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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Join me at the table

At the Newbery Committee final deliberation meetings, there is a giant traveling trunk shipped by ALSC containing all the books for discussion, and these are generally brought out and spread all over the table, and get handled and referenced throughout the discussion.

As we get ready for the polls to open Tuesday morning, I want to offer this space as “table” to bring up any new comments about the ten titles on our shortlist, and to look at comparing them: against the criteria, and against each other.  In the universe in which these 10 are the only worthy and eligible contenders for the award this year…which deserve the medal and why?   Here they are, in alphabetical order by title across the table, with links to the most recent posts on them.













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:

    To my mind, AMELIA LOST is significantly more distinguished than HEART AND SOUL. In fact, I actually think BOOTLEG and DRAWING FROM MEMORY would more seriously contend for my vote, but I think the former will likely be viewed as too old and the latter as too young, so I’m looking to build consensus around AMELIA LOST.

    I have THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE and I BROKE MY TRUNK! rated as the best picture book text and the best easy reader, respectively, but I’d place I WANT MY HAT BACK as a close second in each category (close enough that I can be swayed in that direction). Both Cole and Willems remain in contention for my vote.

    When I look at the middle grade novels–OKAY FOR NOW, A MONSTER CALLS, THE PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE, THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA, and WONDERSTRUCK–I see a bunch of fairly evenly matched novels, and can easily think of another dozen that belong in this company. I do have a soft spot in my heart for the Birdsall, but I can let it go, unless the committee freakishly skews toward it. So . . . that leaves me with the wonderfully warm-hearted novel with the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink plotting (OKAY FOR NOW) and the wonderfully crafted tear-jerker that left me dry-eyed, for the most part (A MONSTER CALLS).

    I have SIR GAWAIN rated as the best transitional chapter book, and while the intrusive narrator (which some described as didactic) really divided people, I found it a strength of the book, and a wellspring of its humor. I also find the brisk pacing and the simple, but suspenseful plotting to be superior to either OKAY FOR NOW or A MONSTER CALLS. Even if you think I picked the wrong chapter book, I still think many of them–TOYS COME HOME, THE TROUBLE WITH CHICKENS, ALVIN HO–can compete against the novels very well.

    So from this list of ten, I think I’ve jettisoned four of them, leaving: SIR GAWAIN, AMELIA LOST, I BROKE MY TRUNK!, THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE, OKAY FOR NOW, and A MONSTER CALLS . . . at least for now.

  2. I was so captivated by the characters in OKAY FOR NOW for so long…until the end when I felt that Schmidt left them wanting. I won’t deny that OKAY FOR NOW is an exceptional novel- but I don’t feel that it’s the most distinguished this year because of the aforementioned reason. In my mind, it’s an honor book. While I remain steadfastly behind THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE (my personal favorite) I see AMELIA LOST as the clear front runner.
    The method in which Fleming creates a duel plot evolving around the central concept of Amelia’s impending disappearance begs for some recognition. Her book just stands out to me has having done the “most” with what she presented.

    I think there could possibly be an honor in it for Ness. Even though I wasn’t a fan, the level at which he plunged into Conner’s world has made the book take root in my brain, despite my own resistance. However, I personally still have so many qualms with it, I can’t imagine committee members not harboring at least a few.

  3. Amelia Lost is the clear front runner for me too.

    I have similar feelings about the MG novels that Jonathan does. I love both The Penderwicks and Okay for Now but just don’t feel like they distinguish themselves enough from the rest of the contenders. I do think A Monster Calls does in terms of theme and so it is slightly ahead of the others in my mind.

    I just can’t muster up that much enthusiasm for Sir Gawain. I enjoyed it, but nothing really stood out in it as most distinguished there either.

    The Money We’ll Save is one that surprised me. It is truly distinguished writing in terms of plot, setting and character. And it doesn’t waste any words. I see this as being more of a contender than most of the MG novels.

    So I feel I can narrow this down to 4: AMELIA LOST, A MONSTER CALLS, THE MONEY WE”LL SAVE, and OKAY FOR NOW (because I just can’t let it go yet).

  4. Mark Flowers says:

    I just put up a long comment on the OFN: Redux thread explaining my thoughts on rereading it, but for here suffice to say that it’s back in my top three.

    I agree with Jonathan and Brandy that AMELIA LOST is the clear front runner, and I’m having a hard time deciding between THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE and I BROKE MY TRUNK. But I think so far my top three is looking like:


    with WONDERSTRUCK, HEART AND SOUL, and TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA all completely out of the running for me.

  5. I just read Mark’s post over on the redux thread for OFN. Definitely made me see the book in a new light and reconsider elements of characterization bearing in mind that we are seeing characters as Doug sees them. Therefore,his bias becomes ours. I have to give it to Schmidt, looking at the book from this perspective shows me that he created flaws in order to create more dimensionality in his main character and subsequently remind us that he is not all-knowing or full of complete wisdom and understanding, he is a teenage boy, and very much a fallible narrator.
    I apologize for turning this post into perhaps something that perhaps should have been posted under the redux thread, but my conclusion is that I can now, perhaps, see OKAY FOR NOW reclaiming the throne of the number 1 spot, and snatching up the Newbery medal.

  6. I’m down to the same four as Brandy: AMELIA LOST, A MONSTER CALLS, THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE, and OKAY FOR NOW. AMELIA LOST feels the strongest to me –I’ve written before of my admiration for the way it is put together, the suspense, the clear writing, clear-headed research, etc. I have a very strong love for A MONSTER CALLS — the atmosphere, the folkloric aspects, the incredibly powerful emotional feeling and so it is right there with AMELIA LOST in my personal top drawer. And then there is THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE which was a total surprise for me; I agree that it is tight and funny and witty and clever and all around excellent. Also in my top drawer. Slightly below those three in the next drawer is OKAY FOR NOW. And thanks to all of you who have posted and commented so well on the ending so that I’m getting it in a way I didn’t originally. I especially agree with the person (Meghan perhaps) who pointed out that Schmidt is too good a writer to not have done the ending intentionally.

  7. Nina Lindsay says:

    Rereading, I’m seeing a funny parallel btwn MONSTER and SIR GAWAIN…. The Yew tree monster and the Green Knight and his iterations both serving the same foil to their protagonists…

  8. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Compare and contrast the anger and resentment that Connor and Jeffrey both feel toward their fathers.

    Also, with the exception of THE PENDERWICKS all of our shortlisted titles have illustrations. Which ones are problematic for you in terms of evaluation? Where do you draw the line?

  9. Genevieve says:

    For me, it’s I BROKE MY TRUNK, OKAY FOR NOW, and THE PENDERWICKS. I won’t be sad if AMELIA LOST wins, and I do think it’s the best nonfiction out there, but I was not a giant fan and it doesn’t need my vote.

  10. Nina Lindsay says:

    Speaking of fathers (in MONSTER and PENDERWICK), I’m surprised we haven’t talked more about May Amelia’s father relationship. I found this one of the most intricate relationships among all our candidates, standing up only to the family ones in OKAY… interesting, since family relationships are at the crux of MONSTER and WONDERSTRUCK. But the flawed love between May Amelia and her father felt deeply real, and of its time. May Amelia’s responses to it are indicative of Holm’s best writing… using May Amelia’s voice, in that “show not tell” style, we understand her desire for recognition from her father, and how this has shaped her resiliency, independency, and ultimate ability to survive *without* her father’s love.

  11. OKAY FOR NOW strongly has my first-place vote. It’s the only one I’ve reread, and that made it stronger in my mind. I caught more of the brilliant characterization and plotting. (Okay, maybe too many coincidences at the end, but I loved the way so many threads from before came into play.)

    Second will probably be A MONSTER CALLS. That one is impressive in its setting, characterization, and plotting.

    I’m not sure about my third choice. I’ll keep reading the comments and see if I can be swayed!

    Nina, I agree that the relationship between Amelia May and her father is well portrayed. The plot didn’t seemed pretty episodic to me, but there were some good details.

  12. Nina Lindsay says:

    Do you mean “did” seem pretty episodic? I think the episodic nature suited the story well though… it engaged the audience at a level that allowed for a lot of action and humor (all that “stuff” happening to her that other readers have balked at) …while building a richer subtext. Not every book needs to wear its arc on its sleeve.

    Ok, I’m getting closer to knowing what my top 3 are, and in which order, but I’m still not settled. I’ll be opening the polls at 6am PST tomorrow; they’ll stay up for 24 hours and close at 6am PST on Wednesday. So you do still have time to read, and discuss, and decide!…..

  13. I am hopping on this pretty late so I won’t have time to read them all unfortunately. I have read 1/2 so far and Amelia Lost is the one that stands out for me. I am not a huge fan of non-fiction but it kept me up reading last night. I really enjoyed Wonderstruck but I’m not sure I could make a case for it without the illustrations.

  14. Jonathan Hunt says:

    For the purposes of our vote, I treated the comments on this thread as I if they were discussion around the table. Thus, I decided to let go of SIR GAWAIN because nobody expressed enthusiasm in these comments, leaving me with five titles left to possibly vote for: AMELIA LOST, OKAY FOR NOW, A MONSTER CALLS, I BROKE MY TRUNK!, and THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE. Since I was already inclined to vote for AMELIA in first place, and since there seem to be quite a few people similarly inclined, I voted it in first place. I was also inclined to vote for I BROKE MY TRUNK!, but I was also surprised by the support of THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE. Thus, I decided to place these as my second and third choice, respectively. I’m not sure that I’ve ultimately decided that these are more distinguished than OKAY FOR NOW and A MONSTER CALLS. They could be, but I’m still wrestling with it, and since I let go of my own personal fiction favorites in PENDERWICKS and SIR GAWAIN, and I would like to see them continue in on in the consensus process.

  15. I stayed with my top three for voting, but then had to decide on the order and for that I too considered the discussion here as I would have at the Committee table. So I voted AMELIA LOST in first place, A MONSTER CALLS in second, and THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE in third. While I haven’t been convinced yet about A BROKE MY TRUNK! compared to some others on the short list the terrific posts and comments about it have me thinking hard about it. I do love the idea of an early reader getting the nod though.

  16. Nina, I’m getting a sense that you may be voting for MAY AMELIA . . . I think you should!

  17. Also, I stuck with OKAY FOR NOW as my number one. I’ve read it three times, twice after soaking in all the comments on here, and I guess, quite frankly, that I don’t care what anybody else has to say about the book. I think some of the complaints are valid, but I think many are a bit minute.

    THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA got my second place vote because I love Jenni Holm and because May Amelia’s voice in the book is second to only Doug’s . . . and not by much.

    My third place vote was tricky . . . I immediately took WONDERSTRUCK (which I had lots o’ issues with) and PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE (which just wasn’t my thing) and SIR GAWAIN (because I felt THE TROUBLE WITH CHICKENS, TOYS COME HOME, and CLEMENTINE AND THE FAMILY MEETING were better early chapter books) and HEART AND SOUL (because it was just too big for me to get into). That left me with four titles to choose from.

    I took I BROKE MY TRUNK and THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE off because I just simply could not get over the whole illustrations debate. I find myself on a different side of the fence than others. I’m sorry. I think both are great little books, but as the criteria is written, I just cannot get behind either as “distinguished” text.

    That left me with A MONSTER CALLS and AMELIA LOST. I chose AMELIA LOST as my third place vote, because of its readability. I simply cannot say that A MONSTER CALLS is a book *all* 5th and 6th grade readers should read. I feel more comfortable saying that AMELIA LOST is. A MONSTER CALLS is beautifully written. I’d call it “thick” language. But AMELIA LOST was really good. And I’m not a big reader of nonfiction!

  18. Regarding I BROKE MY TRUNK and THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE, I meant to say “most distinguished” text. Not just “distinguished”. Both are probably that.

  19. Nina Lindsay says:

    Mr H, while both AMELIA and MONSTER seem worthy, neither “readibilit” nor the breadth of audience are Newbery criteria. To defend your choice, you’ll need to show why AMELIA is more distinguished, per the criteria, than MONSTER.

  20. I think “readability” could be considered part of “presentation for a child audience”, couldn’t it?

  21. Actually,

    Newbery Terms and Criteria:

    1. In identifying “distinguished contribution to American literature,” defined as text, in a book for children . . .

    (skipping “a”)

    b. Committee members must consider excellence of presentation for a child audience.

    Isn’t that “readability”?

    It’s not that I necessarily think A MONSTER CALLS doesn’t fit into this realm at all. I wouldn’t have been seriously considering it for my third place vote if that were the case. I decided to choose AMELIA LOST because I feel that it’s complete package is a more “excellent presentation” for a child audience than A MONSTER CALLS is. What’s wrong with that? The two have been thoroughly discussed on here. Why would I, as a committee member, need to supply further support to defend that position?

  22. Nina Lindsay says:

    If you can address “readibility” in AMELIA as “excellence of presentation for a child audience” as opposed to in A MONSTER CALLS that’s perfect, and reading between the lines I see that’s probably what you’re getting at. But “I simply cannot say that A MONSTER CALLS is a book *all* 5th and 6th grade readers should read” does not address our criteria, so I want to hear why you think A MONSTER CALLS is less excellent in its presentation to its intended audience than AMELIA is. (I agree with you, BTW.)

  23. I pulled another section of the Newbery Manual out. Let me post it, explain, then ask for your interpretation of this . . .

    In the Appendix of the Newbery Manual, it speaks to books on the upper age range of the Newbery Medal. It asks the committee members these questions:

    – Is there any 14 year old whom this book is suitable? YES
    – If so, is this book distinguished enough to be considered? YES
    – If so, exactly what 14 year olds would respond to it and why? I personally feel that lots of kids (of all sorts of ages) may be *engaged* by Ness’s storytelling abilities, but I feel as if the central theme of death and loss and loneliness speaks primarily to the students among Conor’s age group. That being, the upper realm of Newbery consideration.

    To read on in the manual’s appendix, “A book may be considered even though it appeals to a a fairly small part of the age range if the committee feels that . . . it is so distinguished that everyone of that age should know the book.”

    That’s where I become a bit iffy on A MONSTER CALLS. When I really begin stacking it up to the Newbery criteria. I don’t see this as an issue with AMELIA LOST. I feel that even though it too, speaks to the older Newbery audience, it IS a book everyone of that age should know because Amelia is one of the most revered women our society has ever seen.

    Am I getting closer? :)


  1. […] least fifteen minutes to hunt this sucker down, but I wanted to read it because it’s on the Mock Newbery shortlist over at School Library Journal’s Heavy Medal blog. Nina has this in her top three, so I […]

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