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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Virtual Mock Newbery…Midwinter Preamble

Welcome to the Virtual Mock Newbery. Though we won’t be discussing our titles together in real time, I do want to try to set the mood.

(Here’s a soundtrack for those who work better with one. Make sure to right click to open it in a new tab/window)

I’d like you to pretend you are a member of the 2011 Newbery Committee. A year’s work (now’s the time to read the manual, if you haven’t yet) has led to your preparations for the Midwinter Meeting in San Diego, where you’re scheduled to meet 8am-10pm Friday and Saturday, and 8am-10am on Sunday. 

Each committee member has nominated 7 titles, and the cumulative list of nominated titles (a completely confidential list!) comprises the discussion at Midwinter. From the Manual:

Midwinter Selection Meeting

 The meeting room scheduled for use by the award committee is usually an “exclusive use” room.  This means from the start of the first meeting through Sunday morning, the room will only be used by the committee.  The room will be locked between meetings and the Chair will be provided with a key or instructions on how to secure the room. The ALSC office will provide the committee with one copy of each book from the compiled nomination lists.

 Books to Be Considered

It is important for committee members to remember that ONLY books previously nominated or qualify as late publications and are suggested by committee members be considered at the Midwinter Selection Meeting. No books may be added to the list once the Midwinter Meeting begins. For this reason it is important to suggest books for committee consideration, urge ALSC members to send suggestions in to the committee and return nominating ballots promptly.

During committee meetings at Midwinter, once a book has been dropped from consideration for the award, that book may NOT be placed back on the list of books under consideration. Therefore, when committee members begin to delete titles, such deletions must be made with care.

For the purposes of our Mock Discussion, our entire list for consideration is comprised of our 12 shortlisted titles.  As a committee member, you’ll have read every title and prepared notes to bring to the discussion.   You’ll both be measuring each title on its own merits against the Criteria, and comparing each against the other to determine which is the most distinguished.  

Back to the Manual for the official “Order of Business”:

1.  Reintroduction of committee members.

 2.  Appointment by the Chair of a secretary and of three tellers.

            Secretary:  Takes minutes of all procedural decisions. No minutes are kept of discussion or ballots. The ballots and number tally sheets are collected by the Chair who turns them in to the ALSC Executive Director. The ballots and tally sheets are destroyed and the minutes are placed in the ALSC archives as the record of the committee’s actions. The secretary turns in the minutes to the Chair at the end of the Midwinter Selection Meeting.  The Chair submits the minutes to the Executive Director with the committee’s post-conference report and distributes to committee members.

             Tellers:  Tabulate and double-check all ballots and turn them over to the committee chair.

 3.   Procedural decisions:

  • How voting is to be handled. (There is a set procedure for the balloting for the medal book, but there are other matters that may require votes.)
  • Order in which books will be discussed.
  • How books will be eliminated from consideration prior to the first ballot and after balloting has begun.
  • Reminder of the procedures for naming honor books, if any.

 4.   Review of the terms, criteria, and definitions of the award.

 5.   Discussion:

      Each book nominated or those that qualify as late suggestions will be considered. Many committees have found it helpful to go through the list once.  Once this is completed, full discussion of each book remaining on the list takes place.

       Committee members must always keep in mind that once a book has been eliminated it cannot be reintroduced. When any book is eliminated from consideration, it is removed from the table so that only the books still under consideration remain.

       Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Use good critical analysis, no vague words (cute, nice, good, etc.).
  • Be cooperative—listen to each other, no side conversations.
  • Refer back to the criteria to keep the discussion focused.
  • Make comparisons only to books that were published in the year under consideration.
  • Clarity—be clear in what you say.  Think through the point you are making, and speak loudly enough to be heard by everyone.
  • Be concise—be sure that what you have to say adds to the discussion; try not to repeat what others have said.
  • Do not book talk or summarize the plot.
  • Refrain from relating personal anecdotes.

 6.   Balloting:

      When there is consensus that all the books on the discussion list are fully discussed, the committee proceeds to a selection ballot. Certain procedures apply:

  • Committee members list first, second, and third place votes for the award on a selection ballot.
  • In tabulating ballot results, the tellers assign four points to each first place vote, three points to each second place vote, and two points to each third place vote.
  • There is a formula to determine the winner. A book must receive at least 8 first choices at four points per vote for a total of at least 32 points, and it must have an 8 point lead over the book receiving the next highest number of points.


      Once balloting is complete, the tellers tabulate the results. The tabulations are double-checked, and the Chair reads the results aloud to the committee. Depending on the results, certain steps are taken:

  • If there is a winner, the committee proceeds to considering whether or not to select honor books.
  • If the first ballot does not produce a winner, the committee follows procedures for re-balloting.


      The committee may not proceed to another ballot without a second round of book discussion. At this point, certain choices present themselves, and certain procedures apply:

  • By consensus the committee may choose to withdraw from the discussion list all titles that receive no votes on the first ballot.
  • By consensus the committee may choose to withdraw additional titles that received minimal support on the first ballot.
  • Once withdrawn from the discussion list, a book is permanently eliminated from consideration for the award.
  • Once a second round is complete, the committee proceeds to a second ballot.
  • On a second ballot (and, if necessary, all subsequent ballots), votes are tabulated by the tellers who use the same point system and formula as in the first round to determine a winner.
  • If after a second ballot, there is still no winner, the committee is required to re-open discussion and then re-ballot, alternating between discussion and re-balloting until a winner is selected.

Selection of Honor Books

Immediately following determination of the winner of the Newbery Medal, and following appropriate discussion, the committee will entertain the following:

  • Whether honor books will be named.
  • Whether the committee wishes to choose as honor books the next highest books on the original winning ballot or to ballot again.
  • If the committee votes to use the award-winning ballot, they must then determine how many honor books to name.
  • If the committee chooses to ballot for honor books, only books that received points on the award winning ballot may be included. The same voting procedure is followed as for the award winner.
  • If the committee has chosen to ballot for honor books, following that ballot, the committee will vote how many books of those receiving the highest number of points are to be named honor books.

For our Virtual Mock Newbery, our order of business will be:

Free-for-all discussion on our 12 shortlist titles, starting now! Feel free to comment on any previous post…Jonathan and I will keep it rolling.  Our secretary will be SLJ/Wordpress, our Teller SurveyMonkey/GoogleDocs.


(Please note that all posted times are WEST coast….)

Monday January 3rd, 10am PST, the balloting will open (a link to SurveyMonkey posted on this blog).  That ballot will close on Tuesday January 4th at 7am PST, and the ballot results will be posted sometime later that morning.  From there, we’ll proceed with discussion for a re-ballot as necessary, or vote on a decision for Honor Books.  You’ll need to watch the blog that week to see how the voting unfolds… we’ll attempt to leave every poll open for as close to 24 hours as possible to allow for different time zones and work schedules;  with the goal to have a winner no later than Thursday the 6th, and Honor Books no later than Sunday the 9th.  It’s always possible we’ll wrap it all up Tuesday/Wednesday… you never know, and neither does the real committee, how quickly the consensus will gel.  One thing I can promise is that by the end of the process, the mood is entirely different.

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. Nina, how do you feel about comments if we haven’t read all the shortlisted books yet? I know you don’t want us to vote if we haven’t read them all. Should we go ahead and comment on the ones we have read?

  2. Nina Lindsay says:

    Please do!

  3. Do you and Jonathan take “reader requests” for blog topics? If so, I would love to see a blog discussing some of the winning titles selected in other Mock Newbery competitions. For example, the Allen County Public Library recently named NINTH WARD by Jewell Parker Rhodes their 2011 Mock Newbery winner. I don’t recall seeing much, if any, discussion of that title here at HM. I think it would be fascinating to read your take on this book, describing why it wasn’t shortlisted here, whether you think the title meets Newbery criteria, whether it seems a dark horse candidate for the actual award, etc. The purpose of such discussion wouldn’t be to create “dueling Mock Newberys” or to engage in “our Mock Newbery is shinier than yours” games, but rather to give us your perspectives on some of the varied mock winners that are named by different groups at this time of year.


  4. Nina Lindsay says:

    Thanks Peter. I think Jonathan and I are both planning to highlight some titles in the coming weeks that aren’t on our shortlist…and NINTH WARD is definetely one I’ll post on.

  5. Jonathan Hunt says:

    My hold on NINTH WARD just barely came in, and I read the first chapter, but have to set it aside for other stuff. Will try to get back to it. Ditto for OUT OF MY MIND.

  6. Why is the list of titles nominated by committee members confidential? I can totally see why while the medal is up for discussion but man, it’d be fun to see which books garnered serious discussion around the real table!

  7. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I personally would love to see a list of nominations or books on the final ballot (or I wouldn’t mind having a two-tiered honor system like the UK’s Carnegie Medal used to have, i.e. highly commended–think silver medal–and commended–think bronze medal).

    Did you miss Peter’s post at Collecting Children’s Books where he notes that for a brief period of several years the Newbery nominations were published in SLJ before the announcement. Not sure if we’ll ever see that again in this digital age . . .

  8. Yes, I’d like the gold, silver, bronze Newbery medal idea, as long as some younger-grade fare were actually given medals. Otherwise, I’d think I’d want a system developed for winners in specific age categories such as PreK-3, 4-6, 7-12.

  9. So, being a big dork, I’ve been tracking the Best Of lists in an excel spreadsheet as they arrive. The Bulletin Blue Ribbons aren’t out yet, but I’ve got Booklist, Kirkus, SLJ, Horn Book, and PW. Assuming I’ve compiled correctly, only 3 books are on all five lists: Ballet for Martha; One Crazy Summer; and They Called Themselves the KKK. Now of course the criteria for these lists don’t match the Newbery criteria (or each other even), but I think it’s interesting to note which contenders seem to be getting the most attention. Interestingly only four books seem to have been named to four lists (I would have expected the numbers to increase more): The War to End All Wars; Mirror, Mirror; Ling & Ting; and Incarceron. Three lists seems to be where the increase in numbers really happens. And as an added note, I haven’t filtered for Newbery eligibility at all (off the top of my head, I think Incarceron has a British author for example).

  10. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Jen, can you provide a link for Booklist Editors’ Choice? I’ve been looking everywhere, but can’t seem to find them.

  11. Jen, we are dork sisters. I’ve done the same thing.

    Here is the link Jonathan:

  12. I have a few questions for those who are willing to take a moment to respond.

    Can anybody submit a book assuming it qualifies for the criteria?

    Also, if a book is published in December, and submitted in late December, does this book actually have a chance? I note one response above indicated that a book submitted late in the year and not read by the committee, can be considered for the following year. Is this true?

    Thank you for any responses.

  13. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Anybody can submit a book, but most of the time it is the publisher (as fifteen copies are needed). The only other people who typically submit books are self-published authors.

    Since the committee spends most of late December and early January rereading the leading contenders, a book submitted in late December will probably not receive serious consideration unless there is a compelling reason (i.e. buzz, late starred reviews, multiple best lists). Books can only be considered in the year of their copyright so, for example, a book with a 2010 copyright date can only be considered for this year; if it gets submitted in late December then it cannot be considered next year.

  14. Just to point out that a book doesn’t have to be submitted to be considered (unlike some awards).

  15. I am sure you’ve read Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool that has received numerous starred reviews, but I haven’t seen it discussed here.

  16. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Carri, both Nina and I dipped into it as a possibility for the shortlist, but neither of us could sustain interest in it. What did you think of it?

  17. I thought Vanderpool wove a rich and complex tale of a girl and a town of warm well developed characters. It is a tale of two engrossing, interwoven stories, recounted by an ancient Hungarian medium and through newspaper columns dating back to 1917, one story is set during world War I and the other during the great depression.
    I laughed, cried and devoured every last word. Excellent!

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