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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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As we consider whether FORGE by Laurie Halse Anderson is the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children, here are some interesting subplots to debate.

1.  We’ve got some strong historical fiction this year, namely ONE CRAZY SUMMER, COUNTDOWN, TURTLE IN PARADISE, ALCHEMY AND MEGGY SWANN, and THE WATER SEEKER.  How do you think these compare with each other?  Does one rise to the top?  Any Scott O’Dell Award predictions?  Anderson won for CHAINS can she repeat with the same series?

2.  There are quite a few Revolutionary-themed books this year.  LAFAYETTE AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION by Russell Freedman, THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD by Steve Sheinkin, THE WOODS RUNNER by Gary Paulsen, THE CROSSING by Jim Murphy, and HENRY KNOX by Anita Silvey.  How do these books measure up against each other?  Which one piques your interest the most?

3.  Like A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, MOCKINGJAY, and CLEMENTINE, FRIEND OF THE WEEK, this book is part of a series.  Does that present challenges to evaluating the literary elements of the book?  How does it compare to those other books in this respect.

I don’t think this one cracks my top three or my top seven (i.e. my Newbery nominations), but I find many strong distinguished qualities here and I think you can make a very compelling case for it.  Convince me.

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. Add Patricia Reilley Giff’s STORYTELLER to the list of this year’s Revolutionary-themed books.

    Just picked up FORGE from the library today and about 100 pages in I’m liking it even more than CHAINS. Can’t wait to finish it!

  2. 1. Out of the historical fiction you’ve named in question #1, I’d place Forge as #2 on my list. However, I do think that Forge can capture the Scott O’Dell award again for Forge. Anderson always does a remarkable job in researching the time period that she writes about and also adds quotations, excerpts from letters and other documents of the time that truly add to the reading experience. She also meticulously details in the appendix other sources the reader can consult for more information and also is careful to point out the fictional elements of her story. I think also that a children’s book about the African American role in the Revolutionary War is also rare and may be deemed an important contribution to the children’s lit cannon.

    2. The other Revolutionary War book I’ve read from your list is Woods Runner by Paulsen. The purpose of Woods Runner is different from the purpose of Forge, however. Paulsen is attempting to clarify some aspects of the Revolutionary War and shows the war from the view of the civilian. Forge goes to great lengths to describe the war from the soldiers’ perspective and the hardships they faced building shelter and the never-ending struggle to find adequate food and clothing. It is heart-wrenching as a reader to know all the contributions African Americans had in the War effort, only to win freedom for the whites.

    3. I do believe that Forge stands alone on its literary merits and doesn’t depend upon Chains for its success. However, I do think that the characters are more developed in Chains and one may experience Forge more fully had he/she previously read Chains. With that said, though, the plot is very strong and well-researched, the readers will grow to care deeply for Isabel and Curzon, and will appreciate the struggle for freedom (for both blacks and whites) ever the more after reading this book. I would place it in my top 10 books of the year.

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