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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Oakland Mock Newbery Results

What a nice day I had discussing this batch of outstanding books with this gang of outstanding people!  Thanks to all who came out and thanks, especially, to those who helped to organize.  Look at this awesome crew!  I’m really sorry I jumped right in front of Melissa and blocked her face as my self-timer went off. Total party foul!


So, we had something unprecedented happen this year.  We CLEARLY selected a winner and a single honor book with one ballot.  None of us could remember a time this had happened before.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Honor Book:
Ghost by Jason Reynolds

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This is how the points panned out:

  • Juana & Lucas – 0
  • Full of Beans – 2
  • Pax – 2
  • Samurai Rising – 3
  • Some Writer – 5
  • When the Sea Turned to Silver – 7
  • When Green Becomes Tomatoes – 8
  • Ghost – 21
  • Wolf Hollow – 33

And here’s the spread:

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With such a clear first place winner and a large amount of secondary support for our honor book, we agreed with a quick discussion that we didn’t find the rest of the books to be distinguished enough to merit honors.  None of our other books received any 1st place votes and the difference in point from Ghost to the next highest title, When Green Becomes Tomatoes, was a full 13 points.

We did have some extra time and talked a little bit about creation of the shortlist and the potential in future years to try less hard to have a diverse set of books in terms of genre and age range, instead focussing more in on age range or type of book to do a more apples to apples comparison.

Of course the real committee is comparing apples to apples to oranges to oranges to strawberries, and we have to figure out how to narrow in in a way that leads to fulfilling fruitful discussion that also gives a fun sense of how the actual committee works. Things to ponder over the next year!

Only one week until we get to see the real winner and honors!  And lucky us, we had a real committee member in our discussion today, so we feel a little bit special, like our voices might have been louder than usual.


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. Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

    Well done, Oakland! Nice picks!

    Perhaps we should have stuck with our original apples-to-apples shortlist? 😛

  2. I’m sorry to have missed it this year, but what an interestingly decisive result! Great work, everyone.

  3. Meredith Burton says:

    Very intriguing that the vote was so decisive! Wolf Hollow is one I haven’t been able to forget, (and I listened to it early in the year). I do like more hopeful stories, but I think Wolf Hollow has so much to say about the unfairness in life. Also, the novel thankfully illuminates the truth that kindness, (despite whether it’s accepted or not), is the ultimate gift. I must read Ghost because it sounds like it will be a strong contender.

    I don’t envy the committee their job as it sounds like it would be very challenging. Lots of great titles this year.

    • Meredith, you hit on something that I have failed to articulate when I talk about this book with both the children and adults in my school. When asked what I personally like about the book, I often respond that I enjoy the moral ambiguity. Children in particular see the world around them as morally ambiguous, and this book very much addresses that. It’s your parenthetical aside that really gets to what I can never articulate – this book is about kindness, both in how it can succeed for us and how it can fail for us, regardless of how hard we try.

      The children in my Mock Newbery club talk a lot about the characterization in Wolf Hollow and the relationship between the characters, particularly Tobias and Annabelle. They are particularly intrigued though, with how evil Betty is and how she only escapes her evilness by death – and continues to lie as she’s dying. They’re fascinated by that. I think, too, that your comment addresses that. So many people are kind to Betty, and it doesn’t seem to matter.

      The Real Committee this year has a monumental task ahead of them. Like you, I don’t envy them a bit.

    • Eric Carpenter says:

      Ah, but what a book has to say should be irrelevant to the newbery discussion. The committee should only be concerned with how it is said.

      • It says so brilliantly, with evocative language, crisply rendered characters, and a clearly delineated theme. Better?

      • Eric, you don’t really mean that, do you?

      • Eric Carpenter says:

        Mary, Yes that is how I read the criteria. Any discussion of these titles must be within the parameters of the criteria. I can’t find anywhere in the criteria where the committee is asked to weigh the story, ideas, or the themes of a title. Likewise they aren’t judging how likable or not they find the characters.
        The criteria are clearly written to focus the committee members on the literary elements of a text.

      • Isn’t that “interpretation of the theme or concept?”

      • Eric Carpenter says:

        The committee can certainly discuss how well a theme or concept is interpreted within the text. (ie. is it delivered pedantically or subtly, is it well integrated into the narrative or does the author hit the reader over the head, etc). But the committee can’t discuss the worthiness of the theme or concepts or can it discuss whether they like the theme or how the theme/concepts made them feel.
        Only the excellence of the INTERPRETATION, not theme or concept themselves should be evaluated by the committee members.

      • I gotcha! In fact, as soon as I hit “post”, I think it dawned on me what you had meant. In fact, I just referenced it in another post I made simultaneously!

  4. Not sure where else to post it, but I’ll do so here. My Mock Newbery students (40 counted at roll call, so take that for what it’s worth) cast their final ballots today.

    Landslide medal (15 first place votes, 1 second place votes, 8 third place votes) to WOLF HOLLOW.

    Three honors were bestowed, though the book that had the next highest score was 33 points behind medal winner): PAX; NINE, TEN; INQUISITOR’S TALE.

    They are rabid for Monday morning. Absolutely rabid.

    • Awesome! I remember the year TURTLE IN PARADISE won an Honor because my class and I had read a number of the books that year and TURTLE was our favorite. I let them watch the event, or at least, we had it on in the background… The moment the cover flashed across the screen, pandemonium!

  5. I visited two different schools for Mock Newbery this week. One 5th grade class despised WOLF HOLLOW and loved INQUISITOR’S TALE. The other 5th grade class (at a different school) was the exact opposite. It was almost freaky how these kids, who have never met, were countering each other’s arguments. It seemed to come down to how they felt about tonal issues. WH was deemed too dark and depressing by its detractors; IT too strange and inconsistent.

    Our other books were MS. BIXBY’S LAST DAY and WILD ROBOT, but they each only had a few supporters.

  6. Safranit Molly says:

    The results of our Mock Newbery at Portland Jewish Academy:

    Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
    Ghost by Jason Reynolds
    We Will Not Be Silent by Russell Freedman

    It took two rounds of balloting because we had a great variety in favorites this year. Several kids were sad to see their favorites not on the final ballot–just like I am sure real committee members feel when their beloved book doesn’t make the cut.

    • Molly, I love it that your students chose We Will Not Be Silent. I liked that title very much, particularly since I lived in Bavaria in the 90s. My beloved neighbors Irmagart and Hugo were the same age that Hans and Sophie Scholl would be had they lived. They had interesting things to say about being a teenager in WWII Germany and I’m glad this book is gaining an audience at this point in our history.

  7. Here at Snow Horse I just put my 25 ballots into the tabulator.

    With a runaway 59 points, GHOST is our Medalist.
    Raymie 20 pts
    Wild Robot 15 pts.

    Around forty different books were read with a requirement that at least five must be read to vote. 21 different titles showed up on the ballots but GHOST received 11 first place votes. Fairly conclusive. They really loved his voice.

  8. Safranit Molly says:

    Yes, I believe We Will Not Be Silent had a special resonance for my community this year in light of the political parallels my students have very clearly observed. Let us hope that our young people will not be silent as we move forward into the future. I thank Russell Freedman for giving us such a timely reminder of the difference that young resistance can make.

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