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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Off the radar?

We’ll continue over the next few weeks to review books from our shortlist and talk about the Newbery process as we ramp up to our Mock Newberies on January 11th (Oakland) and 15th (San Diego), but I wanted to take a moment to address Rosanne’s recent comment about whether we’ve noticed small/indie press Newbery contenders in the last few years…not necessarily self-published, just…off the radar.

This is absolutely the hardest part of this blog for me; it’s hard just to stay on top of the “buzz” reading, and seeking out good work among smaller presses is a challenge.  The committee is receiving these books, I can promise you, and hopefully cracking the cover the same as with any other book.   The best way to ferret out great books from smaller publishers is to leverage our collective knowledge, so I’m wondering what you all have noticed that is coming from a smaller publisher, or is otherwise not getting notice?

I’ll start–I’ve been wanting to post about this title all season, and was delighted to see it on Kirkus’ Best of 2014 for Teen.    Denise Lewis Patrick’s A MATTER OF SOULS  was published this spring by Carolrhoada Lab/Lerner…not super small, granted, but not among the “usual suspects” either.   Her short stories here vary widely in tone and subject, but each shows a clarity of voice and character that surpasses most of what I’ve read this year.  So why not on our shortlist?  I see it as a hard sell for Newbery, not necessarily for fair reasons…as with any anthology, some stories are better than others, but also, some of these stories definitely work better as YA than for a children’s audience.   Even so, I hope the actual committee is taking note of this gem, as it pushes that boundary for age level that they need to explore; as well as any of you following #WeNeedDiverseBooks.   And it makes great comparison for “interpretation of theme or concept” with BROWN GIRL DREAMING, REVOLUTION, and HOW I DISCOVERED POETRY.  Check it out.

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. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I was intrigued about this one when it came to my attention, was reminded of it again by the Kirkus list, and would love to hear more discussion of it, as it seems really intriguing. Also, not necessarily a small press, but definitely an independent one (although Nina mentioned it earlier) is THE MEANING OF MAGGIE published by Chronicle.

    • I really liked Meaning of Maggie. I think it is a debut, as well. I’m hoping to give it a second read over the winter break. The story had a lot of similarities to my own childhood, so it may have just resonated with me more on that level. It will be interesting to see how the writing holds up as I read more critically.

  2. Leonard Kim says:


    It is not Newbery quality (but of course it isn’t.) It is still weird and wonderful and effortlessly achieves what many authors try so hard and self-consciously to do, though the humor can be a bit juvenile (of course of course of course.)

    Some tastes:

    Chapter I:
    Jake and Amy heard some music.
    They didn’t know where it was coming from.
    The end.

    End of Chapter VII:
    The trap that you might imagine was set by the Wondrous Man.
    DUN, DUN, DUN!
    But the footprints did not belong to the Wondrous Man…

    End of Chapter X:
    I am going to be returning on Monday! I can’t wait! It is beautiful!
    I can feel the sun already!

  3. Eric Carpenter says:

    I know I’ve mentioned this one a few times in previous comments but RED MADNESS: HOW A MEDICAL MYSTERY CHANGED WHAT WE EAT by Gail Jarrow remains one of my most satisfactory reads this year. It’s from the small publisher Calkins Creek. The book is not without flaws (suffers from low quality photographs) but the layout is clean and the backmatter more than sufficient.
    What I appreciate most about this nonfiction book is that the subject is not necessarily capital I “Important”, it’s not a book you feel compelled to put into every child hands for their own betterment. This is a book for the curious and the scientifically predisposed. Jarrow does a fantastic job making this a story of a place and time rather than a story about any particular figure of great importance.
    I hope the committee reads this one and can think about Jarrow’s depiction of turn off the century southern poverty when discussing Fleming’s descriptions off Russian poverty.
    This may be more of a sibert dark horse than a newbery one but I’d be interested in hearing other opinions on this compelling example of epidemiological history.

  4. Sheila Welch says:

    Calkins Creek is the non-fiction and historical fiction imprint of Boyds Mills Press (Highlights), so in a sense, it’s not super small.

    I remember a few years ago that Nina mentioned a book from namelos, EDDIE’S WAR, as a Newbery possibility, but in general, small press books get lost in the crowd.

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