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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Some things that happen for the first time….

Monica Edinger remarks on a tidbit picked up in an interview with Betsy Bird, questioning the expectation for “popularity” in Newbery books, and indeed, on our ability as adults to gauge that popularity.

Monica occasionally posts “Thoughts on Newbery“, and I encourage you to browse these for some provoking discussions. She’s good at taking the questions we all seem to have about the Newbery, and trying to see where they correlate with the criteria…and at pushing the boundaries of those criteria.  And if you dip back all the way to 2007,  you’ll find a raging debate on the sequel-issues in Turner’s The King of Attolia.  I encourage you to read this one as you take a chance to comment on Jonathan’s thoughts on Conspiracy of Kings.

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 never believed that THE GRAVEYARD BOOK was as popular as SLJ made it out to be (Finally, a Popular Newbery!), but I’d like somebody to show me circ stats where GOOD MASTERS beats GRAVEYARD BOOK. Anybody? Yeah, yeah, many of those circs are adults, but I think a good number are children or teens. In any case, I think more kids/teens check out GRAVEYARD BOOK than GOOD MASTERS. Betsy says she doesn’t get many requests for GRAVEYARD BOOK, but, well . . . I never asked the librarian for books when I was a kid. Never. Didn’t mean I didn’t check them out, though. I think GRAVEYARD BOOK has an edge on GOOD MASTERS simply because it’s in the fiction section. The nonfiction section is harder to browse because of the smaller spines packed together. So I think you almost would have to ask the librarian for this book . . .

  2. In my local county library system, 70% of the Graveyard Books are checked out right now, higher numbers than any other 21st century medal books except When You Reach Me (also at 70%). 15% of the Good Masters are checked out. Just a snapshot, but pretty typical numbers for these titles I think. Some other recent Newbery fiction is pretty low too: A Single Shard = 22% and A Year Down Yonder = 21%. The first Wimpy Kid, meanwhile is 96% (+ eight holds pending). I do think Good Masters should get at least some circulation from the I-have-to-read-a-Newbery-but-I-like-short-books requests (which keeps The Cat Who Went to Heaven going (30%)). We all know by now that the award is not for popularity, but some titles are clearly and consistently more popular than others just the same.

  3. We haven’t had our copy of Good Masters circulate at all yet (we received it right after it won the Newbery), but the Graveyard Book has had several checkouts so far. Our students love “scary” books – enough so that I almost need to make a separate section in the library! I have Pathfinders for scary books that include this title, along with approximately 30 other fiction titles and 20+ nonfiction titles.

  4. Elizabeth Bird says:

    I think it depends on how you sell it as well. For example, I work in New York City where a ton of kids come in looking for monologue material. I also have a huge homeschooling community doing units on (amongst other things) medieval villages. For sheer browsing, Jonathan’s right. The Graveyard Book’s where it’s at. Good Masters gets relegated to the non-fiction to rot away. But if you’ve a librarian being asked by kids for stuff like Shakespeare (I actually get that one) or speeches for forensics, that’s how you get a book to move. And you’re right, Jonathan, kids don’t always ask for the stuff they want. But they do ask for Coraline A LOT and I have never ever been able to handsell A Graveyard Book. I’ve tried too (particularly around Halloween time). I admit it’s really weird, but there it is.

    Not that NYC is by any means the norm. Now can we all agree that When You Reach Me is one of the most popular Newbery winners in recent years? THAT book I can’t keep on the shelf. Doggone kids.

  5. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Yes, WHEN YOU REACH ME is arguably the most popular book of the decade, and THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX is the only other book in the argument. Which do you think is more popular: HOLES or WHEN YOU REACH ME?

  6. Elizabeth Bird says:

    Oh man. That’s a tough one. I may tip the hat to Holes, if only because it has a movie to boot, but it would be a close race however you look at it.

  7. Yes, but when the movie for When You Reach Me comes out, all bets are off!

  8. Interesting — when I recently book talked Newbery books at my elementary library, fights broke out over checking out The Graveyard Book. When I discussed When You Reach Me and it’s connection with A Wrinkle in Time, all the copies of A Wrinkle in Time went out, but nobody wanted When You Reach Me.

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