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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Fall Flurries

This is the time of year that always telescopes down and passes in a flash for me,  and I’m noticing a time-warpy feeling right about now that we’re fully ramped up at Heavy Medal.

If you are feeling frustrated that you haven’t read the titles that we’re posting on: you’re not alone in that feeling.  (Doesn’t Jonathan know that my processing department is still mylar-wrapping MOONBIRD while he’s already posting on it?!?! Dang.) Think of September and October at Heavy Medal as a compression of what the actual committee experiences from about January–September in their year:

  • Half of the committee is elected.  Your ballot goes up in the spring before your Newbery year…which means you got a call from the Nominating committee the fall before that!  But it takes up through the following fall…just before the reading year, for your committee to be fully appointed.
  • Rarin’ to go (and appointees stunned and excited), you all get together at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in January of your reading year for an orientation…then you spend the weekend happily grabbing as many ARCs as possible in the exhibits, because you are ready.  You sit with special excitement through the Youth Media Awards press conference, noticing where the current committee is sitting, and thinking “next year”….
  • Then you go home and read.  And you suggest titles monthly to your other committee members, through the chair who puts out the suggestions anonymously.  It’s a way to get a reading list  and straw poll going.  And you see things pop up on that list and wonder: now how did they get their hands on THAT!?
  • And then you wait. Publishers do send materials to the committee, but they’re not required to. And it’s often late, late spring before they start sending boxes in earnest.  Then, with a minor flood in May, where do you start? You don’t necessarily have your bar set anywhere yet, so how can you be sure if you’re giving each book it’s due? You might err on the side of generosity, and spend a little longer with each book than you will later in the year.
  • At Annual, you get together for some practice discussion on titles you have all gotten, and blast a little more purposefully through the exhibits, keeping an eye out for ARCs you especially want to see. Your chair is politely prompting publishers to send along certain titles, without trying to give away too much about committee deliberations and lists, which are confidential.
  • And from there it is all catch up.  Making sure you’ve got, or are getting, everything on the suggestion list, and reading them…and also making sure that you are reaching out and trying things that no one has noticed yet.   It’s like the beginning of a black hole forming: all that energy going OUT before you start narrowing IN.

And that puts us right about now, here at Heavy Medal.  Jonathan and I have had our eye on certain books, and are also reading for titles that you suggest, and want to talk about.  While the actually committee is already thinking about its second round of nominations… we’re still trying to get the discussion going on various likely candidates for our shortlist, which will come together mid-season (in time for Thanksgiving), for those of you who will be participating in our live discussion in Oakland in January just before the awards (hold the date: Sunday January 13th!).

So be prepared for some more flurries of titles (you’ve called out some of your favorites in Nominations!)  We’ll be coming round again to many of these, so request them at your library!   Or start putting out feelers in your community: who else is a Newbery season lurker?  There might be a book group…or at least a book trading-post…waiting to be sparked near you.

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. As I said over in my Fairrosa Cyber Library Bulletin Board — I’m in super panicky mode… there are STILL so many books that I have NOT read or even been alerted by friends and online communities… the fear of missing some stellar books/authors of 2012 is making me lose quite a bit of sleep!!!!

  2. Nina Lindsay says:

    I remember that feeling. I think this is where you have to rely on your committee, and think about what *kinds* of potential books do you seem to be able to appreciate better than others on the committee, and try to track down as many of those as possible.

    I also remember getting scared because I’m a slow reader. Around this time of year I had to set myself “hours” for reading: 7pm to 11pm, in my chair, at a minimum. (That was in addition to reading at every meal and public transit leg). It worked. (At 11pm I was allowed ice cream).

    Thanks, Roxanne, for finding a way to share, publicly, what you can without breaching confidentiality. I’m enjoying the vicarious experience at

  3. What exactly are the rules of confidentiality?

  4. A Newbery Committee member CAN and should talk about the books she/he loves — recommend to others and all that in their respective communities. I am MORE than comfortable to share many books from this year with my teachers and students at school and also discuss the books and whether they enjoy them or not. But I don’t feel comfortable sharing all my opinions too openly on my blog, although some people might be able to figure out certain titles I talk about there. The important thing is to not reveal, or lead others to think they know, what books have been suggested or nominated by the Committee members. You also are not supposed to reveal what happens behind close doors at the Midwinter Conference discussions: who supported which titles, how the voting went, which books might have MADE it to the top, and Committee members’ opinions regarding specific titles.

    Nina, did I about sum it up?

  5. I do think that’s about it. The key phrase being “to reveal, or to lead others to think they know….”. Which makes online commenting particularly dicey, because it can so easily be cut and pasted out of context.

    The point of confidentiality, as I understand it, is two-fold. One, you don’t want to undercut the trust in the process. But perhaps more importantly…we can trust the process b/c those involved know that what they say within that committee space won’t ever be repeated. Everything I say on this blog is tinged with the knowledge that I’m expected to be a Newbery expert. Everything I say in my place of work is tinged with the knowledge that what I say represents the City of Oakland. Etc. However, what you say on the Newbery committee can just and simply stand for what it is : your very very honest opinion. Because it’s not going anywhere. It makes a difference.

  6. I think I might throttle the next person who tells me “but they’re just children’s books”. I’ll probably use one of those 300 page children’s books to do so. I feel like the books have taken over a room in my house and a lot of my spare time. I’ll have to try what Nina suggests and set “hours” for reading, probably at night. This week I’ve learned I don’t have the willpower to get up early to read.

    I have to admit I don’t blog as much but I tweet voraciously and often about what I read. I’m trying to hold my twitter tongue about the books whenever possible.

  7. Have you all read The Peculiar, by Stefan Bachmann, yet? It’s a standout of the year for me….and I don’t recall seeing any mention of it.

  8. Nina Lindsay says:

    Charlotte, I did read the Peculiar…and reviewed it for Horn Book Magazine in the issue that just came out, so you can check out my tempered enthusiasm there, and I’m sure we’ll post on it here eventually. I run hot and cold with it, but enough cold to quench any Newbery enthusiasm on my end.

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