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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Shortlist Title #12: Forge

Well, here it is: our final shortlist title.  When I posted about FORGE earlier, I didn’t get many comments.  I haven’t heard much Newbery buzz for this book, but I think the book features some very distinguished qualities, namely setting, characters, and theme.

We’ve already got two historical fiction titles on the shortlist (although ONE CRAZY SUMMER and COUNTDOWN take place in recent memory), but we know how much the Newbery committees have gravitated toward historical fiction over the years.  How do you think FORGE compares with not only ONE CRAZY SUMMER and COUNTDOWN, but also the entire field of books?

Anyway, here’s our complete shortlist now . . .

FORGE by Laurie Halse Anderson

KEEPER by Kathi Appelt

SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

SIR CHARLIE by Sid Fleischman

THE KNEEBONE BOY by Ellen Potter

THE DREAMER by Pam Munoz Ryan

DARK EMPEROR by Joyce Sidman

A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS by Megan Whalen Turner

COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles


ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia

Please continue to add your thoughts about each of these titles because, while broadening the shortlist and the range of participants is a good thing, the trade off is that our discussions cannot approximate the face-to-face meetings of the actual committee (but our voting procedure should recreate an authentic experience).  Please be sure to read all twelve titles if you plan to participate in our virtual mock Newbery.

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. Well done, I could not have adored Forge more. My one problem with the list is getting my hands on the KKK book. I’ve had students hogging it since I proceesed it. I will need to break down and see if the public library has it. I’m not hopeful.

  2. quick background: in middle school i devoured every american revolution historical fiction and nonfiction book i could get my hands on. I like CHAINS a lot but think it suffers from the inevitable comparison with it’s fellow 2008 title Octavian Nothing volume 2 (which in my mind along with the 1st volume is a top 10 title of all time).

    Forge started off so promising. I loved that Curzon found himself in the middle of the battle of Saratoga, i loved how Anderson managed to sneak in so many well research references (rifleman Tim Murphy shooting Gen. Fraser for instance, is this moment included in the BA bio?). I also though Anderson captured the brutal cold of the Valley Forge winter just as she captured the cold central, new york winter in SPEAK (living in lake-effect filled Mexico, NY gives her a ton of experience with disgustingly cold and snowy weather).

    However when Isabel reenters the story I quickly lost interest in the book. The final third of FORGE became an exercise in inevitability. We leave the war behind and follow the less interesting narrative line as we see how Curzon and Isabel will manage to escape together as we know they must.

    That said, FORGE is certainly stronger than the 2 other american revolution fiction titles released this year Paulsen’s WOODS RUNNER and Giff’s STORYTELLER. Still haven’t tracked down the nonfiction titles Silvey’s HENRY KNOX or NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD but they’ll go to the top of my pile once i find them or breakdown and order them.

  3. Nina Lindsay says:

    So interesting Eric, because while I notied a definite shift in mood, I was relieved when Isabel re-entered the story. I liked both sections equally well….and the only weakness in the book I felt was that through the first half/two-thirds, Anderson seems compelled to now and then remind us that Curzon is missing Isabel…but it seems awkwardly inserted. He’s a believable and compelling character, *except* when something suddenly reminds him of her…because if he’s really that besot with her, we’d be hearing his thoughts of her a little more.

    As a second in a series, I’m willing to cut this some slack in terms of pacing, and the turn in scene in the middle. Anderson is doing a lot of building throughout this whole story, not resolving, and I think she does a fabulous job of it. This is maybe one of the most successful “2nd books” I’ve ever encountered, in fact. (QUEEN OF ATTOLIA being the best, but it’s unusual. FORGE reminds me more of THE SUBTLE KNIFE in terms of its narrative shape). And, I think it’s better than CHAINS. I believe in Curzon as a character more than I did Isabel.

  4. I’m with Nina, I felt it picked up when Isabel reentered. In part it was for the Newbery-irrelevant issue that I’ve read “soldiers freezing at Valley Forge” books before. Several of them. Not being a military history buff, I find myself getting somewhat bored with them. But also, and actually Newbery-relevant, I thought it became more complex and compelling; they were both faced with choices of “save just me or wait and maybe not be able to save either of us,” and with a complex but believable relationship–the mix of affection, frustration, betrayal, lust, and wanting the other person to be just a little bit of something they’re not (Curzon wants Isabel to care about the war; Isabel wants Curzon to think they can rescue Ruth). That’s distinguished treatment of characters and theme, that is.

    Personally and non-Newberyly, I found it less compelling than Chains, for the reason I mentioned above–I hadn’t read anything like Isabel’s story before (later and earlier slave narratives, yes, but nothing that got so tangled with the Revolutionary war and the interesting juxtaposition that created), but I have read things like Curzon-the-soldier’s story. I also felt a bit disappointed by the ending: they escape together, haven’t we seen this before?

    I do think that it’s a very successful and accessible second book, and with a clear narrative arc that feels satisfying even while it doesn’t feel truly complete.

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