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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

90 seconds, and other ways to eat your Newbery

If you haven’t yet checked out some of the entries for James Kennedy’s 90 Second Newbery film festival, then head on over.  Monica Edinger and Besty Bird also offer reviews of the event held this weekend in NYC.

I find these clips great examples of why it’s so important to have different kinds of literature represented in the Newbery “canon.”  Some of these kids clearly enjoyed the book they’re dramatizing, and some….clearly didn’t.  But they did clearly have fun being on camera, and depicting a book in 90 seconds.

Some of my favorite memories of Newbery books have to do with the way the book IS.  The distinctive design in The Westing Game (it was designed by the author…this was her other line of business) is what I think of first when I think of that book.  The trim size of The Dark is Rising sets me a shiver…so much so that nearly any book of that trim size makes me feel like I am a teenager on Midwinter’s Eve, standing in a churchyard.  And the Caldecott-honored illustrations in the Newbery Medal winning A Visit to William Blake’s Inn to me truly ARE the words personified…and since they are of the same family as my own childhood copy of A Child’s Garden of Verses, Nancy Willard’s wonderful words evoke Stevenson for me as well as Blake. 

A few summers ago we tried a “chapter a day” reading of The Tale of Despereaux at my library.   One very young boy sat every day in his Grandfather’s lap, listening…though not watching the reader.  He would draw while he listened.  Here’s a picture he gave me, after chapters 4 through 7.   The king’s guitar is a little lost in the scanner fade…but I love the way that the princess isn’t watching the king (as the boy is not watching his reader)…she’s smiling at Despereaux, and patting him on the head.  The arrows, the boy explained to me, show how Despereaux came and went….so the picture actually encapsulates an entire narrative. I keep it at my desk, and it feeds me every day.

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. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I love the design of both THE WESTING GAME and THE DARK IS RISING and prefer to read both in their original hardcover editions. It’s not something we can consider as a positive in Newbery discussions, but I appreciate good design nevertheless.

  2. Eric Carpenter says:

    Speaking of design (i know we normally ignore it)
    In terms of this year’s crop of books I was really impressed with the overall design of A MONSTER CALLS.

    If Houghton Mifflin wants to put out a special edition of OKAY FOR NOW after it wins the newbery containing full color versions of the Audubon’s prints I’d be first in line.

  3. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I’d go for that version of OKAY FOR NOW, too. Hopefully, people wouldn’t cut those pages out of the library books, though. 😉

  4. Mark Flowers says:

    wow – I read both Westing Game and The Dark is Rising in cheap 80s paperbacks – I didn’t know there was anything special about the original design. I’ll have to get my hands on those hardbacks.

    And I agree with Eric – A MONSTER CALLS had some spectacular design elements.

  5. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Mark, I think those 80s paperbacks probably kept the original book design, but subsequent paperback editions did not. I think I remember KT Horning telling me once that Ellen Raskin would actually revise her text based on the book design. Anyway, Raskin donated various drafts and the final manuscript to the CCBC and they have put portions online (along with a webcast of Raskin discussing them). It’s fascinating stuff, and an absolute must for WESTING GAME fans.

  6. Genevieve says:

    Absolutely there should be a color print version of OKAY FOR NOW.

  7. With new improved cover art! It would be nice, she added wistfully.

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