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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Get ready for the online voting!

We’ll soon be beginning an online version of Mock Newbery balloting! We tried this last year, and while it’s hard to mimic the consensus-building that can happen when you’re in room with a Mock committee, it’s too fun not try again, with just a few tweaks. If you’d like to participate, you must take on the mantle of the Newbery Committee and …

Make sure you have read all of the books on our shortlist. To vote on which one is the most distinguished, you must have read every contender. Lucky us: we have only 10, and many are short. There is still time!

Make yourself very thoroughly familiar with the Newbery Terms & Criteria. Consider each of these 10 titles against the criteria, and against each other using them, only.

If you want to get yourself in the mood of the Midwinter meeting, open the Newbery Manual and turn to page 39. In lieu of discussion, we have several months worth of posts, and still time to comment…and still a few posts to make to gather comparsions.

On Tuesday morning the 10th, I will open the polls, and you will cast your ballot for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place choice for the medal. On Wednesday, I’ll close the polls and we’ll see what kind of results we having using the formula in the manual, and whether we seem to have a “winner” or need to have a second ballot. The manual lays out a formula based on a committee of 15 members:

  • · In tabulating ballot results, the tellers assign four points to each first place vote, three points to each second place vote, and two points to each third place vote.
  • · There is a formula to determine the winner. A book must receive at least 8 first choices at four points per vote for a total of at least 32 points, and it must have an 8 point lead over the book receiving the next highest number of points.

In a Mock Committee, it seems to work out if you assign the points as in the manual, but then look for “x” first choices and an “x” point spread where x is 1 more than half of your number of voters. The bigger or smaller your group gets from 15, the less well this seems to work, but we’ll just see what it looks like.

If we do need to proceed to another ballot, then only titles that received any votes in the first ballot remain eligible. And only titles that receive votes on the winning ballot are eligible to be honor books.

So: get reading/re-reading! Keep commenting! And if anyone would like to join us when we do this in person on Monday January 16th in Oakland CA, please email me.

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. Dean Schneider says:

    Nina, Do we have any latest word on the eligibility of A Monster Calls? As far as I know, it was released in England on May 5th, but not in the U.S. until September 15th. If this is true, doesn’t that make it ineligible?

  2. But the Newbery criteria states in it’s definitions: ““American literature published in the United States” means that books first published in previous years in other countries are not eligible. Books published simultaneously in the U.S. and another country may be eligible. Books published in a U.S. territory, or U.S. commonwealth are eligible.”

    The criteria ACTUALLY only clarifies books first published in “previous years in other counties” as not being eligible.

    This the two publications of A MONSTER CALLS both took place in 2011, months apart albeit, I could see an argument made for the books being published “simultaneously” as far as the Newbery is concerned.

  3. Which would make it eligible. In my opinion, anyways.

  4. Ooo, I only have to finish up PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE, and then read THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA! I’m excited that I got the list read this year!

  5. I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to finish PENDERWICKS. I’m trying. I really am. I’m in the process. I’m just not getting into it. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read the previous Penderwick books . . .

  6. Nina Lindsay says:

    Mr H and others, if it helps to lend an incentive, let me dangle this watch back and forth in front of your eyes…you are sleepy…you are on the Newbery committee and very sleepy…

    ….but the clock is ticking and you have no choice! Here is the one book you really don’t like. But others may be voting for it for the award! Re-read your committee members’ comments so you get a sense of where people feel it strengths are. Now just plow through that book: you may not enjoy it, but think of it as (!$#@!) the book you have to finish for your term paper. Be looking for those elements that stand out, that may be the crux of other readers’ appreciations for the book. And where you feel yourself twinge: take a second look: what is it that made you twinge? Is it something that you just don’t care for in flavor but is part of the holistic strength of the book for the ideal reader? Or…is it truly a flaw that others have overlooked?

    And when you are done with it, have your favorite nightcap or dessert before bed. You deserve it! And you’ll be ready for the vote.

  7. Nina Lindsay says:

    Dean, regarding A MONSTER CALLS, we have no official word, but Jonathan and I decided to go for it. The revised manual online has further interpretations for each of the eligibility issues at the end. It’s the “simultaneous publication” that is the iffiest, as you point out. But the interpretation says:




    “SIMULTANEOUS – means “at the same time.” For purposes of these awards, “published simultaneously” means that a book was first published in the United States within the same calendar year that it was first published in any other country, whether or not the actual dates of publication are identical.”

    Precedent is a guide, but ALSC makes eligibility calls on a case by case basis, and I am hazarding an educated guess about this…that as this issue is coming up more and more, we may have books with a few months spread be eligibile. This did turn out to be a signifcant spread, but still “within the same calendar year” by the expanded definiton.

  8. Thanks Nina. And for clarification, I wasn’t apologizing in advance for not finishing, I was really saying that I’m worried that I’m not going to find enough time to finish the book. But to be fair, I do need to finish it.

    As you said, I may try to revisit the Penderwicks thread and focus my reading in that way. I tried to stay away from the thread for the most part, since I didn’t have anything of nature to contribute (even though I did actually START the book back at that time, that’s how long I’ve dragged this one out). But now that I’ve already decided that the book isn’t my cup of tea, I should probably check out what people have said are its strengths and plow ahead, as you suggest.

    I’ll get there. I don’t want to cheat!

  9. Mr. H, I really had trouble getting into the Penderwicks, too. Barreling through, I’m managing to enjoy it, but I very much doubt I’ll be voting for it. It IS interesting to try to put my finger on precisely why I don’t think it’s distinguished. That’s harder to do than just making a judgment.

  10. Dean Schneider says:

    Thanks, Nina, on the eligibility issue for A MONSTER CALLS. I forgot to go online for the revised manual, and used the one we used for the 2008 committee. I’m hoping it IS eligible, as it’s a great book. And thanks for all the work you and Jonathan are putting into this blog as the excitement builds.

  11. Having re-read the books on the list I am suddenly not quite as sure in Okay For now as my number one choice as I was before……which shows the value of re-reading.
    In fact, my top 3 may all be different…..

    I appreciate this blog, it has motivated my re-reading and deeper analysis……thanks.

  12. Sondy, I plowed through 3 chapters last night trying to finish. I’m still not even close but, I think I pinpointed what really really bothered me about the book so far. And it probably doesn’t even have to do with Birdsall’s writing and it probably isn’t even entirely fair.

    I think I just get a little irritated when books like this, excuse me for calling it “girlie”, but when “girlie” books with “sophisticated” language tend to immediately rise to the top of Newbery discussions. I know that’s an incredibly generalized statement but I it is how I feel.

    Is it ok if we all see “distinguished” differently? If we’re supposed to be judging a book on “what it is” and not “what it’s not”, I feel like Tom Angleberger did a pretty darn good job with DARTH PAPER STRIKES BACK. I know this is an extreme example, but why can’t we find “distinguished” qualities in a book like that? That does what it set out to do very very well.

    I find THE PENDERWICKS very “stuffy” and not near as funny as the author probably did. I think I just get tired of all these “girl protagonist” books. If Birdsall set out to create a book about sisterhood and the adventures they share, then this is probably a good book despite if it’s my thing or not. My question is why does it seem like books in this genre immediately scream DISTINGUISHED to people? Why can’t DARTH PAPER?

  13. Actually, Mr. H, I think I felt kind of the same way about Penderwicks. And Darth Paper, for that matter! Though for me, the resistance to the “girliness” was probably a lot easier to overcome, because there are “girly” books I really like. I listened to the first Penderwicks book on audio and had to stop because I hated the grandmotherly voice. When I began this one, it felt the same — like a grandmother describing her cute grandchildren, not really how the kids would have seen it. Though people are reporting that kids do feel like it describes them, so maybe I’m wrong.

    But, yes, I don’t see anything distinguished about it. It is a good book, a nice book, if you can get past the grandmotherly voice, but outstanding? How so? And, yes, there’s lots that’s distinguished about Darth Paper. I hate to say it, but there’s got to be a disadvantage for Darth Paper because you KNOW the committee is made up of mostly women, though we can try hard to overcome that perspective and look at the books objectively.

    So I think you have a legitimate peeve, Mr. H! Have you ever thought of trying to get on the Newbery committee?

  14. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I can understand your general feeling about girly books, but when you take them on a case by case basis . . . Well, I love PENDERWICKS and you, Mr. H. love MAY AMELIA and PIE. We may share the same general frustration, but we are both willing to champion girly books, just not the same ones!

    You must have missed the DARTH PAPER discussion in If Kids Ran the Newbery?

  15. Ha! You kinda got me there . . .

    And yes, I noticed that DARTH PAPER was discussed a bit, but I didn’t read all of that thread yet. I need to go check it out now.

    Also, with PENDERWICKS . . . remember I’m very early in the story, do any adult characters come to the forefront? I feel like any adult characters thus far are glossed over and I’m just finding something about it all that doesn’t ring true to me. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read the first two PENDERWICKS books and I don’t have a relationship developed with these girls yet. I just find the entire predicament kind of odd. One sister, the oldest, going a separate direction than the three younger ones. Parents nowhere to be seen or heard. Am I missing something?

  16. Nina Lindsay says:

    I personally find the Penderwicks annoying. I never liked the first book. But in this one, personal annoyance aside, I couldn’t deny that the writing style/voice DOES absolutely hit that sweet spot for many (usually female) readers. It is very smartly crafted in character and plot development…. and I believe it will have that hook-line-and-sinker effect for its intended audience in exactly the way that the movie TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY does for me.

    And: I feel exactly the same about the voice in SIR GAWAIN. That book’s strenghts are totally different…but that voice too is zeroing in on a particular reader…who ain’t me, but I’m certainly outside the upper-age range for Newbery.

  17. Sheila Kelly Welch says:

    I need to read the whole Penderwick book before Tuesday. Having read only the first one, which I didn’t love, I may not make it through this one on time to vote. I think what bothered me when I read the first book was that it seemed too contrived. Maybe that’s too harsh. But I felt the author’s presense, manipulating the characters. I love other girly books such as Saffy’s Angel and the sequels, so it’s not the genre that is the problem for me. But since previous books by the author are not part of the judging process, I’ll have to plow ahead.

  18. I think the missing parents / adult figures are one of the things that make this Penderwicks book the best of the three–it leaves more room for the kids to do things on their own. I’m curious, Mr. H, why is it feeling like a problem for you?

    I know I sound like a broken record, but once again: male protagonists outnumber female protagonists among the Newbery winners.

    But I don’t find this book particularly distinguished and have always been surprised to see it get so much attention here.

  19. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Wendy, I’m not sure why you are so surprised to see PENDERWICKS get so much attention here. You know that we shortlisted it, and that our shortlisted titles get more attention, whether or not they are deserving of it, because we strongly believe in the process of reading, reflecting, rereading, and reflecting some more. Because, too, we’re in the business of simulation as much as prediction, our shortlist is not necessarily what we think are the ten most distinguished titles of the year–indeed, you only need to peek at Nina’s Goodreads votes to see that this is so. Rather, the shortlist is a simulated microcosm of the longer list of actual Newbery nominations (which is probably around 50 titles instead of 10). We might have chosen a dozen other titles for the shortlist which are equally distinguished, but an additional reason that we chose this particular one is that we wanted a counterpoint to all the tragedy on the list, especially with A MONSTER CALLS, THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA, and OKAY FOR NOW. We wanted to explore whether or not a book has to be serious in order to be seriously considered, and I think we are able to do that with PENDERWICKS without compromising our charge to find the most distinguished book, but we both liked PIE an awful lot, too . . .

  20. Wendy, you mention that the reason this may be the best of the three Penderwick books is the absence of adult interference and how the author let the girls run loose. Having not read the previous two, I would have to assume then that there have been some well developed adult characters, probably “parents” in the first two books.

    I think that’s what I’m feeling early on in this book. I find the whole set up of the book a little improbable (I know, that term is getting to be overused on this site!). I don’t know these girls yet. Other readers do. Because they’ve read the first two books. Kind of like you, maybe people were ready for these girls to be on their own. But I’m supposed to believe from the start that there is a sisterhood here and I’m not sure I feel it yet. I feel like I’m being thrown into their relationship. There’s no real mention of their parents in the beginning and I’m just left wondering A LOT about these girls’ backgrounds. And how they’ve become who they are. If these things aren’t really addressed in THIS book because it’s been built in PREVIOUS books, then I really have to question this books stand-alone-abilty.

    Maybe I’m nitpicking, and maybe subconsciously I had my mind made up in the first place. But early on, I just feel like the girls are a little too independent with any real explanation as to how they’ve become this way.

  21. Jonathan: I’m not sure what you’re reading into my statement. I’m mildly surprised that Point Mouette became one of the most-discussed books on the blog because I don’t think it’s a standout. …I don’t think that’s an odd thing to say.

  22. Sondy, I had the complete opposite experience with the audio version of THE PENDERWICKS – the voice never felt grandmotherly to me, but instead just *was* the voice of the story (for the record, I read the first two books in print when they came out, then reread them on audio before listening to POINT MOUETTE). I liked Batty’s voice in particular, because she reminded me of a 5-year-old I know.

    Mr. H, it’s hard for me to tell if the first two books do indeed establish the girls’ independence in a way that POINT MOUETTE does not, but to me it seems in the same vein. Because the girls have each other, they have a certain built-in independence. In my memory, the first chapter nicely establishes Rosalind’s role as the OAP and the way her absence will throw off the other girls – even though we don’t spend much time with her, I thought that role came across vividly. The book might be a richer experience when considered as part of the series, but I do think it stands alone.

  23. Mr. H, I have read all three Penderwicks books and find them forgettable. But I will point out that Point Mouette, which I read very recently (finished last week after reading half the book, setting it aside, and forgetting about it) explains very clearly at the beginning that the girls have a father and stepmother; the father and stepmother are going to England; while they are in England, the three younger girls will go to Maine with their aunt in charge. The adults are not important to the story, but they ARE supervised. And certain adults have a more critical role later in the book.

  24. Laurie, I finished the book two days ago. I too, understood that they were without a mother and that their father and stepmother were going away. I get that. I also understand that they *are* supervised. But without adult characters being all that present for much of the book, what I’m saying is that this sisterhood felt kind of forced on me as a reader and I just had to accept that these girls were independent because they have a mother that died. Maybe this “sisterhood” independence was fully established in the first two books and Birdsall didn’t need to develop it further in a third. She wanted to jump straight into her plot.

    The other thing that I think really bothered me, and I have no way of citing examples as I turned the book back in and I didn’t write any down, just an overall feeling . . . was the language used against the setting and plot. Did I totally miss the year this is supposed to take place? It feels like this is supposed to take place in the past but for some reason, based on the way the girls talk, this doesn’t always ring true. It felt to me like Birdsall wanted this book to take place in the past, but had difficulty accomplishing this feat through the dialogue used at times. I don’t know. As I said, no real examples I can think of, just something that drove me “batty” from time to time when reading.

    Maybe since I know of two previous books, even though I haven’t read them, I am nitpicking with the whole “sisterhood independence” thing. There *were* things I liked about the book. I like Jeffrey. I thought he was a perfect balance, and voice of reason in a way, to the girls’ shenanigans. I originally rolled my eyes at Alec’s reveal, but after reading Wendy’s comments about it being the “center” of the book, without it there is no book, I’m okay with it. Although I do disagree with comments Jonathan made comparing the twist here to the improbable happenings in OKAY FOR NOW. Schmidt does a much better job of preparing you for the improbable than Birdsall, in my opinion. Birdsall wanted to give Jeffrey a father, so she wrote this book.

    In the end, my overall feeling toward the book is “boring”. Not my thing. And I think writing like this is too often classified as “distinguished”.

  25. It’s a present-day setting, Mr. H. One of the (valid) criticisms frequently held against the series is that it doesn’t fit well either in the present day or in the past; the girls are clearly modern, but there aren’t a lot of modern situations or technology. And that’s another reason I like this book better than the two previous ones–it doesn’t seem to matter as much, perhaps because they’re in a setting that’s somewhat removed from modern technology, so it doesn’t stand out as much. But, of course, we aren’t comparing this book to its predecessors for Newbery purposes.

  26. Okay, because I definitely felt, based on the dialogue, that this was present day. However reading people’s comments and the “nostalgia” people feel while reading these books, plus like you say, the lack of modern technologies and such, I really wondered if I was missing something.

    I suppose that doesn’t really fit into any kind of “strength/weakness” discussion. Just a preference. Personally, I think I’m just overly cynical toward the book(s) because of the warm, gooey, nostalgic feeling a lot of adult readers attest to.

  27. Nina, I wanted you to know that I took your challenge (“Lucky us: we have only 10, and many are short. There is still time!”) seriously. I read this on Saturday, realized that I had read 6 of the 10, and by Monday had acquired all of the remaining four. Fortunately they were fairly short (Heart and Soul, Sir Gawain, Amelia Lost) except for Wonderstruck, which I greatly enjoyed all in a day today.

    Just last week, though, I read the book that I now strongly favor for the Newbery, and it’s not on the shortlist: No Passengers Beyond This Point.

    I look forward to seeing how the votes turn out, both here and on the official committee. Thanks for inspiring me to read these ten interesting books.

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