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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Finalists and Nominations


The National Book Award finalists are SHIP BREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi, MOCKINGBIRD by Kathryn Erksine, DARK WATER by Laura McNeal, LOCKDOWN by Walter Dean Myers, and ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia.  While these are all eligible for the Newbery, most people would feel more comfortable with the juvenile titles (i.e. MOCKINGBIRD and ONE CRAZY SUMMER) being considered.  I have not read DARK WATER, and am half way through MOCKINGBIRD, but have read the others.  I’m predicting a win for ONE CRAZY SUMMER, although I think that SHIP BREAKER would also be a fine choice.

The National Book Awards have four categories, of course, three for adults–Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry–and one for children and young adults–Young People’s Literature.  My eternal lament is that the Young People’s Literature category ought to do a better job of embracing nonfiction and poetry, especially with so many rich possibilities this year in either genre.  I’m not sure what more the National Book Foundation can do.  I mean, they did appoint Laban Carrick Hill (nonfiction, poetry) and Hope Anita Smith (poetry) as judges, after all.  So, for me, as fine as the shortlist may be, it just lacks the excitement, diversity, and controversy of last year’s list.  Ho hum.

What do you think about the National Book Award finalists?


While the National Book Award judges made their finalists public yesterday, the Newbery committee may have already traded their first round of October nominations.  You’ll remember that three formal nominations are due in October, two in November, and still two more in December.  If you read the most recent Sunday Brunch at Collecting Children’s Books, Peter Sieruta discusses how ALSC actually published the Newbery nominations for a brief period of several years in the early 1970s.  The lists are fascinating and provide a glimpse of the diverse array of titles considered by the committee.

Nina has been holding her cards close to the vest, revealing that THE KNEEBONE BOY is currently in her top three, but teasing us with others (unnamed, but not fiction).  I, on the other hand, announced from the beginning that KEEPER, A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, and SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD were my top three, and they remain my choices (although I have flirted with DARK EMPEROR, BARBIE, DREAMER, and KKK), not just because they are excellent, but also because I have not had the opportunity to do much rereading yet.  On the real committee, I would have read all of my potential nominations at least twice, and possibly three times.  Rereading changes everything.

At this point, what are your three October nominations?

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. I’m kind of excited. Normally I count myself lucky if I’m able to read the frontrunner and maybe one other title in a given year. This year I’ve read 7 eligible titles! Keep in mind, I’ve only read KEEPER, THE DREAMER, MOCKINGBIRD, THE NIGHT FAIRY, ONE CRAZY SUMMER, THE BIRTHDAY BALL, and THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE. I am currently reading BECAUSE OF MR. TERUPT (and it’s great so far); I have a copy of THE CANDYMAKERS by Wendy Mass, and THE BONESHAKER.

    That gives you the small context of what I’ve read . . . based on it:

    3. MOCKINGBIRD – Not quite sure if children would be able to truly appreciate how good I thought it was.

    2. KEEPER – Just finished reading it with my 5th grade class. For the most part, they LOVED it. And I did too. I had a few qualms, but wouldn’t mind seeing this one win out.

    1. THE DREAMER – Totally not the kind of book I would normally enjoy. But the fact that I did, and did so much, must mean Munoz Ryan did something great! I thought THE DREAMER was unlike any biography-type story I’ve ever read. And if that’s not distinguished, I don’t know what is.

  2. Well, the 2010 definitely-Newbery-age book that impressed me most was Plain Kate, but I’m not sure it’s eligible—the author lives in Canada, so not a US resident, but she grew up in the states, so maybe she retained US citizenship? If so, that’s one of my nominations.

    I think What Happened on Fox Street gets on there. It’s a bit predictable, but it tells the story it has to tell extremely well and I thought the writing was beautiful, simple but playful and never pretentious.

    I haven’t read They Called Themselves the KKK as thoroughly as it deserves, but I was impressed (and moved and angered), so I think it’s on my current nomination list… but needs a re-read. And may get bumped when my next batch of holds comes in at the library.

  3. 3. Mockingbird–The narrator’s voice was immediately believable and the humor involved in this heartbreaking story elevates it above a simple tragedy. The love of the protagonist and understanding of her different mind rings true.

    2. The Dreamer–For such a depressing book, it is uplifting and amazing and beautiful. Terrific writing and a wonderful sympathetic protagonist. Love that he is a sensitive boy and a real person to boot.

    1. One Crazy Summer–incredibly fluid writing dealing w/ complex issues and emotions. Reads like a dream.

  4. I’m waiting for the Mockingbird discussion to be thrown into the fan. I listened to the audio and found the narrator put a fun bemused quality into Caitlin’s voice, but others who read it felt that the author made her seem silly.

    My top three now that you ask are:

    One Crazy Summer
    The Clockwork Three

    I know I should be hanging my head in same in this particular forum that there is no non-fiction there, but I would need to read it first.

  5. I guess I need to reread Keeper (I read it back in June during the 48 Hour challenge so my memory of it is a tad fuzzy, but I do remember liking it, though not as much as The Underneath). I have to say I was surprised to see Mockingbird get the NBA nod yesterday, just thought it was a bit heavy handed and not quite as successful as Out of My Mind which I think is a good comparison book.

    My three since you asked are:

    1. Turtle in Paradise
    2. Clementine, Friend of the Week
    3. The Ghostwriter Secret

  6. I agree with Eric on Mockingbird versus Out of My Mind – though I loved Caitlin’s voice, I thought the book was too melodramatic and the ending too tidy. My top three at the moment are:

    1. Out of My Mind
    2. Crunch
    3. The Water Seeker

    I guess I should get on with reading some nonfiction too.

  7. Put on your reading list: THE MEMORY BANK by Carolyn Coman, just out and with only one review so far, a star from Kirkus.

  8. Nina Lindsay says:

    I like holding my cards close on this blog until we post our shortlist-for-discussion…just because I’ve found that people will take *anything* on a blog a run with it, way too far sometimes.

    But…I did just “vote” on the Newbery 2011 list on Goodreads, which I find a very helpful tool to help me organize my thoughts re this blog. So it’s not a big secret if you go looking for it. :)

  9. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I wanted to like MEMORY BANK, but it just didn’t work for me. I’m almost finished with MOCKINGBIRD and have some big concerns about this one. :-(

  10. Question: Do the Newbery or National Book Award panels consider an Author’s Note as part of their discussions? I liked Mockingbird, but I really disliked the Author’s Note. I have several reasons, but here are the two sentences that I found troubling: “This book was inspired by the events at Virginia Tech as well as my own need to try to explain what it’s like for a child to have Asperger’s syndrome. The two themes are related in my mind because I believe strongly in early intervention, whatever the disability.” Linking violence and Asperger’s?! That is heavy handed and offensive to families with kids on the spectrum. This Author Note is also included on the audio version.

    My contenders for the Newbery right now are One Crazy Summer and The Dreamer.

  11. Jonathan: “MOCKINGBIRD and have some big concerns about this one.”

    Hmm . . . you will share sometime, won’t you?

  12. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Joyce, the author’s notes are absolutely fair game, but they represent such a small portion of the book that, by themselves, they probably wouldn’t sway judges one way or another. Now if you could argue that the “heavy-handed” and “offensive” tone was carried into the text, then you might be on to something.

    Mr. H, I’ll probably blog about MOCKINGBIRD next to air my concern.

  13. I have a question for anyone who is listening. Besides A TALE DARK AND GRIMM and the sugar book, what other books that have yet to be released should we be watching for? Linda Sue Park’s A LONG WALK TO WATER, seems like it should be on someone’s radar based on her track record if nothing else. I have yet to hear a peep about it.

  14. DaNae,
    I’m still eagerly waiting for Laurie Halse Anderson’s FORGE (sequel to Chains) which doesn’t come out until next Tuesday (Oct 18).

  15. Jonathan Hunt says:

    While the committee has traded suggestions all year long, these are little more than titles (and sometimes brief annotations), and there is no limit to the number each member can submit, so the October nominations are really the first opportunity to learn what people are serious about late in the year. Nine of us (including Nina–I went and stole her list from Goodreads) contributed nominations, and this is what our composite list looks like.

    Two votes


    One vote


    With your November and December votes, two in each month, you will probably want to vote for a book listed above (if you liked it, but didn’t vote for it yet). For example, I might nominate ONE CRAZY SUMMER, THE DREAMER, SIR CHARLIE, and THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK. I would be perfectly happy with those as my last nominations. But I still need to finish most of THE KNEEBONE BOY and have yet to start OUT OF MY MIND and THE WATER SEEKER. Do I pile on books that already have some support or do I spend a nomination on something like DARK EMPEROR or SNOOK ALONE that might be an uphill battle? Choices. Choices.

  16. I’m still just curious about the process . . . what if there are a few great books that the committee is suggested, but don’t get around to reading due to multiple rereadings they are doing of more “hyped” books? I’ve heard great things about BECAUSE OF MR. TERUPT and THE DANGER BOX but never a word mentioned on here about them. But yet, THE GHOSTWRITER SECRET, a part of a serial mystery is listed here? Didn’t J-Lo have something to say about this?!

    Is it just tough luck?

  17. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Let’s say the average committee member reads 200 different books. Multiply that by 15 and you have 3,000 different readings. There will be lots of overlap–the entire committee reads the suggestions and nominations–but it’s pretty hard for a distinguished book to slip under the radar when 15 people are reading that broadly. The other thing to consider is that the Newbery committee has endless stacks and piles of books to read. While most of us would have to scramble to find copies of THE DANGER BOX and BECAUSE OF MR. TERUPT, the Newbery committee probably got ARCs long ago.

  18. Nina Lindsay says:

    My memory of this part of the Newbery process is that committee members aren’t doing as much re-reading as frantically reading for breadth, *exactly* to address Mr. H’s concern that nothing’s been left out. At this point in the year, I read from 7pm-11pm every single night, besides whatever time I could steal through the day. Besides reading what I was sent, I checked starred reviews in major and minor journals and made sure I’d read everything, browsed my local bookstore display tables, contacted major journals and asked for “confidential” scoops on their “best of” the year lists (which are, more or less, done by now). Also, because this was my own personal bent that I wanted to make sure was represented, I tracked down pretty much any poetry book that was eligible, and made sure I’d seen everything eligible from some of the smaller publishers that I admire, like Front Street and Cinco Puntos. Though I probably only read 200 books all the way through, I’m sure that I “looked at” and read at least a 5-50 pages of many many times that. Imagine, as Jonathan says, 15 different people reading this way…..

  19. Genevieve says:

    My votes right now would be:

    But I haven’t gotten THE KNEEBONE BOY yet (just sent in a library purchase request form, though they said they would definitely be getting it), KEEPER, or WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET. I liked TURTLE IN PARADISE but didn’t see it as necessarily a Newbery book, and THE NIGHT FAIRY or COUNTDOWN didn’t appeal to me.

  20. I still have several books I want to read, but for now my list would be

  21. My Top Picks So Far:

    Ninth Ward
    The Water Seeker
    Clockwork Three
    Kneebone Boy

    I had so many problems with Out of My Mind that I can’t imagine why people think it’s Newbery-worthy. The villains were one-dimensional, the slang was out-of-date, and the entire premise felt very melodramatic and unrealistic.

  22. My current top 3 (subject to change):

    1. Out of My Mind
    2. The Water Seeker
    3. The Dreamer

    I really enjoyed One Crazy Summer, however it just didn’t speak to me the way as those other three did. Same goes for The Night Fairy. Those two would probably both be in my top five though. I really couldn’t get into Keeper the way I did with The Underneath, but I can see how it might grab others.

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