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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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The Glorious Ineligibles

roxanneheadBeing on the Newbery Committee means devoting almost all your reading time (and time to do other things in the past) to the year’s output of American Children’s Books. I know that my husband definitely felt the impact of being a Newbery Committee Spouse. Evenings that were family times — watching TV together or playing board games, were suddenly taken over by my sitting on the comfy chair, nightly, reading up a storm. I still recall the 2001 winter break month — David and Lily stayed with my in-laws and left me alone in our temporary apartment so I could catch up with all the nominated titles.

Steven and Sharon, what did you have to give up doing while you served on Newbery?



stevenheadMy kids were in college by the time I did Newbery, so I had a bit more free time than earlier in my life. I spend two hours a day on trains and light rail, and though I complain about it plenty, it’s a great thing for a Newbery year. I’d have a two hour minimum of reading no matter what. Plus I would take the books I needed to read, but maybe wasn’t excited to read, on the train, and plow through them because I had no choice. I put off a lot of adult reading, and had a long list of holds that were “suspended, reactivate Feb 1.”

sharonheadI’ve actually never served on Newbery…I’ve only served on the Caldecott Committee. It was before I had my children (in fact I was pregnant with twins during Midwinter when we did our decision-making), so it didn’t impact family too much, but I definitely gave up on some social activities and on reading adult materials. I also gave up a room of my house for space for all the books and the organization system I had to keep track of them all.



roxanneheadAlso, as the Newbery tenure marches on, suddenly you realize how varied your “normal” readings could be: grown-up books, books from other countries (in English or in other languages/translations,) and titles that you didn’t get to read from the previous couple of years. Even though I am not serving on the real Newbery Committee this year, I definitely feel the constraint of my reading scope. The four outstanding books that I read this year but can’t discuss here on Heavy Medal are:

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Not eligible because it is general nonfiction for adults and was published in 2014. Informative, powerful, life-changing, hopeful. I want everyone in the world to read it!

The Goat by Anne Fleming – not eligible because it is not by an American author. Charming, illuminating, moving. I have been recommending it to certain students who enjoy quirky and emotionally mature tales.

Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, translated by Helen Wang – not eligible because it is not by an American author and is a translation. Harsh realities wrapped in wise prose to highlight unyielding, positive human spirit and family bond. The translation definitely preserves the integrity of the original text.

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman – not eligible because it is not by an American author. This is the 2017 “I’ll drop everything else so I could read it as fast as I can” book! And it does not disappoint! Meeting Lyra as a baby, seeing her journey, the care that went into rescuing and securing her, and meeting and re-encountering fascinating characters in Lyra’s Oxford is just such a treat that I believe quite a few of those currently serving on the Newbery would have done the same as I did.

Steven and Sharon — what books did you read that you enjoyed and wished that we can discuss them here or are eligible for Newbery?





stevenheadLa Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman. Like Roxanne, there’s no way I was not going to read this one. I was a little apprehensive, wondering if it would really be its own book, or just more Lyra backstory, but no, it was excellent and I’m ready for the next in the series. Now.

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge. I vividly remember reading the first 100 pages of Hardinge’s “Lost Conspiracy” in 2009 and thinking: this is the Newbery winner! Then realizing the she’s British. This year I knew better, but I also believe this would be a contender (though it’s also an older book just published in the US this year). Her “Skin Full of Shadows” is out this month and I’ll read that for sure too.

The Song from Somewhere Else by A. F. Harrold. I reviewed this one for SLJ and see that it just made their Best of 2017 list. Harrold also wrote “The Imaginary” and I like the way both of those books are deceptively scary. They also use illustrations to great effect, which would make for some interesting “how much does the text do?” discussions if they were Newbery eligible…but they’re not.

Binny Bewitched by Hilary McKay. I’ll always read a new McKay as soon as it comes out. I’m liking the Binny series almost as much as the Cassons and the Exiles.



sharonheadAlso La Belle Sauvage! It was exceptional, but of course is not up for discussion. Beyond that, it’s mostly been books that weren’t published for children or weren’t published this year.

Boundless, a beautiful graphic work by Jillian Tamaki, was one I just couldn’t wait for. My Caldecott year was the year of THIS ONE SUMMER, and I just must immediately read anything a Tamaki touches. This, though, is definitely not a book for children.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I know I know, it’s so strange that I hadn’t read it before, I just never quite got to it, but with the Pearl Thief this year I knew it was time. I wish I could discuss it! Both in the context of The Pearl Thief, and just in general, but it is obviously not eligible this year.

roxanneheadDear Heavy Medal readers — what have you read this year that is glorious but not eligible for the Newbery? Share below in the comments!

Roxanne Hsu Feldman About Roxanne Hsu Feldman

Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School (4th to 8th grade) Librarian at the Dalton School in New York City. She served on the 2002 and 2013 Newbery Committees. Roxanne was also a member of 2008-2009 Notable Books for Children, 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and the 2017 Odyssey Award Committees. In 2016 Roxanne was one of the three judges for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. You can reach her at at


  1. La Belle Sauvage.

    Both Hardinges. I read A Face Like Glass years ago when it was published in the UK (as I wanted to read EVERYTHING of hers). At the time she seemed a bit under the radar here, but The Lie Tree changed that and now Abrams is bringing out older and newer works of hers. Yay!

    Frank Cotrell Boyce’s Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth. Just finishing up reading it aloud to my class. This writer should NOT be so under the radar in this country. He does middle grade to perfection.

    Jonathan Stroud’s The Empty Grave — probably wouldn’t go far as it is the finale of a series, but so good!

    Noah Tervor’s Born a Crime. I know, I know…adult adult adult. But why this didn’t get an Alex I do not understand.

  2. Meredith Burton says:

    I enjoyed Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, which made me laugh a lot.

    I previously nominated this title for Newbery on this site and then realized three of the short stories had been previously published. However, The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic, by Leigh Bardugo, is one of my favorite reads this year. The stories, though inspired by familiar fairy tales, delve deeply into the olde material to unearth new insights, and the characters are intense. It’s a beautiful collection, and I wish it would receive some sort of recognition. As a side note, I have never read any of the Grishaverse series before, so for me to be able to follow the stories without difficulty proves that this title stands well on its own.

  3. Leonard Kim says:

    I started listening to REFUGEE and am not enjoying it very much. But it makes me think of Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees by Mary Beth Leatherdale. It came out this year but is Newbery-ineligible (Leatherdale is Canadian.) I hope it’s on everybody’s radar and gets used in classrooms everywhere. It is of course very relevant, but what’s more, shows thought and care in its presentation and choices that I’m not finding so far in Gratz’s book.

    • I agree, Leonard. REFUGEE was a total slog for me. It felt paper-thin and superficial.

      Thanks for the Canadian recommendation, though. Will look into it!

  4. Meredith Burton says:

    And, I forgot to mention one more anthology that I wish was eligible: Flying Lessons and Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh.

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Is it not eligible?

      • Steven Engelfried says:

        I believe that Flying Lessons and Other Stories would be eligible.

        Multiple authors are okay: “”Author” may include co-authors” [Terms and Criteria].

        And although one of the ten stories was previously published, the other nine all have 2017 copyright dates: “…the amount of previously published material must be a minor
        portion of the entire work. The substantial majority of the book must be wholly new, original and previously unpublished” [Newbery Manual].

        And I believe all ten contributors are eligible authors.

  5. Another vote for Sputnik’s Guide!

  6. Eric Carpenter says:

    My two favorite reads of the year are both ineligible. Like everyone else I loved The Book of Dust. My other top read of 2017 is the adult graphic novel memoir THE BEST WE COULD DO by Thi Bui.
    While Bui’s solo work is not going to be on any newbery discussion table, I hope the picture book she illustrated A DIFFERENT POND by Bao Phi is carefully considered by the committee.

  7. Question – do you think ONE LAST WORD is eligible? When I looked at it, I saw that it included the poems Grimes based her poetry on (using the Golden Shovel technique) and thought the inclusion of those older poems would make it ineligible (they make up somewhere between a third to half of the book, I would say). However, Anderson’s Bookshop placed it on their well regarded Mock Newbery list so now I’m curious as to what others think!

    • Steven Engelfried says:

      I’m not sure about ONE LAST WORD. It seems like one third to one half of the book is clearly more than “a minor portion of the entire work,” which would make it ineligible at first glance.

      But maybe there’s an argument to be made. Is it fair to look at the older poems as something different from the text of the book? Their primary use is to set up the poems that follow. Kind of similar to HEART TO HEART: NEW POEMS INSPIRED BY TWENTIETH-CENTURY ART. In that book, writers created poems to go with pieces of art. Similar to how the writes in ONE LAST WORD create poems to go with other poems. You have to include the older poems (and the art reproductions), but the essence of the book is the new poems in both cases.

      I don’t think I’ve convinced myself, but do have enough uncertainty that if I was on the committee, I would want an eligibility decision made, either through consensus or through the chair and ALSC’s priority consultant.

  8. Meredith Burton says:

    Thank you for the clarification. I did not realize Flying Lessons could be considered. It’s one of my favorite reads of the year.

    I enjoyed Refugee, although I felt the characters’ experiences were contrived in places. I also felt the ending was too abrupt. I will look for Ms. Leatherhead’s book. Thank you.

    • steven engelfried says:

      J. Patrick Lewis’ KEEP A POCKET IN YOUR POEM from this year seems to fit into the same eligibility question as ONE LAST WORD. It also includes classic poems, then pairs them with new poems; parodies rather than tributes, like OLW. And both make me think of SCIENCE VERSE by Jon Scieszka from 2004. Like Lewis, he writes parodies of famous poems. Unlike Lewis, though, he doesn’t include the original poems for comparison. Should that be a difference maker in terms of Newbery eligibility? What if either poet, or Nikki Grimes, had included the original poems, but placed them in the back matter? They all seem like the same type of book to me, and now I’m leaning towards thinking all should be eligible.

  9. Sheila Welch says:

    I agree with Roxanne’s opinion of JUST MERCY by Bryan Stevenson. She says, “I want everyone in the world to read it!” Although it’s a book for adults, it could be read by teens and could give them a new perspective on the death penalty. It’s the sort of memoir that informs and inspires. I read it recently and will be giving copies to all seven of my adult children this year.

  10. I am thoroughly behind with you all. But I have a question, hoping someone will jump in and answer. Would OUT OF WONDER be eligible as one of the three authors is Canadian?

    • Eligibility issues are usually sorted out by ALSC Office and the priority consultant on a case by case base, I don’t think anyone could say with authority whether this book would be eligible or not. (My fear is that it would not, given the percentage of the non-American authorship.)

  11. Leonard Kim says:

    I just read 2017’s Turtle Island: The Story of North America’s First People by Yellowhorn and Lowinger. It is Newbery-ineligible, because the authors are from Canada, but I think the first 6 chapters would be maybe the best informational book for children I’ve ever seen. When it shifts from a mythological-archaeological approach (Yellowhorn is a professor of archaeology and a member of the Piikani First Nations) to a more standard historical approach, I do think it becomes less striking and distinct, though still good, but for sure I still would have nominated and advocated for this had it been eligible.


  1. […] Medal has a clever post, “The Glorious Ineligibles” featuring books the three moderators love, but aren’t eligible for one reason or […]

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