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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal


Yesterday, thirteen of the smartest, most articulate, most passionate people in all of Northern California gathered at the Rockridge branch of the Oakland Public Library for the annual Mock Newbery.  The discussion was stimulating, the snacks yummy, and the results surprising.  I’m having a hard time making both the book covers and the ballot tables behave in this post, so I’m going very low tech with these results because I thought you’d want them in a more timely manner.

WINNER: AMELIA LOST by Candace Fleming



Here’s how the voting went . . .

First ballot


AMELIA LOST (5 1st, 4 2nd, 2 3rd = 36)

HEART & SOUL (no votes)

I BROKE MY TRUNK! (1 1st, 4 2nd, 4 3rd = 24)

A MONSTER CALLS (4 1st, 4 2nd, 2 3rd = 32)


OKAY FOR NOW (1 1st, 1 3rd = 6)




Clearly, three books dropped off with no votes, AMELIA and MONSTER found themselves in a two horse race with I BROKE MY TRUNK! in good position for an honor book.

Second ballot


AMELIA LOST (6 1st, 4 2nd, 2 3rd = 40)

I BROKE MY TRUNK! (1 1st, 5 2nd, 4 3rd = 27)

A MONSTER CALLS (3 1st, 3 2nd, 4 3rd = 29)

OKAY FOR NOW (1 1st =4)

THE PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE (1 1st, 1 2nd, 1 3rd = 9)


While this is not true consensus because AMELIA needs another first place vote, we decided to do one more ballot to see if we could achieve it, but agreed that if it muddied rather than clarified the situation we would revert back to this as the winning ballot (something the real Newbery committee would never do, by the way).

Third ballot


AMELIA LOST (6 1st, 4 2nd, 3 3rd = 42)

I BROKE MY TRUNK! (1 1st, 4 2nd, 5 3rd = 26)

A MONSTER CALLS (6 1st, 2 2nd, 1 3rd = 32)

OKAY FOR NOW (no votes)



Now AMELIA and MONSTER both had six, but even with a seventh first place vote, MONSTER wouldn’t have had  a seven point spread over AMELIA.  Thus, we reverted to the second ballot, and declared our winners accordingly.  We didn’t achieve true Newbery consensus and A MONSTER CALLS may have ultimately emerged as our winner.  I also think if the votes hadn’t been so clustered around three titles from the outset that PENDERWICKS may have worked its way into a third honor slot.  Lots of love for that book.  OKAY FOR NOW is the other big surprise.  We found it distinguished, but flawed, and struggled with how to evaluate it against something like AMELIA or MONSTER which didn’t seem to have any in our estimation.

I’m sure the participants may be contributing their thoughts and impressions throughout the next couple days.  Feel free to weigh in with your own opinions and questions.

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. On seeing that three of the books had no votes, and on comparing these results with the online results, I’m curious: do you guys wish at all that you had chosen different titles? I know you couldn’t have predicted this, but my guess is that you don’t choose books with the expectation that no one is going to vote for some of them.

  2. I can’t wait to read Amelia Lost! It must have been nice to have a small group again this year. I know both of you are probably swamped, but I’d love to hear a recap (maybe in the comments?) about some of the discussion, esp about Okay For Now… since we’d never get to hear about the real Newbery discussion, you’re the closest we get!

  3. Katrina Bergen says:

    Johnathan, one of the main reasons the discussion was so great yesterday is that you and Nina organize things so well and keep us on track.

    A couple of comments:

    Yesterday you mentioned that you have never seen another book like A Monster Calls. I kept trying to think of The Savage by David Almond which I think was very similar. Same kind of black and white graphics too. Remember that one?

    Also I’m glad you made a pitch for I Broke My Trunk. I’m working with a seven year old boy here at the Dixon Public Library who is convinced that he can’t read and never will. (That’s what his older sister keeps telling him and me anyway). But when he and I sit down with Elephant and Piggy he surprises himself with the words he knows and learns, and he gets all the jokes.

  4. Glad to see A Monster Calls among your picks. I thought it was brilliant, and beautiful. I’ll confess that as a fiction writer, I’m partial to that genre but I’ll give Amelia Lost a try. But I’d have loved to hear your discussion of I Broke My Trunk. I just don’t get that pick.

  5. Nina Lindsay says:

    Wendy, one of the difference in voting after an in person discussion is that you’ve had a chance to make–face to face–a pitch for a book and really *see* how everyone is reacting. I saw that I’d made no ground in this particular group with THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE, and so I decided in the first round to let it drop out of my top 3 and to put my vote with others I felt were on equal par, and which I thought had a chance. That accounts for one of the zero vote titles, if not others.

  6. Mark Flowers says:

    @ Wendy – I agree with Nina. While we certainly could have had a different selection, the only book that I felt had no chance at all, based on discussion, was HEART AND SOUL. I think if Nina and I had seen one more vote in the room for MONEY WE’LL SAVE, we both would’ve backed it, and it would have had three votes. WONDERSTRUCK had a lot of positive comments around the table, and I think it may have been a few people’s 4th vote.

  7. Mark Flowers says:

    @ Claire – the OFN discussion was really really interesting, and could have gone on for much longer than the small time we allotted to it. Many of the points were similar to what has been said on the blog, but there was also a lot of discussion comparing it to the other books on the table – especially A MONSTER CALLS. There was definitely a lot of love for the book, but we seemed to agree (and I think the votes reflected it) that A MONSTER CALLS was the more through-crafted book.

  8. Was OKAY FOR NOW, or A MONSTER CALLS, compared to I BROKE MY TRUNK at all? Why did it have to be either/or between the Schmidt and the Ness?

  9. Sarah Flowers says:

    What a great list! Good job, all of you!

  10. Jonathan Hunt says:

    OKAY FOR NOW . . . We really needed more time to discuss this. We did spend the most time on this title, but we easily could have doubled the time. Our discussion was largely positive and it mirrored, at times, the conversation we had here. The strengths of the book are undeniable, and we’ve heard many criticisms of the book. In aggregate they appear to be numerous and insurmountable, but the truth is that most people only subscribe to a couple of them–it’s just that everybody is bothered by different things. We definitely felt that this book asked its readers to take a big leap. WONDERSTRUCK which also asked for a lot from readers (albeit in a different way) was clearly less distinguished, which is why I think it fell off easily. Ditto for AMELIA and HEART AND SOUL with a head-to-head nonfiction comparison. Then we had TROUBLE and PENDERWICKS which asked for a smaller leap to make the book work, and finally MONSTER and AMELIA which required no willing suspension of disbelief for most of us. Our discussion of all of these books was positive and I really had no way of knowing how it would all shake out. I was surprised that OKAY FOR NOW didn’t have more votes based on the warm discussion we had about it.

    I BROKE MY TRUNK! . . . What can I say? We had a very open-minded group. We didn’t bring up new points in our discussion; we simply chose to look at this text through the eyes of an emergent reader. What does a Newbery text for an emergent reader look like? What do distinguished elements look like in a beginning easy reader? In terms of head-to-head comparison, Mark brought up his analogy of comparing I BROKE MY TRUNK! to OKAY FOR NOW is like comparing OKAY FOR NOW to (whatever impressive adult book strikes your fancy and obliterates OFN). They key is looking at the developmental needs of the audience. When you look at all these atypical Newbery books that we considered, this one stuck. Why this one and not THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE or WONDERSTRUCK? Hard to say. Could be the mix of people.

  11. Jenny Andrus says:

    I loved the discussion and thought that Jonathan and Nina did a wonderful job of organizing and keeping us on track. About A MONSTER CALLS: We all had a laugh when it was mentioned that (even though it’s about a monster) it didn’t feel like it required us to take a big leap of faith. We were able (as readers) to believe in that monster but not necessarily in some of the coincidences in OKAY FOR NOW, PENDERWICKS and WONDERSTRUCK. That is surely a sign of a well-crafted book.

  12. Mark Flowers says:

    @ Mr H – I didn’t mean to imply that we compared Ness and Schmidt as an either/or decision to be made. We compared them (along with Penderwicks and May Amelia) as MG novels because it was instructive to see their strengths and weaknesses. I have full confidence that some of the ballots listed two or even three of these novels.

  13. As a participant in the mock Newbery, I went into the discussion on Monday not at all on board about TRUNK. It seemed to me that its limited word count and vocabulary just couldn’t allow it to rise to “most distinguished literature” status. However, Jonathan and the other supporters of the book made very convincing arguments in its favor, and I ended up giving it one of my votes. I admit that TRUNK doesn’t have same toolkit as MONSTER or AMELIA LOST. But I was eventually won over because TRUNK, like those other works, is a superlative, seamless expression of its form.

    And I would add that there was a lot of love and appreciation for ALL of the titles on the shortlist.


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