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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Shelf of Shame

Is there a Newbery book that you’re ashamed to admit that you haven’t read yet?  Perhaps one that is considered a classic?  That everyone else seems to have read but you?  Don’t we all have these books on our own personal shelf of shame?  Now some of you are more ambitious about your goals, like Colby Sharp and John Schu with their Newbery Challenge to read all the Medal winners, but for those of you with more modest ambitions here’s a smaller one.  Pick one author and read all of their Newbery books (Medal and/or Honor).

I actually gave myself this challenge last year and picked Virginia Hamilton.  I had read a couple of her picture books, but none of her longer novels, and when Scholastic sent VIRGINIA HAMILTON: SPEECHES, ESSAYS AND CONVERSATIONS edited by Arnold Adoff and Kacy Cook, I begin to browse through it, reading here and there, and it was the perfect impetus to start reading her books.  I decided to try to read THE PLANET OF JUNIOR BROWN; M.C. HIGGINS THE GREAT; SWEET WHISPERS, BROTHER RUSH; and IN THE BEGINNING this year.  I did manage to finish M.C. HIGGINS and IN THE BEGINNING, but I still need to read those other honor books.  The collected writings also made me want to read THE PEOPLE COULD FLY, MANY THOUSAND GONE, ANTHONY BURNS, THE MAGICAL ADVENTURES OF PRETTY PEARL, and the Justice trilogy (JUSTICE AND HER BROTHERS, DUSTLAND, THE GATHERING).

I’m going to try to read some more Virginia Hamilton this year, but I’m going to add another author to my list: Elizabeth George Speare.  I’ve read her Honor book, THE SIGN OF THE BEAVER–in fact, I’ve taught it to a couple of fifth grade classes–but I’ve never read either THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND or THE BRONZE BOW.  So that’s my goal for this year: read a couple more Virginia Hamilton books and read this pair of Medal winners from Elizabeth George Speare.  I’m going to report on my progress in the fall, and I’ll ask you to do the same.  Are you up for it?

Oh, and by the way . . . Monica and Roxanne are fixing to announce the Battle of the Kids’ Books shortlist on Wednesday, February 1st over on the BOB site.  I think you may see some familiar faces.  Stay tuned.

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. Oh, man, The Witch of Blackbird Pond is in my top three Newbery winners. I hope you like it.

    As soon as I read the first part of this post, I thought uncomfortably, “Virginia Hamilton”–before I read that she was your own challenge. I’ve read MC Higgins, of course, but that didn’t inspire me to want to read the others.

    I think I will go with Meindert DeJong. I loved The Wheel on the School and haven’t read any of his others.

  2. Love, love, love THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND. THE BRONZE BOW? Not so much.

    I made myself some award-reading goals, some crazy-ambitious ones. I’m going to try to read Printz, Newbery, Morris, Boston Globe/Horn Book, National Book Award, and Cybils Award and Honor winners. But I’m starting with the present (so the lists just grew) and NOT putting any sort of time limit on the challenge. I will be happy if I finish reading this year’s books before next year’s winners are announced. Will I finish reading the Newbery winners and honorees in my lifetime? Probably not, but it will be fun trying. Besides that, when it’s my “turn” to read an award winner, I’ll cycle through my lists of the six awards, listed with the current year first. So I’ll finish some 2011 & 2012 awards before others.

    I do like that idea of focusing on one author. But I’ll go with my current ambitious plan for now.

  3. I’ve read some of Jim Murphy’s books–but not the two Newbery honor books (AN AMERICAN PLAGUE–which also won the Sibert– and THE GREAT FIRE) or his Sibert honor (BLIZZARD). He’s on my list for 2012.

  4. Since 2010 I’ve tried to read 10 or more medalists and honors each year. Last year, while taking KT Horning’s Newbery course we were required to read a winner from each decade. I discovered a few gems, MC HIGGINS THE GREAT, UP A ROAD SLOWLY, and a real head scratcher – THE WHITE STAG, anyone?

    My shame is that the further back the copyright date, the fewer I’ve read. Looking at the books I threw on my to-read Goodreads shelf at the beginning of the year, I believe the oldest is Lenski’s INDIAN CAPTIVE. This is a book I’m continually being told to read by 11-year-old girls. Most are honors which have been published within my lifetime. Maybe next year I will push for older books.

    At some point I need to give THE DARK FRIGATE another chance. It a favorite of a friend of mine, who read it as a kid. But every time I begin it I want to beat my head against a very hard brick wall

  5. THE PLANET OF JUNIOR BROWN is in that particular genre of Crazycakes-But-Awesome-KidLit- From-the-Seventies — along with, like, Louise Fitzhugh’s brilliant NOBODY’S FAMILY IS GOING TO CHANGE and M.E. Kerr’s DINKY HOCKER SHOOTS SMACK. Not like the ones that have translated seamlessly for decades, but the ones where you’re reading and then you go “…Kid Army? What?”

    Honestly, this makes me want to go to some library that’s hardly been weeded in forty years and just go on a treasure hunt!

  6. Ok, it’s embarrassing. Scott O’Dell.

  7. Not only haven’t I read Johnny Tremain– the fact of my not having read it relates directly to a certain grounding situation for a bad report card. I’ll totally take that on this month.

  8. Laurel, I assume that will make your parents happy and they will not only unground you, but extend your curfew. (Will presumably make your boys and spouse happy too.)

    Having only skimmed it I want to sit down and read properly Katherine Paterson’s JACOB HAVE I LOVED.

  9. The Witch of Blackbird Pond is one of my favorites and I read everything by Virginia Hamilton that I could get me hands on after reading The House of Dies Drier in my 5th grade class. I don’t think I have read any of the non-fiction Newbery books, so that might be a good challenge for me (although I did purchase and page through An American Plague). I have about 15 winners that I haven’t read yet and work towards checking more winner and honors off the list each year. I’m relieved that I’ve already read two of the three books honored this year.

  10. Mine is really shameful: I haven’t read Susan Cooper at all. I somehow missed them as a kid and even with my love of fantasy have not yet gotten to them as an adult. The more time that passes the more I fear I have expectations that are far too high and will be let down. I will read them this year. I have a friend who asks about it on pretty much a weekly basis now so I can no longer put it off.

  11. I should probably read Kira-Kira at some point. And Maniac Magee.

  12. I’m so jealous of the people who get to read my favorites for the first time! Jacob Have I Loved (Monica, I bet you’ll be so delighted), Dark is Rising books, Dicey’s Song, Konigsberg. How I’d love to discover them again.

    I’m also tempted to reread the Bronze Bow, now that people are talking about it.

  13. The one that I thought of immediately when I saw the title of this post was Crispin by Avi. That’s the only one that I have not read since becoming a school Media Specialist in the early 1990s.

  14. Eric Carpenter says:

    I see Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze and Waterless Mountain sitting next to each other staring at me from my bookshelf everyday. I know I need to just power through them and be done w/ the medal winners but every time I go to pick one of them them up i simply can’t justify neglecting the pile of potential winners from the current year that i’d much rather read. Can anyone convince me to read one or both of them?
    As for the honors there are still fourteen since 1980 that I haven’t got around to but hopefully this year I’ll finally finish what is at least an attainable goal.

    As for authors, in 2011 i made it through the first five Little House books before giving up. This year’s goal is to finally get around to reading all of L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time follow up books. I’ve never been the biggest Wrinkle fan but maybe a long over due reread of Wrinkle will spur me on.

    DaNae- put me in the Dark Frigate fan club camp….I found it absolutely thrilling. One of my favorite one-sitting reads.

  15. Eric, Young Fu and Waterless Mountain are both pretty engaging stories of adolescent boys. You could do a lot worse, for sure. If those are the last two you have to read, you HAVE done a lot worse. I don’t understand giving up on the Little House books, but what’s the impetus to read the rest of the Wrinkle in Time books? None of them are Classics of Children’s Literature in the same way the first one is, so if you didn’t like the first one that much…

  16. Genevieve says:

    Witch of Blackbird Pond and Susan Cooper are my big ones. I have a list on my library account of past Newberys to read after I read this season’s award books, and it includes both of those, plus The Whipping Boy, Sarah, Plain and Tall, Criss Cross, Out of the Dust, and 26 Fairmont Avenut. Plus I should give Walk Two Moons a thorough read, as I only went quickly through it when my son was reading it for school.
    This is my hobby rather than my job, but I still feel bad about the big ones I haven’t read yet.

  17. DEAD END IN NORVELT . . . I knew I should have read it. I just knew it.

  18. Sara Ralph says:

    Mr. H – read it now! I am :) One of the great things about it being chosen as the Newbery was that I hadn’t read it.

    Nina – Holy moly, I almost choked on my soda.

    Once I admit this one, Jonathan will probably want to ban me from ever commenting again, but I have not read Criss Cross. Tried it once and put it down. Maybe I’ll get through it this year. I read and enjoyed all the honor books from 2006 though.

    I like the idea of starting with the present and then trying to go back and fill in the gaps. I appreciate this blog because I read more Newbery contenders this year than any other year and would have never read some had they not been featured here, most notably A Monster Calls, which I LOVED and Sir Gawain, which I enjoyed and then passed on to my daughter who is in third grade already. Of course, she figured out the mystery of who the Green Knight was right away while I was left open-mouthed at the end.

  19. Anne Duncan says:

    I agree with Ms. Snyder. I’d love to relive my first reading of and . is my favorite of Virginia Hamilton’s books.

    For a long time, I was doing a pretty good job of keeping up, but I have fallen behind in the last couple of years, and there are still lots of old Newberys that I have yet to get to–no yet. But first–Gantos.

  20. It’s funny that this post is up because only two weeks ago I decided that enough was enough, I had to stop cringing away from “it’s going to be depressing!” and read both Kira-Kira (which was surprisingly light and non-depressing) and (and this one I’m really ashamed about) Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (which was just as grim as I thought it would be but so well written that it’s moved into one of my Newbery Top Ten.)

    My goal for 2012 is to read two Newbery honor or winner books each month, at least one of them a book that I have not read before. I figure at that rate it will only take me just over twenty years to read them all!

  21. Elle Librarian says:

    This year I want to read Penny from Heaven, Jacob Have I Loved, and Gone-Away Lake. And, I never could get through Criss Cross . . . maybe someday, maybe not!

  22. I have so many I haven’t read, I can’t think about it without feeling panicked. But really, I haven’t read Long Way from Chicago or A Year Down Yonder, so that’s really a series I need to get to… and Kira-Kira is the only other 2000s winner I haven’t read, so I’ll have to do that one, too. I figure if I go backwards I’ll reach The Story of Mankind by the time I’m in my golden years!

  23. Last year I read all 3 of Jennifer Holm’s Newbery Honor books as well The Trouble with May Amelia. It was a great experience.

  24. Hi Jonathan, I am a lurker of your incisive and well-thought-out blog posts (and linked to a few of your reviews too). I thought might as well leave a comment. I’ve read The Witch of Blackbird Pond a few years back and remembered being moved by it. I have also recently bought quite a number of Virginia Hamilton titles so I shall join you in your quest of reading more of her books. I don’t have the titles you have here though. I have just looked through my shelves and the titles I currently own are: A White Romance and The Mystery of Drear House. Another author I am interested to know more this year would be Jacqueline Woodson. I have her Feathers and Locomotive. :)

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