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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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Twelve Kinds of Meth

Oops! Got your attention, didn’t I? Of couse, I meant TWELVE KINDS OF ICE and BENEATH A METH MOON, but first things first . . .

We had 30 people submit a full set of three nominations in October, and the results are listed below. Please note that these are slightly different from the earlier results I compiled because I couldn’t make the numbers add up right so I had to go back and double check. In doing so, I omitted incomplete nominations that listed one or two titles.

(13) LIAR & SPY

(10) BOMB






(4) CROW





















Now we get ready for our two November nominations. Our committee of 30 would ultimately need 15-16 of us to vote for the winning book. No title received that many nominations this time, but some of them might by the second or third round. I mentioned that I was considering LIAR & SPY and THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN for future nominations, but since both of those have quite a bit of support, it allows me to nominate books just to get them on the table. So, as tempting as it is to go with some nonfiction, easy readers, or graphic novels, I’m going to nominate a pair of books that are not necessarily in my personal top five–maybe not even my top ten–but which beg for our consideration nevertheless. These are both books I can be talked into supporting.

Jacqueline Woodson has won many, many awards for her novels, but I think BENEATH A METH MOON is her best to date–better than MIRACLE’S BOYS, HUSH, LOCOMOTION, FEATHERS, or AFTER TUPAC AND D FOSTER. Yes, this one is for an older audience of 7th, 8th, and 9th graders, but there is such a haunting melancholy tone to this one that I simply must bring it to the table. Karyn Silverman didn’t care for this one as a Printz contender, and while I do think the slender size of the novel puts it at a disadvantage to the thicker books in that field, I’m not convinced of her argument that the secondary characters need to be more fully developed.

Betsy Bird has been heaping all kinds of love on TWELVE KINDS OF ICE for many months now and with good reason. The writing is distinguished–how distinguished is a question I would love to discuss with others. In his most recent Horn Book editorial, Roger Sutton describes the book thus . . .

But what about a sui generis book like Ellen Bryan Obed and Barbara McClintock’s Twelve Kinds of Ice, an illustrated series of vignettes about winter weather? Kind of a memoir, not exactly a story, almost a poem, the book is the sort that makes us stop and think about how we are going to categorize it: we entertained arguments for nonfiction and poetry before placing the review, uneasily, in the fiction section, and settling, tentatively, on a suggested reading level. What is this and who is it for?—in other words, What is a children’s book?

I’ve had a devil of a time trying to find worthy transitional chapter book candidates this year. LULU AND THE DUCK IN THE PARK, SADIE AND RATZ, THE GREAT CAKE MYSTERY, and THE NO 1 CAR SPOTTER AND THE FIREBIRD add depth to the field, but nether McKay, Hartnett, Smith, nor Atinuke are American. So, like the Horn Book, I would tenatively place this book here–even though I wonder if the nostalgia doesn’t make it more of a middle grade title.

I’ll add these two nominations to my earlier three, like this . .






Now give me your five nominations. If you voted last time, then please keep the same three and add two more, listing all five in the comments. If you didn’t nominate last time, then feel free to give us your five now. Do you build support around an already nominated title or reach for those underappreciated titles? Hmmm . . .

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. Here’s a link to the previous nominations post, in case you’re like me and had to go back to see what you voted for:

    I probably wouldn’t pick the same ones this time (these were done with strategy, not necessarily favorites), but since those are the rules:

    BOMB (I figure I ought to put my real first choice out there, even with plenty of support).

    Jonathan, I look forward with some amusement to a reading of BENEATH A METH MOON for the Newbery audience.

    I still have 28 books either on my shelf or on hold yet to read–and I seem to add a new one to the list most days. And I’m very interested in quite a few of those.

  2. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Thanks for including the link to the previous post that I obviously forgot–and thanks for your fidelity to your earlier nominations as we try to imperfectly mimic what the real committee is doing/thinking right about now.

    BENEATH A METH MOON is clearly a young adult novel, and I would never want it in a K-5 or K-6 school (more because of interest level rather than subject matter). However, it would be perfect for middle school or junior high. The main character is 15 years old with quite a bit of retrospective narrative covering her earlier life. I think the cover, title, and plot summary make the book seem more edgy than it really is. Have you read it?

  3. Liar & Spy
    Splendors and Gloom
    Starry River of the Sky

  4. Yup. I gave it four stars, and I’m with you on the title making the book “skew up” somewhat artificially, but I do think it’s a classic example of book for the older end of the technical ALSC readership that reaches up, rather than down. I don’t think much would be served by giving this book a Newbery with an eye toward the middle-schoolers–if anything, it’ll make it seem babyish. While this isn’t exactly a high interest/low level book, I think the short length makes it accessible to somewhat lower-level teen readers who don’t want to read a “kid’s book”. A similar book in which the character on drugs is a parent or an older sibling would be more likely to get the age-level nod from me, personally. But yes, let it be in all the middle schools.

  5. I stand by my earlier nominations of Bomb, Splendors and Glooms, and Water Sings Blue. I’d add Chickadee to get it on the table – I think it’s a bit above a transitional chapter book, but still an excellent fit for a younger audience than a lot of the other fiction. Since most of my other top choices have plenty of support, I’d go with The Broken Lands by Kate Milford, another epic fantasy that isn’t perhaps quite as strong as Splendors and Glooms, but I’d like to see it discussed.

  6. Bomb
    The One and Only Ivan
    Three Times Lucky
    Same Sun Here

  7. METH MOON is in my k-6 library. I can’t think of another book that falls this close to middle-grade where the main character is involved with drugs. So for diversity’s sake I kept it. My Newbery club has been reading it, with no visible scars thus far. Of course they voted the win to BETWEEN THE SHADES OF GRAY last year, so . . .

    Amazon is taking forever to get me TWELVE KINDS OF ICE. Maybe today.

    Are we going to give two more in December? (My top four pretty much mirror the top four above, but I want to get one more book on the list)


  8. Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, Detectives Extraordinaire
    Splendors and Glooms
    Twelve Kinds of Ice
    A Black Hole is Not a Hole
    Summer of the Gypsy Moths

  9. BOMB

    I cannot say enough how much I wish SADIE AND RATZ was eligible. Definitely my favorite transitional book of the year. I’m still trying to find TWELVE KINDS OF ICE and the DC Library catalog is not being kind to me today.

  10. Elizabeth Bird says:

    Whew! I read the title and worried that ‘Meth’ in this case was a plural of ‘meh’.

    Clearly I’m skittish about the book’s chances.

  11. Splendors and Glooms
    Starry River of the Sky
    Child of the Mountains
    No Crystal Stair

  12. Bomb
    Liar & Spy
    Dumpling Days
    Shadow on the Mountain
    Code Name Verity – if Jonathan can nominate a book that is too old for newbery there’s no reason not to nominate this year’s best book too old for newbery. I reread this last week and couldn’t really find anything that specifically makes it too old… Would love to discuss this one here.

  13. Liar & Spy
    Water Sings Blue
    Above World

  14. Eric, while I agree with you on the quality of VERITY, I would say it skews much older than METH. Not for content but for the challenging structure used in VERITY. Although many fourteen year olds might be able to grasp it, I find interesting plotting devices to be the hardest for younger readers to grasp.

  15. Jonathan, quite on the money re keeping up with the 2013 Newbery schedule. The official November nominations are due tomorrow. I am fine tuning my nomination paragraphs. I’ll go home and write another cryptic post on my thoughts on this round of nominations.

  16. Are you guys kidding? I mean, I know you’re not, but that particularly violent part of the book near the end? The sex/torture imagery? And yes, the sophisticated structure and subtle relationships. Sure, there are fourteen-year-olds who will get it–just as with any adult book. But in what way is it the most distinguished book of the year for children ?

  17. as opposed to that violent part near the end of BOMB when a nuclear bomb is dropped on a city?
    Where was the sex/torture imagery? The torture is, for the most part done off screen and there isn’t any sex. At least nothing graphic. (it’s not Children of the Wolves or anything like that)
    As Jonathan says above about BtMM, this too belongs in a middle school library. Sadly there are 14 year old (and younger) victims of sexual abuse and/or torture so it isn’t like these things are absolutely out of the realm of possibility for children. As Jonathan has stated in past years, a book only needs to work for that one individual 14 year old reader to fit into the newbery criteria (if it works extremely well for that reader).

    Would CNV be served by being awarded a newbery medal or honor? Probably not. Would the committee’s discussion be served by discussing this title around the table and being able to reference its strengths when discussing other titles? Probably. I wouldn’t vote for this one as a newbery contender but I would expect all the committee members to have read it.

  18. — I still take issues with this sentiment: “a book only needs to work for that one individual 14 year old reader to fit into the newbery criteria” — whether from Jonathan or others: I believe that Newbery Award should reward authors who have the minds and skills to write specifically for a child “audience” which implies not a singular reader or a thin sliver of readership, but in a more widely applicable vein — structure, vocabulary, interests, experiences, emotions, etc.

    • Nina Lindsay says:

      Roxanne, are you saying “widely” in terms of audience…meaning multiple individuals…or “widely” in terms of approaching a definition of childhood, which is what you seem to be listing at the end. B/c I don’t think that’s at odd with a narrow readership.

  19. –this book is not about abuse or torture of children. I’m not saying that in and of itself would make it “not a children’s book”, but I do think it basically negates or minimizes anything about “this is what our children are dealing with”. Unlike, say, TENDER MORSELS, which is a young adult book about young adults being sexually abused (etc), and was perfect for the Printz (not the Newbery).

    –that the physical torture is offscreen doesn’t necessarily make it less disturbing. It’s told in a manner to disturb and intrigue… the young adult. And older. The reporting of it is done in an entirely different manner from the comparison you draw with BOMB. The young reader isn’t meant to be comfortable with what happens in HIroshima and Nagasaki, certainly, but neither is it focused on or dwelt on.

    –I “expect” everyone to be familiar with this book because I think it’s probably the best book of the year, but not because I think it would particularly add to the Newbery discussion. I wouldn’t expect the committee to be any more familiar with it on that level than I’d need them to be familiar with, say, Cheryl Strayed’s WILD or any other good, popular book.

    –My feeling is that it doesn’t necessarily “belong” in a middle school library–not as in, every middle school should buy this book. Individual librarians, of course, will make choices for their own schools. I’ll be curious to hear what my sister (a middle school librarian) has to say about it.

  20. Interesting that Wendy cited Cheryl Strayed’s Wild up there (I’m Wendy’s school librarian sister), because last spring, one of my seventh grade students was reading that very book. It was her mom’s copy that she borrowed when her mom was finished. You all want to talk about that for the Newbery, too? I think this kid was 13.

  21. TeenReader says:

    Old nominations:


    Alright. First, SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS, because in my mind it is distinguished in a level clearly beyond anything I’ve read. I also love Bomb, but I’ll choose REMARKABLE, because it has fallen to the wayside, but is a distinguished and enjoyable read nonetheless.

  22. Nina, basically, I meant (since my high school seniors were reading and discussing Lolita today) that even if there exist some 8th graders (14-year-olds) who would enjoy, appreciate, or deeply understand a book such as “Lolita” or “In Cold Blood” and recent years, “The Game of Thrones,” it does not make these books “children’s books” or should they be awarded something akin to The Newbery. I want to respect the intention of The Newbery Award – which is to foster great literature FOR children. I don’t want to talk about my own opinions on Code Name or other “cuspy” YA’s, but I want to make it known that the notion of an extremely slim readership within the 0-14 age range, in my book, does not honor the actual field of Children’s Literature, nor the skills and talents of so many wonderful “children’s authors.”

  23. Thnak you, fairrosa, for expressing that so clearly. I want to clarify that my comment was not in response to Jonathan’s post–I have not yet read Meth Moon–but in response to the Code Name Verity comments.

  24. Sheila Welch says:

    Okay, here are my five:


  25. Jonathan Hunt says:

    TWELVE KINDS OF ICE . . . Betsy, I’m curious if you have any child readers for the book, and if so, what their reactions have been. Is it a book for third and fourth graders? Or for older children? Or for adults?

    BENEATH A METH MOON . . . Perhaps I should clarify. I don’t think this book is an automatic purchase for elementary libraries, but certainly there is nothing in it that would make it inappropriate for intermediate grades. As I said, it’s more of an interest level thing rather than a subject matter thing.

    CODE NAME VERITY . . . I’m happy to see Eric nominate this title because we are interested in excellence, after all, and not every last mediocre middle grade novel. If the 1974 committee could nominate THE CHOCOLATE WAR, then I see no reason why the 2013 committee can’t nominate CODE NAME VERITY. It’s just one nomination, folks. I think you’re underestimating the power of consensus. It might be easier to elect a third party presidential candidate than to build consensus around CODE NAME VERITY. Seriously. You may also have forgotten that it’s not enough for CODE NAME VERITY to be the most distinguished book, it has to do what it does for its audience of 14-year-olds better than what the younger books do for their audiences.

  26. Elle Librarian says:

    Previous nominations:

    1. One and Only Ivan
    2. Liar and Spy
    3. Lions of Little Rock

    New nominations:

    4. Splendors & Gloom
    5. Each Kindness

  27. Jonathan, I object not necessarily to the nomination–because any of us can nominate whatever we want, and that’s as it should be–but the suggestion that there’s nothing in the book that makes it “too old” (either in content or in structure), and that it belongs in middle school libraries. (Again, it’s not like I would object if I saw it in one.) I don’t think the book belongs in the Newbery canon, but I’m not worried about it getting there, either virtually or in actuality, for the reasons you say.

    I feel the same about many of the, as you put it, “mediocre middle grade novels” and add “mediocre non-fiction”. I wonder why we spend time on it when there is richer stuff to talk about (or, in the case of CODE NAME VERITY, stuff that is within the Newbery’s age range), but I suppose that’s the nature of working with a large group of people.

  28. I am so happy to see the Horvath getting some notice! Whatever else you think about it, it’s not mediocre 😉

    My previous nominations:
    No Crystal Stair

    My new nominations:
    Mr and Mrs Bunny
    Code Name Verity

  29. Jonathan Hunt says:

    We have 15 people who have submitted their second round of nominations. Assuming that we are a committee, this is what we would see if we collated first and second round nominations . . .

    (10) BOMB


    (5) LIAR AND SPY

    (4) MOONBIRD





    (2) CROW





    (2) MR. AND MRS. BUNNY






    (1) NO NAME BABY

    (1) WONDER














    I think these results are somewhat misleading because many of us nominated with the assumption that LIAR & SPY and THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN have more nominations than they do on this tally. Nevertheless, you can see that BOMB and SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS are in a good position. The winning book would need eight of us to vote for it with our first place vote. I think based on this (and the earlier strong showing of LIAR & SPY) that one of these three books would probably be our eventual winner. In a way, we have come to consensus even before our discussions start. Any book with 3-4 nominations at this point would probably be a darkhorse contender for the Medal, but more probably an honor book candidate–at least, with this particular group of fifteen people.

    Since we had 30 people nominate last time, I’ll ask you to keep your nominations coming and we’ll collect the nominations for a second committee, just to see how different and similar the results are.

  30. For a worthy transitional chapter book candidate, has any one taken a good look at LITTLE DOG LOST, by former Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer?

  31. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Oh, good call! I loved LITTLE DOG LOST! My county library system has seven copies of it and all seven copies are constantly checked out. Being a verse novel, I didn’t really think of it in the context of a transitional chapter book, but it so clearly is, now that you mention it. We’ll probably do a chapter book post once I fish around a little bit more.

  32. My first three were:


    To those I add:

  33. My first three nominations were:

    The Lions of Little Rock
    Liar & Spy
    No Crystal Stair

    My next two nominations are:

    The False Prince
    See You at Harry’s

  34. Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, Detectives Extraordinaire
    Splendors and Glooms
    Liar and Spy
    The One and Only Ivan
    Starry River of the Sky

  35. My first three were:
    LIAR & SPY

    I’m going to add:
    EACH KINDNESS (to give it a bit of oomph)
    JEPP, WHO DEFIED THE STARS (to get it on the table)


  37. From before:
    LIAR & SPY

    The two additions:

  38. Geez, Monica, where’d that one come from? Don’t you know my budget is kaput!

  39. Starry River of the Sky
    Titanic: Voices from the Disaster
    Liar and Spy
    No Crystal Stair

  40. In re: CODE NAME VERITY: I’m saving my takedown of the book for Someday My Printz Will Come (I love it, but don’t think it is close to the best YA book of the year, let alone Children’s), but I did want to chime in on Wendy and Roxanne’s side in saying that this title is WAY too old. I don’t think it’s remotely “cuspy” unless, as Roxanne said, you want to consider LOLITA and IN COLD BLOOD “cuspy.” The narrative structure, the torture, the background knowledge assumed all point me to a 16-18 age range.

    But, as Jonathan says, it’s just a nomination, and I doubt the consensus will build around it.

  41. I should say I was thinking of adding to what was here already, not a separate committee! I might have strategized differently if so. Say, piled on to one of my favorites that is at 2 to bring it to 3.

  42. Jennifer P. says:

    My five are a bit repetitive, but oh well!

    LIAR & SPY

    I really feel like WONDER is suffering from some backlash of the “It’s too popular!” sort. I find that really unfortunate because it’s such a fantastic and deeply felt story. I hope it’s not forgotten or discarded.

  43. I didn’t vote before, so here’s my five.

    One and Only Ivan
    Liar and Spy
    Great Unexpected
    Splendors and Gloom
    We’ve Got a Job

  44. Oops, Tuesdays at the Castle was last year.

  45. Jennifer P. says:

    D’oh. You’re so right. So I’ll amend:

    LIAR & SPY

  46. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Monica, I’ll do the next fifteen people as a separate committee, but then when the thread peters out, I’ll tabulate all 30+ together for a final tally. I just wanted to give people a sense of how a list of 15 people might look . . .

  47. Jonathan Hunt says:

    CODE NAME VERITY probably helps some people realize that NO CRYSTAL STAIR and BENEATH A METH MOON aren’t really too old, after all. I’m glad to see so many people come around to the brilliant work of Elizabeth Wein. I, of course, was an Elizabeth Wein fan before it was cool to be an Elizabeth Wein fan. To wit: You want a book about tortured children? Check out THE SUNBIRD. Now there’s a book that should have won the Newbery.

  48. Julie Corsaro says:

    1. Twelve Kinds of Ice: Evocative can sometimes be boring, but this prose poem is so firmly rooted in realistic details that I found it enthralling. I think it’s as much about family and community, as ice and skating. Since I grew up ice skating (Fridays at the outdoor rink, Saturdays at the indoor rink), I’m a little worry that I’m biased, so I’m passing the book along to a really smart friend who grew up in the south for a more objective view (but maybe, she went roller skating!).

    2. Liar & Spy: More nostalgia. As Stead did in When You Reach Me (I know these kinds of comparisons are a “no-no” with Newbery discussions), she takes me back to the good-old days of junior high school. I think no one does young adolescent dynamics better, and I like Stead’s no-words-wasted style of writing.

    3. Temple Grandin: Okay, I think Sy Montgomery can do no wrong. That said, Montgomery makes writing with enormous clarity look easy, as she does with two complex topics: autism and humane animal slaughter practices. Montgomery also conveys enormous enthusiasm and integrity regarding her subject, and wisely acknowledges the award-winning HBO movie immediately by opening with Grandin waiting for a phone call concerning inaccuracies in the film. That movie and this book are different (as they should be). and I liked learning more about Grandin’s childhood (including her parent’s marriage) through the reading.

    4. The Bomb: Loved the daring Norwegians, and how the many disparate threads set around the globe come together with great fluidity. I also liked the suspense (more liars and spies), and found the depiction of Oppenheimer quite moving in the end. I used to walk by the Henry Moore sculpture at the University of Chicago that acknowledges the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction and I also lived in Santa Fe and drove up the mountain to Los Alamos, all the time wondering, “Why did they call it the Manhattan Project?” Now, I know, as I learned a lot, enjoying every second of it. I’ve also had some engaging, heated conversations about “The Bomb.”

    5. Tie: Wonder and Son. My indulgences. About the former, I’ve heard the criticisms and even agree with some of them, but it was a very enjoyable read and I can fully appreciate why it’s a best seller. About the latter, I’ve heard the criticisms, and don’t agree with many of them: I think dystopian literature doesn’t have to fueled by violence and non-stop action. I also think very few authors write with as much eloquence and intelligence as Lowry (and I think it stands alone).

    On my “to-read” list: Starry River of the Sky & Splendors and Glooms

  49. Liar and Spy
    The Lions of Little Rock
    Temple Grandin

  50. Hmm. There are still some I have hopes for but haven’t read yet, particularly Starry River of the Sky, The Peculiar, and Bomb. But going with what I’ve read, trying to bring a couple more to the table:

    Palace of Stone
    Summer of the Gypsy Moths
    The One and Only Ivan
    The Mighty Mars Rovers
    We’ve Got a Job

  51. Jonathan Hunt says:

    We’re still waiting for several more nominations to complete our “second” committee, but I’ve been looking at the results of the “first” committee . . .

    BOMB (10) and SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS (8) seem to be leading the pack as both of them now have at least 8 people on the “committee” who have listed them among their five nominations–8 being the magic number as that is how many first place votes the winning book needs. We have 4 swing voters (i.e. people who nominated both BOMB and SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS). BOMB would only need two of them to get to the magic number; SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS would probably need all four.

    There is only one person that did not vote for either book, and she could be an additional vote in play. She is the only person who did not nominate any nonfiction so I could easily seeing this as a vote for SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS. She may, of course, opt not to vote for either one keeping her books alive for possible honor status instead.

    Another layer is that you know, by the number of suggestions for each title, that there may be people who could support these titles in the next round of nominations. Of course, the next round of nominations for this “committee” would probably bring LIAR & SPY (and possibly others) into the mix of serious contenders.

    Nevertheless, you begin to see at least a dozen books at this point that you want to focus on rereading and reflecting upon.

  52. 1. Child of the Mountains
    2. Lions of Little Rock
    3. Wonder
    4. Splendors and Glooms
    5. We’ve Got a Job

  53. 1. Splendors and Glooms
    2. Kindred souls
    3. Wonder
    4. Temple Grandin
    5. Each Kindness

  54. Jennifer P. says:

    I didn’t include SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS or BOMB in my list of five, though I know at least one other person commenting didn’t either. BOMB, while wonderful, skewed too old for the age-range, I think (though I’m obviously in the minority), and no other nonfiction book really stood out as exceptional this year for me. So if it was my list, Jonathan, I might stick with my original five in hopes for an honor spot for one or more.

    Can I vote for WONDER twice? Kidding!

  55. I’m the other reader that didn’t include either SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS or BOMB in my list of five. I just got BOMB and started the first few chapters yesterday. I have SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS in my pile to read.

    I nominated my top 5 from among the books I’ve read to date. I am eager to read both of these other 2, so my vote is still very much “in play.”

    Are we nominating another 2 books, like the actual committee?

  56. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Jennifer and Cheryl, you are actually in the second group of 15 (which I’ve yet to comment on because it’s incomplete). The two people in the first group that did not include nonfiction were Sheila Welch and Elle Librarian, but this can be somewhat misleading because if we had shadowed the suggestion process then both of those people may be nonfiction-friendly, but for whatever reason just didn’t nominate. Moreover, Elle Librarian did nominate a picture book in EACH KINDNESS so it’s hard to fault her for not thinking outside the box.

    On an earlier thread, I posited a scenario where perhaps as many as a third of the committee was indifferent to nonfiction. I’m happy to see that that is not the case here on this blog at all. Not everybody is going to love BOMB, but there are a half dozen strong nonfiction contenders, and I think if we were all up to speed on the reading, we might even see more nominations in that direction (or on late fall titles or underappreciated titles).

  57. Liar and Spy
    The Mighty Mars Rovers
    The One and Only Ivan

    Members of my family would have loved Seraphina in middle school (despite or because of its classic YA themes), and it is truly distinguished, so it earns one of my votes.

  58. Jonathan, I feel that it’s a little misleading thinking that the number of nominations have such strong bearings to the outcome of the award. In HERE, where most people probably have not read 150-200 books like many of the Newbery Committee members have done, your theory might hold true — because the playing field is kind of small.

    I wonder about other former Newbery members — do you all have this experience where you can predict winning titles/honor titles the the number of supports prior to the January discussion? I cannot say that mine from 11 years ago pan out this way!

  59. The Mighty Miss Malone
    One for the Murphys
    Summer of the Gypsy Moths
    The Lions of Little Rock

  60. Jonathan, is it fair to assume that someone who didn’t nominate nonfiction isn’t “thinking outside the box”? What’s wrong with truly thinking that the five best books of the year, out of the ones one has read, are middle grade novels? I actually think most of the non-fiction selections that have been mentioned here aren’t particularly distinguished, and you do. What’s wrong with that?

  61. Jennifer P. says:

    Jonathan, I guess I’m not quite sure how to the take “thinking outside the box” comment. The books I nominated, though all fiction, are books that I think are truly distinguished this year. I don’t think including nonfiction or picture books is necessarily a sign of a original thinker.

  62. Jennifer P. says:

    Or a sign of AN original thinker.

  63. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I actually didn’t say that there was anything wrong with nominating five fiction titles, or that it wasn’t thinking outside the box to do so, and if I seemed to imply that then I apologize. I meant to say that nominating a picture book is thinking outside the box. I also said that if you nominate five fiction titles it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t like nonfiction or wouldn’t support the right one. Perhaps I was typing too hastily in between classes. Again, I apologize for the unintended slight.

    Here’s why I, personally, find it impossible to nominate five fiction titles this year. I only need three of them–NO CRYSTAL STAIR, LIAR & SPY, and SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS (and I don’t even “like” this one)–to dimiss the rest of the field. In other words, don’t tell me why SUMMER OF THE GYPSY MOTH or THREE TIMES LUCKY or whatever is distinguished. Tell me why it’s better than those three. I can’t beat those three apples with inferior apples, but I might be able to beat them with superior oranges which is why I look further afield for atypical choices. But that’s my personal philosophy. To each his own.

    Roxanne, I think nominations mean different things in different years. I think it can be a good predictor of things to come, but not necessarily. I imagine it depends whether the nominations fall heavily on two to three books or whether there is a bigger pack of several contenders. I also imagine that it might depend on how quickly the committee comes to consensus. First or second ballot? Or a half dozen or more?

  64. Jonathan Hunt says:

    In other words, maybe you liked BOMB just as much as I liked THE ONLY AND ONLY IVAN and LIAR & SPY, but just opted to bring different books to our attention, like I did with TWELVE KINDS OF ICE and BENEATH A METH MOON. Maybe you widened our focus with a poetry book or a picture book or in other important ways. Maybe you just nominated with your heart. All of those are perfectly acceptable. During my year (and I do not know that this is always the case) nominations were anonymous so you really didn’t know who nominated what (and what else they may have nominated), thus keeping the focus on the book and not who nominated it.

  65. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Okay, here’s what our second committee of 15 picked.

    (12) LIAR & SPY


    (6) WONDER

    (5) BOMB

    (4) WE’VE GOT A JOB

    (4) IVAN






    (2) TITANIC

    (2) MR. AND MRS. BUNNY
















    I’ll spare you the overanalyzing, but I just wanted to break this into two groups of fifteen in order to show you how similar/different two entirely different groups of nominations by smart, well read people can be. (I didn’t include Chelsea’s recent nominations in this mix, but I will next time).

    We’ll have some more votes trickle in and then I will add *all* of the votes together so we can see how we did as one great big virtual supercommittee.

  66. Nina Lindsay says:

    I’m staying out of this round. Too hard for me when I still haven’t read some important ones. I think that’s what’s making the difference in how people are choosing. If anything, I think this makes this act more like a “suggestion” list….i.e., what people can really get behind, but they haven’t necessarily read everything they need too yet. Still fun! And I think it gives a nice sense of how the spread works.

  67. samuel leopold says:

    The One and only Ivan

    Splendors and glooms

    Wooden Bones

    The lions of little rock

    No Crystal stair

  68. Jonathan, this year (and if I recall correctly, in 2001-2002, too) our nominations were NOT anonymous… I thought that is the rule… surprised to hear that your year the nominations were also anonymous! (Our Suggestions have been, are, and will be.)

  69. Thoughts on nba winner GOBLIN SECRETS? I’ve been slogging through it and hope it gets exciting soon…

  70. Sheila Welch says:

    Off Topic: Interesting that the NBA has categories for adult fiction, nonfiction, and poetry but considers all forms for the one award for children’s literature. That’s fine. At least they now include books for youth. But maybe it’s time for the Newbery to acknowledge the astounding number of children’s books being published today, compared to ninety years ago, when the award was a new concept. Maybe it’s time to give a Newbery for children’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Or is that too outside the box? Last year’s winner and honor books were all basically historical fiction. Nonfiction has the Sibert but “a” Newbery would carry that Newbery aura of prestige. And poetry would get more attention, too. Yes, poetry and novels in verse have won, but it’d be nice to give a Newbery to a book of poetry every year. I know this isn’t happening but maybe it’s time for a change.

  71. YOu were very quick on that one Eric. I had to go Twitter to confirm. I still need to wrest GS from a student who is in no big hurry to finish. Not a page turner apparently.

  72. mslibrarian says:

    YES!!!! Re Goblin Secrets. I think it wins because out of the five books, it stands out for being QUITE different from the other four — and it is definitely younger than the others — perhaps the judges take the notion of “young people” as befitting the middle grade audience? I have an incredible fondness of this book. Having read it months ago, I can easily conjure up the scenes, the fears, the conflicts, and the nightmarish beauty (think Miyazaki) by Alexander! I imagine this is a book that one gets more out of upon second reading, too. What a pleasant surprise!

  73. I have to say that the notion of suggesting or nominating nonfiction, picture books, poetry, etc. as being “outside the box” is not far-fetched: given the outcomes of Newbery winners. Year after year, Middle Grade Fiction (and mostly realistic or historical ones) has won — so in a way, they FORM a BOX — which sometimes can mean “the standard.” And anything that bucks that standard IS outside of the box. Just remember: without nominations, they won’t even be discussed at the Newbery meetings.

  74. I don’t think anyone said it wasn’t “outside the box”–it was the implied value judgment I think we objected to (which Jonathan says wasn’t intended, so I was going to leave it at that). Just because someone nominated only novels doesn’t mean s/he didn’t consider other books.

  75. Jonathan Hunt says:

    The nominations (and some of the more recent issues on this thread) have migrated here to this post.

  76. I’m going to reveal my ignorance and confess that I think I am fundamentally not understanding the nomination process (for the real committee, not for the blog.) If a book is on the table and will be able to be discussed by being nominated by a single member of the committee, I don’t understand why someone would purposefully nominate it in the second or third round after it as already been nominated in the first or second round of nominations. It’s already going to be a part of the discussion, so you don’t have to worry about it being “missed”. If you have something to say about how amazing you think the book is, why not wait until the committee meets and use your nomination to bring up another book that might not otherwise get to be talked about? (This is assuming that you find other books discussion-worthy, if you can’t think of anything worth talking about other than a previously nominated book, obviously that makes sense.)

    People keep talking about the strategy of nominating for support, but I don’t understand why that is a strategy, since the book will be discussed regardless. Are there tangible benefits to being multiply nominated, or just the intangible idea that “wow, a lot of other people really seem to love this book, maybe I should read it a fifth time to find what I’m missing” that starts to already convince people even before the meeting? Do books with multiple nominations get talked about first, or given more discussion time, officially or unofficially?

  77. Nina Lindsay says:

    Alys, that intangible “maybe I need to read this again” is certainly true. But books aren’t given more time for discussion or preferential treatment based just on the number of nominations. … not even unofficially, in my experience. The chair attempts to give each book “enough” time for thorough discussion, and since time is tight, that does mean moving things along if there’s nothing new being said. Ergo: books with a huge amount of support could theoretically wind up with *less* discussion, if it seems like everyone’s on the same page.

    Since every book does get discussed, there is a strategy in getting a title up there just to make sure it’s discussed…and single-nominations can go far. There’s also strategy in NOT lending your nomination to a title that you feel is problematic.

    Who knows how all this plays out. But let me give you an example, since I pointedly did NOT submit fake nominations for this second round. My first 3 were Splendors & Glooms, No Crystal Stair, and “probably one nonfiction” but I hadn’t settled. Let’s say Moonbird. So, seeing the results of that round of nominations:


    and knowing how I feel about the highly-nominated BOMB, I might specifically choose this round to nominate another nonfiction title that is not BOMB…let’s say TEMPLE GRANDIN. That would both widen the support for different nonfiction titles…but also in my nomination statement I’d point out the qualities that I felt were strongest in TG that could be used in argument against BOMB.

  78. I’m still not sure I understand the strategy in adding support to a title that’s already been nominated. You mention that there is a strategy in NOT lending your nomination to something you feel is problematic (by which I assume you mean not re-nominating something that’s already been nominated, since if you have problems with it you’re not going to be the one to introduce it), which in turn implies that re-nominating something to add “support” is doing something….

    Your example is that you might nominate TEMPLE GRANDIN (which had already been nominated, so you would be “lending support” with your nomination) and specifically tailor your nomination so that the committee would already be primed for your anti-Bomb argumetns. Is that one reason to renominate things that have already been nominated, to add to the discussion before the committee meets, to save time, essentially?

  79. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Remember that titles have been suggested and re-suggested, so committee members already have a vague idea of which titles have more support than others. In the nomination process the committee begins the task of coming to consensus. The more people that nominate a book, the closer the committee may be to building consensus around that title. This is the best reason to re-nominate a title. In the final month between the last round of nominations and the discussion meetings, members can concentrate their rereading efforts on those titles which appear to have the most support. This is another good reason to re-nominate a title. Nobody really wants that last round of nominations to yield 30 additional titles each with only one nomination.

    When I was on the committee, there were only two rounds of nominations, but you also brought all the suggestions to the table. We had to be ready to discuss about 100 books give or take. Now with three rounds of seven nominations, you don’t bring any suggestions to the table, so I imagine the third round of nominations might have even less of the pile-on nominations than you see in the second round, but I still think you would see them.

    For example, I, too, would nominate TEMPLE GRANDIN, but for a different reason than Nina. I always liked the book. I just didn’t think that many people would nominate it, but now that they have, I’m jumping on the bandwagon, too. Because TEMPLE GRANDIN would pick up additional nominations from Nina and I (and possibly others, too) in the third round, it would allow people to spend more time with the book in the final month than they otherwise might have. It positions the book as a more serious contender, not only in terms of getting closer to majority support, but also in relation to the rest of the field. That is, TEMPLE GRANDIN may not gain ground on BOMB, LIAR & SPY, and SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS, but it may move past NO CRYSTAL STAIR, THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, SUMMER OF THE GYPSY MOTHS, WONDER, STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY, and THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK.

  80. It seems to me that nominations serve your choice of two straightforward purposes: 1) to submit a title for discussion that you think is worthy and has not been nominated yet, i.e. “get it on the table”, or 2) to add support to a title that others have chosen but that you think is a top contender for a prize, i.e. to “pile on the bandwagon”. So you have a choice of one of two options for each of your seven choices. In fact, I can not think of another way to do things. :-)

  81. In my last comment I was thinking about the most straightforward way I could think about the nomination process as possible – Nina and Jonathan, please correct me if there is some integral nuance that I am missing that would alter the process for someone on “the real thing” – but I just now had a few thoughts on a more personal perspective. I am sure everyone on the committee has their own way of going about the process, but I am almost coming from the opposite strategy of Alys (really nothing personal at all, Alys’s comment was just what happened to trigger all the possibilities in my brain). From my point of view, the nominations should be an honest representation of you putting forward what you believe to be the best candidates for the prize out of the hundreds that you have read and perused and suggested before. If I believe that a book is one of my seven favorites and no one has selected yet, I would be perfectly happy being the lone voice in the crowd and “getting it on the table”. But if I think something is one of my seven favorites and it also happens to be on ten other people’s lists, what do I care? I wish to support my favorite and move closer toward the process of building a strong consensus around a title I support as soon as possible; the more people share my admiration the merrier.

    And let’s be honest, most of even the nominated books don’t have any legitimate chance. Sure, top forty or fifty sounds fabulous when you started out with a thousand, but ultimately only four or five of them are going to get a sticker on the jacket, and only one of them will be gold. That is what makes the process and the result so thorough and so prestigious, consensus is inevitable and necessary to achieve any sort of result. Picking seven may sound like the highest honor you can bestow at the time, every choice may seem precious…but in the end you will only vote for three. You will be dropping more than half of your OWN books when push comes to shove. Does anyone really think that a lone-nominated (one person’s top seven) book will have a chance at getting into ANYONE’S top THREE when all is said and done, much less more than the one lone person or one or two other people that they may be able to miraculously convince? Especially when you need EIGHT FIRST PLACE votes to win? All you are doing is adding to the meeting time. I am a process guy, so the discussion and the variety therin is very important to me, but I think it is also necessary to see the big picture and think about what you are really trying to achieve. Although the nominations could be misleading (you could theoretically have ten of fifteen people willing to put something seventh but not second), if something gets ten nominations and another book only has three, I think it is obvious which title more people on that particular committee are in admiration of and which has a much more realistic shot at getting the votes necessary after the rounds of discussion have proceeded. If I was trying to decide from a group of four books for my last two nominations, and two had not been selected yet, maybe I would try to make the unselected titles known if I really could not decide. But why not just be honest with your choices either way and help the process along rather than just adding more books to slog through during Midwinter, which as nice as each of them may be for one commendable quality or another, have a 90% chance of not cutting it, especially if they are only there out of strategy rather than your honest passion for the book itself?

    Thoughts, Nina or Jonathan (or anyone else)?

  82. In my experience there is an aspect of flying blind prior to arriving at the actual meetings in January. That is, you can see how many nominations a particular book got, but until you actually talk face to face you can’t really know how passionately people feel. And so if you have strong reservations about a book you might indeed do as Nina said she might — nominate a book to get it on the table so you can use it when discussing the one you have reservations about. I definitely found that to be the case my year.

  83. Alys, another great reason for multiple/repeated nominations for top titles is to maintain a reasonable number of books that we have to re-read and re-think about and to discuss during the meetings in January. If we don’t re-nominate titles already on the list from the first or second round of nomination, we might wind up with, say, 80 books to discuss over just two days (not really that much time) — and many of these titles would have been someone’s 10th or 15th top (or even lower due to the fact that people’s top choices are already nominated by someone else on the committee.) So we will spend precious time discussing titles that have NO chance whatsoever at winning the medal. Since we do not have a choice of “passing,” I sometimes view adding support as my saying, “I pass” for this round even though I still write a very well supported nomination paragraph — because it is a great exercise to add additional positive points of a title already nominated. This is something that we must also do during our discussion: because a winning book should really have multiple outstanding facets.

    On the other hand, I don’t know that I function the same way as some of the other experienced Newbery judges: Nina, Jonathan, and Monica are all very strategic about their nominations. I am not sure that I am that strategic. My reason for nominating something that someone else has already nominated could just have been that I REALLY REALLY support a particular book and don’t want to use my vote for any book that is not my true top choices. Personally, I am uncomfortable nominating something just because I think it will lend some contrast to another title — because, I think it can always backfire and because I don’t want to be the person presenting the title to the committee to open the discussion (as we have to) if I don’t actually feel truly positive about any book.

  84. Ah, that is indeed an interesting point the more I think it over, Monica – using a selection to provide an alternative. I would just have to be sure that the alternative in question was a strong enough pick for it to merit one of my top placings and justifications. If I had felt that it might have made it onto my list anyway, as I think Nina does with “Temple Grandin”, then I would certainly jump at the chance to enrich the discussion, preferably in my favor. I would feel uncomfortable doing that with a book that I merely felt was just good especially if I had some excellent options sitting in front of me, however. But I do not think that that is what you are implying. Either way, it certainly is great point.

  85. I should clarify that I loved every book I nominated even if some were indeed strategic.

  86. My apologies, Monica, if I misrepresented your strategy.

  87. Sheila Welch says:

    These questions may have already been answered, but I missed the information. For the real award, not our mock one, who decides how many honor books will be named? And how is that decision made?

  88. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Honestly, I’m not really that strategic in my nominations either. (Voting is an entirely different matter, however.) In the first round, I vote for my top three books. In the second round, if my opinion has changed and a new book has entered my top three then I vote for that one (or two). Ditto for the third round. If no new book(s) climbs into my top three, then I look to nominate excellent, but underappreciated books, “underappreciated” meaning either “doesn’t have as many nominations as I think it should have” or “nobody has nominated this yet so I better do it.” I would never nominate something just for the sake of contrast (not that that can’t be a good secondary reason for nominating), because I feel that if it’s been suggested, and everybody has read it, then I can reference it in the discussion for the sake of comparison.

    Honor books must from the winning ballot. The committee can either re-ballot for honor books or they can choose the next several books. The precise number of honor books is at the discretion of the committee, but the reason for a varying number of honor books from year to year has to do with the way the votes cluster around certain titles.


  1. […] seeing it referred to in various blog comments) until November, when Jonathan Hunt brought it up on Heavy Medal and Roger Sutton used it as the example in his Nov/Dec editorial for the Horn Book, about how […]

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