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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

The Lady (and the Sugar) and the Tramp

This is looking to be another rollicking year for nonfiction.

Tanya Lee Stone’s THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE BARBIE is an easily engaging, broad and provocative perspective on the history and cultural currency of Barbie.  Of note is how different Stone’s authorial voice is in this title as compared to her last year’s Sibert winner. In BARBIE, you hardly hear her as author until well into the text, and she lightly layers her opinions between those of others until she’s laid a strong foundation for offering a judgment.  This title was published by a different company, and I’m assuming Stone worked with a different editor.  The difference is remarkable. The product still brilliant.

Marc Aronson worked with Stone in an editorial role on ALMOST ASTRONAUTS. He was also the first author to win the Sibert Medal in 2001 with his SIR WALTER RALEGH. This year, he and his wife Marina Budhos tell us how SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD.  Taking their personal family histories as a jumping off point to go global, they tie in agricultural, political, technological and social histories in a gripping narrative and fabulous-looking package (fabulous-looking even in ARC form). As in RALEGH, the end notes are almost the best part. 

Those endnotes in RALEGH, a distinguished element noted in the award announcement, set a standard that has been emulated and built on in the decade since by many authors and publishers.  Sid Fleischman provides a subtle Chaplinesque nose-thumbing at the same time that he steps up and performs admirably in the endnotes to his SIR CHARLIE: “Here is the evidence for all quotes.  In addition, to avoid interrupting the flow of the narrative while identifying secondary celebrities, I am making fuller introductions here. It’s here, too, that I have exiled casual comments, some of them diverting.”  His text is elegantly hilarious in every regard, and my ARC is so marked with clever turns of phrase as to render my marks useless.  His subject doesn’t lack for an entertaining story, but Fleischman’s own voice and skill in presentation is so evident as to make this stand above.  I have such a high first impression of this book that I’m eager, actually, to find someone who knows a little more about the subject and solicit their opinion of Fleischman’s interpretation. It sounds like there may be no “authoritative” version, but I’d like to know that Fleischman’s content is as solid as his delivery.  The parallels between his own exit and the way he present’s Chaplin’s exit from the world’s stage (“Exit, smiling, Sir Charlie”) are so poignant that I can’t quite trust my own judgment…imagining the potential of a posthumous medal.

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. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I agree that it is shaping up to be another very strong year for nonfiction. I’m similarly enamored of SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD and SIR CHARLIE. I’d also recommend THE WAR TO END ALL WARS by Russell Freedman, LAFAYETTE AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION by Russell Freedman, and THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. I have not read THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE BARBIE yet, but am looking forward to it. Ditto for THE CROSSING by Jim Murphy, a December release about Washington’s pivotal crossing of the Delaware River during the American Revolution.

  2. I loved They called themselves the kkk. I will be reading FDR’s Alphabet Soup by Tonya Bolden very soon. I want to read The Good, The Bad, And The Barbie. I wonder Stone says about the Barbie and Ken breakup.

  3. I’ve got the War to End All Wars here and will read through that one soon. It’s one of our major titles. I also need to find the Sugar book as I’ve heard much about it.

  4. I haven’t read any of those books, but I am compelled to intrude to say:

    Endnotes – ICK!
    FOOTNOTES RULE! Especially those wonderful old footnotes that sometimes went across the bottom third of two or three pages! They were right there, handy to read, without that annoying necessity of riffling back and forth in the book.

  5. Marc Aronson says:

    Footnotes are worth thinking about. Someday when we are able to deliver rich, complex, multimedia nonfiction digitally to young readers everywhere you will be able to click through directly from what we write to our sources. That was, after all, Tim Bernes-Lee’s inspiration in laying the groundwork for the world wide web — the ability to click directly from citation to source. But I don’t think having footnotes on the pages in print is a good idea. On the one hand, just as a visual image, it makes the page look dense, infested with tiny type and superscript numbers, which are fun for some kids, but a kind of visual barbed wire for others. Second the great opportunity and challenge of nonfiction for younger readers is design — layout — the flow of art and text. One reason why ereaders are, so far, not good for our nonfiction is that they don’t retain our layouts. And if we needed to make space for not merely citations but the kind of commentary in, say, Sid’s book, on a page that would move art far away from text, or create great white space gaps, or make our books much longer. Now as we begin to seek out and even create more and more multimedia resources to go with books, it may make sense to move notes to a website — so that the notes become a kind of navigational map to internet resources — primary, secondary, audio, visual, games — which the reader can use right away while reading the book. But for the moment I still think the back of the book is the best home.

  6. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I don’t have a preference between endnotes and footnotes as I can see advantages to both, but I’m not sure that footnotes have quite the stigma that Marc implies. Many fiction books use footnotes, after all. I’m thinking of Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus books, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and Janet Tashjian’s Larry books, for example.

    And speaking of fiction books aping nonfiction conventions, take a peek at the Countdown thread where Kathy and Steven both mention that the extra material interrupts and distracts from the main narrative thread. That is always a problem with nonfiction, that is, that no matter how you design the layout, if you have two things vying for attention, *somebody* will always find it problematic. Of course, we constantly get interrupted in our reading–the plane lands, the baby cries, silent reading period ends–but we tend to be very forgiving of these interruptions and have little problem picking up where we left off.

  7. Nina Lindsay says:

    Endnotes are cumbersome in print in a different way than footnotes are….making you flip back and forth (and sometimes on a wild goose chase, as you may come across something you’re *hoping* to find an endnote for, but don’t).

    But they also have a very lovely side effect: they make you re-read and re-consider the text. I often end up checking in with the endnotes just a few times throughout the course of the book, scanning them to catch up to where I am in the main text, and see if I missed anything of interest. Often, I have, and I go back to that page briefly and re-read a section that now is of even more interest having passed it. Works kind of like a backstitch. And I find I comprehend the author’s perspective better when I read this way, rather than in just a single straight line forward.

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