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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Mock Memory Lane

This is the tenth year that I’ve led a Mock Newbery. Mock, not as: “being such in appearance only and made with or manufactured from usually cheaper materials” or “lacking in natural or spontaneous quality”, but rather think of a Mock Jury: “a group of participants who are required to imagine and act as members of a jury, to investigate factors affecting the decision making process.”  What might win the Newbery medal this year?  That’s what we’ll be mocking.  Will we be right?  To answer that, let me show you my slideshow.  Just step into my parlor here…

I served on the Newbery committee in 2003 (for the 2004 award); as suggested on p.24 of the manual,  I gathered a local group to discuss titles, monthly.  The group was comprised of some local colleagues and neighbors, and we sat in my next-door-neighbor’s garden when the weather was good.  Can I even remember our winner that year?  I remember the real ones of course.  And I remember that it was the friend of my neighbor, whose husband was a third grade teacher, who helped me to fully understand and appreciate Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux, from an eight-year-old point of view.

After that, I continued the group as a sort of award-withdrawl-therapy. In 2006, I started a blog (Nina’s Newbery) to try to keep track of and solicit reading ideas for the group. The following year, I chaired the actual committee, so I asked my partner-in-crime Sharon McKellar to take over the group.  And the following year, Brian Kenney asked us to join School Library Journal’s blog roll.  In 2009, Sharon opted to leave the blog in order to travel around the world, and Jonathan stepped in.  The blog has expanded beyond the preparations for our live Mock Newbery meeting, to become a wider forum to discuss titles and the award.  I think that’s great.  It’s also shone a spotlight on “predictions” for the year’s winners. That makes me a little uneasy…only because I don’t want people’s disappointment in failure-to-predict to translate into disappointment in the award.  The point of the blog is supposed to be to appreciate what the award does for young readers, by supporting the quality of literature than can be written for different readers of different tastes and ages. That quality depends on a breadth of examples of “excellence,” and that’s part of the reason for having a different committee of 15 people serve each year.  Jonathan and Sharon and I make a total of 3 stick-in-the-muds, though we all work hard at keeping our reading brains nimble.  So: if we’re doing this right, we won’t be “getting it right” all the time. Following?

In the past 9 years then how well have we predicted the awards? Here we go. Years are the award year, which follows the publication year, and clicking on them will take you to the actual Newbery awards for that year, in case you’ve forgotten:

2004 Anyone out there remember what we chose? Did I browbeat you all with my favorite: Polly Horvath’s The Canning Season? I’m only certain we did not predict this one.

2005 We chose Kira-Kira. I remember a lot of Russell Freedman’s The Voice That Challenged a Nation too. And I remember giving up on my favorites: Farmer’s Sea of Trolls, Konigsburg’s The Outcasts of 19 Schulyer Place and Walter Dean Myers’ Here in Harlem.

2006 We chose Criss-Cross. Hey, doing pretty good!…and on the honors too.  This was Jonathan’s committee year.  I think we were our smallest Mock group: were there 5 of us?  I revolted against The Penderwicks. Getting it “right” sadly can cloud your memory about other favorites.  I had to check the Notables’ list to remember Sue Stauffacher’s Harry Sue.

2007.  We chose A Drowned Maiden’s Hair; it and all of our honors remain some of my favorite titles of the decade (and some of all time).  It was such a great year. We chose such great books. What happened?

2008.  This was Sharon’s group, and we chose…well, take a look. (Yes, this was the year I chaired the actual committee).

2009. We chose Louise Erdrich’s The Porcupine Year (and if you still haven’t read it go read it now!).  I made a totally wrong guess on eligibility.

2010. Hey, right place, right time, right books…almost all of em. But that was kind of an extraordinary year, in many ways. With record turnout at our live discussion, Jonathan and I had to split the room in two and had two sets of results: his and hers.  Don’t Forget The Dunderheads.

2011. Huh. Well, we picked two of the honors as our winners, Dark Emperor in our live discussion, and One Crazy Summer in our first online poll.  Neither Jonathan or I finished reading the actual winner until after the announcements.

2012 We chose Amelia Lost twice, with Okay for Now heading our online poll. Okay…

Which years did you get it right? And which years did your favorite not get the medal…here’s your chance to remind us of why it’s still so special.

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. Last year, the Maryland Mock Newbery picked OKAY FOR NOW, and didn’t select any honor books. I argued strenuously for BREADCRUMBS, but alas…

    In 2011, we didn’t see that one coming either. Our winner was THE WAR TO END ALL WARS, and ONE CRAZY SUMMER got our one honor — so at least we got one right!

    2010 was before my time, but Maryland, like so many others, picked WHEN YOU REACH ME.

  2. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Nina, I was at the 2004 meeting, too. We chose THE RIVER BETWEEN US by Richard Peck with THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX and AN AMERICAN PLAGUE as Honor books. I do remember you being the sole voice for THE CANNING SEASON. You also spoke up for OLIVE’S OCEAN and one thing you said has stuck with me (even 8 years later). Often, those of us who read many books over a short period of time talk about books that stay with us, that remain vividly fixed in our minds. You noted that OLIVE’S OCEAN didn’t have this quality, but that didn’t necessarily mark it as less distinguished because each time you revisted the book, you were fully immersed in the reading experience. Funny how parts of the discussion remain with you years after you forget the rest of it.

  3. Jonathan, thanks for remembering. I still love THE RIVER BTWN us. In fact, might have to track it down on my shelves and reread it tonight.

  4. I’m glad to be able to follow this conversation virtually even if I can’t jump in the actual conversation in Oakland this year! Welcome back, Heavy Medal!

  5. I still mourn no Honor for The Porcupine Year; I’m excited to read the next book in the series, out this year.

    2011 was not my year for books I loved, looking back. I’m surprised to see my top vote on the Goodreads poll was for A Conspiracy of Kings. I remember putting up a last-minute, long-shot vote for Heart of a Samurai, which did go on to get an honor; that probably really is my favorite book of that year. But One Crazy Summer has stuck with me more than I expected. I dislike the winner.

    From last year, I wish that Liesl and Po had gotten more attention and discussion and maybe an honor. I hope kids are finding it.

    Mostly, looking back at these lists makes me feel exhausted. I’d better rest up for the coming season.

  6. I think it’s funny that Olive’s Ocean was the books that was mentioned in the context of “not sticking with you” because of all the 2004 winners (and I admit I still haven’t read American Plague) Olive’s Ocean is the one that stuck with me, that will pop into my head when related issues come up, and that I still think about even now. I haven’t re-read it in the past eight years, I wonder if I’d be surprised if I did so now.

  7. Nina’s 2008 was the year I fist discovered that there were groups out in the world, discussing preemptively the winner of the Newbery. I’d only been at my job for a couple of years and for whatever reason I’d never considered the option of looking past what was announced on the Monday in January.

    I remember early in the fall of 2007 having a discussion with my friend Matt Kirby, who was at the time unpublished, about what might win the Newbery. He directed me to Sharon’s blog and to the ACPL Blog. This pretty much shifted the focus of my world, (hyperbole, much?). I jumped headlong into reading as many eligible books as possible and blogging my opinions. That first year, I did miss a key ingredient of holding a Mock Newbery – the one about having more participants than myself.

    For what its worth my picks for that year were: Medal: WEDNESDAY WARS

    For the 2009 award, we held our first student Mock at my school. This year we had a short list, which GRAVEYARD didn’t make due to the fact the all four copies in our collection were on hold to the end of time.
    Medal: SAVVY

    In 2010 our school went the way of most of the country:

  8. (Apparently my computer felt I was hogging too much comment space. To Continue . . .)

    In 2010 our school went the way of most of the country:
    (a book I personally championed, but due to its late release it didn’t get much attention was WILD THINGS)

    2011 – The first year without a short list
    Medal: THE CLOCKWORK THREE (having the author show up as a special guest didn’t hurt, but CLOCKWORK did go on to wind many other Mocks around the country)

    (I still whimper at the oversight of OKAY FOR NOW)

    Although I’ve attempted to put an adult group together I have not as yet been successful. If there is anyone living in Northern Utah within the sound of my voice who would like to give it a try. Lets hook up.

  9. DaNae, I’m in Utah County, and I’m game.

  10. Danyelle, I remember you from my days as Gantos’s Girl Friday. E-mail me at and let’s see what we can make happen.

  11. Alright! We’ll eagerly await the results of the Utah County “grown ups” Mock Newbery…..

  12. You’ve inspired me! I just got promoted to Youth Services Manager (Yay! My years of exile in Adult Services are ended.) and before the promotion was even official, I had to finalize our November schedule. We had some customer interest, so I’ve put a Mock Newbery group on the schedule for November and December and January. We’ll see how we do! I’m excited!

  13. Sam Leopold says:

    We,in Columbus Ohio, have organized A group of 9 students and their 9 reading teachers to go through the process of a Mock trial. We call it our NEWBERY NINE group. We started in May and have read 19 contenders so far. We have used the heavy medal discussions as our model of how to discuss the books in light of the criteria. THANKS for your inspiration!!

    Surprisingly, after taking an unofficial vote based on the 19 books read, Wonder is not in the top 5…not even close. Their top 3 so far


    Thanks again for the inspiration.

    sam leopold

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