didn’t get to read When You Reach Me until this summer and I have to admit, having read so much about how so many people loved it means I still don’t have a good handle on how I feel about it. Going into the reading I tried to manage my expectations, but given the overall love I think it would have needed to hold the secret of how to end world hunger to keep it from falling a little flat. This was also one of the first times I noticed how hard it was to try and separate my personal reaction from how I felt a kid might react to the book. I can’t imagine how much the actual committee members must second, third and fourth guess their reactions.

  3. I’m really enjoying the sense that there are other people out there who are as nutty and serious about children’s books as I am. And we can seriously discuss what makes a great children’s book — with actual examples in front of us that we have read.

    And people who can help me put my finger on WHY. When I read ONE CRAZY SUMMER, I thought that book is Newbery material. Why? It’s going to be fun to explore, and fun to find out if it struck other people the same way.

    Also a lot of fun to hear about what new books (like KEEPER) I really should read.

  4. Has anyone else read ‘A Nest for Celeste’ by Henry Cole.

    Might be a bit young for Newbery but it my favorite so far this year. It’s a lovely story with a smart and gentle heroine.

    It is heavily illustrated though. Maybe another crossover from Newbery to Caldecott or there and back again?


  5. Has anyone had a chance to read the ARC of Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea. It should be on people’s radar.

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