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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Shortlist Title #11: Countdown!

Maybe you thought you’d seen the last of this one here..but it just barely didn’t make the cut on our first shortlist, and we’re happy to bring it back now.  I haven’t been a vocal supporter of this one; I feel like it suffered from early-over-hyping, which can happen to strong spring titles. Publishers, it’s rumored, save their award contenders for the fall so that there’s not quite so much time to tear them apart and get tired of them.  But I’ve found the opposite is often true…that given enough time, and tearing a book apart enough, one can find newfound appreciation in its buoyancy and staying power.

Wiles has a strong command of setting, voice, and character. I like Anne Quirk’s comment in her Horn Book review: “the dialogue is often rat-a-tat sharp”; I found that Wiles ability to place me instantly in a scene might come the closest, on this list, to Megan Whalen Turner’s.  Though I’d forgotten a lot of this story after reading, I found on diving back in that I was quickly transported back.  That is, the place still existed in my mind, just waiting to be revisited.

I’m impressed, but disappointed, with the visual “documentary” aspect of this novel. I don’t think it quite works…the quotation and pictures lack enough context to actually be informative to readers.  They do give a very interesting “flavor” to the reading…kind of a surround-sound feeling…that is unique.  I’ll be curious to hear how you all think these sections fit in with this item from the Newbery Criteria:  

The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.

What do you think?

Last shortlist title to be announced this weekend.  Stock up on your books for the holidays and start commenting.  We’ll be posting to move the discussion along, but don’t wait for us.

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:

    There seemed to be lots of early enthusiasm for this one, and I know some people question the effectiveness of the documentary format, but I have not seen it on any mock Newbery lists. Hmmm.

  2. I’m thrilled to see it here. The students of mine who have managed to read it, are greatly impressed.

  3. (By the way, this is the title I’m having a lot of trouble getting my hands on–it’s not available in my library system (New York Public Library, not a small system by any means) and it’s on order with the wholesaler used by my local indie.)

  4. Nina Lindsay says:

    Miriam, I just checked NYPL since I found that astonishing, but I see what you mean; one active copy with a few holds placed, and MANY copies placed on order in Nov/Dec, but not received yet.

    Well…I always try to order from my Indie. But it’s not actually evil to order online from the place that shall remain nameless when you’ve exhausted other avenues. You might first check out places like or …if they’re expediting shipping is suitable.

    I usually end up buying a handful of books for this purpose every year. You can donate them to your library, or a family shelter, or a school drive.

  5. Thanks, Nina, I’ll probably be caving and ordering it from the DotCom That Shall Not Be Named, I just needed a quick grumble first. ::grins::

  6. Okay, problem solved–it’s on hold for me at an my partner’s parents’ local indie, where I’ll be tomorrow. No DotCom That Shall Not Be Named!

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