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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

The Shortlist

Here we are folks. Jonathan and I have chosen 10 books for our official discussion/voting, to take place online, and ultimately at our live event in Oakland CA on Monday, January 16th, 2011, a week before the actual annoucements. Further details on that event pending, but if you’d like to sign up, email me.

The number of books on the shortlist, and one of our own criteria in selecting titles, has to do with making sure that everyone who wants to participate in the voting can actually obtain and read every title on our shortlist.  We’re looking for books that we believe are true contenders, and that also complement each other in discussion and give us a broad base for discussion against the Newbery criteria.   Are all of our favorites on here? No. Are all of your favorites? No.  We will also have room to discuss other titles here before the actual award announcements on January 23rd.  But the ten titles that follow represent to us some of the very best of the year, all possibilities for the Newbery, and they are, alphabetically by title:

THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GAWAIN THE TRUE by Gerald Morris. Humor, action, a keen sense of audience…and a for the youngest of chapter book readers.

AMELIA LOST by Candice Fleming. There’s a lot of strong nonfiction out there this year…but this one still stands out for its lucid craft…

HEART & SOUL by Kadir Nelson. …And this one for it’s distinctive voice, and sense of scope.

I BROKE MY TRUNK by Mo Willems.  It will be long, crazy discussion.

THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE by Brock Cole. Hey, bet you didn’t expect this one! Go get it: it’s a quick read, and a long linger.

A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness. Even with triple eligibility threat and the audience question, Ness’ writing simply demands to be at the table…

OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt. … And I think Doug Swieteck has been sitting at everyone’s, very patiently, since he came on the scene.

PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE by Jeanne Birdsall. Is “classic Newbery” written all over this one?….

THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA by Jennifer Holm. …or this one? Both have extremely memorable female protagonists who demand consideration.

WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick. You know we had to!  Just remember: the text does not have to stand alone; but we discuss and evaluate only the text.

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. Well, well . . . I have read 6 of these, own one other (WONDERSTRUCK), am picking up two at my public library after school (HEART AND SOUL, THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE), and the fourth is on hand in my school library (PENDERWICKS). I’m thoroughly excited. For the first time since following you guys, I will be able to follow along with every single discussion!

    Good list! I’m just glad Holm is on it this year (wink wink).

  2. Great list! I’ve read six of these already and can’t wait to read the others. My favorite is Okay For Now! When I met Gary D. Schmidt at the National Book Festival he signed our family’s copy of Okay For Now with these words: “To the Strait family, who are way more than just okay!” My 6th grade son was thrilled and we sure hope his book gets the Newbery this year.

  3. This is a great list! I have read seven of these and picked up The Trouble with May Amelia from the library yesterday (I knew you were going to make me read it). Now I’ll have to track down copies of Heart and Soul and The Money We’ll Save. My library system doesn’t have either one.

  4. Huh. I was expecting more surprises, somehow. Curious, hasn’t it always been eight books before?

    If you guys don’t mind (tell me, honestly, if you do), I’ve been thinking about setting up a mirror discussion in Seattle, my new home, with the same shortlist. It seems like there are enough local people to make it happen.

  5. Jonathan, Nina, and Co.-

    I’m a second year follower of this blog (love it!), and this year I feel like I actually have something to contribute- at this point I’ve read 7 of the short list titles. Some initial thoughts:

    I just finished MAY AMELIA, think it stands alone quite well (since, I’m embarrassed to say, I never read the first book), but it really took having it on your list to force me to read it- that cover art does no one any favors. My hesitation is with characterization- May Amelia is spunky, outspoken, etc., but what exactly makes her so “irritating”, something she’s constantly being accused of being by the rest of her family? Other than being prone to mishaps (throwing out the bread starter, letting the pigs out and so forth) I didn’t completely see that side of her. Courageous, funny, insightful- sure. But I kind of felt like I was being told she was irritating to her siblings and others, without seeing sufficient evidence of it.

    I’d be interested to see what anyone else thinks of Michaela MacColl’s new historical fiction PROMISE THE NIGHT. I’m a big fan, but since it won’t be published till late next month I don’t know how that affects its eligibility. I see strong characterization in Beryl Markham- particularly as a child, an effective use of alternating chapters between childhood and her famous flight as an adult (similarly used, and in my mind, just as effectively, as in AMELIA LOST), and just generally strong, vivid writing. Any other thoughts on it?

    At this point I love PENDERWICKS, AMELIA LOST, and WONDERSTRUCK (and for that matter, PROMISE THE NIGHT), but A MONSTER CALLS really makes my heart sing- eligibility issues be darned!

  6. Fun list. Only one book to go for me. And I just got the entire Morris series so your list gives me an excuse to get reading GAWAIN.

    I was planning on reading THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE to a few of my classes next week. Thanks for the heads up on that contribution Nina.

    I am looking forward to discussing some of the off the radar books, but you managed to get most of my top picks.

  7. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Wendy, I think a mirror discussion would be wonderful because then we could compare and contrast the responses of different groups to the same books. There have always been eight, but then we added an extra four last year for an online edition, so we thought ten would be a nice compromise and that we would use the same list for the in-person and online votes.

  8. ICEFALL? What happened to ICEFALL? It has strong characterizations, a historical setting that is skillfully but not painstakingly drawn, it’s layered, atmospheric, suspenseful, and surprising. What’s not to love? What happened to ICEFALL?

  9. Ah, so many books by white male authors, so little time.

    (I hope I’m not in trouble for saying that, but it was the first thing that jumped out at me. I know perfectly well that the shortlist can’t be all things to all people; you’re already trying to get diversity in types of books, age groups, etc, as well as choosing books you think have a real chance; but none of the books from that great Girl Power Goes Global post you wrote? I would love to hear more about the process of choosing books for the shortlist.)

  10. (Seriously, that sounds way more proprietary and looking-for-a-fight than I mean it to be. Don’t get mad at me, Nina and Jonathan. From this blog I know you both to be advocates for books by and about people of color, other cultures, etc.)

  11. Wendy, we have indeed done eight in the past, for purposes of the length of the discussion, but it’s always a struggle; this year we’re going to try a two-pronged agenda, with a morning session for first-timers so we can shorten the introductions in the afternoon and squeeze in two more titles.

    And it is a pretty white male list. It’s one of the things I always look at and consider, but this is just the way it turned out this year. I think it’s true there are a few fewer surprises here in the past, partly because everyone here’s helped us ferreting out the choice titles to consider. I still suspect there are some surprises out there on the real committee’s shortlist that we haven’t found yet.

  12. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Anonymous, ICEFALL is too long for the Newbery. 😉 Okay, seriously, though, I haven’t read this one yet. I did read the author’s first book, THE CLOCKWORK THREE, and found it a good piece of storytelling, but one that was substantially lacking in theme. Do we see growth in this area from Kirby?

    Wendy, I see your point. If it’s any consolation, three of the next books would have been by women. We both loved PIE by Sarah Weeks (surprise!), Nina liked MO WREN, LOST AND FOUND (surprise!), and I liked NEVER FORGOTTEN (surprise!). And since we’re playing the balancing game . . . Random House has three books on our list, but Penguin and Simon have none. Also, these books are all by veteran authors. Ness has published the least: A MONSTER CALLS is his fourth book. You’d think we’d have learned our lesson last year after Vanderpool and Preus, but no.

  13. Anonymous did my whining for me.

    Jonathan, read ICEFALL already!

  14. Dear Jonathan, I think ICEFALL shows growth in several different ways. I agree with you about THE CLOCKWORK THREE. I liked it very much, but after a certain point in the plot, I felt like the author was working too hard to combine the three stories, and the mechanics of that work kept me from feeling a sense of increasing momentum. The “plottiness” became cumbersome. ICEFALL has a much stronger narrative thrust. It speeds up and intensifies as you read it. And thematically it’s stronger as well–the protagonist is solving a mystery, coming to grips with the dangerous world around her AND becoming a skald–so you get the mythic dimensions of her world at the same time you see her peeling away the illusions and deceptions around her. It’s very, very strong.

    I see Wendy’s point, too. Yesterday I read two verse novels: INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN, and PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL, and I think both of them can lay claim to distinction. INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN is intense, vivid, and poetic, so I’m hoping it will get the kudos it deserves. I’m a little worried that people may find PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL less distinguished because it is, after all, about a middle school girl, and the ordinary concerns of middle school girls–boys, friendships, family life, sports and cloths. But Nikki Grimes makes a strong use of the verse form–she has a real knack for ending each page with a zinger–and while the book is short, easy, and enormously approachable, it has an integrity all its own.

  15. Thanks for this shortlist! Unlike many of your audience, I don’t work in the world of children’s books. I read your blog, and many of the books you recommend, so that I can help my 11-year-old daughter choose great books.

    I should comment on your actual list, rather than on what’s not there. Ok, I loved WONDERSTRUCK, MAY AMELIA and the PENDERWICKS. Mo Willems is brilliant, each and every time. But, like Anonymous, my favorite so far this year was ICEFALL. It keeps intruding into my thoughts, weeks after I’ve finished. I even dreamed about it.

  16. Thanks for a good list! And I think this is posted in time for me to read them all. I’ve already read five and already have 3 checked out. The other two? I haven’t read earlier books about the Penderwicks or May Amelia, so I know I’ll be able to discuss them on their own merits. (I started listening to the first Penderwicks book, but couldn’t handle the grandmotherly narrator. Have been meaning to catch up, but have never done it.)

  17. Eric Carpenter says:

    Great list! I’ve read all ten and while I’d have loved to see Bigger than a Bread Box or Cheshire Cheese Cat make the final ten, I am eagerly anticipating some great discussions.

  18. Yay! I’ve read seven of these already. I just put holds on A Monster Calls and The Money We’ll Save. I’m reading Cheshire Cheese Cat now and wishing it was on the list.

  19. Elizabeth Bird says:

    Obviously I’m Team Jefferson’s Sons but I’ll put in a plug for Team Icefall as well.

  20. My favorite is AMELIA LOST, which I am pushing on my kids like mad.

    I agree that INSIDE OUT maybe should have been included. But it’s an interesting list.

    My other favorite is SMALL AS AN ELEPHANT but it came out so late that I doubt I will get enough support behind it in my Mock Newbery club.

  21. A very strong shortlist! I would have liked to have seen The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, but otherwise I’m happy. I’ve read eight and have the ninth in my TBR pile.

  22. “Ah, so many books by white male authors, so little time.”

    That’s the first thing that jumped out at you? Since 8 of the last 10 medals have been awarded to female authors, forgive me for not feeling too bad for you! 6 of those 10 white female authors.

    Only 6 of the 10 authors represented on this list are white males. Sure it’s a majority, but only by one book. I for one, actually think the Newbery Medal is usually dominated by white women, so I’m thankful to see some males get their due!

  23. Furthermore, a more expanded look at that same timespan:

    Newbery Medal and Honor Authors (last 10 years):

    Male: 12
    Female: 32 (nearly half, being white)

    Yeah, sorry, but still not feeling your pain. Go Team Male Authors!

  24. Alas, no GRAND PLAN. I have heard of hearts sinking…

    Otherwise, terrific list.

  25. I truly think that we need to champion the cause of getting boys to read, and boys will gravitate to male authors like Schmidt and Selznick, et al. Thank goodness that this year we have another great pool of books to give to reluctant reader boys!

  26. Nancy Werlin says:

    Rebecca S., I would like to suggest you read the following blog post by Maureen Johnson:

    Your comment above makes me wonder if you are yet another who assumes that boys will only (and should only) be reading “boy books by male authors.” If so, I hope Maureen Johnson’s post will make you notice the bias, and reconsider it.

  27. I like the list but SPAROW ROAD is one of my favorites…though I am in the minority it seems.

  28. Dear Newbery Committee, You need not look any further for the 2012 winner. Okay for now by Gary Schmidt deserves the honor. Hands down.

  29. Jonathan, you ask above about growth from Clockwork Three to Icefall–I can assure you that Icefall is leaps and bounds more sophisticated in writing than Clockwork Three. It isn’t really my kind of book, but I think it is YOUR kind of book. My guess is that Clockwork Three was written long before Icefall.

  30. Sheila Kelly Welch says:

    Interesting that three are sequel/companion books. How often has such a book won the Newbery?

  31. Jonathan Hunt says:

    The Medal itself? Let’s see going back in time: A YEAR DOWN YONDER, THE HERO AND THE CROWN, THE GREY KING, and the THE HIGH KING. Am I missing some? There are some Honor books, too, like JOEY PIGZA LOSES CONTROL . . .


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