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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal


I’m up at 5am watching!  Did you watch, in person, or online?

Honor Books:

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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk


girl who drank the moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill


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. This makes me so happy. I love, love, loved this book! Amazing choices from the committee!

    And a special shout-out to Leonard Kim. I wouldn’t have read this book without your enthusiastic response to it!

  2. Leonard Kim says:

    I was able to gush about THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON to Kelly Barnhill in person at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival. I think it is a special book, and I sensed it was special to her too (even beyond an author’s expected affection). I wasn’t sure how it would fare in the Newbery, because the book really spoke to me as a parent.

    Very happy about the selections overall. (Complete happiness would have been achieved with recognition of a certain poetry collection, of course. Please write another one.)

    • That’s a wonderful book festival!! It really allows readers and writers to connect—like you and Kelly did—in a way that is not usually the case.

      (Former Princeton Public Library youth services librarian here…)

  3. Very, very pleased as well! THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON taking the Medal and THE INQUISITOR’S TALE taking an Honor just made me grin. Happy for both Barnhill and Gidwitz. With WOLF HOLLOW sweeping a lot of Mock Newbery’s, I was beginning to feel that it was a foregone conclusion that it would at least Honor.

    Would’ve have liked to see WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES, but liked the inclusion of FREEDOM OVER ME. Just all around, pleased with the choices. All books I was personally pulling for. Good work by the committee!

  4. When Green Becomes Tomatoes was robbed I tell ya! Robbed! haha

    Freedom Over Me was very good, and I’m glad that received recognition, but I found Girl Who Drank the Moon too uneven. Wolf Hollow I did not read, but the Inquisitor’s Tale was not a good book. I’ll say it right out. It had a lot of problems, and it did not accomplish what it set out do to. Namely, it was not a fully inclusive title, and if examined carefully that would be easy to tell.

    • I’m curious, Kristin. Do you think it was the goal of Inquisitor’s Tale to be “fully inclusive?” What does that mean to you, and how did the book fall short? It would seem that the members of the committee did “examine [it] carefully” and reached a different opinion, which is okay–we don’t all value the same books, for the same reasons.

      I loved When Green Becomes Tomatoes, too 🙂

    • Does THE INQUISITOR’S TALE *have to* be “fully inclusive”? I was of the belief that it did not have to be, per the criteria. Serious question…

  5. Meredith Burton says:

    Oh, I’m so very, very thrilled! Listened to TGWDTM last week and knew it was special! Actually voted for it to win first place in the mock Newbery contest here, so how very cool it actually won! And, hurray for Wolf Hollow as well! How wonderful!
    Now I really must finish The Inquisitor’s Tale.

  6. I could not get the webcast to play, so I was frantically refreshing Twitter the whole time. I got it to work on my iPad just in time to watch the Caldecott and Newbery. Well, despite my efforts to read every relevant book this year, I continue my trend of not having read the medal winner or any of the honor books yet, though WOLF HOLLOW is on the very top of my stack. I actually planned to read it over the weekend, but ended up not having much reading time and not quite finishing SAMURAI RISING. When WOLF HOLLOW was named as an honor, I had this breathless moment where I was sure it was going to be PAX. However, I cannot be disappointed because TGWDTM seems like exactly my sort of book and I’m sure I will adore it once I finally get around to reading it!

  7. I congratulate the winners. They are all very well-written books. I especially liked THE INQUISITOR’S TALE and FREEDOM OVER ME–they are highly accomplished books with deeper meaning and relevance.

    But it’s the first Monday morning of Trump’s presidency. And the Newbery committee decided to be the least subversive that they’ve been in years, in form and content. I needed more. I believe young readers, many of whom who are marginalized now more than ever, deserve more.

    Let’s move forward to embrace good writing and diverse perspectives. #ownvoices

    • Barbara Gogan says:

      I have loved the way Rick Riordan has been increasingly writing about diverse characters and was thrilled “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor” was recognized for a Stonewall.

      • I was too. When I read it I was blown away with his portrayal of Alex so I think this is absolutely thrilling. Generally Riordan and other such “popular” writers don’t get YMA love, but he is really a terrific writer and this award honors that.

    • Ann Clare,

      I am sorry that the Newbery winners weren’t to your liking this morning, but I don’t think that this being the first Monday of Trump’s presidency should have any bearing on the Newbery Committee and their choices whatsoever. Nor do I think it is their job to be “subversive.” Their job is to come to an agreement on the most distinguished contributions to children’s literature. Personally, I have read all four and I am more than pleased with the choices and applaud their work.

    • Meggan Conway says:

      I thought that almost all of the Sibert winners were very much a result of the recent political climate.

      • Jean Gaffney says:

        Speaking as a Sibert Committee member, we followed the selection process and criteria. Political climate is not part of the criteria. Caitlyn Jacobson, our chair, did an excellent job of making sure every title was thoroughly discussed and allowing time for the positives and concerns. Speaking for myself only, I am drawn to stories of struggle and passion. I am also excited just thinking about young readers hearing or reading Giant Squid for the first time and seeing the Sibert medal on it. I hope everyone takes time to put the award medals on the copies already owned and takes the time to explain what they mean. I did a presentation on the Sibert winners at my Library Board meeting yesterday and they loved hearing about and looking at the winners.

      • Jean,
        I’ve never been much of a nonfiction reader but recently, have been getting hooked, so the Sibert is one I paid attention to this year. I have to say, I loved all your choices!

      • Life goals: be on the Sibert Committee.

  8. Thrilled for The Girl Who Drank The Moon!

  9. Safranit Molly says:

    I was shocked that Some Writer got no recognition from any committee this year. 6 starred reviews and not a medal across the spectrum? Also astonished that Ghost was not recognized by any committee either.

    Ann, I do feel that Wolf Hollow spoke to my community especially because of its themes of prejudice, judging by appearance and acceptance. I feel that the book had special significance in the light of our new political landscape. Some of my readers also suggested that The Girl Who Drank the Moon resonated with them for similar reasons.

    I am very pleased that March Book 3 received so much recognition this morning. Congratulations to an American hero who continues to strive for justice, especially now when it is needed as much as it ever was.

    I’m still digesting and reflecting on all of this morning’s news.

    • Hannah Mermelstein says:

      Ghost got an Odyssey Honor. So that’s one committee that recognized it.

    • Thanks for replying! I know WOLF HOLLOW does strike some readers that way. I haven’t spoken to any of my patrons at the children’s desk about it. It didn’t work for me. To me, THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON is a bit of a stretch. I suppose any conscientious author will incorporate themes of rejection and acceptance. Ms. Barnhill is obviously conscious of the world around her. I don’t think that’s the same thing as prejudice. (THE INQUISITOR’s TALE, on the other hand…)

      As we both know, story themes are not a replacement for representation or #ownvoices. I also know that I will go back to work tomorrow, with library colleagues who are secretly relieved that diversity didn’t dominate this year’s awards. Remember the discussions on this forum about LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET last year? Not so nice. Librarians aren’t nearly as subversive as they like to imagine.

      So love Jason Reynolds’ work this year! I have spoken to patrons about that. Thrilled to see AS BRAVE AS YOU win the Schneider Award. It features an authentic, multilayered depiction of the Blind experience. I was less thrilled about Jen Bryant’s SIX DOTS.

      THE CROSSOVER, BROWN GIRL DREAMING, EL DEAFO (I’m Deaf), LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET, ROLLER GIRL, ECHO and others made my heart leap up! I felt pride. I hoped the high visibility would affect what was published in the future. Again, I’m not disparaging this year’s books or authors. Just expressing myself, because I know I’m not alone. It was a dark morning to begin with.

      • Safranit Molly says:

        Indeed, my favorite book of the year, When the Sea Turned to Silver, stands above the others for me because Pinmei finds her voice as a storyteller and because I hear Grace Lin’s voice as a child of immigrant parents and her voice as a Chinese American author and artist. I wanted that book to win because I wanted our library community to venerate the importance of finding our own voices to speak out against tyranny. Unfortunately, those worthy qualities aren’t part of the Newbery criteria and the book of my heart went unrecognized today. However I am encouraged to remember that we librarians are poised in the perfect place to help these books find their way to our readers, whether they have medals on their covers or not. Onward with our important work!

    • Ann Clare says:

      I loved When The Sea Turned to Silver too. I know the Newbery criteria. I think this was a fair committee who chose worthy books. But I don’t believe that any judges exist in some objective vacuum of good and great books. As we know from the baseline surveys, children’s literature isn’t by any means a level playing field. Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement winner Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s highly cited work, “Windows, Mirrors, Sliding Glass Doors’,” speaks to these disparities and the importance of #ownvoices.

      You are correct. We sit in a power seat at our reference desks. When I talk to young patrons about my deafness, I’m glad to have EL DEAFO and WONDERSTRUCK to reach for. (Ten years ago, all I had was Helen Keller’s autobiography.) With all the medals on its cover, I have still not been able to “sell” ONE CRAZY SUMMER (and it’s sequels) to one white child or parent.

      Again, I was on this forum this time last year. It was blowing up with very negative reactions to the Newbery Medal winner. People questioned the “agenda” behind the choice. Matt de la Pena was not afforded the same respect Ms. Barnhill is almost universally receiving. It’s hard to forget that. The contrast with this year is striking.

      • sam leopold says:

        I LOVED One Crazy Summer and my classes—-which are about 50% white and 50% black—-love it as much if not more than I do. So, Ann, I agree with many of your points, but please know that there are many schools in which OCS and its sequels are loved and read on a regular basis. There is hope……

      • Ann Clare says:

        Sam, I’m very happy to hear it! I truly love that series. It may be where I live and work. I don’t think it’s in our curriculum. Kids do come in looking for Christopher Paul Curtis’ books for assignments. I try to match Erdrich’s Birchbark series with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. That’s not always successful either. But there is always hope! Thanks for the work you do.

      • Bummer about ONE CRAZY SUMMER. Kids of all color (even the white kids) in my school love it. I booktalk it all the time, though. So maybe my opinion has rubbed off on them a bit?

  10. Leonard Kim says:

    This is my favorite passage from THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON. I have quoted it before, and I can’t think of another passage from 2016 that is more relevant to our time or any time.

    “She needs to know the contents of those books, there. She needs to understand the movements of the stars and the origins of the universe and the requirements of kindness. She needs to know mathematics and poetry. She must ask questions. She must seek to understand. She must understand the laws of cause and effect and unintended consequences. She must learn compassion and curiosity and awe. All of these things. We have to instruct her. . . It is a great responsibility.”

    • Back when I read this book in late summer, I was struck by how well Barnhill showed the insidiousness of fear-mongering. I was chilled daily by what was spewing from a certain candidate’s mouth. Barnhill did an excellent job showing how the Protectorate was controlled for ages by the same.

      Not the book I would have chosen, but I do see it’s value, beauty, and truth.

      • I agree, DaNae – Barnhill’s capturing of that insidiousness was chilling. But – on a larger scale, the themes she addresses: freedom of choice, empowerment, the role of women, controlling information, honoring kindness and compassion… all these, so artfully handled, really pushed the book for me. And that the story is told in such a powerful, fairy-tale like way adds to the thematic interpretation.

        GIRL was not my first choice, either. I didn’t vote for it in any of the polls. All my love went to WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES and WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER (which also addresses fear-mongering and authoritarian themes). But I cannot say I’m displeased with the four books honored in this category (to say nothing of MARCH’s masterful day and RADIANT CHILD getting love). A truly exceptional YMA!

    • Leonard,

      I love this quote! Do you happen to have a page number handy for this?

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Hi Mr. Glade,

        I read the Kindle version so can’t provide a page number. It’s in the middle of chapter 11, “In Which a Witch Comes to a Decision.”

  11. Meredith Burton says:

    I was thrilled to hear about As Brave as You, too! When I read it, I knew it would get Schneider recognition, and it is well-deserved.
    I also think The Girl Who Drank the Moon has much to say about our perceptions and how others can influence them either for good or ill. The entire book hinges on a community that is influenced by their leaders into leaving their children to die for absolutely no reason at all. The community believes the false stories, but the stories only serve to satisfy the perverse hungers of their tyrannical ruler. (Don’t want to say more for fear of spoilers). In light of the division and turmoil in our country, I think the book is very relevant. We are quick to label people and hate them when, in actuality, they are kind. It is especially frightening when people in power perpetuate hatred, because their feelings can poison others. Themes of sacrifice and love triumphing over sorrow are universal, and what better way to represent them than in a fairy tale?

    I loved Last Stop on Market Street! I had no idea there was such dislike for it, but I thought it was beautiful. Of course, I also adored Bone Gap, (and lots of people don’t like it, either). I hope to read March: Book Three, but it is a graphic novel, (I think), so here’s hoping it is brailled.

    When the Sea Turned to Silver was a finalist for the NBA. I still need to read it.

    • Ann Clare says:

      I did know there was some disagreement around BONE GAP, which I liked too. I hope March: Book Three is brailled. Could hardly believe that SIX DOTS wasn’t. I love Jen Bryant, but wish she had added tactile elements to that book.

  12. Meredith Burton says:

    I have not read Six Dots yet. There are lots of books about Louis Braille available, but I am thrilled that he is still being honored through writing. It is odd there wasn’t anything tactical in the book, though. And, yes, they can be very slow at brailling books, but since it was recognized, I’m sure it will be brailled soon.
    I read in one of your comments that you loved Wonderstruck. Me, too! It was so very clever to tell part of the story in pictures, and seeing things from Rose’s perspective was so beautiful. I learned from that book how inclusive silent movies were. For some reason, I’d never thought of that. Thankfully, the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped made the book accessible by adding detailed picture descriptions. It’s a fantastic book!

    I do think Bone Gap is one of those books people either love or hate, (at least, that’s the impression I have gotten from discussions and reviews written by readers).

  13. Ann Clare says:

    Meredith: As you’ve said: it is wonderful that Louis Braille is still being honored through writing. There is a lot of disability history yet to be recovered in children’s books, both fiction and nonfiction. I wrote a review of WONDERSTRUCK for Disability in Kid Lit. I could have written a short book on the topic. The historical details, like the d/Deaf being able to communally enjoy silent movies, are fascinating. I had hoped that Selznick’s expressive illustrations were well-translated into descriptive audio. Good to know! You may be right about Bone Gap. I recommended it to my library friends, and a number of them never mentioned it again.

  14. Sara Ralph says:

    I watched in person for the first time. I was so, so very EXCITING! I recommend everyone try to make it at least once.

  15. I thought “Pax” was a big miss.
    I think the members work hard, but I don’t believe there is really any elementary school librarians represented enough. There is no way for schools to pay for this type of thing.
    In my opinion, the members just aren’t around kids enough to make a judgement about the books.
    I believe that what kids enjoy should at least be considered. It isn’t that they are bad picks, though I don’t believe “Freedom” deserved it, nor do I like “Inquisitir”, it’s just that I don’t believe these books really do reflect what kids are reading or even like.
    I also wish the ALA would wiesner up and change the max age to 12. They mostly tend towards the older spectrum, of which there already is an award for those.

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