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

Shortlist and Discussion Details Announced!

The Oakland “Heavy Medal” Mock Newbery

Sunday December 12th, 2010, 12noon-5pm

To participiate:

  1. RSVP to me  for details/location.
  2. Read the Newbery Criteria. (Optional for Newbery Nerds: read the whole manual!)
  3. Read the 8 books for discussion.  You really have to read all 8!  If you’re having trouble getting your hands on a particular title, just let me know.
  4. Show up (starting an hour earlier this year, so bring a brown bag if you like)!

For those of you not in or near Oakland CA, Wendy at Six Boxes of Books (a previous local) may be getting something going online. 

And Jonathan and I are still hatching our scheme for a Dec 13-Jan 9  round of virtual voting with a longer shortlist. We can’t really simulate online the type of discussion and process the actual committee has. But we do want to have a way for those of you who are willing to read more than 8 books and are eager to really compare the full range of contenders to do so.  Plus, we have some Oct/Nov favs that we’re not including, which I mentioned in the comments on yesterday’s post ….about why there are no late fall books on the shortlist you’re about to see below.

December 12th Shortlist…in alphabetical order by title….

A Conspiracy of Kings

You were all predicting yesterday that this would be up here.  It was the first book we discussed, and the first book we discussed for a second time. It provokes all sorts of great discussions about the sequel problem, and I’m sure someone will bring up the age level question, even though it’s so clear to me that this is a “type” of reader book, not an “age” of reader. (Sure, it takes some age to read it. But I think that some age is 11/12.)  I actually banished this one from my initial shortlist sort, because I didn’t want to be biased, or typecast, as a Turner fan.  But when it came down to it, looking at the quality of the writing, I couldn’t help myself.


Dark Emperor

Huh? Well recall that Jonathan brought it up a little while ago….and it’s been steadily growing on me.  I started off liking it, and now I’m truly impressed at the layers of interaction that it gives readers with the text(s). Take a look.


The Dreamer

I’m impressed by this one, but not totally won over myself. Yet I find the arguments for it compelling, and widespread. It’s certainly shaping up to be one of “the” books (along with Keeper) that everyone talks about for the Newbery. So here it is!



Maybe better than The Underneath? The comments keep coming on this post.


The Kneebone Boy

My dark horse. Anyone else read it yet?


One Crazy Summer

No surprise on this one, I should think.


Sir Charlie

We brought this one up earlier, but not many of you have picked up on quite how much we like it.  There’s plenty of room for argument on this one (mostly regarding “interpretation of theme or concept”), but this may have been the first title we picked for the shortlist.


They Called Themselves the KKK

Certainly one of the strongest of the strong nonfiction offerings this year. Now you have to read it.

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. Yes, I read THE KNEEBONE BOY — based solely on your recommendation a couple weeks back. Unfortunately, I don’t share your enthusiasm for this book. Here are a few thoughts excerpted from my own review:

    1) I should admit right off that I have a personal prejudice against books where the characters have names like “Hardscrabble” and the accompanying writing style is stylzied, arch, and…er…”lemony.”

    2) Forget about bird flu…is anyone investigating the epidemic that’s been impacting children’s book characters with epidemic proportions in recent years — elective mutism? (I know, this issue could not be discussed by the Newbery committee, but — geez — enough!

    3) The book contains some intriguing elements, including an unidentified narrator (“I can’t tell you which Hardscrabble I am – Otto, Lucia, or Max – because I’ve sworn on pain of torture not to.”) That was quite a clever device, I thoughtl

    4) But…the story takes a long time to get going (it’s ages before we hear much about the Kneebone Boy.)

    5) The conclusion is darker, sadder and more “real world” than the whimsical antics that have led up to it. I don’t want to give anything away, but I fel the denouement opens up a whole new set of questions that probably shouldn’t be examined too closely or the whole plot of the book gets shaky.

    6) The arch prose prevents the three remote protagonists Otto, Lucia, and Max from coming to life, while other characters, like Great-Aunt Haddie, remain vague and contradictory. Yes, Haddie is amusing, but what’s her story and what’s she really doing in this book?

    7) While the kids sound British enough in their dialogue, the narrative of the book — which is supposed to have been written by one of the siblings — doesn’t much reflect the “Britishness” of the narrator. One seldom feels an English kid is telling this story.

    In conclusion, THE KNEEBONE BOY has entertaining moments, yet some readers may find that reaching the jarring and unsatisfying conclusion after nearly 300 pages of stylized writing matches the dictionary definition of “hardscrabble” — yielding meagerly in return for much effort.

  2. I just read Kneebone Boy this weekend (as soon as my library system got it in and filled my hold) and really liked it. Adressing Peter’s concerns…

    4) I didn’t mind that it took a while to bring in The Kneebone Boy–it was a story about their adventure, and it was telling that story well, so I didn’t feel it hadn’t “gotten going” until The Kneebone Boy came in.

    1, 3, 7) I loved the writing style. I loved the unidentified narrator, though guessing wasn’t difficult (and was basically confirmed fairly early)–but knowing who it was made me feel a greater kinship with the narrator, like the narrator had let me in on a secret. I didn’t find the narration to be insufficiently British, it felt naturally British. And the narrator has clearly thought a lot about writing and storytelling, so though the narration is conversational, it’s also very aware of being a book–and the knowledge of writing a book may have encouraged the narrator toward universal language. And yes, it’s reminiscent of Lemony Snicket… but it doesn’t feel derivative and I didn’t find the stylization to intrude or detract.

    6) Can’t argue this one. EXCEPT the narrator. It so illuminating of the narrator and the narrator’s perception of the narrator’s siblings, their personalities, and their emotional states that I didn’t mind that I didn’t know what their personalities and emotional states really were. It was powerful enough to be steep in the narrator’s head.

    5) It’s dark and concrete… but the whole book was setting us up for that. It reminded us over and over that this wasn’t a book about magic. It made sure we knew what bad emotional shape Otto, Hadie, and the dad were in. It set it up *perfectly* That said…

    The twist was fantastically done, but I really want to know what a professional in a field related to the twist would think. And especially, someone from a family that has to deal with these issues. In some ways, I fear it’s not real-world enough–that it’s very much a real-world problem, but an idealized solution. That the world isn’t that kind to people in that situation, or that what seems to be kindness somehow isn’t. It’s dealing with very difficult issues, and I’m not convinced it’s dealing with them accurately. (I also worry a little about someone reading happily along for 250 pages… and then running smack into a trigger issue with no warning.)

    I really, really loved reading it, though. It was absorbing and just humorous enough and a good level of mysterious, and just the right amount of self-aware that we could see how the events shaped the narrator, but can’t see The Hand Of The Adult Author swooping in to reveal big truths.

  3. Angela K. says:

    I have to say I’m a little disappointed with this shortlist. You’ve left off great books like Scumble and Forge due to their recent publication and limited availability. However, I can’t find three of the books on your shortlist anywhere in our 28 member library system (Dark Emperor, Kneebone Boy, and They Called Themselves the KKK). And there’s more than one “dark horse” on this list (reference to Kneebone Boy). A poetry book and two other nonfiction books are on the short list but only Good Masters and Lincoln: A Photobiography have won the Newbery before in these areas. Admittedly, it could happen again that a poetry or nonfiction book could take home the gold, but it’s not very likely.

  4. Angela K. says:

    P.S. I’m not saying that “longshots” shouldn’t have a shot on the shortlist, but perhaps they shouldn’t make up half of the list.

  5. Read and loved The Kneebone Boy. I was expecting it to be “lemony” and derivative based on the cover art and cutesy Dickensian naming conventions, but it way transcended its genre.

    I agree with Miriam, though. I’m a little bit disquieted by the treatment of mental illness. If I were on the committee, I would want to know how likely it really is that someone with mental illness would form such a neat and tidy delusion about herself.

    But then again, the author walks a narrow and delightful ledge between fantasy and reality, so maybe a slightly fantastical treatment of a real world issue is acceptable. There’s where the comparison to Horvath is apt, in my opinion.

  6. I’m a little surprised to see COUNTDOWN left off. I see what you’re doing, in trying to have a variety of genre represented, but I don’t feel like some of these are incredibly strong cases. I don’t think the benefit of choosing a title specifically in order to discuss a particular genre (like picture book, nonfiction, etc) outweighs the discussion that could be had over an actual contender like COUNTDOWN, or THE BONESHAKER, or TURTLE IN PARADISE.

    Maybe I’m biased because I just really wanted to see TURTLE IN PARADISE discussed . . .

    • Nina Lindsay says:

      I’m sure there are many disappointments for online commenters who won’t be at the live discussion. But, Mr. H, think about what you mean by “actual contenders.” Have you read the Newbery Manual yet? You might enjoy it! Recall that all the books we’ve been discussing ARE actual contenders. Each committee member (of 15 total) get to nominate 7 titles, and those more-or-less comprise the final discussion list…but really, up until the final discussion gets going, ANY eligible book is a contender. Dozens of titles are considered and discussed at length in the actual committee. Jonathan and I both stand by the 8 titles we chose for discussion as “likely” being considered in depth by the committee. The ones you mention are equally likely. But the live discussion just works best with no more than 8 titles. In my experience, being on the committee, there is a light disconnect between the public “buzz” each year and the actual committee discussion. Each time, every title being “buzzed” is seriously considered by the committee, and yet those actually comprise only a small slice of the pool. So I can promise you that all the titles you’ve all been mentioning are being given serious consideration… and that the likelihood is there is something out there we’re all missing that we’ll wind up being surprised by on January 10th.

  7. Keeping in mind Nina’s “simulation, not prediction” mantra of yesterday, I think it’s a very well-balanced list, sure to provoke all kinds of interesting discussion of issues the Newbery committee will be grappling with: sequels; age limits; comparing “apples and oranges”; the role of illustrations, etc.

    In any case, MrH, the phrase “actual contender” is nigh on meaningless, as we can have no idea which books are under serious consideration by this year’s Newbery committee at this point… and since your “actual contender” roster would be very different from mine, which would be different from xxx’s, and on and on, I’m not sure how Nina would have fit them all onto an 8-title list 🙂

  8. On the topic of the Britishness of The Kneebone Boy, I would say that there are a few Americanisms slipped in – restroom, laundromat, rainboots – which probably won’t be noticed by American kids but were slightly grating to this British reader. I loved the narrator’s voice but I’m still not sure how I feel about the fantasy/reality tone and plot juxtaposition. I also felt that though the ending worked within the context of the book, in real life I’m not sure how I’d feel about a father making up such an elaborate fantasy for his children instead of telling them the truth.

  9. Nina, thanks for the explanation. I didn’t mean to short change the list you guys put together. I totally see the point of aiming for the discussion you are trying to have. You guys know the real process WAY better than I do so I trust your choices.

    Like I said, I came to love TURTLE IN PARADISE and maybe was just bitter to see it not get the opportunity to be discussed on this site.

  10. Hayley, I am American and found the Americanisms you noted and a number of others really, really jarring as well. Actually to the point where some of them stopped me cold and made me try to figure out if there was a reason for them when the narrator was suppose to be British with such conscious words like mum and lollies and such mixed in. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so striking to me if there hadn’t been the very American great-aunt with her very “American” cuisine.

  11. Jonathan Hunt says:

    It’s always disappointing to see a favorite title omitted, especially when it is considered a strong contender (e.g. COUNTDOWN). Astute readers of this blog will notice that both Nina and I have a book in our respective top threes that is not published until mid-November (and hence is not on the shortlist). So we feel your pain.

    Angela, we may have left FORGE off regardless of the publication date (and that’s not a knock against its quality). For SCUMBLE, the issue is not the publication date (it was published in August, I believe), but rather one of distinguished writing. I haven’t seen it touted very much (aside from a couple comments from DaNae), so it would fall into the darkhorse category that you are so critical of. Also, if your public library does not yet carry THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK (August 23), DARK EMPEROR (September 6), and THE KNEEBONE BOY (September 14), do you really think they will carry FORGE (October 19)? I think your comment justifies our decision to avoid late fall publication dates to foster greater participation.

    Mr. H, we are searching for the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature, regardless of genre. We would rather have excellent picture books and nonfiction and poetry rather than medicore middle grade novels. Just to use a somewhat objective measure: THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK has five starred reviews, DARK EMPEROR has five starred reviews, SIR CHARLIE has four starred reviews, COUNTDOWN has four starred reviews, TURTLE IN PARADISE has three starred reviews, and THE BONESHAKER has one starred review. The reviews for the books we included are as good or better than the ones that you mention. So we didn’t pick, say, DARK EMPEROR over THE BONESHAKER because we necessarily wanted diversity, we picked it because it’s better.

    Mr. H, can I ask you a rude point-blank question (with no offense intended)? Have you actually read DARK EMPEROR, SIR CHARLIE, and THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK? And if so, would you care to share your thoughts on why they do not meet the Newbery criteria (or perhaps why they do not meet them as successfully as the books that you are putting forth)? You seem pretty unimpressed in general with the nonfiction, poetry, and picture books, but since you haven’t mentioned specific titles that you’ve read, I’m not sure whether you read lots of books in those genres, whether you may have a bias against those genres, or a bias toward middle grade fiction. It’s hard to really know each other as readers aside from the little bits and pieces we disclose here.

  12. Dean Schneider says:

    Great list. THE KNEEBONE BOY is the only I haven’t read yet, but all of the others I think are distinguished and ought to lead to excellent discussions. I especially like that DARK EMPEROR made it. I see it as distinguished for writing and illustration–Newbery & Caledcott worthy. A gorgeous book–superb poetry and amazing art. ONE CRAZY SUMMER is still my overall personal favorite, and ones I like not on the list are FORGE and COUNTDOWN (and I’m sure others I’m not thinking of at the end of a long school day)..

  13. Speaking of stars – KNEEBONE BOY = 1 star. Enough said. I like the idea of having a Cinderella book. (AKA, HOMER P FIGG). I enjoyed KNEEBONE; I will echo others in my only reservation, the frivolous treatment of mental illness. I don’t know if it should detract from a child’s enjoyment of the book. There are plenty of books that develop the reality of a mentally ill parent. (WAITING FOR NORMAL)

    Now I’m going to need to get in gear and read a bunch of non-fiction. I think it will need to wait until after I get through A TALE DARK AND GRIMM, which just arrived moments ago with BARBIE, CHARILE, and EMPEROR.

  14. I’m impressed. My favorite three are all here.

  15. MOCKINGBIRD by Kathryn Erskine is a NBA finalist and one of our favorites for this year.

  16. Angela K. says:

    Our 28 member libraries within the public library system do not have Kneebone Boy, Dark Emperor, and KKK. I do think that they are dark horses, but mostly worthy of discussion. I’m not sure that I would award any of them the Newbery gold, for various reasons. Perhaps most noteably, as an elementary librarian, serving grades K-6, I feel KKK isn’t appropriate for this age group. I would hope that the book that takes home the Newbery gold would appeal to children of a wider age group than the YA or “tween” set.

    Scumble, in like manner, I wouldn’t give the “gold” to, but I do think it’s worthy of discussion. The Mock Newbery group on Goodreads just finished up this book. I wouldn’t say that it’s as good as Savvy, but it is still a wonderful book.

    As for Forge, while our library system doesn’t currently have any copies of the 3 above-mentioned books, they do have 2 copies of Forge already available.

    Like others mentioned, Countdown would have made a nice addition to the discussion as well.

  17. Angela K, I’m very puzzled by your assertion that only Good Masters and Lincoln: A Photobiography have ever won the Newbery in the poetry/non-fiction categories. Past non-fiction winners also include The Story of Mankind, Invincible Louisa, Daniel Boone, and Carry On Mr. Bowditch. (Others are technically non-fiction, like folk tales, or are mistakenly shelved with biography, like Amos Fortune.) Past poetry winners also include A Visit to William Blake’s Inn and Joyful Noise. And there are several of both kinds of books among the Honors.

    …I’m puzzled in general. I can’t remember that in past years people were so proprietary about the shortlist. The point of this has never been to try to predict what would win the Newbery, anyway.

    Maybe I WAS looking forward to trying to convince people that Countdown really isn’t that good, but it’s invariably a better mind-stretch to work on the books that someone else has chosen than to defend my own favorites and run down my pet no-thank-yous. After all, I have Goodreads for that.

    As Nina says, I am planning to host a discussion online in as similar a style as possible, if enough people are willing to read all eight books and spend an hour or two talking about them in real time.

  18. I would love to do an online discussion, as I am on the east coast and so nowhere near Oakland! I’m excited about this shortlist–four books that I haven’t read yet!

  19. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Clearly, THE KNEEBONE BOY is a darkhorse candidate, and many other books could have served a similar function (THE BONESHAKER, SCUMBLE, TOUCH BLUE, or whatever suits your personal fancy), but since we created this list, it stands to reason that we would pick the one that we like. These kinds of books are not necessarily undistinguished (lack of starred reviews, buzz, or other accolades notwithstanding) as much as they often speak to a very specific kind of reader.

    THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK, SIR CHARLIE, and DARK EMPEROR are darkhorses of a different kind. These all have very broad appeal within their genre (that is, if I surveyed people about the best five nonfiction or poetry books of the year, these would appear with great frequency), but they do not fit the stereotypical Newbery mold, making it difficult to build consensus around them, despite their starred reviews, best of the year lists, and other accolades. I don’t put too much stock in my handy list of starred reviews as much as I use it (a) as a tool to prioritize my reading and (b) as a way to second guess myself. Gee, *everybody* liked THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK except me. What am I missing? What is it that they see in this book that I don’t?

    If you have read these three books, then I really don’t think you would begrudge them a spot on the shortlist as much as you would lament the omissions of other books (which is bound to happen on a shortlist of only 8 titles), books with great reviews by established authors (COUNTDOWN and FORGE head this list for me, but TURTLE IN PARADISE and OUT OF MY MIND would also fit this category). But, if you think picking eight titles is hard, try only picking three. My standard summary of the Newbery experience: You read 300 books (okay, kind of an exaggeration), you dearly love 30 of them, you only get to vote for 3 of them. It doesn’t get easier, folks.

  20. No Jonathan. I have not read those three titles. DARK EMPEROR is in my local library, but is not due back until 12-23. Probably won’t get a chance to read it by the time you’re all said and done on here. KKK has not been purchased and I am picking up SIR CHARLIE there tomorrow! As to why I don’t think they meet the Newbery criteria (w/o even reading them of course) . . . I don’t know how you can argue delineation of characters and development of plot as being more distinguished in DARK EMPEROR and KKK than books like KEEPER, TURTLE IN PARADISE, and ONE CRAZY SUMMER (even though I don’t like the latter very much). DARK EMPEROR is a collection of 12 poems. How does that relate to plot? Characters? Where is the distinguished delineation of characters in KKK? Are there main characters? The book appears to be more of an informational type-text.

    Don’t get me wrong, those titles may have many starred reviews and many great reviews in many places. They may even go on to win other nonfiction awards and poetry awards (whichever type awards exist). But when stacked up against the Newbery criteria I don’t see it . . . well actually, I guess it’s a good thing you’re going to discuss them. ‘Cuz I’d really like to see your arguments!

    Personally, I just like middle grade fiction novels. I’m not much of a nonfiction guy.

    I think that’s why I really am pulling for THE DREAMER. I liked it so much and by my own standards, I shouldn’t have! It must have done something right.

  21. There’s a reason reading the Newbery criteria is required before participating in the mock-Newbery discussion. Books only need to be distinguished in those categories which are applicable to that book. “Informational” books are completely eligible. “Because the literary qualities to be considered will vary depending on content, the committee need not expect to find excellence in each of the named elements. The book should, however, have distinguished qualities in all of the elements pertinent to it.”

  22. Wendy when is your discussion? And I’m relieved I won’t need to defend COUNTDOWN to you.

  23. I don’t envy your position of picking 8 titles for a shortlist. Someone is bound to hate at least one of the titles on the list; others are going to lament titles that aren’t included. My top picks for the Newbery are included on your list.

    Wendy, when I made the comment about poetry/nonfiction books rarely winning the Newbery, I meant THE Newbery (gold) medal. I did forget about Joyful Noise, which I think also won the gold. It is a shame that because a book is poetry/nonfiction, it automatically makes them a dark horse candidate for the Newbery, but history tells us that that’s the case.

    When our libraries do get copies of the “dark horse” candidates on this mock list, I will gladly read them. And if they truly are examples of the best writing of the year, I hope that the Newbery committee would argue for them to have a shiny new medal on their covers.

    It would be nice if the book that wins THE medal really and truly has the elements of a classic and stands the test of time (which I know is subjective). I’m sure the committee that selected “Secrets of the Andes” over “Charlotte’s Web,” for example, would wish to rewind time and debate a little more.

  24. Angela, all of the poetry and non-fiction books I mentioned won the gold.

  25. Angela K. says:

    You’re right Wendy. I’m a little rusty on the older Newbery books. The ones you mentioned didn’t stand the test of time in my opinion – other than Joyful Noise and Lincoln. Good Masters is a recent win – and I haven’t been able to get any of our students to check that one out yet.

  26. Angela K. says:

    Nina and Jonathan – I thought you’d be interested to know that the GoodReads Mock Newbery group just picked their book to read for November. It is The Kneebone Boy.

  27. Wendy, thanks for pointing out the part of the criteria I was overlooking. The more I open my mouth on this site, the more I realize how little I know. However some things . . .

    There have been 89 Newbery Medal winners and you pointed out a mere 9 titles that are either nonfiction or poetry that have won Newbery gold. (I would actually argue that folk tales are NOT necessarily nonfiction, so somebody correct me if I’m wrong.) So I puzzled as to what you are really trying to say. When Angela K implied that poetry and nonfiction do not traditionally fare well in the Newbery, she was correct. It’s a fact. Just because she left out a handful of titles doesn’t make it not. I don’t think anyone is claiming that they haven’t ever won . . . all that she, or I, said is that traditionally, they don’t do well when stacked up against stronger fiction work.

    Which brings me back to the criteria. I still think it has to do with this. There is so much good fiction work released every year. So when you take 5 strong fiction titles and can convincingly argue why they are distinguished in terms of theme, plot, organization, characters, setting, and style, I think it makes winning the gold a very uphill battle for nonfiction titles when they really can only apply themselves to a few of those criteria. The yearly body of work almost has to be pretty weak in fiction or incredibly strong in nonfiction for nonfiction to stand a good chance. Last year, CLAUDETTE COLVIN was a very strong contender partly because as a work of nonfiction, I think strong arguments could be made for distinguished plot, theme, characters, setting, etc. It’s problem, was that it was released in the same year as WHEN YOU REACH ME, which in my opinion, was brilliant and will stand the test of time as one of the great ones.

    Lets say I can argue that KEEPER is distinguished in theme, plot, organization, characters, setting, and style but you can only argue that KKK is distinguished in organization, maybe setting, and maybe style because these are the only criteria that apply to it given it being an informational text. Can’t you see how KEEPER has a HUGE advantage in winning the Newbery?

    I admit, I’m not really a nonfiction guy. When I think of “distinguished children’s literature” I think of classic, fiction stories. Mrs. Frankweiler. Mrs. Frisby. Maniac Magee. Holes. The Giver. Wrinkle in Time. These are books I’m going to remember. These are the types of books I love. Not The Story of Mankind, or Amos Fortune, or Invincible Louisa. But that’s just me. Nonfiction deserves to be represented. I’m not saying it doesn’t. What I’m trying to explain is why in my opinion, it doesn’t ever fare too well in the Newbery. If anything, that’s what I meant by “actual contender”. It wasn’t meant to be a knock at nonfiction.

  28. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Angela said that historically certain genres do not fare well, and she *was* correct, but what she actually implied–and what we took exception to–was that because they have not fared well that we really shouldn’t consider them seriously. She may not have meant to imply this, but she did.

    You keep saying this is a strong year for fiction, Mr. H, but honestly, I don’t see it. THE DREAMER and TURTLE IN PARADISE top your list, for example, but do you really think they belong with WHEN YOU REACH ME, MIXED UP FILES, MRS. FRISBY, MANIAC MAGEE, and HOLES. Really? You really think TURTLE IN PARADISE belongs in that group?

  29. Angela K. says:

    What I meant to imply was that many nonfiction works, in my opinion, often do not hold up over time as a “classic” work. On the flipside, there are sometimes novels that win that don’t hold up over time either. As mentioned earlier, most would consider Charlotte’s Web (Newbery honor) a better novel than The Secret of the Andes, which won the medal that year. It certainly is not a criteria of the Newbery, however, that it have qualities that make it a “classic” for generations.

    The Siebert award for informational texts is a relatively new award as far as children’s book awards go. I can’t say for sure why they felt a need for this award, but I would speculate that it was created because informational/nonfiction works are often passed by for the major book awards such as the Caldecott and the Newbery. Because they are so rarely picked for the major awards, it automatically makes them dark horses in my mind. I’m sure they will still be under consideration for the Newbery, especially if they have numerous starred reviews such as “Charlie”, and they rightly should be discussed if the Newbery committee is doing their best job to review and weigh the most distinguished books of the year. I just know that from the past history of the award, it may not be entirely likely that these books will get a Newbery medal.

    I just wish the winners could all be ones that really and truly appeal to children. Will more children check out Charlotte’s Web or Secret of the Andes? I want kids to agree with us that the ones we hand them with the gold medals on them are truly the best examples of children’s literature. Can a nonfiction book hold up over time? Yes, some can. And maybe it shouldn’t be denied the medal, even if it will date itself quicker, if it truly is the best example of the best children’s literature of that year. I just hope that whatever the Newbery committee picks, whether it’s nonfiction or fiction, is something children will actually want to check out!

  30. Actually I don’t remember saying that this particular year was a strong year for fiction. What I said was that strong fiction work is released EVERY year. So is strong nonfiction work. My favorite titles are ALWAYS going to probably be fiction titles though because that’s primarily what I read.

    I am speaking more to the criteria that the Newbery committee have to follow. I’d love to see a book like KKK argued against a book like TURTLE IN PARADISE, a book you seem to believe is more mediocre in terms of its distinguished-ness.

    And to answer your question about THE DREAMER and TURTLE standing the test of time . . . who knows?! I can tell you that if my 5th grade class of 27 students are any indication, TURTLE IN PARADISE would have a pretty good shot of standing the test of time. But I also don’t think your question is entirely fair given the fact that you haven’t answered it yourself. Do you honestly think that DARK EMPEROR would rank up there with some of the best, classic Newbery winners of all time?

    I feel like we’re arguing. Are we arguing? If so, why? Is it because you like nonfiction and I don’t? 🙂 Your shortlist was released. I commented on a few I wished would’ve been on it. They weren’t. Big deal. I wasn’t mad. Just commenting. It’s your list and all in all, obviously, it’s a good one. I get the feeling that a few took offense to my use of the phrase “actual contenders” and I tried to explain my “slip” (NF vs. Fiction). Not being an avid reader of nonfiction, I’m just really curious to see how it shapes up when compared to fiction titles according to the Newbery criteria.

  31. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Mr. H, I don’t know that we are arguing as much as passionately discussing, but I admit that there is a strong sense of exasperation on my part, which stems from your lack of familiarity with the Newbery criteria. For example, to imply that TURTLE IN PARADISE is sufficiently distinguished for the Newbery, that it will stand the test of time to be one of the Great Ones . . . because your class of fifth graders is giving you an indication? Well, yeah, but (a) they probably think similarly of DIARY OF A WIMPY KIND, too, and (b) for that reason the Newbery criteria expressly forbid giving the award for popularity.

    DARK EMPEROR, SIR CHARLIE, and THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK do not necessarily approach the Great Ones either. But they come much, much closer to the standard of perfection within their genre than the fiction does, so in those years when the Great Ones do not appear, why must we pick subpar fiction rather than excellent books in other genres? Why?

  32. Miss Julia says:

    As a grown-up who never grew out of children’s books, a library worker who has no degree but 13 years experience and an adult who has worked with children and is concerned, can any or all of you describe how you decide a book has “child appeal”? I enjoy reading the books but I have a hard time selling to children…they just aren’t interested unless it has a trademark character on it or has an exciting cover or relates to the popular theme of the day.

  33. Okay. You changed the rules on me. You asked, “You really think TURTLE IN PARADISE belongs in that group?”

    I replied: “. . . who knows?! I can tell you that if my 5th grade class of 27 students are any indication, TURTLE IN PARADISE would have a pretty good shot of standing the test of time.”

    To turn around and somewhat insult my familiarity with the Newbery criteria and insult my class’s input (by comparing TURTLE IN PARADISE to DIARY OF A WIMPY KID nonetheless) is kind of unfair given the discussion I thought we were having. I wasn’t even attempting to relate TURTLE IN PARADISE to the Newbery criteria in that instance. I was answering your question of whether or not it could stand the test of time as a distinguished work of children’s literature. I never even said it would! I said “who knows?!”

    And for the record, you and Nina constantly remind us to judge a book based on what it IS, not on what it could or should be. You just implied that TURTLE IN PARADISE is not only “subpar” but that it also doesn’t come close to achieving a certain standard of perfection within it’s genre. TURTLE IN PARADISE is a juvenile fiction title. It’s intended audience is grades 3-6 (9-12 year olds). THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK is young adult, with an intended audience of grades 7-12. So when stating that the latter is closer to the standard of perfection within its genre, please remember what genre TURTLE IN PARADISE is actually in. When compared to other books within its genre of juvenile historical fiction (grades 3-6), I would argue that it *IS* much better than you are giving it credit for. I’ll try soon, to put together my thoughts on it, since you seem to be begging for it! (Besides, I need to practice backing up my thoughts with some “distinguished” arguments in relation to the criteria. You can tell me if you think they’re legit!)

    I like the sound of “passionately discussing”!

  34. Also, just so you know . . .

    The only books I have read aloud and discussed with my 5th graders this year are all new, Newbery contenders. KEEPER, TURTLE IN PARADISE, and THE BONESHAKER. I am currently reading COUNTDOWN. They have loved all three and are enjoying COUNTDOWN.

  35. But, Mr. H, you’ve shown a couple of times here, by your own admission, that you aren’t particularly familiar with the Newbery Terms and Criteria–just as Jonathan said. While I, too, find it frustrating (and I’m not picking on you, there are several instances of that here, and every year), I thought part of the purpose of the blog was to get people familiar with the criteria. I certainly wasn’t born knowing them either.

    I think you’re missing the point with your fourth paragraph. Whether Turtle in Paradise is distinguished as a novel aimed at 3-6th graders is exactly the point Jonathan is addressing. I do think it can be a challenge to judge a less-sophisticated book against a more-sophisticated book, but if this wasn’t challenging–well, it would be easy. The biggest step is to be aware that that’s what you have to do, I think–apples and oranges, etc.

    Jonathan, I’m uncomfortable with how often we’ve been on the same page this year and would rather you stirred up some controversy.

  36. Jonathan controversial? Pshaw!

  37. I love Jennifer Holm, but I was disappointed with Turtle in Paradise. It was funny, and had interesting characters but it didn’t stick with me the way some other books this year have. And I always have to laugh at this time of year, because I think I am the ONLY person who read Secret of the Andes as a third grader and loved it. Ever since, I have wanted to travel to South America and explore the ruins of the Inca civilization.

  38. The Dreamer, KKK, and One Crazy Summer are the only overlap between your shortlist and the list for the Mock Newbery I’m attending – I love seeing a variety of shortlists!

    In response to the comments about libraries not yet owning KKK, Dark Emperor, or The Kneebone Boy – I’m a little shocked that a large system (28 libraries) wouldn’t have at one copy of each of these. I’m in a 13-library system, most of them small libraries, and we’ve got between 2 and 5 copies of each of those (we don’t order centrally).

    • Nina Lindsay says:

      Jess, what usually happens with library ordering–and is exacerbated at this time of year when publishing is plentiful and we’re all looking for it as it comes out–is there’s a couple month’s lag between the bookstore floor date and the date you can get a library copy. If it’s something on our radar for advance order, we’ll receive it as soon as it’s available for sale, but it still takes a few weeks for us to get our shipments unpacked, invoiced, and the books cataloged and processed (if there’s a hold on the book, we do find that out as soon as it comes out of the box and it speeds through in a few days). But more often: we order based on reviews. We see the review right around the on-sale date, sometimes a little before, sometimes a little after. So we put it on our next order list…which may not go out for several weeks, since we just submit orders once a month.

  39. Ah, Cecilia, I read Secret of the Andes as a 6th grader and loved it. And I was definitely a reluctant reader. I mentioned some strengths of Turtle in Paradise elsewhere on this blog. If I wanted to mention a slight weakness, it would be the pirate treasure part of the plot, although I think this has some grounding laid in the characters and it becomes important in moving toward the finale. I am more likely to support One Crazy Summer and Keeper at this point, but it is one of a cluster I am eager to hear more discussion about.

  40. Nice list, especially A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, but my addition would be Laura Amy Schlitz’s THE NIGHT FAIRY–one of the most beautifully crafted books I’ve read in years.

  41. Nina, I totally get that it can take a while to get books ordered, processed, and ready to check out. Every month I read reviews and realize I missed something! That said, I order juvenile fiction for my library and I do try to order as many books as possible the month they’re published (I do monthly orders, too). And since we’re a smallish library, if a box arrives, I can unpack it and get things moving the same day if there are lots of holds (I just did that with Diary of a Wimpy Kid). Otherwise it might take a few days or a week to get something ready to check out. I was just pointing out that 2-5 of our 13 libraries HAD managed to order in advance or quickly on those titles. The Kneebone Boy had a bunch of reviews in Sept., KKK in July and August, and Dark Emperor as early as June.

  42. Nina Lindsay says:

    …and being a huge library, it gets hard to stay on top of getting certain things through fast. Believe me, we’re always trying. I could lay out our whole order process by way of excuse, but I think that’s getting off topic. Things slip through, and it’s simply a huge challenge for libraries to have stuff shelf-read on the sale lay-out date.

Speak Your Mind