Subscribe to SLJ
Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Getting Serious

The finalists for the National Book Award were announced this morning. 

MY NAME IS NOT EASY by Debby Dahl Edwardson


FLESH & BLOOD SO CHEAP by Albert Marrin

SHINE by Lauren Myracle

OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt

CHIME by Franny Billingsley (see link in comments–this post was written before this addition)

I haven’t even heard of MY NAME IS NOT EASY, probably because (a) Marshall Cavendish is a smaller press and (b) it is published this month.  We’ve already discussed FLESH & BLOOD SO CHEAP and INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN, both to mixed reviews.  OKAY FOR NOW stands out clearly as the probable winner.  Of course, I said that last year about ONE CRAZY SUMMER and look what happened.

It’s natural to wonder what effect the National Book Award finalists and the eventual winner have on the Newbery committee, either consciously or subconsciously.  The answer is absolutely none.  Committee members have almost certainly read these books already, some of them multiple times, and formed their own opinions–and they will not bring these previous awards and honors into their discussions.

Meanwhile, sometime this month (quite probably October 15) the Newbery committee will submit their first three nominations to the chair who will compile them and send them out to the entire committee.  These are submitted without names so that you are not moved one way or another by who submitted the nomination, but rather by the brief arguments laid out.  Two more nominations will follow in November, and a final two in December for a total of seven.

Up to this point, the committee has been trading suggestions of titles to consider.  These, too, are submitted to the chair without names, compiled, and sent out periodically to the entire group.  Depending on the chair, these may simply be titles, or they may be accompanied by very brief annotations (1-2 sentences).

There is a bit of strategy involved in what to nominate.  Let’s say that all 15 members suggested OKAY FOR NOW and you are solidly behind it, too.  You may decide to let others nominate it, and spend yours on a title without nearly as much support that deserves a closer look, or you may wish to push various agendas.  There are a couple of problems with agendas.  First, we tend to have lots of them.  Mine include fantasy, nonfiction, easy readers, picture books, debut authors, small presses, and ethnic diversity, to name a few.  And second, we simply we do not discuss the books in terms of these agendas once the formal January discussion begins.

Having said that, I’m not really set yet on what my first three nominations would be.  I haven’t done any rereading yet (with one exception), and rereading is absolutely essential for me to determine which books to support in the next rounds of the process.  So far, these are the books that I would consider for nominating . . .


AMELIA LOST by Candace Fleming


BLUEFISH by Pat Schmatz

BOOTLEG by Karen Blumenthal


THE FREEDOM MAZE by Delia Sherman

A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness

OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt



WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick

I’d probably go with AMELIA LOST because even without a second read, I think it’s the class of the nonfiction.  And I have actually reread SIR GAWAIN THE TRUE and continue to be impressed with this chapter book (I’ll post on it soon) so I’d pick that one, too, but I’m not sure how I feel about the middle grade fiction.  Some titles are clearly most distinguished in certain elements–OKAY FOR NOW, A MONSTER CALLS, THE FREEDOM MAZE–while others just seem strong in all elements, but not necessarily best in any single area–PENDERWICKS, BLUEFISH, MAY AMELIA.  Maybe my third nomination would be one of these, but if I had found an awesome picture book, easy reader, or poetry title, I would probably nominate it now, and then nominate the middle grade fiction in the later nomination rounds.

So . . .

What do you think of the National Book Award finalists?

Whether you play it straight or strategically, what would your first three Newbery nominations be?

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. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Monica just sent me this link about CHIME being added as a finalist.

  2. Jonathan Hunt says:

    PW reports–

    Citing “miscommunication” between the National Book Award judges and staff, six authors have been nominated in the 2011 Young People’s Literature category of the National Book Awards. During Wednesday’s broadcast of the YPL’s nominees only five selections were announced; after the judges heard the broadcast they told the National Book Foundation that Chime by Franny Billingsley (Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group) should also be included among the nominees. It is the first time since 1996, when the award was established in this category, that there have been six YPL nominees.

  3. Jonathan, still looking for an “awesome picture book” to get behind? What are your thoughts on William Joyce’s THE MAN IN THE MOON. It’s got a substantial amount of very well written text which upon additional readings I’m starting to think stands on its own (though the pictures are quite incredible).

    Still narrowing down my top 3 but as of today OKAY FOR NOW, BIGGER THAN A BREAD BOX, TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA.

  4. Jonathan, a total hypothetical here . . . is it possible that with a book like OKAY FOR NOW, that too many committee members would leave it off their initial ballot, with the goal of pushing 3 lesser heavily supported titles? Essentially making OKAY FOR NOW look as if it lacks support in the early stages of this process? Or are the people who choose that type of “strategy” when nominating simply few and far between? Just curious . . .

  5. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Eric, I’ll have to check THE MAN IN THE MOON out. I’m still waiting for THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE and NEVER FORGOTTEN. I’ve taken a look at both of the Elephant & Piggie books–and I expect to have a conversation about those down the line.

    Mr. H, yes, it is possible for that to happen to any title. The nominations are unranked, so you’re not necessarily putting forward what you think are the strongest books or your favorite books, although most people do, in fact, do just that, at least in part. You can use your nominations to nudge fellow members to look more closely at particular titles, essentially putting your money where your mouth is. When push comes to shove, however, if you haven’t made converts on your titles, you will almost certainly return to those books that you strategically “passed” over. Being distinguished is only half of the game; the other half is building consensus.

  6. I haven’t done any re-reading yet and still have some first reads to go! I can pick two titles so far:

    Okay for Now
    The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

  7. I am so behind. I’ve read only two titles total on either your list or the National Book Awards list, and neither of them are screaming out at me to be nominated. I don’t have any other titles that I feel like adding, though, either. This is making me sort of sad.

  8. KT Horning says:

    My top three at this point would be:


    But I also like (I can have seven, right?)

    And, you won’t believe this, but I’d probably choose OKAY FOR NOW. Yes, there are things about it that annoy me, but, dang, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I read it months ago, and I think it deserves a closer look and in-depth discussion. I so want this book to win me over.

  9. KT Horning says:

    As for the National Book Award snafu, wow, that is so embarrassing and so unfortunate. I feel bad for everyone involved.

  10. I would also nominate AMELIA LOST and HIDDEN. Both OKAY FOR NOW and JEFFERSON’S SONS made me think a lot and I need to go back and reread them.

  11. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t heard of My Name is Not Easy.

    There are still so many books that have been brought up here I haven’t read but if I had to choose now my top three choices would be: Okay for Now, Amelia Lost, and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

  12. Well I have done much better this year than past in preparing myself to take part in discussions. I have currently read 11 decent contenders with 3 more soon to be in the bag. A somewhat small sample, but based solely on what I’ve read I’d have to go with:

    1. THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA by Jennifer Holm
    2. OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D Schmidt

    and, don’t know why this one’s sticking with me, but at this point in time . . .

    3. HIDDEN by Helen Frost

  13. My first two nominations would be A MONSTER CALLS (presuming it was determined eligible) and AMELIA LOST. There are many other titles that I like very much, but nothing as yet that is standing out to the degree these two do for me. And so my third nominee would be a strategic one– one among that second group of favorites that I’d want to be sure was in the discussion — THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT.

  14. I agree, KT, the NBA snafu is a shame. Not that there were 6 books nominated but that there is clearly a book on the list that wasn’t supposed to be there, and that sort of taints the whole thing.

    At this point my top Newbery picks are

    That is, unless we’re still considering those “older” titles, in which case add SCORPIO RACES to the list!

  15. KT Horning says:

    I, too, like BLUEFISH a lot, but the author is a personal friend, so I’ve opted out of talking about it. Some of the others that people have mentioned in their top three I simply haven’t read yet. Must do some catch-up reading!

  16. I thought Okay For Now was great. I was happy to see my Name is not Easy on the list because I enjoyed the author’s debut, Blessing Beads (2009) but overall I am underwhelmed by the finalist.

    I think I might be the only one who didn’t like Shine or Chime. I thought Inside Out and Back Again was just okay. This is the first time I am hearing of Flesh of Blood So Cheap. But since out of the 4 finalist I read only one Wowed me, I am not itching to read it.

    I haven’t narrowed down my Newbery contenders but these five are on my list
    Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han
    Horton’s Halfpott by Tom Angleberger
    Lunch Box Dream by Tony Abbott
    Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
    The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Deedy and Wright

    Silhouetted by the Blue by Traci L. Jones ( is my long shot sleeper)

    I still have a lot of reading to do – picking up Heart and Soul from library today. After that I want to get my hands on a copy of Ameila Lost.

  17. My top three (in no particular order):

    1. The Trouble With May Amelia
    2. Young Fredle (even though I doubt it’s a serious contender; it’s one of my favorites from this year)
    3. Okay For Now (even though I had serious reservations about some plot issues, it’s still in my top list)

  18. Jennifer, why wouldn’t Young Fredle be a serious contender? When I read it (and loved it), Ithought: Newbery contender for sure! What am I missing? Of course, I thought the same about Junonia, and despite the discussion here, it’s still in my top 3, while Okay for Now only makes my top 50. Currently reading Amelia Lost and really liking it.

  19. Nice list. I’d have With a Name Like Love on my list (probably bumping off Penderwicks), but otherwise it’s going to be a great year for nominations AND awards. This much, we can all agree on.

  20. Rebecca, I chose the wrong words. I just haven’t noticed Young Fredle mentioned that much, that’s all. However, we all know that some years reveal “surprises.”

  21. My nominations would be Okay For Now, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, Wonderstruck, and The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. I’m about a third through Bluefish and definitely could add it to the list when I finish it.

  22. Minnesota must be a hotbed of children’s literature activity this year. Barnhill, Ursu, and Schmatz all either live there or have strong ties to the state.

    Maybe I need to move a few hours north and kickstart my career as an author!

  23. KT Horning says:

    Mr H, it may be the DiCamillo Effect.

  24. My top three (of those under discussion that I’ve read so far) would be Okay for Now, Hidden, and The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. If I had a fourth, it would be Amelia Lost.

  25. Dean Schneider says:

    My top 3 are close to Martha’s:

    Dead End in Norvelt — Jack Gantos
    Bluefish — Pat Schmatz
    Secrets at Sea — Richard Peck

    I think one thing missing in the various discussions of DEAD END IN NORVELT I’ve seen in various places is how rich an ode to time and place this novel is. Granted it has all of the Gantos humor and wackiness that pull readers in, but it’s also a sophisticated and layered story about history, the power of reading, the influences of the people in our lives, and the possibility of change.

    SECRETS AT SEA hasn’t been discussed so much, but it got several starred reviews, and I remember when my wife was reading it for review, she read aloud so many hilarious scenes, so wonderfully written, that I felt I had already read it when I got the book to read for myself.

    And BLUEFISH is a lovely novel, quiet and heartfelt, about a kind relationship between an eighth-grade girl and an eighth-grade boy, two outsiders who find their way to each other. Being an eighth-grade teacher, I found the characters totally believable and loved their stories, so delicately told.

    These are the three novels I think about again and again. If I added a fourth, it might be JEFFERSON’S SONS by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a fine historical novel about Thomas Jefferson and the children he had with Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman at Monticello.

  26. Elle Librarian says:

    I’m having a hard time narrowing it down to a top three of what I’ve read so far – and there are many still in on my list to read, perhaps most noteably, HEART & SOUL, WONDERSTRUCK, A NAME LIKE LOVE, BLUEFISH and FREEDOM’S MAZE.

    At this point, I do know I have much love for (in no particular order): JEFFERSON’S SONS and THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA. OKAY FOR NOW or AMELIA LOST or INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN are all possibilities for me at this point.

    Does anyone have love for MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK? It has several starred reviews, but haven’t seen it mentioned here that I know of. It’s still in my pile to read as well!

  27. Mr. H, I venture to say it’s the long cold winter effect!

  28. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Elle Librarian, Nina discussed THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK in an earlier thread, “Get your tomatoes ready.” I hadn’t read it then, but I’ve read it now. I liked it, but I have reservations, too. I do think it’s the best of that bunch, and I can see someone making an articulate Newbery argument for it–reminds me somewhat of SAVVY.

  29. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Laura Miller has a piece on the Fiction category of the National Book Awards, drawing a comparison to the Newbery Medal.

    How the National Book Awards made themselves irrelevant:
    A once-influential literary prize is now the Newbery Medal for adults: Good for you whether you like it or not

  30. Dean Schneider says:

    Man, I hate these articles like Laura Miller’s. She calls the National Book Award–and by extension, the Newbery–the “literary equivalent of spinach.” She says, “Like the Newbery Medal for children’s literature, awarded by librarians, the NBA has come to indicate a book that somebody else thinks you ought to read, whether you like it or not.” Well, duh: That’s what committees do; they decide on what they think is good. They don’t make you read the book, or poll you afterwards to see if you liked their choice, and get their feelings hurt if you don’t. You can like their choice or not, or not read it at all. The fun is in the process we’re all already engaged in this time around: guessing what might win, discussing what’s good and why, second-guessing the committee. What fun it will be to be in Dallas for the awards, and cheering or bemoaning. Who says I have to read the books; I can take suggestions or not. It’s a rare Newbery that’s not a good book, but certainly I like some better than others. But, having been on the committee, and having followed the award for years, I’ve come to respect the process. I’m not smug enough to think that if only they picked the books I personally like all would be right with the award. Well, enough of a rant…. I don’t want us to get off track and discuss the article; let’s keep discussing favorite books!

  31. Amelia Lost and A Monster Calls for sure, and then…perhaps Okay for Now. I dislike the ending with the too many plot threads, but still. Still. Doug surely is not out of the woods…his father will be evil again…but for now? He’s okay by the end of the book. And, when I think of what is going on in MY life? Well, I’m not performing on Broadway, but there are a lot of improbable and diverse threads going on…so who’s to say that Doug’s life isn’t similarly complicated.

    I am just tuning in to Heavy Medal and have a lot of posts to read…

    NBA finalists. Hmmm. I’d not heard of or seen the Marshall Cavendish title either. I admire the Marrin and look forward to catching up with the discussion here that I missed, but for me, the book took too long to get to the Fire. If Marrin had employed the formatting of the Amelia Lost book, and started with the fire and then alternated with the set up to the tragedy like Amelia Lost did, I might move my chip to that bet.

  32. Nina Lindsay says:

    I’ve been trying to get serious and pick my 3. It’s hard because there’s a number of strong sounding candidates I am still waiting to read, which of course would not be the case for committee members making their first nominations.

    To be strategic, at this point I’d probably go with:


    I think it’s important to stake a claim for an outlier that you want the committee sit up and take notice. But it can’t be done casually…you really have to make the case in your justification statement to show why you think it is as possibly distinguished as the other’s you’re nominating.

    Competing with MO for my third are:

    SWIRL BY SWIRL…TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA….maybe even PIE but it’s a little too fresh for me. I’m also 9/10th of the way through SHADES OF GRAY and am so far blown away. I’d probably re-read DEAD END IN NORVELT, PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE and JUNONIA too before making my nominations.

    …But for me the final deal on the nominations is to make sure I can imagine placing a vote (1st, 2nd or 3rd) for the titles I’m justifying, and feel good with the imagery of a medal on the cover. So those are my three for now.

  33. Martha P. says:

    Regarding Nina’s mention of Shades of Gray … Has NO ONE read (or does no one remember) Esther Hautzig’s The Endless Steppe? Everyone is acting as if this is a new and untold story, yet Hautzig told it years ago, and with so much more nuance. I of course understand that titles from other years don’t figure into Newbery discussions; I am not suggesting a comparison, just an acknowledgment of the older book’s existence :)

  34. THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA’s cover has lots of wide open blue space to the left of that oddly modern girl . . . A gold or silver medal would fit in nicely and look great!

    I’m not too sure about the MO WREN cover. It’s a little crowded as it is . . . :)


    Confession, I really wanted to put ICEFALL on the list. I think it deserves to be there and to be talked about. But since KT is taking the high road I will try and step up too. I admit to being a personal friend of the author and will probably cry if anyone said anything nasty about it.

    I am about to ask a question that may be none of my business. Feel free to tell me so. Earlier KT said it should be public knowledge if a book is ruled ineligible. I know Nina was chair the year HUGO CABRET came out. Was it by chance ruled ineligible? There is a lot of WONDERSTRUCK love in this group, so I’m wondering if it is misplaced, or hopeful, or insightful.

  36. Martha, I haven’t noticed the buzz that you have about BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY being an “untold story”–just people talking about how well-written it is. But if that feeling is out there, I sympathize–even though “untold story” isn’t part of the criteria, that was certainly a likewise-nonsense part of the buzz for CLAUDETTE COLVIN a couple of years ago, and it irritated me. I trust the committee can get beyond such ideas. (I have read a quote that was so taken out of context as to be useless, but it implied that one committee member chose SECRET OF THE ANDES for similar reasons. But I have faith.)

    I think THE ENDLESS STEPPE is still a fairly well-known book. There’s a rumor floating around that it would have won the Newbery in its year, but a jealous editor squashed that by telling the committee that it was effectively ghostwritten (which I think shouldn’t matter, but whatever). I haven’t gotten to read BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY yet, but I too will be reading it while thinking of THE ENDLESS STEPPE.

    I always have trouble showing my cards even in this context so early… like Nina, I feel strange about doing it when there are still so many books I need to read, especially what is apparently the best of the year’s non-fiction. This year it looks like I’ve read 24 books up for discussion; last year it was 34 by the end of the season, so I’ll probably beat that. Happy to have moved into a bigger library system. OKAY FOR NOW should probably still be on my list, even though I was ultimately disappointed in it. I always have higher standards for books I read earlier in the season, before I remember how rare distinction is. If AKATA WITCH hadn’t been first in a series (which left it with an unsatisfying plot arc IMO, not that that’s the case with every series book) it might have been on there. And certainly, still, NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT.

  37. Nina Lindsay says:

    DaNae, I can say this much: I see absolutely no reason why HUGO CABRET or WONDERSTRUCK would not be considered eligible under the Newbery criteria. As I discussed in the WONDERSTRUCK post, I believe the criteria charge the committee to make their considerations only on the text.

  38. Sam Bloom says:


    Third choice is always the hardest. Probably one of this group – OKAY FOR NOW, JUNONIA, SMALL AS AN ELEPHANT, or INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN. I’m in the middle of MONSTER CALLS, and it is pretty awesome. But I’d probably give my 3rd vote to JUNONIA.

  39. The worst thing about the NBA snafu is that it is pretty clear to me (and I imagine many others, including the author) which book should not be on the list.

  40. Shine’s been removed from the finalist list.–s-literature-nominee.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly%27s+PW+Daily&utm_campaign=2dcc0c2c2b-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email

    Part of Myracle’s statement: “However, on Friday I was asked to withdraw by the National Book Foundation to preserve the integrity of the award and the judges’ work, and I have agreed to do so.”

    I feel so sorry for her. What a colossal mixup. So–the information is relayed by phone (I understand it’s so there’s no paper trail)? And obviously, just the titles (not “Title A by author B.”)? And, at the end, no one repeats the list back for confirmation?

  41. Jennifer,

    Thanks for posting this; I had not seen it. It was, however, pretty clear that Shine and Chime were enough alike that in a phone conversation they could be confused. When Chime was later added, it was obvious that Shine would NOT win (and should not even be on the list). I am betting that the NBA will now insist on just the sort of check you ask about in your post, “Now let’s repeat back the titles AND THE AUTHORS to make sure we do not make a mistake.”

    I was pleased to see that NBA is sending $5000.00 to the Shepard Foundation. It’s a sad situation; I am glad the Matthew Shepard Foundation is going to benefit from the error. I feel bad for Myracle, Abrams, and the judges. Ouch!

  42. Elle Librarian says:

    There’s a longer, more complete article about the National Book Award mess on SLJ:

    I’m not sure which is more horrible – mixing up the titles to begin with, if they would have let Shine continue to be on the nominated list, or that they asked Myracle to resign her nomination. The whole thing is just unbelievable.

  43. “I’m not sure which is more horrible – mixing up the titles to begin with, if they would have let Shine continue to be on the nominated list, or that they asked Myracle to resign her nomination.”

    I think asking her to resign is mean. They either should have removed the book immediately, or kept it on the finalist list. But to go back and forth like this is not fair. Libba Bray has an excellent post (link is in the SLJ article posted by Elle Librarian). And their reasoning that it’s to protect the integrity of the award and the process–unfortunately, it may be too late for that. This kind of sloppy clerical work is astounding.

    How is notification handled by the Newbery committee? I know they call the author and publisher, because authors have described getting “the call.” This seems a little different, because I get the impression that the judges for the NBA do not directly call the finalists/winner.

  44. Genevieve says:

    Libba Bray’s blog about Shine and Lauren Myracle (linked from the SLJ award) is worth reading:

  45. Genevieve says:

    Linda Holmes, at NPR’s pop culture blog “NPR Monkey See,” says:

    If there’s a harder punch in the stomach for an author to receive from an organization like this than to be nominated and then un-nominated, it’s hard to imagine what it might be, short of actually receiving the award and then being asked to return it and turn it over to whoever bullied her in high school.

  46. “That perspective has clearly been revised. “The National Book Foundation regrets that an error was made in the original announcement of the Finalists for the 2011 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature and apologizes for any confusion and hurt it may have caused Lauren Myracle,” it said in a statement. “At her suggestion we will be pleased to make a $5,000 donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation in her name.”

    …it MAY have caused…

    That is a non-apology, along the lines of “I’m sorry if anyone was offended.” And to ask her to resign is asking her to fix their problem. They had a feeling that she wouldn’t refuse and say, “Leave me out of this. I’ve had enough from you. Deal with it on your own”?

  47. I think that the NBF did the right thing taking SHINE off the list of finalists. Yeah it sucks for the author and the publisher of SHINE but it’s not as if the judges narrowed their list to 6 books and SHINE just missed the cut. For all we know SHINE wasn’t even discussed by the judges.
    How do we think Marc Aronson, Ann Brashares, Matt de la Peña, Nikki Grimes, and Will Weaver would feel if all the deliberation and reading that they, the judges did for this award was rendered void based on a clerical error. These 5 judges most likely spent a considerable amount of their time these past few months narrowing down their lists before deciding on the 5 finalists. Is it fair that a book they didn’t consider to be worthy of the finalist designation be given it so as to not hurt an author’s feelings? What about the title that really did just miss the cut? If you’re going to have six finalist it should be the 6 books the judges deemed most worthy. (i guess it is possible that SHINE was that 6th book but doubtful). The author of the 6th best book would have been the real victim had Myracle not removed SHINE from consideration.
    What if instead of a high quality novel such as SHINE but a truly terrible book had been announced last week? Would Libba Bray be writing in defense of Hillary Duff and saying that they should should leave DEVOTED on the finalist list if that was the book some how accidentally announced as a finalist? I suspect not.

  48. Genevieve says:

    It would be one thing if they had fixed their error immediately, saying something like “We made a very unfortunate transcription error of the title and did not confirm the authors of the books on the list — Shine is an excellent and praiseworthy book, but Chime is the nominee that our judges selected. We are sorry for the confusion we have caused both authors, we are embarrassed, and we will take steps so that this never happens again.” But to dilly around, to say a couple hours later that it was a mistake and it should’ve been Chime, then to say that Shine deserves to stay on the list on its merits so we’ll have six nominees, and then a couple days later to do it in this hole-and-corner fashion by asking the author to take the action to withdraw her book (adding insult to injury), rather than forthrightly doing it themselves (probably because they realized it would look terrible for them to say “we said this book deserved to stay on the list, now we’re changing our minds again”)? Just about the worst possible way they could’ve handled it.

  49. I didn’t see the actual presentation, which is why I was surprised when I read this from Time magazine’s article:

    “But during the broadcast, which was also streamed as a live video here, Foundation representatives held up a copy of Myracle’s Shine and offered a detailed explanation for its selection.”

  50. But it sounds like that broadcast happened after the judges phoned in their picks therefore, after the mixup. Of course when they thought they had heard “SHINE” they got a copy of that book and displayed it and talked about it. Doesn’t change the fact that it sounds like they “heard” the wrong title.

    I’m with Eric. It sounds mean, but it’s unfair to the judges to allow a book in on total accident, a book that they didn’t choose. What if there were a dozen books that they would have chosen to include before SHINE? We don’t even know if SHINE barely missed the cut. For all we know, it wasn’t even close. I think it sounds as if even Myracle understands that.

    As for not announcing the mistake immediately, I think the committee was trying to save face and not hurt feelings because of the mixup. Maybe they spoke to the judges and the judges were like “Eh, we don’t want SHINE on that list at all.” Who knows.

    It’s a messy situation, but it seems to be over now, and mistakes like this will hopefully lead to no mistakes like this in the future.

  51. I think you could argue either way about Shine staying on the list or going; I, personally, am fine with it being off the list. What seems unconscionable to me is asking Myracle to withdraw instead of the NBF putting on their big boy/girl pants and making the decision on their own. Perhaps there’s some sort of twisty, arcane rules that wouldn’t simply allow them to remove the book? I just can’t imagine how this sort of public relations nightmare would have been allowed to happen otherwise. It really seems like the NBF has made the worst possible decision that shows them in the worst possible light – surely they have PR people who would have prevented this if possible? When they orginally announced they had made a mistake, my jaw dropped and with every subsequent announcement, it’s just dropped further and further until I felt like a cartoon character scraping my jaw off the floor in disbelief of how poorly the NBF has handled every step. Lauren Myracle sure has been gracious under adversity though and my interest in reading Shine has been piqued (along with many other people’s it seems), so hopefully she’ll get some sort of good out of this along with all the crap.

    On the actual topic of this post – I feel like I’m so far behind in my reading that my nominations wouldn’t carry much weight, but if I were caught up on my reading since I tend to be an underdog supporter, I’d probably use this first set of nominations to encourage people to seriously discuss titles I thought had merit that weren’t being talked about much by others or that were liminal.

    Looking at what I’ve actually read though, my choices are few and far between and almost all have been buzzed about somewhat.
    So, maybe
    Between Shades of Gray by Sepetys
    The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Birdsall
    and I think I’d go with Okay for Now by Schmidt – this was the only eligible title I couldn’t put down while I was reading it, so I think I’d nominate to start thinking about how I might support and defend it.

    Mostly though, I’m bummed Can We Save the Tiger? is ineligible because I think I could come up with an excellent support of how it meets the criteria.

  52. I finished JEFFERSON’S SONS yesterday. This is an interesting book for me in terms of the Newbery, because I DON’T think it’s distinguished in every element, but I think perhaps that it is distinguished enough in some elements to make it a worthwhile choice. I know Newbery books are supposed to be distinguished in every pertinent element, but looking over the canon… well, I don’t think that’s been the case. Most of the books that have honors over the last ten years are probably “lacking” in one area or another–after all, since the beginning of this blog, there have been people arguing against almost every one in the pre-award phase.

    Specifically to JEFFERSON’S SONS, I read distinguished development of a theme and setting. I think I could call the characterization distinguished, but I can see where others might make an argument that it isn’t. (Jefferson, for instance, isn’t really a well-rounded character; but he seems to me perfectly developed from the child narrators’ POV, and it works well.) Plot–maybe. It’s a nonstandard plot development, as usually happens when you have to follow a true story. Presentation of information–well, everything agrees with the Wikipedia article; that’s as much as I know. It’s certainly presented with clarity in the book. Appropriateness of style–always the stickiest of criteria. It is definitely distinguished in its presentation of the story for children. But this is where we usually talk about, as Jonathan puts it, “sentence-level writing”, and that is where this book isn’t particularly distinguished. (For the most part there’s nothing wrong with it–I did find it occasionally repetitive, and the dialogue occasionally over self-aware–but it doesn’t shine.) I don’t even know that “appropriateness of style” IS the right place to talk about sentence-level writing, but it does seem like something we can’t ignore.

    I’ve seen a few references to this book being “controversial”, or noted for presenting controversial topics in a child-friendly manner. That surprised me, because I think the Jefferson/Hemings story is well-accepted now. As to the book being about “illegitimate” children–I really thought that was a non-issue these days, but I’ve heard it mentioned about a couple of different books over the last month, so I guess there are people concerned about it. I’m kind of curious about what my own ten-year-old reaction to this book would have been. I might have been a little puzzled, or I might have understood completely.

    Anyway, I definitely urge people to take a look at this book. It might sound heavy, but it isn’t a slog.

  53. hammockreader says:

    I just finished Jefferson’s Sons and loved it. I agree with everything Wendy said. It is now on my own short list (along with Okay for Now, Inside Out and Back Again, Romeo and Juliet Code, Penderwicks at Mouette Point, Hurricane Dancers, I’ll Be There, Small Acts of Amazing Courage, Trouble with May Amelia, Notorious Benedict Arnold, Amelia Lost, and Queen of Water).
    It covers the topic really well for kids and packs a wallop. It’s a powerful, thought provoking book.

Speak Your Mind