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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

PW’s Best Books of 2016

As the end of the year approaches, Best Of lists appear!  Publisher Weekly’s list came out today and it shares a lot of titles in common with this blog.  Their list is divided into Picture Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult and books from any of these lists could potentially be Newbery contenders.  So, what’s not here?  Well, WOLF HOLLOW, for one!

9780062377012_p0_v1_s192x300   ghostcover   ghosts-front-cover   snow-white   9780316013727_p0_v1_s192x300   9780547979175_p0_v2_s192x300   9780763681173_p0_v1_s192x300   wild-robot   9780553513349_p0_v1_s192x300

The PW list also includes some other titles that I think we’ll get to discussing.  I know I have THE BEST MAN and THE INQUISITOR’S TALE on my list.  What others do you see here that you think deserve to be in the Newbery conversation this year?

Sharon McKellar About Sharon McKellar

Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at


  1. Eric Carpenter says:

    I’m surprised at the nonfiction choices. No SAMURAI RISING? No BORDEN MURDERS? Both of these are in my current to three (along with GHOST).

    • Deborah Hopkinson says:

      Eric, although Pamela Turner’s SAMURAI RISING has four stars, it was not reviewed by PW.

      I had the chance to review it for Bookpage and think it is a beautiful book and a remarkable achievement (I studied 13th century Japan in grad school so have some sense of the challenges involved).

      • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

        PW used to be really, really bad about reviewing nonfiction–you used to need to have a last name like Freedman or Murphy–but they’ve really picked up their game over the past decade, but they still let stuff fall through the cracks. On the other hand, Booklist and School Library Journal probably star the most nonfiction, seeing as they both cater to the library market more than either Kirkus, Horn Book, or Bulletin.

        And while we haven’t said anything yet about DIVE, A BANDIT’S TALE, or THE STEAMBOAT SCHOOL by the modest Ms. Hopkinson, they are all worthy of consideration (but especially the former, I think).

    • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

      Eric, I’m perplexed by the lack of starred reviews for THE BORDEN MURDERS. It only got one from School Library Journal. :-( I liked it very much. Has anybody else read it yet?

      • I quite enjoyed The Borden Murders, but I have a theory as to why it didn’t receive stars.

        I found the organization of the book appalling. For example, early in the text, the layout of the house is described. The description is confusing, at best. I looked up floor plans online to get an understanding. Then, all of a sudden, amongst the glossy photos in the center of the book – there it is! The blueprints of the house. Confounding.

        It’s been since spring that I read the book, so I don’t remember all the instances. This one particular moment really jumped out at me, though.

  2. Shocked that FREEDOM OVER ME is not on the Picture Book list.

  3. I think MS. BIXBY’S LAST DAY should be in the running for sure. I even took the time to log into my ALA account and officially suggest it to the Real Committee. I’m so happy to see it on this list!

  4. Would giving the award to a book about Lizzie Borden be a way for the industry to thumb its nose finally and forever at old-fashioned moral suasion in children’s literature? Is that much of a threat anymore? Because I can’t believe there is so much enthusiasm for a book about a topic so sordid.

    When I was in grade school I read a pretty gripping true-crime novel called “Blood and Money” that was a big seller in Houston. It certainly wasn’t placed in my hands – I saw it on the shelf at a slumber party and read it through the night. I would not have said my little friends should read it – I knew it damaged me a little bit when I read books like that, but I was powerless before my curiosity.

    Yes, I knew that – and I was a child.

    • Sharon McKellar Sharon McKellar says:

      Hmm. I’m not sure how to start addressing this comment, other than that the topic is of great interest to many young people, and if the book is well-written, well-organized, and meets the criteria, it should have as much a chance as any other book to be honored. While you may find the topic sordid, the Newbery Committee is not assigned to police morality around who should be reading a book, they must merely look at the age the book is meant for (0 – 14, or not) and if it is among the most distinguished books written for children that year.

      I read so much of this stuff as a child, and loved it. Loved it then, love it now, and don’t believe myself to be damaged from it. In fact, it opened my curiosity, fed my interest, led to some future creative endeavors, and even was a piece of what I decided to study in college.

      So, perhaps you, as a child, were not the reader for this book. That doesn’t mean this book has no readers or deserves to not be looked at.

      Also, the committee members do not represent “the industry”, nor do they give Newbery awards or honors for political reasons. These books represent the most distinguished of each year and that is a roomful of dedicated experts coming together to make a seemingly impossible group decision based around conversation focused only on the Newbery Manual’s contents and how each title fits.

    • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

      THE BORDEN MURDERS is first and foremost a book for the upper end of the range, that is, grades 7-9, but it will also hold interest to students in grades 5-8.

      Second, one of the things that I love about THE BORDEN MURDERS is most of us think we know this “sordid” story, but Miller shows us that we do not.

  5. SOME KIND OF COURAGE was my club’s first place winner in our first round of nominations today, followed by PAX. COURAGE really resonates with my students. I definitely think it should be on the list!

  6. Rostem Rillef says:

    Do a review on The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle! It is an amazing book

  7. Clayton James Cotton says:

    I loved this book! The end, though made me kind of upset that Peter was trying to let go of Pax.

  8. Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

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