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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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Eye on the Prize: The National Book Award Longlist

The 2017 National Book Award longlist of nominees was announced this week, and the Young People’s Literature list is exciting!

what girls are made of  far from the tree  all the wind in the world  you bring the distant nearlong way down    i am not your perfect      Orphan Island   hate u give  clayton byrd    american street


  • Elana K. ArnoldWhat Girls Are Made Of (Carolrhoda Lab / Lerner Publishing Group)
  • Robin BenwayFar from the Tree (HarperTeen / HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Samantha MabryAll the Wind in the World (Algonquin Young Readers / Workman Publishing Company)
  • Mitali Perkins,You Bring the Distant Near (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers / Macmillan Publishers)
  • Jason ReynoldsLong Way Down (Atheneum / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books / Simon & Schuster)
  • Erika L. Sánchez, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
    (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House)
  • Laurel SnyderOrphan Island (Walden Pond Press / HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Rita Williams-Garcia, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground (Amistad / HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Ibi Zoboi, American Street (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins Publishers)

So, what do we think about these titles and their Newbery chances?

We’ll be talking about Orphan Island, The Hate U Give, and Clayton Byrd Goes Underground in the coming weeks, so you’ll hear our thoughts on those soon, and we’re excited to hear yours.

Some we are waiting to read. Far From the Tree, All the Wind in the World, You Bring the Distant Near, and I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter all come up in the next few weeks.  Have any of you read them?  What do you think?  Worthy of Newbery consideration?

The National Book Award Finalists are announced on October 4th, and it’ll certainly be interesting to see which of these titles make the cut!

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. Thanks, Sharon, for posting the detail Publishers info. So. I offer some observations (and speculation) below:

    Five out of ten books are from Harper Collins, and eight out of ten are from large publishing groups.

    Most are YA and realistic fiction. No fantasy (perhaps Orphan Island but is seems more an allegory than true speculative genre to me), no graphic novel, no SciFi, no nonfiction. In short, very little diversity in genres or target audiences or themes.

    Unlike Newbery Committee book submission without fees, each entered title costs $135. Even if it is not too high a fee, I wonder if it still makes the publishers go through a more strict self selecting process? A Newbery Committee member typically receives a few hundred books and some publishers would submit their entire output for readers from 0 to 14, including picture books. I would love to know how many books in different genres and for different age ranges were submitted this year.

    Three of the five judges this year are YA authors of realistic fiction with reputation of presenting social concerns and POC stories: Brendan Kiely, Kekla Magoon, and Meg Medina. The other two judges are not authors.

    NBA also does not worry about the appearance of conflict of interest. For example, Kiely co-wrote with Reynolds and is on national tours with each other to talk about their book and are close friends.

    Anthology of works by various authors is not eligible.

    The long list comes out now, with the winter publishing season yet to be in full swing: did they manage to read all finished copy or some still in galley form? Newbery rules dictate members to read and nominate published titles and not bound galleys.

    • Eric Carpenter says:

      Meg Medina has also written picturebooks, so she’s not exclusively a YA author.

      It has now been a couple years with the NBAs new longlist procedure. Do we think it was a worthwhile change? I believe the introduction of the longlists coincided with the addition of more judges, specifically nonwriter judges such as bookstore owners and libraries. One of the things that makes the NBAs different from the alsc awards is the total lack of rules and procedures. Other than a few eligibility rules, the judges are free to determine their criteria as they go. I would love to see an article or blog post from someone who’s served on both the Newbery and the National Book Awards comparing the experience. Is Starr the only one who’s done both?

    • I did a post on the differences between ALA Awards and the National Book Award last year so have some information handy:

      This link has most of the information:

      Some notes: I didn’t realize until now the author has to be living (at the beginning of the award year – so December 1, 2016 this time). Awards can’t be given to posthumously published books (say, Go Set a Watchmen in the general Fiction category – not that it would have been nominated anyway, but it was the first example to come to mind).

      “Bound galleys and bound manuscripts are acceptable if a book has not yet been published. Finished books should be sent to replace galleys and manuscripts when available.” – this is necessary because check out the deadlines for submission:

      “Publishers must complete the online entry form and submit payment by the deadline: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 (12 midnight, Pacific).Publishers must provide a total of six copies of each submitted book: one mailed copy to the Foundation’s office, and one mailed to each of five judges in the appropriate category, to be received by June 30, 2017…Judges are not obligated to consider books that arrive after June 30.” So – that’s halfway through the year – yikes!

      And that $135 per book doesn’t sound so bad until you get to the additional conditions if they do get named a Finalist: All publishers submitting books for the National Book Awards must agree to: “Contribute $3,000 toward a promotional campaign if a submitted book becomes a Finalist ($750 for presses with income of under $10 million).” Also they agree to make sure their authors, if named as Finalists, will be present at the Finalists reading and at the National Book Awards Ceremony (plus other possible unnamed New York events) to cover all travel and accommodation costs for their Finalist and to provide a seat for the author at the Awards Ceremony (which I believe costs additional money for a ticket). I assume HarperCollins has a nice chunk of change put aside to cover all those costs just in case all five finalists end up being theirs!

      And I can’t find the number for this year, but last year in the SLJ article it says the judges chose from 326 submissions. No breakdown of what those looked like, but I suspect many publishers don’t want to waste money on submitting picture books and easy readers when they could focus their budget on more likely winners.

      I swear a few years ago I read a post from one of the National Book judges that talked about books they loved that didn’t win – I can’t find it now though so maybe I was mistaken!

    • Roxanne, as I was going over my list for this year. I’m finding very little Fantasy or SiFi. Please start dropping titles, I’m sure I’m missing something, Too bad SPUDNICK landed in Scotland.

      • Funny, I was going to ask you and the Heavy Medal readers to help us find outstanding SciFi/Fantasy titles that will be Newbery worthy and not too YA. Have you read Strange the Dreamer? Is it too old in your opinion?

      • Leonard Kim says:

        High fantasy? Like some others, I am having trouble finding many books this year I am really enthusiastic about, let alone in specific genres. In the realistic fantasy department, I thought Diane Stanley’s JOPLIN, WISHING was accomplished, but don’t think it’s a serious contender. I haven’t heard much Newbery buzz about Neil Gaiman’s NORSE MYTHOLOGY, but it’s outstanding. Actually I am going to vote for it on Goodreads right now. And if you count the superhero genre, there is, of course, THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL.

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

        I agree that good fantasy’s been hard to find so far this year. I had high hopes for “The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre” by Gail Carson Levine and did quite enjoy it myself….but I’m not sure it would hold up strongly in a Newbery discussion. “A Face Like Glass” by Hardinge would, but it’s not eligible. “Strange the Dreamer” will be an interesting discussion when we get to it, though, and I wouldn’t automatically rule it out as too old for Newbery….

      • I agree, Danae, about Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth — what a charmer! I’d be pushing for it big time if I could. Oh well. I reviewed Joplin, Wishing for Horn Book and thought it very well done. Another recent enjoyable read for me was Mira Bartok’s The Wonderling though it didn’t call out “Newbery” to me:) I adored Strange the Dreamer, but it seemed out of Newbery age range to me. (Sigh. I expect we will be debating that one too as we already have with Vincent and Theo. Yes, yes, I say in advance, there are bound to be 14 year olds for whom the book is spot on, but it seems pitched to a higher age group to me.)

      • Eric Carpenter says:

        Leonard brings up Squirrel Girl and though I don’t think that is particularly newbery worthy, I would love to think that Miles Morales could have some potential.

      • I did read STRANGE THE DREAMER – and I do think it’s too old. In fact, I thought it’s more of an adult book than YA! They don’t give the main character’s age, but he’s an adult living on his own. His love interest is 16, though, so he’s a very young adult. But as for “presentation to a child audience” – this is definitely not directed toward children. A 14-year-old could read it and enjoy it, sure, and we can debate how much that means. But this isn’t the audience it’s directed toward.

      • Oh, and I should add that this is another world with extenuating circumstances, so it’s not so awful as it sounds that an “adult” is with a 16-year-old! And *maybe* he’s a teen – I don’t think they actually gave his age. He’s very young – but he is living on his own like an independent adult.

      • When I came across STRANGE THE DREAMER, it said YA so I haven’t read it. Thanks for the other ideas, Can we all agree this is an odd year for middle-grade fiction? The comfortable, default, format may not get gold this year.

      • In the world of fantasy, my heart is afire for AKATA WARRIOR by Nnedi Okorafor. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I loved AKATA WITCH dearly and have the highest of hopes for its sequel.

      • What would make MILES MORALES more “Newbery worthy” than SQUIRREL GIRL? Personally, I loved SQUIRREL GIRL and did NOT get into MILES MORALES… I think SQUIRREL GIRL accomplished what it set out to do far better than MILES MORALES did.

      • Eric Carpenter says:

        My problem with Squirrel Girl was the lack of character development for practically everyone. Outside the criteria, I just thought the stakes were too silly to take serious. The villain was predictable and uninteresting/generic. Squirrel Girl is an amazing character (one who has defeated both Thanos and Dr. Doom in the past) but that didn’t come across at all in Hale’s book.

        Miles on the other hand felt like a real teenager with real problems and the cast around him was much more fully realized.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        It’s probably a bad idea to suggest a fantasy book I am only about 1/8 through, but I am really loving THE GLASS TOWN GAME by Catherynne Valente.

    • Hannah Mermelstein says:

      Is it a different Alex Sanchez than the YA author? (Rainbow Boys, etc.)

  2. Someone could argue that Long Way Down is not a realistic fiction because of all the talking dead people.

  3. I served on Boston Globe Horn Book Award which also has no stated criteria. Although by design there are diverse age ranges and format and genres since it has three categories. Even within each category we definitely kept diverse voices and styles in mind and tried to offer young readers choices and varieties.

  4. Eric, thanks for pointing out the Medina/picture book connection. Do you know if Magoon or Kiely has done anything but realistic YA that I am unaware of. Don’t want to misrepresent.

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Magoon has the recent Robyn Hoodlum books, a sort of futuristic, superhero, Robin Hood series which is for a slightly younger readership.

  5. Jen, Linda Sue Park wrote about her experience as a judge in a 2006 blog post, too:

    • You know, I’m pretty sure Ms. Park’s posts are the ones I remember. Wow…..I guess 2006 now qualifies as “a few years ago” to me. Time flies!

  6. Leonard. Thanks for reminding me and the readers of the Robin Hoodlum books. They are fun.

  7. So, by my reckoning, which clearly matters so much, the hands-down best book of the year, THE HATE U GIVE is on the list along side the absolute worst book of the year, XXXXXX XXXXXX.

    I know the criteria is all over the place on this award, perhaps they wanted to champion a variety of quality?

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Danae, elsewhere you said HELLO UNIVERSE was at the top of your list. Does that mean you think THE HATE U GIVE is too old for the Newbery?

      • Grrrrrrrr. You’ve listed the only three I’ve read and ONE does not belong here.

        I will give you THUG, CLAYTON, AND (although I haven’t read it, as some of us need to wait for the publishing date) LONG WAY DOWN.

        I’d love a priority reading list of the other YA titles. I read the abstracts and a few rose to the top for me, but i’m a slow reader and would love other insight.

      • OOps Leonard, the above response was for Roxanne. At some point I change it’s response.

        Alas, I do feel THUG is outside Newbery range. Not specifically, but the intended audience does feel older for me.

  8. DaNae I know which book you are talking about and can’t wait to discuss here later.

  9. Let’s play a guessing game. Name the five short listed titles!

  10. I will go first: The Hate U Give, Orphan Island, You Bring the Distant Near, Clayton Byrd, and Long Way Down.

    • I think the shortlist will be

      The Hate U Give (it will also win)
      Long Way Down
      Orphan Island
      American Street
      You Bring the Distant Near

      I echo the concerns in your first post, too, Roxanne. As a former (as of last month) middle school librarian, I usually cheer at the fact that usually half of the NBA long listers are middle-grade books. There are only three books on this list that would be in a middle school library. The rest are firmly 14+ (based on the professional reviews I’ve read), and, to boot, predominately realistic fiction.

      Then again – with the exception of a few titles, I’ve been underwhelmed by the middle grade novels I’ve read this year. And unlike DaNae and so many others, I quite enjoyed XXXXXX XXXXXX.

      • Haha! I just now noticed I missed DaNae’s “XXXXXX XXXXXX” mention… Fantastic.

        (I’m on her side!)

  11. Roxanne-
    Are you short listing the best or worst books of the year in your response to Danae?

  12. I am shortlisting books that I am guessing will become the NBA finalists. Wild guess with a little bit of wishful thinking.

  13. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    Roxanne’s comment that ” I wonder if it still makes the publishers go through a more strict self selecting process?” is intriguing. I wonder if any publishers bother to submit picture books? Does the rule that only “Full-length books of fiction and nonfiction” are eligible rule out picture books? I mean, 32 pages is still “full-length” for picture books. The NBA did have separate awards for Picture Books and Children’s Non-Fiction in the early 1980’s, just before the youth category was dropped for a dozen or so years. And they picked some great picture books: “Outside Over There,” Spier’s “Noah’s Ark,” “Miss Rumphius,” “Doctor De Soto,” and “A House is a House for Me.”

  14. I don’t know why A Crack in the Sea by H.M. Bouwman isn’t getting more Newbery buzz. It combines fantasy and historical fiction, while addressing relevant topics like refugees and racism. It is my long shot front runner for the medal.

  15. I was a bit disappointed that this year’s list didn’t include a wider variety in terms of target audience age and genre, but I’ve actually only read two of these books so far, so maybe this longlist isn’t as homogeneous as it looks to me right now. (But another five were already on my To-Read-ASAP list, so I’m definitely looking forward to reading my way through these) I’m also a little surprised and disappointed that Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers didn’t make the list. I had predicted that The Hate U Give and Vincent and Theo would both make it all the way to the shortlist, and that one of them would win.

  16. I’ve been on both NBA and Newbery, but both were a long time ago (late 90s) and the rules could be different. But NBA was far more casual about criteria beyond eligibility. I remember being mad because the book I wanted to win had not been submitted by its publisher and thus could not be discussed. Newbery, of course, has no such restriction.

  17. Meredith Burton says:

    Like so many, I am quite surprised there were no fantasy books nominated this year for NBA. But, I am excited to read Long Way Down when it is released as it has intrigued me. As for fantasy titles, I think Joplin, Wishing has so much beauty as it explores friendship and family so effectively. The ties that bind friends are so strong, and the theme of sacrifice is beautiful. I don’t know if fantasy would be considered for the Newbery this year since Girl Who Drank the Moon won last year, but I wish Joplin would get some sort of recognition. I am also pushing for Beyond the Bright Sea, which I greatly enjoyed. I’m surprised it wasn’t nominated for NBA. Also greatly excited to read Wish-Tree, by Applegate.

  18. Danielle Jones says:

    Jumping in late to the discussion here. I just finished YOU BRING THE DISTANCE NEAR, and I think that it has solid Newbery potential for the older range. I would love to see it discussed.

    I also wouldn’t rule out STRANGE THE DREAMER, my teen book group that has several 13 and 14 year olds loved it.

    • Mary Ann Scheuer says:

      Coming late to this discussion, but I want to respond to several threads. I agree with an earlier discussion here that fantasy standouts have been harder to find this year. Like Monica, I really enjoyed Mira Bartok’s THE WONDERLING — we have included it on our Berkeley Mock Newbery list.

      Although YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR didn’t make the shortlist, I would definitely include it in a Newbery discussion list. It seems very appropriate for 12-14 year olds. Absolutely fantastic writing, layered themes, well-developed characters. A book that will stay with me for a long time.

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