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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

San Diego Mock Winners!

imageWe had a small turnout–just five people–but nevertheless managed a spirited and engaging discussion of our nine shortlisted titles. We also accomplished something I’ve never encountered in all my years of mock Newberys: We had a unanimous winner. All five people voted for ECHO with their 1st place vote.

But it gets better! We were also unanimous on our 2nd place vote: MOST DANGEROUS. Could we also be unanimous on our third place vote? No, but we were close with a 4-1 split. One person voted for GOODBYE STRANGER; the other four (including myself) voted for THE HIRED GIRL.

Thus, you’ll notice we called our winners without even counting the points.  ECHO is our Newbery Medal, while MOST DANGEROUS and THE HIRED GIRL are Newbery Honors. It kind of reminds me of 2013 when another juvenile title–THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN–bested Schlitz (SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS) and Sheinkin (BOMB).image

Our discussion focused largely on the positive qualities of each book. The only two that I thought were out of the running based on the discussion were ROLLER GIRL and RHYTHM RIDE which, wonderful though they were, suffered in comparison to DROWNED CITY and MOST DANGEROUS, respectively.

We look forward to seeing what Oakland picks in a couple of weeks . . .

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. Yessssssss!! Those would be my three choices, too, with Echo nabbing the medal!

  2. Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

    One person who had to bow out at the last minute nevertheless e-mailed her choices: 1. ECHO, 2. ECHO, 3. ECHO. ????

  3. Eric Carpenter says:

    Can some please explain briefly what ECHO does extremely well in terms of the criteria? I understand that many have an emotional reaction to the book, but I am not interested in that. I’d like to know what criteria this one hits out of the park.
    I feel like I’m missing something. I read it a long while ago, but what I remember was mostly an unsatisfactory feeling about the structure (especially the plain-as-day foreshadowing of the conclusion) and a thought that the stories were all so similar to things I’d heard before. The middle section with the depression era story of the two brothers felt especially trite in its setup.

  4. I still think Most Dangerous skews too old for the Newbery (and that it isn’t Sheinkin’s best work), but I definitely approve of the other two winners. Now, I’m still pulling for The War That Changed My Life to nab the top spot, but I’d be pleased if The Hired Girl or Echo ended up winning instead. This really was a banner year for historical fiction!

    • Whoops! I wish this blog had an edit feature. I always seem to spot mistakes just after I hit that post comment button. The book I’m pulling for is The War That Saved My Life. Sorry, Ms. Bradley!

  5. Safranit Molly says:

    Eric, my Newbery club of students (5th-7th grade) discussed Echo and I was pleasantly surprised to see that what Nina suspected (in one of her posts) was actually true. What was a “plain as day ending” for us adult readers was actually a wonderful surprise to my students. They loved the ending and kept marveling over how all of the threads came together. They found it to be a very satisfying story. They especially loved Ivy’s portion of the story. My readers are mature and thoughtful. They often see through plot devices and point out flaws in character and continuity. This one did not trouble them at all. The adults in my Nebwery group were all exchanging meaningful glances with each other as we discussed the ending with our kids because we knew that one of the loudest criticisms of this book had been the tidy ending. I think this might well be a case where the book is just right for its intended audience. Sometimes we adult readers have to remember that we are not that audience after all.

    My Newbery Club hasn’t voted yet, but I suspect it will be very close between Echo and The War That Saved My Life, with Echo winning. I will post our results the first week of January.

  6. So happy to see the honor for The Hired Girl.

  7. Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

    Eric, I’m sorry for the late response. I’m not sure if ECHO hit it out of the park in any one element, but we definitely found it consistently among the top books on every single element. I could have easily flipped the order of my votes, and was expecting to do so, based on the first ballot, but we didn’t have that opportunity. Nevertheless, we were all extremely happy with the outcome.

    1. We did find ECHO to be distinguished in terms of plot. We know this is subjective and that there are many people who disagree with us, but we found the juggling of the plot threads skillfully done, especially for a young audience. I’m reminded of THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX, for example. We also found the pacing of this book more satisfactory than either of our honor books as MOST DANGEROUS and THE HIRED GIRL both had sections that hampered the overall pacing.

    2. We were just as invested in the characters as we were in the plot. Both characterization and character development were strong and seemed inextricably meshed with plot and setting.

    3. We found the theme to be exceptionally strong, and we thought the fairly tale that bookends the three narratives paved the way for the story to culminate with “Some Enchanted Evening.”

  8. I’m curious about how the discussion of THE HIRED GIRL went. How did the group deal with “savages,” if at all, and did conversation around that word choice limit discussion of other elements?

    • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

      It came up very briefly, but wasn’t a serious concern for people. I think most of us were aware of the controversy from the various online conversations. I think some of the other concerns that have been raised (age of audience, pacing) got more air time, or at least equal air time, but the bulk of the discussion on this–and every discussion–focused on the positive aspects of the book.

      Clearly, we were all of like mind on many of the titles–to a remarkable degree. The lack of divergent opinions means that the discussion didn’t explore all of the facets of a particular book.

    • The word “savages” is not in the book. So any conversation about “word choices” couldn’t have been about this particular word.

  9. Sheila Welch says:

    Thanks to Jonathan, Nina, and everyone who commented on the books. These last few months of intense discussion have provided a wide audience a taste of the thought-provoking process that goes into the selection of the real winner and honor books.

    Special thanks to Monica for her comment this morning. I was certain that word wasn’t in THE HIRED GIRL but too insecure to say so and too tired (lazy?) to go through the whole book to confirm my “certainty.”

    Best wishes to Nina and thanks again for your perceptive posts and comments over the years.

  10. Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says:

    Been caught up the last few days, interesteing results! A discussion with a small group can be a challenge… and I think the clear consensus is unusual. I’m curious, since I don’t think you’ve mentioned it yet, to hear about discussion of GOODBYE STRANGER with that lone third place vote…and also MY SENECA VILLAGE, and why it didn’t make at least your top 3, in the end. That is really the hardest part, casting the vote for 3, and chancing that everything else may fall off the table.

    • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

      Some people felt GOODBYE STRANGER did not seem individually distinct, that we had read that story before, if not this past year, then many times before. THE HIRED GIRL also got this complaint, at least about that first section.

      As you know, I was ready and willing to cast my first place vote for MY SENECA VILLAGE, but it was clear from our discussion that I was the only person that felt this way. I could have spent my third place vote on it, but I knew that I would be the only one. In a larger group where I wasn’t as certain about what the top books would be, I probably would have at least put it third.

  11. My Mock Newbery group at the Daniel Boone Regional Library in Columbia, MO selected “The War That Saved My Life” as our Newbery Winner with Circus Mirandus (2nd) and Echo (3rd). The group consists of 13 readers from 4th through 8th grade. Readers agreed the challenges of the characters and how they worked them out was important to them. They also strongly said they liked the originality of the circus theme in Circus Mirandus and the plot with the cliffhangers in Echo. Three members of this book group have attended for four years.

  12. My 5th and 6th graders loved Echo and kept asking me how it was all going to tie together in the end. They were then thrilled with the end and how cool it was! I was so excited to get kids to look past its huge size and read it!

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