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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

It takes 15

We’ve plunged into discussion, but I’m going to take a breather to give a brief primer on the Newbery procedures.

The Newbery Terms and Criteria are the grounding  definitions for the committee.  If you’re not familiar with them, it’s worth reading them in detail.  You’ll find that for all of the defining going on there, there’s quite a bit open to interpretation, which falls to the committee to do with each book they consider.

Some of the interpretations that come up regularly are developed further in the appendices of the Newbery Manual, which also spells out the process that the committee uses, and everyone’s roles.

Here, we try our best to focus our discussion of titles along the lines of a real Newbery Committee discussion.  It becomes quite a different discussion than in evaluating a book for purchase or use on its own merits, or for “best of the year” lists or popular picks lists.  We’re comparing each book against the other with the goal of finding ONE that is the “most distinguished” contribution to American literature to children this year.  Among many other considerations:

  • We base our discussion only on the text.  “Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.”
  • We consider only the books eligible this year.  Not whether an author has won before, or if it’s their best book, or if there was a better similar book last year.
  • We consider the literary merits of the book, and how it speaks to its ideal child reader.   “The award is not for didactic content or popularity.”

As the committee starts to winnow down, then, to one title, it’s vitally important–to readers, and to the award–that the best breadth of eligible titles are being seriously discussed and considered.  The Newbery committee has 15 members who share suggestions of titles throughout the year, and each ultimately nominates 7 for final discussion at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in January.  They meet for 2-3 days straight, discussing every title and going through an anonymous weighted ranked ballot procedure to establish consensus on a winning title.   (For guidance on following that procedure in your own group, try the Newbery Caldecott Mock Elections Toolkit!)  On Monday morning of the conference (this time: January 28th, 2013), the awards are announced at a highly anticipated press conference.

We’ll expand on many of these criteria and procedures in coming posts, so if you have questions or elements you’d like to discuss, let us know!

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. How many books does each committee member recommend in October?

  2. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Three in October, three in November, two in December for a total of seven. Used to be three in October and three in December for a total of six, but they changed it several years ago.

  3. Thanks, Jonathan. Is there a recommended date for each month? I’m thinking the middle, but I wouldn’t mind narrowing it down right at the beginning.

  4. Jonathan Hunt says:

    There isn’t a recommended date within that month. That’s the discretion of the chair, but I think most of them do shoot for on or about the 15th. I think the dates that ALA Midwinter is held could influence the deadline as well, especially for the December nominations. This year Midwinter is quite late (Jan 28th) so you might be okay with a Dec 15 or even Dec 22 deadline. Other years you might want to push it up to Dec 7. People want enough time to reflect and reread.

  5. Perfect. Now I just need to confirm our location and I think our first annul big-person Northern Utah Mock will be ready to take off.

  6. I didn’t know they changed the number of nominations per committee member! Interesting.

    But… is it 3 plus 3 plus 2 for a total of 8, though?
    or maybe it’s 3 plus 2 plus2 for a total of 7?

  7. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Ack! Will have to check on my next break, but I think it’s 3+2+2=7. I think they got an extra nomination, but only two in December . . .

  8. Jonathan Hunt says:

    It is 3+2+2+7. When I was on in 2006, it was 3+3=6. It sounds like they had made the change by 2008. Anyone from 2007 want to weigh in?

  9. I think Nina can testify for the 2008 committee 😉

  10. It was 3+3 for the 2008 committee (2007 books). The change was made, I believe, the following year.

  11. This year.. it’s 3 + 2 + 2 in October, November, and December. In the first/middle part of each month. We do have a later discussion time frame so it will allow for the committee members to re-read many (or all) titles. Just want to add that the Committee Members also have been “suggesting” books to each other every month so we have plenty of titles to read and consider. When I served in 2001/2002, the rule was that even if a title was not nominated, it was still eligible for a last look at Midwinter in the discussion room as long as it was “suggested.” But, I believe that rule was changed to ONLY the nominated titles would be discussed and looked at.

    So, 7 nominations per committee members mean: the minimum of 7 titles to consider (if EVERYONE nominates the EXACT seven books — which, of course, NEVER happens); and the maximum of 105 titles to read/re-read/discuss — which, I believe, also will NOT happen since there are definitely going to be some overlapping… I am predicting (or hoping for) a number between 45 and 60… which will still be daunting given the limited time frame but will be workable.

    And, by the way, a Newbery committee’s success (IMO) is not that the members “have picked the right books” to satisfy the reading and teaching masses, but that we all stay on course, that we have a diligent and kind but firm Chair (which I’m lucky to have had and now am having,) and that we all respect each other’s varied tastes and concerns and conduct our discussions passionately but also professionally. Now, back to reading this month’s suggestions and figuring out what three books I’m going to nominate (and start writing the nomination paragraphs soon!)

  12. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I’m catching up belatedly . . . Roxanne, thanks for this piece of information! I think it explains the addition of a 7th nomination. In the past, committee members had to be prepared to discuss suggestions *and* nominations in January–which could easily be around a hundred books, give or take. With 7 nominations per committee member, you can still max out at 105, but the number is more likely to be half of that number, making the rereading in December and January more focused and effective.

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