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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Affection for a Book

Congratulations to all the hard-working committees!  Some scattered thoughts on the awards . . .

ALEX AWARDS: The audience seemed to respond most enthusiastically to ROOM by Emma Donoghue.  I haven’t read it yet, but have heard raves.  The name may ring a bell as Donoghue has contributed to some short story anthologies, namely LOVE & SEX and NECESSARY NOISE both edited by Michael Cart.

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARDS: I think most of us expected to see either OUT OF MY MIND or MOCKINGBIRD as the middle grade book.  Which is not to say that AFTER EVER AFTER is necessarily a disappointing choice, just a slightly unexpected one.  And there were two YA books with deaf characters this year: FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB and THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN.

STONEWALL BOOK AWARD: I thought WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON was almost a foregone conclusion here.  Oops.  ALMOST PERFECT made 2010 BBYA (meaning it was published in 2009).  I’m not sure if this new award is on a two year cycle or if they just wanted the inaugural crop drawn from a larger pool of books.

CORETTA SCOTT KING AWARDS:  All the usual suspects are here, but FINDING FAMILY is the odd book out.

ODYSSEY AWARD: I haven’t listened to any of these, but this is such an interesting award because it runs the gamut from audiobooks for very young children to older teens, from books published in previous years and those published just recently.

EDWARDS AWARD: This committee is arguably my favorite of the entire roster.  I love you guys!  I’m going onto this committee, but I’m a year too late.  I’d made a mental list of 2012 Edwards possibilities and Pratchett was very high on my list.  I wasn’t sure he’d travel here to accept the award, so I’m stoked to see him honored.

MORRIS AWARD: Carol asked about the lack of buzz for this one, and since I hadn’t read any of the finalists, I’ll only hazard a guess.  I don’t know if these were all eligible, but . . . no BEFORE I FALL, no THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, and no STOLEN.  I’m not saying these are better than the shortlisted titles, but they did have buzz.

YALSA NONFICTION AWARD: I was expecting KKK to win, but JANIS was my second choice.  The book design is more inviting and it might be a more popular book with young adults.  Maybe?  Maybe not?  Two of my nonfiction favorites–SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD and THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD–were published too late for this year’s shortlist.  They could both make the 2012 shortlist.

PRINTZ AWARD: I have mixed feelings about this one.  This year offered . . . an interesting crop of books . . . and I worried that this committee would embarrass itself by entirely eschewing the fantasy and nonfiction and going for off-the-wall realistic fiction choices.  SHIP BREAKER is the first science fiction/fantasy book to win the Printz, so that’s refreshing.  It didn’t do much for me on a personal level, but beggars can’t be choosers.  Now they did pick four realistic novels, but all got solid reviews.  Not my cup of tea (I would’ve liked to see more fantasy/science fiction recognized), but each of those choices is defensible.  But the nonfiction: KKK, WWI, BARBIE, BENEDICT, and SUGAR?  Was it too much to ask for one of these titles to be an honor book?  One?



BATCHELDER AWARD: A TIME OF MIRACLES got several great reviews late in the year.  If THE CHICKEN THIEF had had any kind of a written narrative, I think we would have seen it here, too.

SIBERT MEDAL: I love all of these choices, even LAFAYETTE which I reviewed for Horn Book.  But they’re awfully short and very young–all of them.  Compare the average length of the Newbery and Sibert books.  I know not every committee is going to feel comfortable with “young adult” nonfiction like KKK, WWI, BARBIE, and SUGAR, but what about THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD?

WILDER AWARD: Another great choice!  And it leaves Susan Cooper on the table for if I ever serve on this committee.

CARNEGIE MEDAL: You know this award really needs one of those clauses where the committee can elect not to give the award if nothing is deemed sufficiently meritorious.

GEISEL AWARD: Great choices!  You might take this wonderful committee for granted, but consider this: It only took them three books to recognize the most distinguished easy readers.  Conversely, the Cybils needed five books, but they only got one of them right.

CALDECOTT MEDAL: I like the Medal, but haven’t seen the Honors.  I’m partial to DARK EMPEROR and CITY DOG, but I’m withholding judgment until I see this other pair.  I do like Collier and Stein, however, so I can’t imagine I wouldn’t like them.

NEWBERY MEDAL:  First of all, I still feel warm and fuzzy about DARK EMPEROR.  Since 2002, every single committee (with the exception of 2003 and 2007) has recognized either nonfiction or poetry (2002: CARVER, 2004: AN AMERICAN PLAGUE, 2005: THE VOICE THAT CHALLENGED A NATION, 2006: HITLER YOUTH, 2008: GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES!, 2009: THE SURRENDER TREE, 2010: CLAUDETTE COLVIN, 2011: DARK EMPEROR).  I do miss the nonfiction, but since most of the best stuff was published for ages 12 and up, I was pessimistic about its chances to begin with.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the generally warm reception that SUGAR, KKK, and KAKAPO RESCUE have gotten here on the blog.

Nina and I both read the first several chapters of MOON OVER MANIFEST because it had three starred reviews and good recommendations from friends in high places, but we were both scrambling to look at many different books for the final spots on the mock Newbery shortlist.  We obviously didn’t give it enough of a chance.  Nevertheless, it did appear in the comments from time to time.  Both Samuel and Dean put it in their Top Seven and Carri highly recommended it even earlier than that.  In fact, everybody who had finished it spoke highly of it, so when I wrote about Too Many Books, Too Little Time, I initially wanted to include covers for all of the books, but that wasn’t feasible so I just included the two that I felt had (a) the best shot at Newbery recognition, but (b) had not gotten their just due on the blog.  Those two books?  HEART OF A SAMURAI and MOON OVER MANIFEST?  I was just never quite certain that OCS, FORGE, COUNTDOWN, DREAMER, and KEEPER were actually more distinguished–or if they just had more popular and established authors.  Anyway, I’m third in line at my public library so it will be awhile before I get to read it.

And, finally, for all those who are feeling slightly down because your favorite book didn’t get picked, take heart in the wise words of E.L. Konigsburg: “Affection for a book is its best award, and books that earn that award arrive from the hearts and minds of writers, not juries.”

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. Oh, I love that Konigsburg quote. I’d never heard it before.

    I’m going to revive my dusty and unused-for-over-a-year blog to review *my* favorites. I already did this for “Every Bone Tells A Story” (which I really hoped would win a Sibert Honors!), and I have to your blog to thank for letting me know that book even exists.

    I’m sorry that you & Nina will be done for the year, reading Heavy Medal has been great.

  2. I am consoling myself that A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS and THE DREAMER did get Horn Book/Boston Globe Honor Awards. And that award can consider the excellent way the pictures contributed to DREAMER. Of course, also nice that it got the Pura Belpre.

    And I never really thought CONSPIRACY would get recognized by the committee, since QUEEN OF ATTOLIA and KING OF ATTOLIA didn’t — But you guys got my hopes up! I hope it’s going to be there in Battle of the Books?

    And of course, one can’t really complain about lack of attention for ONE CRAZY SUMMER, even though it didn’t win the medal. Newbery Honor, Coretta Scott King Award and Scott O’Dell Award! Wow!

  3. Oh, I also wanted to say something about the Cybils. A person on the Picture Book Panel was at our Kidlit Book Club meeting Sunday. She pointed out that LING & TING doesn’t have the traditional format for an easy reader with space between the lines of text for a beginning reader to follow along, some other things like that. She was wondering if the Geisel would consider that or not.

    But another thing she said is that the Cybils are not trying to just recognize the most distinguished books. The Panels are trying to make recommended lists for teachers and librarians — balancing kid appeal with literary quality — and trying to have some variety on the list. So the Cybils, for example, would never make a short list with 4 of the 5 titles historical fiction, no matter how good they are. It’s a different purpose for the awards.

  4. Jonathan Hunt says:

    No amount of rationalization justifies the absence of BINK & GOLLIE and LING & TING from the Cybils. Are you trying to say that neither of those books have kid appeal?!?!

  5. Angela K. says:

    I guess I’m still wondering then why the Cybils has a separate category for Sci Fi & Fantasy, but doesn’t have the same treatment for some of the other genres. I agree that the Cybils list is an odd assortment of titles at best. There’s quite a few books I was shocked to see on the list and quite a few books that I was shocked to see were left out.

  6. Love that Konigsburg quote!

    Ahem…that said, I’ll be rooting for you to get on the Wilder committee, because I do love Susan Cooper too!

    On the international award front, I’d sooo love to see Cooper and Konigsburg get the Hans Christian Anderson.

    Thrilled to see Pratchett bag the Edwards award….if the applause in the room was any indication, it was a very popular choice, and well deserved.

    On the Caldecott front, I never expect anything there… appreciation is just too subjective. The book that makes me want to hug it may be the one that others recoil from. When a book I love wins, I think “excellent! people with the same taste in art that I have were on the committee this year”. When I don’t care for the books honored, I think “oh well, people with different tastes than mine were on the committee….not better or worse, just different”.

  7. Two things I have to say here. First, I had Moon Over Manifest at home and hadn’t read it yet. Hadn’t heard a thing about it to move it up on my TBR list. Read it yesterday and today. I can see why you read a few chapters and didn’t move on. When I started reading, I thought it seemed like a pretty standard small-town historical novel and I couldn’t imagine how it got on the list. Having finished it, I take that back. It’s one slow starter – I was halfway through before the interest started kicking in – but the build is worth the wait.

    Now, on Cybils. One things that would be unlikely to happen in Cybils is to have a finalist list where four of five titles were historical fiction. Three of those with girl characters, two in the same time period. I can’t knock the individual books chosen for the Newbery, but as a list of best books it’s not that helpful. Cybils does try to address the books with literary merit and kid appeal, certainly. But also tries to look at a variety of books to put forward as finalists. I’d say that might need more books on the list. I wish the Caldecotts would have looked at that example, as they only put forward three books in a year when there were some really wonderful choices that would have benefited from the Caldecott silver.

  8. I just love it when someone stoops to bashing other awards. It is both utterly predictable and incredibly immature. I guess it’s too much to ask that we just celebrate award winners without jumping on others for not coming to the same conclusions.

  9. Personally, I’m completely on board with the Geisel choices. The reason LING & TING came up in our discussion was that I had brought it to the meeting as a potential winner. Then it was pointed out by someone in the know for the Cybils that it’s not set up in the standard format for easy readers. She thought it was on the hard side for kids learning to read. (But I’m still glad it was honored.)

    As for BINK & GOLLIE, I have no idea why it wasn’t chosen. I love it. But I was trying to point out that the Cybils are looking to produce a LIST, not just individual good titles. So it’s a very different criteria, and of course every committee is different. (Did you notice they included a Nonfiction choice?)

    Angela, I don’t know why the Cybils have a separate Sci Fi & Fantasy category, but I love it. I think if you ask anybody who’s a real lover of fantasy, they can tell you they don’t feel like the Newbery generally gives Fantasy all the consideration it deserves. I’ve heard a lot of librarians say, “I don’t read fantasy.” When there are a majority of those types on the committee, you can’t expect the strong fantasy contenders to have as good a chance. This year, I hadn’t read many of the Cybils shortlist choices, but I do have to say that it covers a wide variety of fantasy/SF for a wide variety of tastes. Now I learn that’s their goal.

  10. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Pratchett is a great choice for the Edwards because he’s very deserving (as evidenced by the multitude of titles cited for the award), enormously popular, his wit and intelligence will make for a great speech, and I don’t think his health allows him to travel as much as he used to (he didn’t come for the Printz a couple years back, for example) so it’s a rare treat. Like I said, one of the very best things announced over the podium yesterday.

  11. Nina Lindsay says:

    How I do hope that Sir Terry will be able to make it for that speech, I’m holding my breath.

    The award has gone to picture books before, so I don’t believe it has to be the standard “easy reader” format. The terms & criteria state:

    “Committee members need to consider the following criteria: Subject matter must be intriguing enough to motivate the child to read; The book may or may not include short “chapters”; New words should be added slowly enough to make learning them a positive experience; Words should be repeated to ensure knowledge retention.; Sentences must be simple and straightforward; There must be a minimum of 24 pages. Books may not be longer than 96 pages; The illustrations must demonstrate the story being told; The book creates a successful reading experience, from start to finish; The plot advances from one page to the next and creates a “page-turning” dynamic.”

    If there was too much overlap btwn it and the other awards, then–really–what’s the point? I’m happy for the Cybils to be the Cybils, which I think of at the moment as a tree full of peculiar tropical birds…I never know exactly what sound is going to come from them. Always interesting.

  12. Full disclosure: I was on one of the first-round Cybils panels this year.

    I’m not sure how or when fantasy and science fiction were split out for the Cybils, but in terms of this year’s logistics, general MG fiction, YA fiction, YA F/SF, and MG F/SF had something close to 150 nominees each (graphic novels, nonfiction, and poetry get split out as well, but I don’t really know the numbers there). It’s expected that each nominated book will be read by at least one first-round committee member, and it’s a challenge to get that done through library waiting lists, some review copies, and sneaky bookstore reading in the fairly short period between the close of nominations and the start of shortlist deliberations. I can’t imagine how I’d have reviewed 300-odd books in the same time period if the categories were recombined (as it was, I only looked at about 120 books), and I certainly give kudos to those awards committees that consider all fiction in a single category! I’d have loved to have three times as many finalists just for the YA fantasy and science fiction Cybils.

  13. I should disclose that I was on the Round 1 Cybils panel for easy readers/short chapter books this year. There are two issues that I would like to address:

    #1: Bink and Gollie is one of those books that adults seem to adore but kids think is just good and not great. My own six year old, who is gaga for Mo Willems, said Bink and Gollie was just okay. One of my goals as a panelist was to pick the books that had the greatest kid appeal. I liked Bink and Gollie and Ling and Ting too, but didn’t find them overwhelmingly appealing to the kids that I work with. For the record, I teach kindergarten.

    #2: Young kids love nonfiction. This is one of the reasons why I took up the cause for a nonfiction selection. I think it’s time we recognized these books for younger readers.

    I really appreciate and look forward to reading this blog each year. It is extremely informative for this classroom teacher. Thank you for the work that you are doing.

  14. It’s funny how these award winning books seem to follow a consistent pattern on what’s hot and what’s not. One broad category of consistent winners is “message books” (both fiction and non-fiction). The plot revolves around helping society address sociological, political, sexual, and/or medical hurtles. Books like: Chains, Marcello in the Real World, Mockingbird, One Crazy Summer, They Called Themselves the KKK, The Surrender Tree, Claudette Colvin…etc.

    Seemingly, the other large category is what I’ll characterize as the “home-spun story” or “tall-tale”. In this category I include books like this years Newbery winner, Moon Over Manifest, A Year Down Yonder, Calpurnia Tate, A Higher Power of Lucky, Savvy, The Underneath, Holes (yes I contend Holes fits nicely into this home-spun-tale slot), The Graveyard Book (it’s a gothic version of a tall-tale), and Tender Morsles (a disturbing and twisted take on tall-tales).

    This leaves comedy, mystery, action-adventure, science fiction, and fantasy as the odd man out. Books like: Hunger Games, Bone Shaker, and A Conspiracy of Kings. Unfortunately, many of these books come in the form of a series, making the winning of any awards a chore. Last year’s winner, When You Reach Me, leaned towards mystery and science fiction and was (thank God) a stand-alone. Also, this years Ship Breaker gave us a rare science fiction win. These are the books with real kid appeal. I’d like to see more of these win, and less of the others.

  15. So, Jonathan, in case you haven’t noticed: your audience really hates it when you get on a high horse and claim to be the one person who knows what the “right” and “best” books are. We HATE it. Even if you mean it in jest (which is not really how it comes off IMO).

    Angela, I think last year was the first time SF/Fantasy was split into two groups for the Cybils–as another commenter mentioned, and as I’ve mentioned previously, there are many, many books nominated in that category, and for YA especially, the books tend to be very long.

    The nature of the Cybils process means that sometimes the shortlists of books will seem “odd”–bloggers come from all sorts of backgrounds; librarians, teachers, professionals of other kinds, parents, and people like me (groupies, that is). We are all looking for different things and judging by different standards, and the criteria are not hard-and-fast as they are for the ALA awards. As Nina says–if there was too much overlap, what would be the point?

  16. Kristin McIlhagga says:

    Thanks for all of the insight Jonathon. I went out tonight and bought both “We Are In a Book” and “Bink and Gollie” because my 6-year-old and I have been enjoying them for months now. It’s interesting to read the guidelines after rereading them at bedtime tonight. The definitely both create the desire to “keep turning the page”.

    Richard – your groupings are interesting to consider. I was listening to the announcements with some colleagues and one kept joking that many of the award winners had a “meaningful message.”

  17. Speak for yourself, Wendy! I like Jonathan’s style just fine, even when I think he is dead wrong. (That isn’t the phrase I wanted you use, but I believe this is a family blog.)

  18. Has anyone heard if the Winner will be on any of the Netword pretend news shows? Shouldn’t they have been on yesterday?

  19. DaNae, I’ve been wondering the same thing. Didn’t see anything on their site about it.

  20. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Jeff, I haven’t read the nonfiction book on ants, but I’m with you in theory there. And I don’t think anybody would question that Mo Willems is the runaway favorite in terms of popularity. If I was a round two panelist, I *might* feel like the category was set up for WE ARE IN A BOOK! and since, for me, that book beats LING & TING and BINK & GOLLIE anyway, I *might* be disappointed that it wouldn’t have the opportunity to beat those books head-to-head (and come to a different conclusion than the Geisel with the same pool of books). But then I thought the NBA was set up for ONE CRAZY SUMMER and the YALSA Nonfiction was set up for KKK, and neither of those worked out.

    Wendy, I honestly don’t know what to say to you. We’ve had a rash of people here on this thread and on the Best Books Revisited thread defending, clarifying, and justifying the Cybils, but the only animosity (i.e. HATE) I sense is coming from you and Colleen. You took me to task a couple months ago for using the royal/editorial we, and now, inexplicably, you are using it. Please allow me the same courtesy you are extending yourself: either we both get to use the royal/editorial we or we both do not.

  21. Angela K. says:

    As a person that’s newly following Cybils, I guess I really don’t understand the choice of categories. I see some explanations from others here, but it would be helpful to have some of this actually ON the Cybils website. The fact that they get many more nominations for sci fi/fantasy suggests a bias to me as I think there are just as many good historical fiction books produced this year, but there is no separate category for that. It would also help if the Cybils provided at least a short explanation of how the winners are picked, other than just saying it’s subjective. I do appreciate that they picked some titles for recognition that haven’t gotten much time in the spotlight. However, there are definitely some titles that have appeared on almost every other “best” list except for the Cybils that I would have liked to seen there, too. I wouldn’t expect to see 6 or 7 “best lists” that are exactly the same because there does need to be some variation on each list, but there are some titles that I would expect to be on almost every list.

  22. Angela K. says:

    Sorry for the grammatical mistakes – it’s been a long morning!

  23. (Ha! That was a purposeful joke, Jonathan, sorry. Because of all the people getting up in arms.)

  24. (I thought it was a ridiculous-enough thing to say that that would be clear, but it obviously wasn’t; I blame the twelve-hour shifts. At least I had a good giggle while I was writing it.)

  25. Wendy, I’m glad. Because the best part of the entire award season for me, was Nina asking if she had to separate you two. : )

  26. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Oh, okay. It was kind of hard to tell you were kidding. 🙂


  1. […] Thanks to John Hunt for the E.L. Konigsburg quote on his Heavy Medal Blog. […]

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