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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Ballot #1…Inconclusive!

Polls are closed, and with 50 voters, we are looking for 25-26 1st place votes, and the same number point spread, to have a winner.

Not quite there. The results are in Google Docs for easier viewing, but the long and short is:

(TITLE, 1st place votes, 2nd place votes, 3rd place votes, total points)

FORGE                        2            9            6            47

KEEPER                        6            10            5            64

SUGAR                        1            0            5            14

KKK                                    2            4            1            22

SIR CHARLIE            0            0            2            4

KNEEBONE                        3            1            7            29

DREAMER                        3            2            6            30

DARK EMPEROR            3            4            1            26

CONSPIRACY            4            6            5            44

COUNTDOWN            6            3            3            39

CITY DOG                        0            0            6            12

ONE CRAZY                        20            11            3            119

ONE CRAZY SUMMER definetely has the bulk of the 1st place votes, though not more than half of the group voted for it for first place.  It also has a huge point spread.  It does seem to be on its way to be our selection…but, we’re going to vote again!

Looking back at our procedures, we may at this point elect to remove titles with zero or low support from the ballot. We may also elect to reopen discussion on any titles before proceeding to a second ballot, but it’s not required (for the committee, it is before proceeding to a third ballot). In subsequent discussion, we’re only to focus on points that were not previously made.

I will reopen the polls at 5pm PST today (Tuesday), and they’ll close again at 5pm PST tomorrow (Wednesday).  So, before 5 today, be sure to chime in on:

  1. Whether we should remove any titles and why (realizing that once removed, they’re no longer eligible even for an honor book).
  2. Exactly why you’d persuade your fellow voters to change their votes.

When you vote again, realize that this Ballot #1 will now be defunct. If Ballot #2 produces a winner, we can either use those results to determine which are our honor books, or have one final ballot for honor books.  So the way you vote on Ballot #2 not only helps determine the winner, but the honors.

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. Okay, people, let’s talk Countdown. It’s tied for second in the number of first-place votes, which brings its total score up high, but there isn’t much support in the second and third place tallies. That makes me think there are a bunch of people who really love it. Which is fine, I’m glad when people love books. But if you voted for Countdown in first place, indulge me and think again in terms of Newbery criteria: I’ll give you theme, I’ll give you setting. How about plotting–does the presentation of plot in Countdown match that in Conspiracy, One Crazy Summer, Forge, or even Keeper? What in the book is compelling and makes the reader keep reading? I thought the plotting was all over the place. And then, of course, there’s book design. Is the documentary material distracting or confusing to the young reader? Looking at all the Newbery criteria, is this the most distinguished book of the year? (I’m asking, not telling…)

    My own choices are far from set in stone, and I’d happily be persuaded toward or away from any book…

    As for eliminating titles: I don’t see a reason to keep Sir Charlie or City Dog in at this point. I could almost say the same about Sugar, but that one first place vote makes a difference.

  2. Wendy, I’m going to be switching votes in the second round–my top 3 didn’t do terribly well (le sigh…) and my shifted support will largely go in Countdown’s direction. So, the defense:

    You gave theme and setting, so I’ll leave them be. You didn’t mention character, which was definitely a place I felt the book shone. Franny, obviously: well developed, interesting, compelling, believable, flawed. But also her family–particularly her brother, sister, and uncle. The way Uncle Otts was painted: scarred, with obvious mental lapses, but also loved and loving, and, in the way of mental illness, sometimes totally there and sometimes totally not. Likewise, her siblings–each deeply enmeshed in their own issues and their own struggles, but fully developed people who can look beyond their immediate, defining things (student nonviolence activities, astronaut aspirations) and be realistically impacted by the great world. Think about the phone call when Franny calls Ebeneezer–that’s the moment Jo Ellen really came into focus for me.

    Plot, sure, is not as WOWing as theme, setting, or character, but I still think it’s solid. Much of the plot–like When You Reach Me–was simply allowing Franny to navigate friendships, and I found the dissolving of her closest friendship to be perfectly paced, progressing in starts and stops, as real friendships do. The climax was unexpectedly perilous, but I don’t think that hurt it. It was the kind of childhood accident that happens by accident, and that the saving was also, in large part, accidental, really fit with the rest of the plot. It added the right level of excitement and nervousness–and was all the more potent because they weren’t really friends anymore, and because Franny had spent the book trying to negotiate social situations like dealing with boys, dealing with her family, having secrets from adults, all of which came to play in that scene and the decisions she and Chris have to make.

    I’d also be fine eliminating Sir Charlie and City Dog. As Wendy says, that first place vote makes a difference in not eliminating Sugar.

  3. (Also, folks, what do you need to be persuaded of Kneebone’s superiority? It’s just so fantastic.)

  4. At the moment, I won’t attempt to persuade in any direction (although Countdown has a special place in my heart).

    I will offer that I think some titles should be removed for their low support:
    City Dog
    Sir Charlie

  5. Nina Lindsay says:

    I’d concur that it seems like SIR CHARLIE could go at this point. We could, also, wave goodbye to CITY DOG…though 6 votes isn’t nothing, the fact that they’re all 3rd place suggests that it probably won’t rise. I’m reluctant though to take SUGAR off at this point, for that 1st place vote, as Wendy points out. It does “count for something”…

    The way I’d approach this with a room full of people at this point is to ask if anyone feels like we should keep any or all of those titles on. If there’s anyone who feels like they must still hang on to a vote for one of those books because they feel it’s still in their top three even after seeing the vote spread, let’s hear from you.

    (Now, there’s always someone out there who’s going to want SIR CHARLIE to stay on so they can strategically NOT give points to something else. As that is intentionally moving away from a consensus, I’ve got to squash that inclination now. If this was you, start thinking about what you can throw your support behind. And ask questions of others re any titles if you need to be convinced).

  6. I didn’t get to vote as I was not able to finish reading all the selections. But if I’d get a vote in whether or not to eliminate some titles, I definitely would get rid of CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG; SIR CHARLIE; and SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD. That still gives plenty in 9 titles to pick from on the second go-around.

    However I think an argument could be made to get rid of KKK as well. It’s overall point total is higher than SUGAR’s but if you look at total votes, only 7 people acknowledged it compared to SUGAR’s 6 total votes of some kind. The next lowest would be DARK EMPEROR with 8 total votes. I would be inclined to keep that on the list considering it won your mock Newbery.

    I’d get rid of 1/4 of the list. Drop SIR CHARLIE; CITY DOG; SUGAR; and KKK.

  7. Plus . . . remember that the discussion has been had on this site for ALL of these titles. The people that voted have had time to take all of these into consideration. I highly doubt there will be any large swing of the pendulum in these bottom titles, on a second ballot.

  8. I know you weigh the place of the votes, but I think looking at total number of votes is significant as well. It counts for how many people wanted certain books acknowledged in some way. I know of the books I’ve read on the list, I’d vote DREAMER, KEEPER, and CITY DOG (probably in that order, but not strongly in that order). My main motivation would just be to get those three acknowledged. Is that NOT how committee members should think? Do they need to have a legitimate #1 choice, then a #2 choice, then a #3?

    Look at total votes:

    One Crazy Summer: 34
    Keeper: 21
    Forge: 17
    A Conspiracy of Kings: 15
    Countdown: 12
    The Dreamer: 11
    Kneebone Boy: 11
    Dark Emperor: 8
    They Called Themselves the KKK: 7
    Sugar Changed the World : 6
    City Dog, Country Frog: 6
    Sir Charlie: 2

    Also, in talking about titles to remove for a second ballot, would the committee also remove ONE CRAZY SUMMER and deem it the winner, thus voting for Honors?

  9. I’m with Nina that now’s the time to work toward consensus and so would vote for removing SIR CHARLIE and CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG as they did not get any first place or second place votes.

  10. I’m speaking up for COUNTDOWN. Having just finished SIR CHARILIE I was struck by how much I had to rely on my own background knowledge to put the elements of the story in place, excluding many young readers. I was reminded of the mini-bio/documentaries inserted into COUNTDOWN, and how they helped ground me in the moment. I can see how some might find them distracting if they were merely interested in following Franny’s plot. I felt they were successful in layering the setting.

  11. I would hate to see SUGAR go. Last night after finishing KKK and looking over the criteria I was in a dilemma. Up until that point SUGAR had been my clear #3. I felt like KKK did a better job with: “Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity, and organization” . But when I looked at “Interpretation of the theme or concept” , and “Appropriateness of style” , I had to give it to SUGAR.

  12. KT Horning says:

    I didn’t vote in this election because there are two books on the list I haven’t yet read; however, I find it interesting to see what happens when fifty people vote for just 12 books. I’ve served on the Newbery committee twice; neither time did we have anywhere near as few as 12 books to vote for on the first (or even last) ballot — and that was with just 15 people voting. When you get 50 people voting for just 12 books, I think it completely messes with the voting system.

    In looking at your results here, common sense would tell even a casual viewer that “One Crazy Summer” is the clear winner by a landslide, based on the number of first and second place votes, and by the point totals. Also, 34 out of 50 members voting chose it as one of their top three. The next highest vote-getters only received 6 first-place votes each, which is quite telling.

    I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, but I think in the end you may be giving people a slightly warped view of how the Newbery voting system really works. You’ve figured out the math with the necessary number of first-place votes and the point spread, but have failed to take into account the total number of books under consideration.

    Or this may just be a good illustration of why the Newbery Committee doesn’t have 50 members!

    • Nina Lindsay says:

      KT, you’re absolutely right about how warped this is. Not having any idea how many people will participate makes it interesting. And ONE CRAZY SUMMER does seem in the bag. AND, of course, we have no way of making sure that the same 50 people participate in the second ballot.

      But I’m curious. And I have to say, already relieved. When I saw we had 50 responses, I thought there’d be no way to determine a winner among 12 titles…

  13. But is SUGAR realistically going anywhere in this list of titles? I’d hate to see CITY DOG go too (it has the same amount of total votes as SUGAR, just no first place votes), but something’s gotta give. If Nina is hesitant to remove SUGAR, than maybe that’s because that’s how the actual committee would weigh things and go about removing titles. I’d be okay with that.

    I just don’t realistically see it coming up from the bottom much so I see no point in separating more points amongst the top dogs. Or is the point not to dwindle down titles and to keep the field as wide open as possible?

  14. Nina Lindsay says:

    Sometimes it takes the first ballot and further discussion to shift people’s minds. That’s what makes me think twice about removing SUGAR. Are there some people out there for whom SUGAR was #4, and given the change of scenery … ? It’s *likely* that it will still sit at the bottom, but not *clear*. It is difficult in subsequent ballots to strike a balance….it’s usually good to remove a little something to help move to consensus, but you want the pool to still be wide enough, and representative enough, that there can also be consensus emerging about honor titles.

  15. I was once told that for Newbery and Caldecott, you cannot go with fewer than 8 books and have it work from a math point of view. Does anyone know if this is true and if so, why?

    I would just remove the bottom two books with no first place votes for the second ballot. Some voters will move no doubt now that they have seen the spread of votes. I think people like to go with their real favorite on the first ballot and recognize that they may have to move to books with more support on subsequent ballots. Personally I am pleased to see One Crazy Summer and Keeper do so well and just wish I had completed the reading and could lend my support.

  16. Blakeney said: “I think people like to go with their real favorite on the first ballot and recognize that they may have to move to books with more support on subsequent ballots.”

    That’s exactly what I’m doing. KKK is losing my second-place vote even though it’s likely to be on the second ballot, because it’s more important to me to support my favorite books that are doing better. That shift happens organically, I don’t think we need to force the issue by removing more than two books.

  17. To me, reading FORGE knocked COUNTDOWN right out of the running. Both used historical material between chapters of the narrative. But to me, COUNTDOWN’s was obtrusive, even coming out of the historical context (telling about Kennedy’s handling of the missile crisis and assassination), and completely detracted from the story.

    To say something positive: Don’t forget the incredibly distinguished plot in CONSPIRACY. I did think the setting was especially well-done in KEEPER.

  18. Nina Lindsay says:

    I’m hearing support for some of the other titles-in-the-running…but not yet for ONE CRAZY SUMMER.

    Though on some first ballots there’s more than one clear frontrunner, I don’t see that here. For ONE CRAZY SUMMER to get consensus, there has to be a shift of some of its second/third place votes to first. That means a handful of people need to be convinced to move their *first* first place vote below ONE CRAZY SUMMER. Though we don’t know exactly where those first place votes are, they’re likely in KEEPER or COUNTDOWN (each with 6 first place votes)…possibly in some of the other titles.

    So: now would be an opportune time for someone to champion ONE CRAZY SUMMER over those other titles. I feel myself that it far surpasses KEEPER and COUNTDOWN in particular. A single character (Delphine) and her voice carry an intricate theme and setting, with incredibly delicacy and complexity….whereas in KEEPER and COUNTDOWN I can see the authors machinations clearly at work. ONE CRAZY SUMMER shows tremendous understanding of and respect for its audience, in a way that is truly distinguished.

    (Back to the number of titles to knock off…you do indeed need to have 8 for the math to work, but that’s the math of a committee of 15. We’re already messing with that, but logic would tell us that to be safe we’d need to stay on the higher side of 8. Thanks, by the way, Mr. H, for ranking the total number of votes for each book, which I do think is helpful to look at).

  19. Anyone want to take on One Crazy Summer vs Conspiracy of Kings? I could be convinced.

  20. Blakeney, you got me thinking about the math of this voting. Whoever said there shouldn’t be less than 8 books was probably talking about a panel of 16 people. Technically, it would “work” even with only 3 books: If all 16 people voted for the same books, you’d have the top book in first place with 64 points, the 2nd book with 48 points, and the 3rd book with 32 points. But that’s only a 16 point spread between the winners — with everyone voting the same.

    In that scenario, if only 5 people switched their vote between 1st and second place (with 11 people voting for Book A for first & 5 people voting for it for second, and 11 people voting for Book B for 2nd & 5 people voting for it for first), the total points would be 59 and 53, so there would not be an 8-point point spread, even though Book A had strong support.

    However, with 50 people voting, you could have less books and still have a big point spread. If 50 people vote all the same, there’s a 50 point difference between the top two votes. Now it would take 13 people to change their votes to get the vote spread less than 25. The proportion is the same — more than 1/4 of the people voting.

    I’m not sure what they mean by “wouldn’t work,” but basically, you’d have the total points less distributed if you have less books, and you’ll have less books that won’t get any votes — so 2nd and 3rd place votes would have a disproportionate influence.

    I think in practical terms, you wouldn’t have everybody voting the same, but you have less chance of a clear difference between the books with low points if you have less books to NOT vote for. Does that make any sense?

  21. About ONE CRAZY SUMMER: All three sisters were well-developed characters, and the plot was also well-crafted, with different threads being important that were woven all through the book. (Like what Fern saw. Like Fern’s name. So many other things.) If I were voting, at this point I’d throw my first-place support from CONSPIRACY OF KINGS to ONE CRAZY SUMMER, since it doesn’t look like CONSPIRACY will win the whole thing. (And maybe it’s not fair to contribute when I didn’t vote.) As far as setting, she did give you a look at that time and the Black Panthers in a way that hasn’t been portrayed in fiction before. She made it feel real.

  22. Re Nina 9:18: No way to tell if the same people vote, and I’m pretty skeptical that everyone who voted really read all twelve books in the first place. If you haven’t been reading Heavy Medal all along, but were just forwarded the link to this post, I think many people would think “ok, well, I haven’t read all of those books, but I LOVE One Crazy Summer”. Not that it isn’t an interesting exercise, especially in showing the math and the voting strategies.

  23. I really need help wrapping my head around some of this voting logic . . .

    Sondy for example: If CONSPIRACY OF KINGS is your first place winner, and you believe it is, why in the world would you change your vote now to ONE CRAZY SUMMER, just because it looks like it will win? Why not continue to vote for CONSPIRACY OF KINGS and hope some of the other votes fall in line with it?

    I feel like I’ve worked hard to wrap my head around the criteria this year, which I’m still not entirely comfortable arguing, but now this balloting and voting is an totally different monster! I just don’t understand why people now, would suddenly forget about their favorites, and vote for the frontrunners . . .

    It’d be like me saying, eh, the 49ers are out of it so I’m going to be a Patriots fan now since they’ll probably win the Super Bowl anyways! (I am a Patriots fan by the way, have been a long time!)

  24. Mr. H, in many cases, it’s to make sure that something we feel strongly about does well. I’m dropping support from those which aren’t garnering enough support so that of those that have a chance, my choices are well-represented. I had 5 favorites going into voting; it’s not so hard for me to switch around which of those 5 I’m voting for and in which order, so that I maximize the chance that our Winner and Honor(s) are books I support. What matters in the end is the Winner and Honors; nothing below that counts.

    Plus, for people who are in general supporting One Crazy Summer, there’s incentive to nudge it over the top so it gets the spread necessary to be declared a winner without endless ballots. And then extra votes can go to choice Honor books.

  25. Mr. H, I’m a huge fan of ONE CRAZY SUMMER, so I would have had a tough time deciding where to give my first place vote. On the first round, I was leaning toward A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS. But since I don’t think it will win the medal, on the second round I would give my first place vote to ONE CRAZY SUMMER, and second place to CONSPIRACY. Because if CONSPIRACY can’t get the medal, I want ONE CRAZY SUMMER to. Unless I was in a meeting and felt I was convincing people to throw their support to CONSPIRACY OF KINGS.

  26. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Well, I agree that 50 is an unwieldy number, but I’m knocked over that 50 people responded. I was worried that only a handful of us would have read all of the books . . .

    In live discussion, I might not be willing to concede the Newbery to ONE CRAZY SUMMER just yet, but in this forum, I think it’s just a matter of time. Might not happen on the 2nd ballot, but surely the 3rd or 4th or . . .

    So for me the question now is what of the Honor books? KEEPER has 64 points and I think other potential honor books are going to need to climb into the 60s in order to get serious consideration. What can do that? COUNTDOWN, DREAMER, CONSPIRACY, and FORGE seem like the most likely suspects. The nonfiction and poetry trail them; I don’t know if they can make up ground.

    Here’s where I think lack of discussion really hurts the reballoting process. The first ballot is often an I’m-going-to-see-the-lay-of-the-land ballot, the 2nd ballot is often now-that-I’ve seen-the-lay-of-the-land-this-is-how-I’m-voting, but beyond that the lack of discussion really hurts. If we all just play musical chairs in the next few rounds of ballots, I’m not sure the picture will get clearer. I think the single greatest clear shift of votes will happen if ONE CRAZY SUMMER is taken out, and those 34 votes are displaced.

    I’d love to have someone who’s read ONE CRAZY SUMMER and A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS at least twice explain a single literary element in which the former is superior. I don’t think there is one–which is why we like to argue that CONSPIRACY (a) cannot be understood outside the context of the other books and (b) the audience for the book is fifteen and up. I won’t necessarily be unhappy with ONE CRAZY SUMMER as the Medal, but I don’t think it is a better book than A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS.

  27. I think that Sir Charlie and City Dog and probably Sugar should be removed because of low point totals and the definantly didn’t dazzle me. Plus, if we remove them it will help keep us focussed on picking a clear front runner.
    As for the winner, One Crazy Summer, people!!! It has it ALL! Historical fiction with characters whose emotions you feel and a totally new look at what a mother is. And poetry as part of the story and in the voice of the characters. It also wants you want to go get some chinese food(:

  28. Since this is a “children’s” book award, I would like to share my experience in using this process with my students.It explains how I was “persuaded” to vote as I did.

    I like to see which books are distinguished in the eyes of my 6th grade gifted students. After having read all the books on the ballot, we discussed the criteria and 4 books were clearly the favorite of my students. They are ONE CRAZY SUMMER A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS KEEPER and THE KNEEBONE BOY.
    We voted and debated and one girl was able to persuade several students to go the way of ONE CRAZY SUMMER when she said, “when I look at Delphine, I feel that I am actually living in her skin as I read the book. None of the other characters in the other books did that for me.”

    The class re-voted and ONE CRAZY SUMMER won with CONSPIRACY and KNEEBONE getting honors.

    I have read the above books two times each this year, and still cannot decide between SUMMER and CONSPIRACY. But my 6th grade student has persuaded me to put SUMMER first with CONSPIRACY a very close second.
    I have used the comments on this blog as a main tool in our class discussion. Thank you to everyone on behalf of my students.

  29. Mark Flowers says:

    @ Jonathan,
    I haven’t read Conspiracy even once, so I don’t fit your hypothetical at all, but I did have a couple thoughts:

    1) I have little doubt that Conspiracy excels in all the ways that you have stated throughout this process, BUT

    2) It seems to me that a book like One Crazy Summer, pitched to 10-14 year olds, is going to have a pretty distinctly different yardstick for “characterization,” “plotting,” etc. than a higher level book like Conspiracy. This is akin to the discussion we had about Country Frog: theme, plot, characters are all clearly there to be analyzed, but we can’t use precisely the same tools to characterize each one as distinguised.

    3) On a similar tack–from what I’ve read about Conspiracy, it seems to be a far more *complex* book than One Crazy Summer, esp. in terms of plot and character. Neither simple nor complex is in itself distinguished, but I think it makes it hard to compare the two directly. Plus, some people may be allowing personal preferences for one or the other mode inform the way they think about the literary-ness of these qualities.

    4) More cynically, I have a feeling that some among the electorate prefer One Crazy Summer BECAUSE it is pitched at a younger audience, and thus is a bit more in line with traditional Newbery winners

    Anyway, just some thoughts to chew on – I await an answer from someone who has actually read them both twice.

  30. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I had a really hard time deciding how to vote in this forum without the context of knowing who else was voting and reading the energy in the room. Thus, I decided to vote as I did at our live mock Newbery switching KKK out for SUGAR which was not available to us. So . . . 1. DARK EMPEROR, 2. A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, 3. SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD. I could have easily voted for any of these as my number one choice.

    When I compare A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS head-to-head with ONE CRAZY SUMMER in various elements, I think that A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS is clearly superior in plotting and setting. I personally prefer it in terms of character, style, and theme–but it’s no worse than a tie in these elements.

    The “living in the skin” comment is interesting, and very similar to “it stayed with me,” in terms of the reader having a strong vivid sensory memory of the reading experience, and while they are often indicators of distinguished writing, the challenge is to translate, frame, and articulate those in terms of the Newbery criteria, otherwise I think you are on the slippery slope of subjectivity. After all, Samuel, if I had been one of your sixth grade gifted students, I would have argued that no book made me want to turn the pages faster to find out what happened next, and then turn around and marvel that I should have known it all along. What makes “living in the skin” (i.e. character) more important than “turning the pages” (i.e. plot)? Doesn’t it say more about us as readers than it does about the books?

  31. Nina Lindsay says:

    The next poll will open shortly. Keep on discussing. It’ll be open for 24 hours, in case some of you need time to make up your minds.

  32. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I completely buy the theory that we can expect different degrees of a particular literary element as it corresponds to the intended audience, and since ONE CRAZY SUMMER is “younger” than A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS it can make less demands on its audience. But even taking that into account, I still think the plotting and setting are superior in CONSPIRACY while the other elements are a draw. I mean, WHEN YOU REACH ME is the same audience as ONE CRAZY SUMMER and WYRM outplots OCS by quite a bit, too.

    I know I’m obnoxious in only wanting to hear from people who have read both books twice, but you really haven’t read a book until you’ve read it twice. The first time it’s about you (you hate this genre, you don’t like this author’s books, you don’t think it stands alone, you think it’s too old), on subsequent readings you begin to appreciate the book on its on merits rather than in relation to your preferences. One of the horrible things about the Newbery committee is that you don’t get to apply the 50 page rule. If they are serious contenders, you also don’t get to read them only once, but at least twice and probably more. I think some of the animosity toward A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS would dissipate on a second or third reading.

  33. Jonathan Hunt says:

    And I also don’t think it’s good enough at this point to say, I’m voting for COUNTDOWN because of the characters. I do think the characters of COUNTDOWN are a strength of the book, but they can be no better than third (behind CONSPIRACY and ONE CRAZY SUMMER). So, to me, if it’s no better than third in its strongest element (and I’m not convinced that COUNTDOWN’s characters are at all better than KEEPER, DREAMER, KNEEBONE, etc) than how can it be seriously considered?

  34. Sondy – Thanks for that helpful explanation. I heard that from someone who was on the committee that separated the two awards into two committees and wrote the manual at that time. I think your line of thinking makes sense, although I would certainly need to read your message TWICE to really get it.

    Mr. H – Stick with the Patriots – but games are played because on any given day, a team can lose. I don’t think that just because a book is ahead in the first ballot that it will always end up the winner. You have to play the game.

    Nina – You said, “I’m hearing support for some of the other titles-in-the-running…but not yet for ONE CRAZY SUMMER.” You also said that the discussion at this point should only include new points that had not been made before. It is possible that many people have already expressed what they feel are the strengths of this title and are following your instruction not to repeat them. I will add that the secondary characters are vividly portrayed – ex. – we learn so much about the grandmother through the girls, and particularly Delphine’s, comments that it is hard to believe she barely appears directly in the story.

    Jonathan – I feel that you are saying that anyone who reads Conspiracy twice would automatically recognized that it is the most distinguished book this year. Please allow that it is okay for others to disagree. I know you are really asking why they think otherwise. Sometimes a complex plot can become too complicted and confusing. Or could it be the old adage about men liking action and women preferring relationships? I cannot satisfy you though because I have not read it twice. Three cheers for the real committee members who put in so much time each year.

  35. There’s animosity toward Conspiracy? That’s either too strong a word, or something I haven’t seen. There are the comments about “really too old”, which kind of befuddle me, because I just didn’t think it was so sophisticated as all that. (How many middle school students have you known, or been, who have read To Kill a Mockingbird? Dickens? Gone With the Wind? Through the Looking-Glass? Is A Conspiracy of Kings out of the reach of those students? I should think not.) And I can’t even think of anything that could be dubbed “inappropriate” if, say, a fourth grader picked it up because of a shiny medal. Not that that should really be a consideration (and clearly it hasn’t been at least some years in the past), but I know it is for some folks.

    The “doesn’t stand alone” argument doesn’t wash with me, either. I know I’m only one person, but I hadn’t read the others and knew nothing about the series, and understood it fine. I probably missed stuff that the rest of you got, but if so, whatever I did “get” showed me a distinguished book.

    (Sorry, Jonathan, I only read Conspiracy once.)

    Mark, when comparing apples and oranges–or maybe Galas and Fujis would be more apt in this case–I find it personally helpful to compare the book in question to non-eligible books, just to sort out my own thoughts. Comparing One Crazy Summer to the best middle-grade coming-of-age (or historical fiction, or whatever), does it stand out? If so, why, and if not, why not? Interestingly to me, when I do this exercise I find that one area really does stand out–the use of language and voice–but the rest doesn’t. That surprised me. The voice in One Crazy Summer is so distinguished that I’d be happy to see it win the gold, but I can’t say that that one element makes it more distinguished than Conspiracy, which I think excels in the others.

  36. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Blakeney, I know what I said may have come across like I think that anyone who reads CONSPIRACY twice would automatically see it as the most distinguished text of the year–no, scratch that: the most distinguished *fiction* of the year, but my intent which I believe that I qualified in a subsequent post is that I’m really not interested in hearing from the people who are not willing to put the effort in on this book. If people put the effort in and then disagree with me . . . fine.

    Case in point: I am a plot-driven reader (you may have noticed this). CRISS CROSS is not a plot-driven book. Yet I absolutely believe it was the most distinguished book of its year. You know what I thought on my first reading? Meh. Some flashes of brilliance, certainly, but nothing’s holding the book together. Then I read Deborah Stevenson’s Big Picture piece in the Bulletin (, and it helped me realize that not only is it not a plot-driven novel, but it’s not a character-driven novel either. Oh, the characters are wonderful, to be sure, but you don’t “live in their skin” because its an ensemble cast, and that is likely to frustrate the reader who feels she has to inhabit the character’s viewpoint in order to identify with him/her. No, CRISS CROSS is a rare bird: a theme-driven novel.

    I went back and read the book again, and the first thing I noticed was the epigram from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM and then the illustration “the Spectrum of Connectedness” and I realized that what Stevenson said (that the novel is about the possibilities WITHIN us and the possibilities BETWEEN us, and our openness to both), was absolutely spot on, and that, in fact, everything that seemed random was simply a manifestation of one of these two themes, and then . . . well, it radically and fundamentally changed the way I looked at the novel. There’s no way I could have voted for CRISS CROSS on a first read. My first read of it was just as hostile or indifferent as any that I have read here (or elsewhere–and Wendy I think I’m confusing my forums) about A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS.

    My point is that I do think it’s possible to rise above it all: the genre preferences, the Men are from Mars/Women are from Venus stuff, all of it. At some point, and on some level, it’s not about me voting for my favorite book (because that’s not the committee charge: to vote for Jonathan’s favorite book), but about the committee finding what’s truly distinguished, and I think the rereading process is so *very* crucial to that. I don’t necessarily expect the casual reader to invest that much time into a book that frustrates them, but I do expect it of the Newbery committee. But if you do the work and come to a different conclusion . . . fine.

  37. While this may not be as close to the actual Newbery voting I think it has been a grand and wonderful experiment and I thank Nina and Jonathan, SLJ, and those who dived in to the conversation.

    While I didn’t have time to reread as much as I would have liked (or would have if I was on a committee) I definitely was pushed to look more carefully at books I’d barely considered initially (e.g. CD, CF and Dark Emperor). And I suspect that more rereading as well as attention to conversation here would have gotten moe to reconsider others pro and con. I too have warmed up to books upon rereading. (I first read WHEN YOU REACH ME shortly after picking up the ARC at midwinter and didn’t think that much about it then went back to it after Nina asked me about it a few weeks later, as it is set in my neighborhood. I decided to reread it, was completely smitten the second time round, and the rest is history:)

    I am wondering if it would be possible to ask people to register for the voting next year. Just to put another layer in to perhaps cut down those who vote without doing the requisite reading. Some who follow BoB may recall that last year we had a dark horse win our Undead Poll when a science writer mentioned it and put a direct link to the poll in his post. So while we won’t do this for the BOB as it is a different sort of situation, I’m just thinking you might want to make it a little harder to vote so that people have to stop and think a second if they want to register and commit that much.

  38. I also have to say that I did find something magical happened in that room when I was on the Newbery Committee. You listen, you think, you talk, you listen and somehow (at least in my case) you come to consensus. I have only done it once so can’t say for others, but in addition to having wonderful fellow committee members (a number of whom are participating in this discussion) we had a fantastic chair in Nina. I remember this incredible sense of exhilaration when we were done. A couple of us went down to a lovely elegant bar for a drink after we were done it was just the strangest feeling to sit there among people who could have cared less and a few who may well have cared with this most wonderful secret to be revealed soon.

  39. Jonathan, I am glad to read your comments. I appreciate the value of rereading. A classic example for me was Golden Compass where I struggled the first time through to identify the time and place of the setting. On second reading, I just adored the book and found the ability to look at the themes developing, varied cast of characters, and intricate plotting. This year, I reread Dark Emperor after your in person group selected it, and it is now in my top group. However, since I am not a real committee member, I simply cannot invest the time in doing second readings for most of the books, especially when some of us are just getting a few of the books for the first time. I suspect I am not alone. I will try to revisit Conspriacy before Monday’s annoucement.

    I agree with Monica on two fronts. First, I wonder who the 50 voters are as many must be lurkers because there are not that many people in the discussion. Could the requirements for voting include having made at least one posting? I don’t think the real committee has silent members, especially since they all have to share written nominations. Secondly, I have enjoyed the high level of this discussion and the moderators insisting on addressing the criteria for the award yet being open to a wide range of questions about the process.

  40. Nina Lindsay says:

    Monica and Blakeney…your line of thinking about requiring registering/posting is where I started from when I first tried to think of how to do this online. Really, the forum for it online is an online classroom setting. You require people to register, you can manage the number, you require a certain amount of participation (posting on a thread for each book a certain number of times, for instance, and perhaps requiring a few sessions of live chat)…

    But then, what we have is an elaborate online mechanism intended to replicate the entire live Mock discussion. And I just don’t have it in me! The online classroom would be a lot of work, and would *still* not get to the best and most intrinsic part of the experience: the face to face discussion….which we do get at our live discussion every year.

    That’s why I started out this season saying there was no “online option.” And then did an about face, because I thought, well, heck, let’s just do the voting part and see what happens.

    So far: 29 voters on poll #2, and there’s 7.5 hrs to go.

  41. I wasn’t suggested that the whole kit and kaboodle be under registration — just the final vote. Not the rest of it — I agree, that would be way too much work for you. I also think you need the openness of this forum for anyone to come by and get a teeny taste of the sort of conversation that can happen around Newbery. But I did think that perhaps requiring that you register to vote (say give a name and even something that you check saying you have read all the books, etc etc) might encourage more people to do the right thing:)

  42. I’ve read CONSPIRACY twice, but ONE CRAZY SUMMER only once. Of course, I read CONSPIRACY the second time just before meeting Megan Whalen Turner, and I’m definitely a biased fan. (So I’m not sure I even trust my high opinion of that book.) I’d already been writing that her books get better every time you read them (You see all the clues she planted.), and then I heard her say that she writes for the rereaders — she purposely makes it a different experience the second time. That brilliance is intentional.

    That said, I agree with Jonathan that CONSPIRACY OF KINGS is more distinguished than ONE CRAZY SUMMER. (Though ONE CRAZY SUMMER is awfully distinguished itself, I think — but I’d need another reading or two to be able to articulate all of why.)

    If I were on the committee, I would marshal all my facts and work hard to give CONSPIRACY the attention it deserves. But realistically, when I think about the Newbery, I have a hard time believing that it will get honored. QUEEN OF ATTOLIA and KING OF ATTOLIA didn’t, and to me, QUEEN OF ATTOLIA was a better book. Fans of Megan Whalen Turner are avid fans, but realistically ONE CRAZY SUMMER much more closely fits the typical Newbery profile.

    Do I sound too negative? It seems like part of the point of this discussion is to show us that ANY book, regardless of genre, can win, even if it’s not the “typical” Newbery book. So we’ll see….

    Another thing I’ve gotten a taste of, mostly through your descriptions, is that choosing the Newbery is about building consensus, about deciding together. Like I said, if I were on the committee, I would have notes and quotes from the books I most wanted to be honored — but I would also be ready to be convinced. I would be happy to hear exactly what elements people found most distinguished about the other books that didn’t strike me. I’d have the books in front of me and reread parts right there.

    I’m trying to say that I get the impression in the committee voting, it’s not about choosing a team and rooting for that team no matter what. It seems to be more like making a decision together. Getting a sense of what the others think and expressing what you think and weighing different factors and trying to make a decision together. We can’t really do that online. Although we can comment, there’s not so much give and take.

    On the other hand, I have a much, much clearer idea of what the process is actually like.

  43. Nina Lindsay says:

    Yes Sondy, you’re on the right track. And I also want to back up and thank Samuel for sharing thoughts on how he and his class came to their decision. I do think there’s a different kind of give-and-take that happens when you’re in a room with someone, than in an online forum.

    Monica, you may be right about just having a checkbox. I was thinking I was doing that in the blog post by leading people up to the link to vote, but of course I could have built a question into the survey form that just requires you to check off that you’ve done x y and z. (But does that *really* make people play more by the rules?) I wanted to avoid asking for a name because I think the ballots should be anonymous. But I could ask people to indicate a “username” for the balloting process….

    Checking in, we have 33 votes so far, and about 5 hours left to vote…

  44. I think asking people to check a couple of things before voting is similar to asking students to sign an honor code that they didn’t cheat before a test. I seem to remember reading somewhere that doing that does actually reduce cheating. So I figure doing that here would perhaps get those folks who hadn’t played by the rules to perhaps think twice about going ahead with their voting anyway.

  45. The heck with merely checking a box Monica. I say everyone who wants to vote should take a trivia quiz based on each book. If I had to read them all, even the non-fiction (which I am clearly a better person for reading), then every one else had better have read them all!

    (In case tone is not clear, I jest.) However I think a trivia game based on all 12 books would be a great way to close down Heavy Medal for the year.

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