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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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One of the quirks of this publishing year is the prevalence of so many sequels (and companion novels) to previous Newbery books.  In addition to THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE, I count five more: APPLEWHITES AT WIT’S END by Stephanie Tolan, PALACE OF STONE by Shannon Hale, ONE YEAR IN COAL HARBOR by Polly Horvath, STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY by Grace Lin, and SON by Lois Lowry.  Will any of them be able to strike Newbery gold (or silver) a second time around?

Well, the odds are not in their favor, certainly.  In the past five years, for example, only 6 of 22 recognized books have been authored by Newbery veterans (Jack Gantos, Jennifer Holm, Christopher Paul Curtis, Gary Schmidt, and Jacqueline Woodson–twice).  Going back an additional five years doesn’t drastically alter that ratio (13 of 43).  So it’s hard to get recognized a second time, let alone for a sequel.  But it can be done–and nobody did it more impressively than Laura Ingalls Wilder who won Newbery Honors for five consecutive volumes: ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK, BY THE SHORES OF SILVER LAKE, THE LONG WINTER, LITTLE TOWN ON THE PRAIRIE, and THESE HAPPY GOLDEN YEARS.

But there are also precedents in the modern era.  Cynthia Voigt won the Medal for DICEY’S SONG and then an Honor for SOLITARY BLUE the very next year.  BUD, NOT BUDDY won the Medal: an Honor for THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE would match that feat.

Robin McKinley won an Honor for THE BLUE SWORD; the Medal for THE HERO AND THE CROWN.  Similarly, Richard Peck won an Honor for A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO; the Medal for A YEAR DOWN YONDER.  Can APPLEWHITES AT WIT’S END, PALACE OF STONE, ONE YEAR IN COAL HARBOR, or STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY buck the odds, surpass their predecessors, and capture Newbery gold?

And, finally, when it comes to later books in the series–not the immediate sequel–you have Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper, scoring first an Honor and eventually the Medal.  Lois Lowry is already in elite company (being a two-time Medalist), but an Honor for SON would be duplicate this feat in reverse (i.e. first the Medal, then an Honor).

Now the Newbery committee is only concerned with the criteria–not the odds.  THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE just took her turn in the spotlight.  Which of the remaining titles deserve an in-depth examination?  And will any of them be able to repeat the Newbery magic?

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 wouldn’t term STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY a sequel. I believe it may be set in the same world as the previous book, but the main characters are completely different. Certainly there is no pesky story arc going across it and the earlier book as is often the difficult issue for many sequels when it comes to Newbery. That difficult rule that you can’t discuss the earlier books. Now, before you start Jonathan:) I will say that I think you are the one person I know who is able to argue convincingly around it. I want you on Newbery when the next Megan Whalen Turner THIEF comes out:)

    Returning to STARRY RIVER I have to say I really liked it and think it is a very serious contender. I need to reread it (and I’d love to see the finish book with the art even though it can’t be considered for Newbery just because I know it will be beautiful) and think about just why as I hope you will do a separate post on it.

  2. I was pretty traumatized when I found that there would be sequel to PRINCESS ACADEMY. I found the original such a prefect package of a book with no need of embellishment. I still suffer a bit of PTSD from the ill-fated STARGIRL sequel. I have heard good things about usurper, but so far I’ve not been able to wrestle it from my students. Hale is someone I do to trust not to damage the original.

    I know DEZA and Buddy bump into each other, but does sharing a setting and a meal make a companion book? They each fit into the other’s story so briefly.

    Thanks for the heads up on COAL HARBOR. I didn’t realize it was a sequel. I’ll need to read the original.

    AS a huge fan of the first, I was sorely disappointed in the APPLEWHITES book. I don’t see the discussion lasting long there. The most gratuitous kiss, ever.

    I’m also nervous about SON. I quite like GATHERING BLUE but mourned MESSENGER. I am however deeply curious as to where Lowry is headed.

  3. Oh, DaNae, PALACE OF STONE isn’t embellishment — it’s a wonderful story of country girl goes to the big city, friend of the new princess but sympathetic with rebels…. I am completely taken with it. But I do realize I’m a crazy Shannon Hale fan (though Princess Academy was my least favorite of her books up to that time!), so I’m not at all sure I trust my judgment.

    I do think a little will depend on how willing the committee is to consider books for the upper end of the age range, since Miri’s now deciding between two men. But the book has great plot, characters, setting, language. All the elements are done well, as far as I’m concerned. And (not that this is the criteria) I don’t think you need to read the first book to enjoy the sequel.

    The only other one of those sequels I’ve read so far is The Mighty Miss Malone, though I do intend to read the rest. Miss Malone is good, but as a plot-driven reader like Jonathan, I didn’t feel like the plot held together too well. And didn’t really like that her brother magically solved their problems. I did like Deza though. The pride of a girl who knows she’s smart made me smile.

  4. I’m with Sondy on PALACE OF STONE. Can’t wait to discuss it – I thought it added a really significant set of ideas to the original and charted a course all its own. Don’t let love for the first one get in the way – read it!

  5. Tom Angleberger says:

    This seems like a good time to re-mention the need for a award that recognizes series.

    I have previously proposed that the ALA create such an award and name it after Lloyd Alexander, who won the Newbery for the final, but not necessarily best, book of a series.

    The award would be given the year a series ends. And would allow judges to consider the full impact of an author’s story arc, rather than penalizing a book for not standing alone as Newbery does.

  6. Tom, do you have examples of books that you think might have been penalized by the Newbery committee for not standing alone?

  7. I’m not Tom, but I remember unsuccessfully trying to convince someone on that year’s Newbery Committee that THE KING ATTOLIA stood alone beautifully. Now if Jonathan had been there…

  8. Starry River of the Sky, which is a companion novel, is just wonderful. The main story is captivating and the stories told by the characters add even more to it, especially finding out the surprise connection between the two. I would be interested in seeing how the experts, being former Newbery committee members, feel like it holds up to the criteria. How did this blog feel about Where the Mountain Meets the Moon?

  9. Jonathan Hunt says:

    1. THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE and STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY are both companion novels rather than sequels. I didn’t add the companion novels to the title, but I did insert the phrase in the first sentence of the post.

    2. The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature can go to a book or a series. For example, the 2012 award went to THE FREEDOM MAZE by Delia Sherman. The 2011 award went to THE THIEF, THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA, THE KING OF ATTOLIA, and A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS by Megan Whalen Turner. This award is only for fantasy, however.

    3. We liked WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, and it won one of our two mock Newbery groups (WHEN YOU REACH ME being the other winner). We found the characterization a bit flat, but perfectly in line with what you might expect from a folktale and also perfectly suited to the needs of children bridging from transitional chapter books to middle grade novels.

    4. I’m still trying to work through my feelings about PALACE OF STONE, and I’m not sure that I can separate myself from the original, having read it several times during my Newbery year. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of PRINCESS ACADEMY and, like DaNae, felt it was perfect as a standalone. I like this new one a lot, but I miss the distinctive setting of Mount Eskel, and I think Hale realized this too and found a clever way to make Mount Eskel a presence again, but I did find the capital setting almost reminiscent of Bayern (in fact, the plotting and intrigue remind me of RIVER SECRETS). But I’m not supposed to compare PALACE OF STONE to Hale’s previous body of work at all, so I’ll try to shed my baggage by the time we get around to discussing it. In the meantime, check out these cool Shannon Hale links.

    Live webcast on October 1–


    Chapter by chapter discussion of PRINCESS ACADEMY by the author–

  10. I’m with DaNae that the APPLEWHITES sequel was a disappointment. It was fun and I’ll give it to kids who liked the first one, but it didn’t have the same heart as the first book. (And since “heart” is not a criteria, I’ll say the characterization wasn’t as strong, the plot felt forced, and the themes were not as strongly interwoven with the story.)

  11. I love the idea of a series award named for Lloyd Alexander! I liked PALACE OF STONE but it didn’t blow me away. I don’t think I would have been as drawn in if I hadn’t already had knowledge of the world and wanted to know what happened to Miri and the rest of the characters.

  12. I actually really liked APPLEWHITES AT WIT’S END, but as someone who hasn’t read the first one, I was only able to take it as a stand-alone. Which I thought it worked fine as, but which doesn’t let me make comparisons.

  13. My favorite out-of-school Newbery story was from a committee member who began her remarks “As in Huck Finn . . .” only to be slapped down by the chair for mentioning a book published in a previous, er, century.

  14. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I know that seems harsh, but I think it is good practice. We can’t be certain that everybody has read all the classics one might allude to. It also keeps hyperbole from running amok by having people draw comparisons to Great Works of Literature.


  1. […] Jonathan Hunt pointed out there at Heavy Medal, we are seeing so many sequels and companion books of former Newbery award and honor books. Just […]

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