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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Looking Back: 2005

Mark Flowers has an interesting series on his blog, Crossreferencing, in which he revisits the Printz choices from previous years to see whether he agrees with them or not.  He’s done 2000-2003 so far.  It’s a fun exercise, and while I don’t have the stamina to start the same thing here, I’m going to revisit the year 2005–with the additonal twist of adding a where-are-they-now feature.  And maybe we’ll do this kind of treatment once in awhile . . .


KIRA-KIRA by Cynthia Kadohata won the Newbery Medal in 2005.  It was something of a surprise choice, and while it was too quiet for my personal tastes, there’s a sad quality to the book that especially appealed to my tween girl readers.  Flash forward to 2013.  I’m very enamored of THE THING ABOUT LUCK, and while it, too, is a quiet book, I find it even more compelling, and I love these characters to pieces.

AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS by Gennifer Choldenko won a Newbery Honor for it’s wonderful mix of strong literary elements across the board–plot, character, setting, style, and theme.  Oh, and it was very popular with kids.  Bonus points for that.  Nina already blogged about the third and (ostensibly) final book in the Alcatraz trilogy, noting how underappreciated Choldenko’s talents are.  While I concur, I’m not sure I concur so much that I want another Honor for this one.

Russell Freedman claimed his third Newbery Honor for THE VOICE THAT CHALLENGED A NATION, and it also managed to win the Sibert Medal.  While I liked this title, it wasn’t my favorite nonfiction, but more on that later . . . Freedman continues to be one of our best nonfiction writers, and he was slated to have two books this year, but it looks like ANGEL ISLAND has been pushed into 2014.  BECOMING BEN FRANKLIN has three starred reviews.  It’s another solid effort, but probably not likely to win Freedman his second Newbery Medal or fourth Newbery Honor.  It also comes on the heels of ELECTRIC BEN by Robert Byrd, and that takes some of the shine off of it.

Gary Schmidt won the final Newbery Honor for LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY, which also received a Printz Honor.  Schmidt won a second Honor for THE WEDNESDAY WARS, a book I much preferred because . . . it was more funny.  Hey, I’m a simple creature!  Schmidt continues to be one of the more popular authors writing today, and we discuss each new book, both the worthy (OKAY FOR NOW) and the not so worthy (WHAT CAME FROM THE STARS), but, alas, Schmidt will have to sit out this potential Newbery reunion as he didn’t publish a book this year.

Both of my favorite novels of 2004 were extreme darkhorses, although each had a pair of starred reviews, and generally strong praise.  Both won my heart over for their sensitive, but fearless treatment of difficult subjects.  THE SUNBIRD by Elizabeth Wein (you may have heard of her?) tackled child torture while NO LAUGHTER HERE by Rita Williams-Garcia (you may have heard of her, too?) depicted female genital mutilation.  But don’t let that deter you from reading them, and recommending them to children.  They deserve a wider audience.

Wein has reinvented herself as a YA author of feminist aviation novels with CODE NAME VERITY and ROSE UNDER FIRE.  I’m happy for her success, but disappointed that it didn’t come with her Arthurian/Aksumite cycle.  Williams-Garcia reinvented herself as a historical fiction writer for a middle grade audience.  She was a National Book Award finalist for both JUMPED and ONE CRAZY SUMMER, also winning a Newbery Honor for the latter title.  While I like both of those titles, I can’t help feeling that EVERY TIME A RAINBOW DIES and NO LAUGHTER HERE are the better titles.  Ah, well.  And, of course, Nina has already noted the exceptional strengths of P.S. BE ELEVEN.

My favorite nonfiction title was A DREAM OF FREEDOM by Diane McWhorter, a wonderfully detailed overview of the civil rights movement that moved beyond the iconic figures of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks to show some of the lesser heralded–but no less important–players in this dynamic and dramatic era.  It’s a pity that McWhorter hasn’t written more books for younger readers, but several subsequent books have likewise done the civil rights movement justice, namely CLAUDETTE COLVIN, MARCHING FOR FREEDOM, and COURAGE HAS NO COLOR (which I imagine we’ll discuss at some point this year).

And finally, while I didn’t find this a Medal worthy pick, I did hope for a Newbery Honor for THE OUTCASTS OF 19 SCHUYLER PLACE by E.L. Konigsburg, a companion novel to the impossibly good SILENT TO THE BONE.  Konigsburg passed away on April 19th of this past year, but she leaves behind a wonderful legacy of books, not just the aforementioned gems, but classics like FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER and A PROUD TASTE OF SCARLET AND MINIVER.  On the news of her death, Roger Sutton remarked something to the effect that there were few authors who were just as comfortable being a critic as they were being a creator, and her book of essays and speeches, TALK TALK is ample proof of that.  You will be sorely missed, Elaine!



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. Ohhh, Silent to the Bone!

    Child torture and genital mutilation? You are a barrel of fun. But then those are two authors I would trust with such difficult material. Would you edge those titles to the upper end of the Newbery age limit?

    • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

      Well, it’s somewhat misleading to describe each book as being about those respective topics because, really, they are so much more. Personally, I don’t find either of them as high end as, say, BENEATH A METH MOON or NO CRYSTAL STAIR from last year. The protagonists in these books are, like, eleven years old, so they are most definitely children.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Jonathan, although I should note that I stole the idea myself, from Matt Bird at the Cockeyed Caravan (

    As for 2005, a couple of YA-ish books that could have been Newbery material are AIRBORN by Kenneth Oppel and BUCKING THE SARGE by Christopher Paul Curtis. I don’t think BTS is Curtis’s best work, but he’s always worth discussing. And KNUFFLE BUNNY might have made for an interesting picture book contender – great rhythms in Willems’s language, plus “Aggle-blaggle-klabble”

    • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

      We’d have to annex Toronto in order to make Kenneth Oppel Newbery eligible. Not a bad idea because then we’d also get JonArno Lawson.

  3. I’m so happy that Elizabeth Wein is finally getting so much attention, but more people need to go back and read The Lion Hunter books. They are all so good, but yes, The Sunbird is my favorite. I don’t understand why these are not more widely read.

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