Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Last Chance Workout

Well, I’m here in Dallas now.  Here are some final thoughts to mull over this weekend . . .

During our mock Newbery, I voted the same way on all three ballots: 1. AMELIA LOST  2. I BROKE MY TRUNK!  3. SIR GAWAIN.  Since I clearly thought AMELIA LOST was the most distinguished that claimed my first place vote.  I also knew I wanted I BROKE MY TRUNK on my ballot, and finally I opted for SIR GAWAIN despite a mixed discussion.  I eschewed the novels entirely–since I still hadn’t made up my mind–and then, too, I wanted to keep SIR GAWAIN on the table–and in the conversation.  I figured by voting this way, I would defer to those people who strongly supported one novel above the rest, and then I could strategically adjust my votes for the second ballot once I saw the lay of the land.  Thus, I never really had to do a direct comparison between OKAY FOR NOW and I BROKE MY TRUNK! and since, to my mind, AMELIA LOST was as distinguished, if not more so, I didn’t necessarily feel bad about it.  Having been on the real committee, I’m not any good at making predictions anymore.  I can only offer up how I would approach the Midwinter meetings, given the small sampling of books I have read and without the benefit of knowing what was suggested and nominated.  I like my strategy from the mock Newbery and think I would go into the meetings with the same three, listen to the discussion with an open mind, and then adjust accordingly.

I know those three titles are not necessarily the most traditional kind of Newbery book, but they are not the only nontraditional titles I can vote for if the support is there.  I can also get behind BOOTLEG, DRAWING FROM MEMORY, and THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE.  I can also support the following novels: DEAD END IN NORVELT, THE FREEDOM MAZE, A MONSTER CALLS, OKAY FOR NOW, and THE PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE.  So while the discussion can change things dramatically by altering which books I would put on my ballot, I really cannot see myself going outside of these eleven books, regardless of what happens in the discussion and how long and torturous the road to consensus.  It doesn’t mean I’m against other books getting recognized; I just don’t feel the need to vote on the prevailing side.

I finished ICEFALL.  I did like it and I do see distinguished qualities all over the place, but I don’t think it rises to the level of most distinguished.  One thing about reading books late in the year, you’re comparing them against what you’re serious about putting on your own ballot, and perhaps I would have given ICEFALL more consideration if I had read it earlier when I wasn’t putting pressure on it to live up to certain expectations.  I did like the plotting, but thought the pacing was slow–and I thought this about THE CLOCKWORK THREE, too.  Theme was another criticism I had of that book, but this one has a wonderful pair in the coming of age theme and the importance of storytelling.  I didn’t care for the first person present tense narrative, but I ignored it once the story picked up after the first third of the book.

So . . . Do you have any final thoughts, predictions, pleas, rumors, or gossip to share?

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. I’m the same way about books I read late, and as I’ve mentioned, in a way also about books I read early. The first few books of the year that I read, I think I’m comparing to the best books I’ve ever read, to Newbery winners of years past; I’m looking for my Mixed-Up Files and Lincoln: A Photobiography. My expectations get tempered after a while.

    I’m reading The Silver Bowl right now, and I have Hurricane Dancers and Eddie’s War in my bag. I read Blizzard of Glass this morning (which you recommended to me months ago; the library’s order just came through) and thought it was the best book of its kind this year–I would say “best non-fiction”, but that puts it up against Drawing From Memory, which is such a different kind of book. But I thought Blizzard of Glass more distinguished than Amelia Lost, Trapped, Bootleg, Flesh & Blood So Cheap. It’s in the middle of the top group for me, where I wouldn’t mind at all seeing it with a medal. And I surely hope it gets some Sibert recognition–but that award always seems to have more books that I haven’t heard of/read, probably because there’s a swath of non-fiction that I don’t pay attention to at all.

  2. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I had BLIZZARD and BOOTLEG neck and neck just behind AMELIA, but then its publication came and went without any buzz. And nobody’s talking about it. I put it in the Fall Nonfiction Contenders post because I thought surely it would pick up three or so starred reviews, but Kirkus was the only one to star and list it. So, it’s sort of the forgotten book. It wasn’t eligible for this year’s YALSA Nonfiction Award, but perhaps next year.

  3. I wonder if part of the problem with Blizzard of Glass is that although the type of incident has high interest for kids and adults, this piece of history itself has basically nothing to do with anyone’s life today. Librarians, teachers, and parents push subjects like civil rights, WWII, key moments in American history, and science. Kids like these subjects and also specific things that hold fascination like the Titanic and archaeology. (I do think this book would be good for Titanic-lovers, but they won’t know it until they read it.) Cuba is in, Canada is out. No adult is going to read this and say “this is important for everyone to read!”.

  4. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Yeah, and I noticed this is her first book with Holt instead of Lerner. Perhaps she pitched it there first, but was turned down because it didn’t fit in the U.S. history curriculum. I don’t know.

  5. Nina Lindsay says:

    But “important for everyone to read” won’t enter the discussion. I thought BLIZZARD was great, for me just behind BOOTLEG, but I’m sure in a committee discussion these two compared with AMELIA will make great comparisons. My wish for the day is to see some nonfiction in the Newbery winners….

  6. We’re talking about why it hasn’t been buzzed, not whether it will win an award.

  7. Nina Lindsay says:

    I realize that, but I guess I thought we were talking about award buzz specifically. The is often deaf to late year pub dates, so it’s nice to see it getting appreciated!

  8. Hi Jonathan,

    I can clear up the speculation about Sally’s excellent Blizzard of Glass. That was always a Holt book. It was not a manuscript that went out on submission. Sally is very deliberate about her collaborations (a quality I value in an author). We have a new book coming next fall with Sally, and we have another one under contract for the slightly more distant future. Along the way, she’ll certainly work with other editors at other hosues, and that’s how it should be.

    I hope this doesn’t sound disingenuous, but the projects we do with Sally aren’t guided by curriculum. Curriculum is of course a huge part of Lerner’s general program, but it is not the focus of what we do at Carolrhoda (which is but a small part of the Lerner Publishing Group). When we do a book with Sally, we do so because she believes she has a strong, interdisciplinary story of interest to young readers and reinforced by abundant access to words and pictures from researchers doing the work in the field right now. That’s a Sally Walker/Carolrhoda project; it plays to her strengths and to ours.

    Andrew Karre
    Editorial Director, Carolrhoda Books.

Speak Your Mind