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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal


Jonathan’s Newbery-Induced Attention Deficit Disorder is a symptom of buzz.  Buzz is a little crazy making.  Yet we seem to love to gorge on it, like popcorn and Coke and Red Vines at the movies. What’s the latest voting on the Goodreads Newbery 2011 list? Who’s predicted what or liking what or not liking what on which blog?  It’s easy to create almost literal buzz online, as the sheer frequency of a title being mentioned seems to draw a crowd’s attention to it.  Like a fight, or just the rumor of one, on a school playground.

In all this noise, it gets harder and harder to focus on the task at hand, and to make sure to give every title its due. I think this what was making Mr. H anxious in some of his comments on Jonathan’s post.  Most award committee members create the focus they need by any means necessary…restructuring their personal lives to create “Newbery time,” sequestering themselves from online discussions, etc.   Here, we’re only pretending…and also deliberately examining the buzz…and it’s hard, folks, to focus.

Last night I had the pleasure (because I’m not on the committee, and can make time for this sort of thing) of dining, along with some other guests, with Dana Reinhardt and her editor Wendy Lamb (thank you Random House. My duck was delicious).  Wendy was also the editor of When You Reach Me, and remarked on what a new experience it had been to see the buzz grow about this book online.   The discussion meandered to some of the other books of the year, and then of other years, and she observed that–for those of us who look to measure a year’s best books–those books continue to exist in our memories within a “class” of their year.   Certain books “belong” together, and your non-awarded favorites of one year become latched in memory to that year’s award winners. And it’s interesting to look back over the years, as the classes get necessarily smaller, some dropping from memory….to see really which books stand out to you over time.  This is very different than which books stand out in a year, and it is only with time that we can measure it.

I know this, but I regularly forget it and remember it.  It’s not a terribly ground-shaking thought, but it is, interestingly, at the core of the idea for the Newbery Medal, as Frederic G Melcher (the award’s “father”) remarked in its early years:

 “The growing value of the medals…has been due to the strict devotion to the standards the medals represent. Writers, artists, publishers and librarians can point out books of distinction, considered as they must be year by year, but only readers in succeeding generations can make them ‘classics.’”[i]

 So, as an exercise in focus (like the 20-20-20 rule for exercising your eyes, and I hope you all do that after this)…what are your top 3 non-Newbery “classics”…and which Newbery book do they go with?  Mine are (done simply by what jumps first to mind…I wonder if they’ll be different after I look at my shelves at home or hear from you):

The Canning Season…. (Tale of Despereaux Year)

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair…(Higher Power of Lucky Year)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian…(Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Year)

[i] Melcher, Frederic G. “The Origin of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals,” in Newbery and Caldecott Medal Books 1956-1965, edited by Lee Kingman (The Horn Book, 1965). P.2.

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. This is my kind of “exercise”

    Clementine (Higher Power of Lucky)
    The Penderwicks (Criss Cross)
    We are the Ship (The Graveyard Book)

  2. Blackbringer (Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! year)
    A Drowned Maiden’s Hair (Higher Power of Lucky year)
    The Penderwicks (Criss Cross year)

  3. I can think of one off the top of my head:
    The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale (The Tale of Despereaux)

  4. Jonathan Hunt says:




  5. First off I’m giddy over the thought that Nina has more love for Junior in her very own Newbery year. I would have loved to hear the committee’s discussion over PART-TIME INDIAN, one mere year after scrotum hit the fan.

    I feel like such a copy cat because KING OF ATTOLIA, CLEMENTINE and PART-TIME INDIAN are all on my personal life-boat list, on which I only allow 10 titles.

    I guess Eugenides and CLEMENTINE will need to duke it out for the HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY YEAR


    FLIPPED for the KIRA KIRA year

  6. The Thief (The View from Saturday)

    and of course Charlotte’s Web (Secret of the Andes)

    Charles & Emma (When You Reach Me)

  7. Or were the non-Newbery books not supposed to be Honors books either?

  8. How could I forget? A huge one for me:


    I admit it’s partly because I soooo think that book deserved the Medal that I would love to see A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS win this year.

  9. When I do this exercise my mind allows me to ignore Newbery rules, so I go to my favorite books of the year, not *necessarily* eligible:

    NATION (The Graveyard Book)
    ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY (Good Masters, Sweet Ladies)
    THE BOOK THIEF (Higher Power of Lucky)
    THE THIEF (The View from Saturday)
    FEED (Crispin)

  10. It’s so easy to forget that a Newbery is chosen by a committee. A committee of vastly different and yet extremely dedicated readers who are atruggling to separate their own personal taste and ideas from some more universal idea of what is best– quality, excellence and distinction. I’ll never forget the year “View From Saturday” won telling Megan Whalen Turner that “Thief” was my personal favorite for the year. She just smiled. But I think the personal excitement that I felt for “Thief” doesn’t detract one bit from the excellence of “View From Saturday.”

    I have found that when I am on a committee that the book that was personally the most engaging and MY best loved of the year is never the book that wins, and I would bet that’s true of most members. It is a group decision.

  11. Three that come to mind from recent years:
    Hunger Games (Graveyard Book)
    A Crooked Kind of Perfect (Good Masters Sweet Ladies)
    Love That Dog (A Single Shard)

  12. Genevieve says:

    The Penderwicks (Criss Cross)
    A Crooked Kind of Perfect (Good Masters, Sweet Ladies)
    Love That Dog (A Single Shard)

  13. The House of the Scorpion (Crispin: the Cross of Lead)
    A Drowned Maiden’s Hair (The Higher Power of Lucky)
    Olive’s Ocean (The Tale of Despereaux)

  14. A Drowned Maiden’s Hair (The Higher Power of Lucky)
    No Talking! (Good Masters, Sweet Ladies)

  15. Nina Lindsay says:

    This is why I love this game…I’d forgotten about No Talking! Yes!

  16. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I haven’t read NO TALKING, but I’ll add FRINDLE and THE SCHOOL STORY, both also by Clements.

  17. A True and Faithful Narrative (The Higher Power of Lucky)

  18. Just reread the post and realized the previous wasn’t really an answer to Nina’s question. It is just one of my favorites of that year. As for my top three …off the top of my head?….gag…too hard. Can’t do it.

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