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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

If Kids Ran the Newbery?

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. Yup. Pretty much.

  2. Very true! Except,working with K-6, I have yet to have a kid ask for INHERITANCE. It sits there sad and lonely on the shelf, next to its behemoth brothers. I believe that all my previous Paolini fans have aged out of the school. My hope is that in four or five years I can reclaim the beginning of my P shelves.

  3. Tom Angleberger says:

    What’s the problem?

  4. I’m trying to think what would win the Newbery if THIS kid were running it. (That is, if I were still eleven today, myself at eleven.) It’s interesting to try to separate it from my feelings as an adult about the award, and from my increased knowledge of the canon and criteria. I’m also more open-minded now about what I might read and enjoy. I know a few things: I wouldn’t have wanted it to feature animals prominently; I would prefer a book that didn’t have a boy as the protagonist; I would have wanted a novel (and an enjoyable one); and I would have insisted that it have Depth. My guess is that I would have voted for Between Shades of Gray, and maybe Jefferson’s Sons, neither of which is in my top choices as an adult (though I like them both).

    Anyone else hazard a guess as to what your eleven-year-old self would have chosen this year?

  5. Great question Wendy. Since I was discovering Anne Shirley at eleven, I think I would be going for THE PENDERWICKS.

    You would have fit in with many of my eleven-year-old students, who think BETWEEN THE SHADES OF GRAY is the most important novel of its time.

  6. Darth Paper Strikes Back is actually one of my sleeper picks along with the other novel the Angleberger’s released this year, Horton Halfpott.

  7. Horton Halfpott, yay! So much fun.

  8. I do enjoy all these books but am a bit concerned about the Diary books…If kids have a steady diet of these type of books will they lack the ability to infer or stick with a book that is more of a challenge to read.

  9. Jonathan Hunt says:

    While the Newbery Medal is not given for popularity, that doesn’t mean that popularity is a bad thing for a book to have, and if I were on the committee this year, I would read these–with the exception of INHERITANCE (unless another committee member suggested it). Too often, we discuss popularity in the vacuum of stereotypical Newbery books. A MONSTER CALLS is not popular, for example, but OKAY FOR NOW is. In truth, neither of them are popular relative the wider field of children’s books.

    My own experience with children is that, yes, they gravitate toward popular books, but they also choose quality books, too. A couple years ago I blogged about my school mock Newbery which was really split between giving the Medal to THE LAST OLYMPIAN and WHEN YOU REACH ME. Many years ago, I had a group that gave the Medal to SILENT TO THE BONE with honors to BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, JOEY PIGZA LOSES CONTROL–and THE WHITE FOX CHRONICLES by Gary Paulsen.

    As for what I would have chosen this year as a child . . . Hmmm, it’s hard to call, but probably something funny, something fantasy, or something nonfiction. I would have enjoyed reading A MONSTER CALLS and OKAY FOR NOW in middle school, but I also would have liked BOOTLEG, too. In elementary school, probably SIR GAWAIN or CABIN FEVER. And as an emergent reader: I BROKE MY TRUNK!

  10. Tom Angleberger says:

    Actually, I think the Diary books are very worthy, especially when taken as a whole.
    Each one zooms by in a storm of laughs, but once completed, I think the series will be one of the most amazing Portraits of a Kid we have had in any format, comparable to It’s Like This Cat, but a lot more likely to be read by kids.

  11. My 11 year old self would go for Hound Dog True and Addie on the Inside. Both spoke to how awkward and defensive and sensitive I was. Am.

  12. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Maybe I’ll have to read CABIN FEVER with a closer eye on the Newbery criteria for a post here. I know the prejudices it faces even before we pick it up to read it are (a) funny, (b) sequel, (c) words and pictures, and (d) popularity (i.e. if it’s this popular it doesn’t need our help, or if it’s this popular it can’t really be that good). Those have nothing to do with the criteria, however.

  13. When I was eleven, my mother (who had been a teacher) was concerned about finding appropriate books for me. I was (and am) a voracious reader, but my skill and intelligence outpaced my maturity. So she turned me on to classics. Given my deep and abiding love for The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, E. Nesbit, Little Women, and so on, I definitely would have chosen The Pernderwicks at Point Mouette.

    We have many similarly concerned parents with precocious kids at my library, so I point them towards the Penderwicks and the books above. The parents return to check out the rest of the respective series and tell me how much their child enjoyed them. I was delighted when I met an old friend in my home town recently, and her four daughters eagerly told me that they were JUST LIKE the Penderwicks, both in personality and family structure.

  14. Death Strikes Back was delightful. Its predecessor won our state award last year. The Wimpy Kid books annoyed me at first, but I’ve grown to like them. A place for everything and everything in its place. We will not feel too sorry these authors since they’ll likely sell more copies than the Newbery. More important, they are making reading appealing, and hopefully paving the path toward Newbery-type books so I applaud them (and I like reading their books too so thank you Jeff Kinney, Rick Riordan and Tom Angleberger).

  15. My eleven-year-old son said this week, very definitely, that it has to be Wonderstruck. (This was after I showed him Should I Share My Ice Cream, he thought it was a terrific new reader book, and I told him that I wanted I Broke My Trunk to get an Honor.)

    My eleven-year-old self would have voted for The Penderwicks (I was also a reader of Anne of Green Gables and Little Women at that age).

  16. Sara, as someone who has perfected the art of typos, I shouldn’t enjoy your’s so much. I really hope one day there will be a Newbery contender called DEATH STRIKES BACK. Perhaps a sequel to A MONSTER CALLS.

  17. I remember, in sixth grade, asking my elementary librarian how kids got chosen for the Newbery selection committee, and when she told me the committee was just adults, I couldn’t believe it! I typed up a letter explaining why they should add some kids to the Newbery selection committee but I got too nervous/shy to send it. I still giggle remembering how indignant I was. “ADULTS?!?”

  18. Melissa, I do think that kids should be on the Newbery board as well, because some of the past Newberies I can’t stand! I think that the writing style “diary” is all very well, but is getting over used. My (currently 11) Newbery pick for the year would not be one of the books way at the top of the page because they aren’t very good writing, or at least to contend with previous examples of Newberries. I’m still working on trying to read all the Newbery winners, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to tolerate “Strawberry Girl”

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