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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

It’s September!

Heavy Medal LogoIt’s September, and that means it’s time for Heavy Medal to get started up again, and we could not be more excited to be here.  Roxanne, Steven, and I have been hard at work behind the scenes talking and organizing and learning about each other and most of all READING AND READING AND READING.

It’s hard to know exactly where to start us off.  I’m tempted to jump right in with a book, but I think I’m going to take it slowly and let Steven and Roxanne further introduce themselves by starting off our book discussions later this week, and instead will just take a minute to talk about some things I’ve been doing and noticing.

I keep coming across recurring themes and plot devices in what I’m reading, but in sort of unexpected places, and I really look forward to getting more into that.  Has anyone else noticed the jewel thievery going on thsi year?  I wonder what these themes say about our collective psyche and I also wonder what my noticing of these themes says about my own.  Grief is popping up for me everywhere, and personally, that makes sense.  But I’ll get into that more later.

There are so many exciting ways to talk about books and how we evaluate them.

I know we will talk about diversity in children’s literature.  Diversity in our authors and the stories they tell.  Also diversity in format and the many types of books that are eligible for this award.  Every year I’m amazed at how we manage to talk about graphic novels, books for older children, poetry, picture books, non-fiction, and everything else imaginable all under the guidelines set forth by the Newbery Manual.  It seems like such a monumental task.  It is such a monumental task!  Isn’t that what makes it so awesome, though?

Meanwhile, I’ve been keeping up with all of the blogs that continue year round, and I’m spying on all the Newbery discussions I can find.  I’m a lurker on the Goodreads Newbery group, I wait with baited breath for Fuse #8’s seasonal predictions, and I religiously watch for Jen J.’s updates.   All of that, though, is at least partially just biding my time until I could get here, dig into the criteria, and see what we all think about the amazing books that have come out so far this year, and the many more still to come.

Say hello!  Introduce yourselves in the comments.  It’s a new year with new bloggers and big big plans!  Let’s get this started!



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. I was thrilled to see the addition of Roxanne and Steven. I took KT Horning’s class with Steven years ago. He always had the most thoughtful ideas to share. And Roxanne is just the person I most want to see inside her brain. We are in good hands.

    I have a quick request: I’m putting together the reading list for my students. I’d love more ideas, from those of you’ve given it thought, on worthy picture books. I stole Monica’s idea of THE ROSTER WHO WOULD NOT BE QUIET, as thematically that book is stunning. But I’d like more.

    As far as trends go, I’m getting a bit weary of didactic content. I’ve read too many books that are trying to teach me a lesson instead of tell me a story.

    • Sharon McKellar Sharon McKellar says:

      Oooh that’s a fun question! Have you read “Princess Cora and the Crocodile” yet? I’d say that one, “The Secret Project” and “One Last Word” are high on my list this year of worthwhile picture books.

      I’m with you on didactic content. There have a been a few books this year where I felt like “I’m glad we are trying to get this message across, but message over story just doesn’t do it for me.”

      • I do have Cora and One Last Word on my list as it stands. I was impressed with THE SECRET PROJECT, It is lovely, but I’m not sure of the audience. It is very much designed for younger readers, whom I’m skeptical would have the world knowledge to make sense of it.

      • Do Message over Story work for kids? Are we selecting books for adult readers who have read many many books or are we selecting books that might inspire children who have just recently discovered a particular concept (like all the love for Dystopian stories for middle grade students)?

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Danae, as I think you know from Goodreads, I think Willems’ WELCOME is Newbery-worthy and I think I could make a good argument for it. I liked PRINCESS CORA, but I think Hale’s comparable PRINCESS IN BLACK AND THE MYSTERIOUS PLAYDATE is even better. Also on the Goodreads Newbery poll, I voted for Lamothe’s THIS IS HOW WE DO IT. I do think it’s worthy, but I’m not sure I could convince a skeptic of that. How many books do you need to flesh out your list?

      • Leonord,My chances of getting the new Princess in Black from my students would involve unacceptable physical force. I should have read it before I flashed it to my second graders.

        I will need to borrow the Mo book. it’s a board book, right?

        On your placement at GoodReads, I just purchased HOW WE DO IT. Perfectly executed. I see it has a flawless concept book and I’m trying to wrap my head around how to fit that into an award for literary excellence. I good discussion for this blog.

        Roxanne, I see your point about presenting new information to young readers, but I do feel it can be done and with genuine characterization and without contrived plot devices and exposition over authentic narrative. I don’t mind being shown something new in the context of a great story, but I feel I’ve been slapped in the face so much this year, I forgot to get invested in the story.

    • Laura Simeon says:

      I think the question of “didactic content” often has more to do with whether or not the values or perspective the writer expresses are new to the reader. The old saying about the fish not knowing it’s in water can apply here: books that come from a culture that is familiar to me express values that seem “natural” or “the norm” so I’m less likely to notice them. But to a reader from another background, the values may seem heavy-handed. A preference for non-didactic books as having greater literary merit is also a cultural preference, and not a universal value.

      • I can’t wait to get into more discussion about the didactic and the popularity provision in the terms and criteria later in Heavy Medal this year. And I will keep in mind, Laura, your thoughts here. Please join us for more in-depth discussion when we bring these up in a post!

  2. Celeste Bocchicchio-Chaudhri says:

    Hello! I am a children’s librarian in Boston and I am looking forward to all the great discussion this year!

  3. So happy to see this blog continuing, especially after the close of the child_lit list serve. Although most here will know me by my books, I participate in these conversations from the lens of an indie bookseller and an academic-lite. I teach the children’s literature sections part time in the Masters in Book Publishing program at Portland State and I work part-time at Annie Blooms books in Multnomah Village. It is one of the grand old ladies of the Portland bookstore scene. It has been under the same ownership and in the same location for nearly 40 years. I’m looking forward to hearing about, reading, and discussing books this fall.
    One thing I’ve become particularly interested in is the role of small presses in the book award scene. I see fresh writing and brilliant craftsmanship in the small, regional, and academic presses I’ve come to know as a book monger. I hope to keep track of where the books we are discussing come from and what that means for the book industry as a whole.

  4. Safranit Molly says:

    Welcome back, Heavy Medal! I’m so glad to see the return of our spirited reading community. I am eager to hear everyone’s thoughts on this year’s crop. I am Molly Sloan, the librarian (or Safranit) at Portland Jewish Academy in Portland Oregon (literally just a few blocks from Rosanne Parry’s Annie Bloom’s Books!). I lead a Newbery Club of students in my school and this year I will be starting a separate club for the teachers and administrators in my school who are eager Newbery readers as well. We will all be reading your thoughts on the books and discussing them together at our school. Here we go!

  5. Ericka Bajrami says:

    Hello from Connecticut, where I am the Head of Youth Services at a public library.

  6. Hooray, September! I can’t believe I got this far into the month without thinking to check here. I’m looking forward to a great season of Heavy Medal discussions.

  7. Oops! I got out of the habit of checking Heavy Medal while you were out! In that intervening time – I got on the 2019 Newbery Committee! I’m so excited! I’m definitely going to be lurking on Heavy Medal all year long – but I’m almost afraid to comment *this* year, just to make sure I don’t let anything at all slip out about 2018 books. Plus, I’ve been reading adult books this year to cleanse my palate. So I haven’t read too many of this year’s contenders…. but I have read some, and always like to learn from you all.

  8. Hi, I’m Destinee. I’m a children’s librarian at a public library in the Seattle area. I served on the 2015 Newbery Committee (Last Stop on Market Street) and I help run my library system’s Mock Newbery program. I am a big, big fan of mock newbery-ing. It’s like my fantasy sports league.

  9. Hi, I’m Jen J. – I’m the Assistant Manager of the Popular Materials Department (we serve all ages covering all Children’s and Teen materials and programming plus Adult Fiction) at a public library in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. My focus in this position is Early Literacy which has been a big change from my previous position as a YA Librarian.

    I love statistics and spreadsheets and book awards and trying to guess which great books are going to be honored. I’m delighted to have Heavy Medal back for the season and look forward to the discussion! Thanks for the shoutout for my pet project of tracking starred reviews. I have been a little slow this year with the adjustment to a new job and longer commute, but hope to get more caught up with summer behind me!

  10. Tanya DiMaggio says:

    Hi! I am the Children’s Services Coordinator (and children’s book selector) for St. Tammany Parish Library, the public library in a semi-rural/small town/suburban system 45 miles north of New Orleans (we call our counties parishes.) All children’s librarian positions are full and they are a great team, we have a new and easy website, and my daughter has started high school and is a bit more independent. So… I finally have time (knock on wood) to Read more. Read more children’s books and read more blogs about children’s books. And maybe even participate in discussions instead of being a lurker.

  11. Whoa… I’ve been swamped in school and without Leonard’s heads up, would never have known we were rolling over here!

    I’m Mr. H (or Jordan, I wonder when I could just start using my first name on here…) I teach 5th grade in Iowa. I got off to a great start reading about 25 eligible books before and early summer. Then school started and I stalled! I’m excited for conversations to get going on here and interested in hearing the opinions of the new hosts!

  12. Yay! I’m so glad Heavy Medal is in full swing. I’m the school librarian at Sunrise Elementary in Aurora, Colorado. This year I actually had to cap my mock Newbery club at 50 students (Yay! And I still ended up letting 2 more kids in… how could I say no?) and we’re meeting for the first time this Thursday. The kids are really excited to read BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA and REFUGEE. I’m really excited to see what everyone thinks of THE STARS BENEATH MY FEET, which is one of my all time favorites from my summer ARC reads. I’m also curious to see how kids respond to ORPHAN ISLAND, because I struggled with staying interested, while clearly its NBA nomination means others did not. I wonder if it will resonate with my students as much as it did with the NBA committee. I’m looking forward to some great discussions here!

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