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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

The Tip of the Iceberg

At the end of the last Heavy Medal season, Wendy announced–

I’m now retiring from Newbery fandom. This was my fifth year, and I read more widely than ever before thanks to the great Seattle Public Library system that I’m now privy to (72 books that I considered eligible for the Newbery, plus a number of Printz, Sibert, Caldecott, etc), and I am just burned out.

Burnout is a serious problem if you try to read like the Newbery committee does year after year which is one reason why Nina and I never feel compelled to read or discuss every single worthy title, and why one of our mantras here has always been that we are more interested in simulating the Newbery process than in predicting it.  No matter how widely you read in the field, you will always be surprised by something.  Case in point, last year Newbery committee Roxanne Feldman listed her top 40 books, and among those books were the following which were never discussed or, I think, even mentioned here either in a post or in the comments (although I could be wrong).  I had never even heard of quite a few of them.

 

BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore

FAKE MOUSTACHE by Tom Angleberger

THE HIGH SKIES ADVENTURES OF BLUE JAY THE PIRATE by Scott Nash

THE VENGEKEEP PROPHECIES by Brian Farrey

A DIAMOND IN THE DESERT by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

SHADOWS IN FLIGHT by Orson Scott Card

THE SECRET OF FORTUNE WOOKIE by Tom Angleberger

CHOMP by Carl Hiaassen

NEVERSINK by Barry Wolverton

THE ADVENTURES OF SIR BALIN THE ILL-FATED by Gerald Morris

 

Now we don’t know if any of Roxanne’s fellow committee members felt as enthusiastic about these titles as she did, and if so, how many.  We might also assume that if each of the fifteen members had made a top 40 list that there would be a handful on each list that we did not discuss or even mention on Heavy Medal, meaning that there is quite likely several dozen titles that committee suggested to each other that we never even considered here.  In other words, what we do and see here on this blog really only represents, in many ways, the tip of the iceberg.  That kind of knowledge is one of the reasons that many past committee members are reticent to criticize present and future committees.  Not only did we not read as broadly as they did, we didn’t read as deeply.  I try to reread our shortlisted books plus several others, but during my tenure on the committee, I read quite a few books three or four times–and that kind of deep reading tends to be the rule rather than the exception, especially for the very top tier of contenders.  That knowledge doesn’t make our conversations here any less important or fun, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t often feel as proud of our results as the real committee must feel about theirs.  Here’s to another year of chipping away at the tip of the iceberg–and with reckless abandon, it would seem, if the early discussions of HOKEY POKEY and THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING are any indication.

 
share save 171 16 The Tip of the Iceberg
Jonathan Hunt About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the County Schools Librarian at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at hunt_yellow@yahoo.com

Comments

  1. Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says:

    Thanks, Roxanne, for posting your favorites and Jonathan for reminding us. Still sitting on my shelf are many of my own favorites from when I was on the committee… WELL WISHED by Franny Billingsley, WOMAN IN THE WALL by Patrice Kindl, THE CANNING SEASON by Polly Horvath, THE RIVER BETWEEN US by Richard Peck, ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie….

    • DaNae says:

      Funny thing, I read both THE CANNING SEASON and WELL WISHED this past year. I’ve loved Alexie’s book for ages. Your years showered an embarrassment of riches.

  2. fairrosa says:

    Nina, I ADORED Woman in the Wall So so so much… it is a special book that needs to find those special and thoughtful readers with a sense of very sophisticated humor. The River Between Us has the most vivid scenes of what a war-front make-shift hospital might feel and smell like that I can still visualize/sense the whole thing after so many years. You and I can definitely discuss whether The Canning Season is a “children’s book” — since although I loved it to pieces, I wished that it had been published as an adult book and garnered better attention within a more appropriate readership.

    • Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says:

      Oh, fighting words re Canning Season! It is a perfect “cusp” book, which i believe the Newbery criteria soundly allow room for….

  3. Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

    THE CANNING SEASON did win the National Book Award that year, however. Speaking of NBA, the longlist is announced on Thursday, I think.

    Every committee member has books that could have reached a wider audience if only . . . During my tenure, I was pleased that THE PENDERWICKS won the National Book Award and DAY OF TEARS won the Coretta Scott King as those were among my favorites (the Caldecott and Printz recognized even more of my favorites), but I often wonder what kind of readers would have found THE OLD COUNTRY by Mordicai Gerstein or THE SEVEN WONDERS OF SASSAFRAS SPRINGS by Betty Birney or 47 by Walter Mosely or numerous others–if only they had a little help.

  4. Jen J. says:

    Looks like the long lists aren’t going to be announced ’til next Monday now – at least according to E. Lockhart on twitter and since she’s on the selection committee I figure she ought to know!

    • Jen J. says:

      I originally had the Thursday date on my calendar since that’s what was on the NBA website, but I guess I can wait a little longer. Not particularly patiently though!

      • DaNae says:

        Sheesh Josh, how did I leave off Eleanor and Park. But is Maggot Moon eligible? I thought NBA was, like Newbery, exclusive to American authors. Either way those were two of the most powerful reads for me this year.

    • DaNae says:

      Do I remember right that they are putting ten books on the list this year?

      • Jen J. says:

        Yes! 10 for the long list – then narrowed down to 5 for the short list mid October with the winner announced in late November. Anyone have guesses?

    • DaNae says:

      I expect to see:
      THE LUCY VARIATIONS
      YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS
      THE THING ABOUT LUCK
      IF YOU FIND ME
      COURAGE HAS NO COLOR

      I’d like to see:
      P.S. BE ELEVEN
      DOLL BONES
      ONE CAME HOME
      TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGARMAN SWAMP
      OUT OF THE EASY
      ROSE UNDER FIRE
      FAR FAR AWAY
      HATTIE EVER AFTER

      I’m weak on YA and non-fiction. I’m sure, as usual, many of the titles that show up will not have made a blip on my radar.

  5. Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

    Thanks for the info, Jen. I’d trust Lockhart, too, but I think the NBA site still had Thursday when I checked a few days ago.

  6. DaNae says:

    I very much like the idea of reading deeply instead of widely. The last few years I’ve been trying to read as many eligible books as possible to be able to carry on conversation with my students but they do kind of blurr. I make their reading list kind of long to allow them to have enough books for them all to read.

    With the exception of a few YAs I’ve been able to read most of the books that have been given four and five starred reviews, but some were so long ago i need a refresher. Would it be breaking protocol to post a list of the books coming up for discussion?

    • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

      We’re not really that organized. We just fly by the seat of our pants. Nina has a post tomorrow on P.S. BE ELEVEN, but after that it’s my turn and I have no idea what I’ll post about. :-)

      • Eric Carpenter says:

        GHOST HAWK! Please pick GHOST HAWK

      • Alys says:

        Can I make a request that it be a book that has already been published, preferably one that was not published in the last week? It was very frustrating last year when a couple of the books were discussed at a point where most of the readers didn’t have access to copies.

      • Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says:

        (Alys, we hear you, and we’re trying. It’s hard sometimes!)

  7. I know exactly what you mean when you say those who have been on the committee understand the process and hesitate to criticize. I served on Printz last year and while it was a ton of work, it was an experience I cherish. It was not easy reading or pleasure reading, even though I found it fun, it was also exhausting. Never have I read so much and with some much critical reading and thought and in depth. I’m still in a post-committee reading slump after all that work! It’s important to remember that as much fun as the Mock Awards are, they are in no way a match for the work the real committee is doing. I wish them luck and understand all the hard work they are putting into reading-and I’m excited to see what their discussions and reading gift us with in January.

  8. Sherry says:

    NBA Young People Lit to be announced on Monday, Sept 16. 9am
    http://www.nationalbook.org/

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