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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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It’s Here! Announcing the Short List and Oakland’s Mock Newbery!

We are so excited to announce our short list today!  But before we get to that, let me tell you a little bit about our plans for this list and some of our plans for the blog for the rest of the Newbery season.

This short list will be used in the Mock Newbery discussion taking place in Oakland on Sunday, January 28th at 12:30 pm.  I’ll be sending out an invite for that sometime in the next week.  If you haven’t been on the invite list in the past, and would like to join us, just let me know and I’ll make sure to include you.

What about those of you who aren’t near Oakland and can’t participate in person?  I’m so glad you asked!  We’ll be voting online as well, of course!  We will conduct two separate votes.  For those who have read every title and are interested in voting in a way that simulates the Newbery balloting process, we will have one vote that works that way.  We will explain more about this process when the time comes, but to prepare, make sure you’ve read each of the titles on our list.  In addition, we will also have a popular vote that everyone is welcome to participate in.  This will work in a more straight forward manner – you vote, and whichever title gets the most votes, wins!

For online voters, this short list is only HALF the titles you’ll have to choose from.  We’ll be looking at your nominations and selecting 9 more titles to create a long list of titles for our online balloting.


  • Heavy Medal long list announced – 12/22/17
  • We will begin posting “nominations” for each title on the Short List, in alphabetical order, to simulate the Newbery process – 1/3/18
  • Sharon’s in-person Mock Newbery in Oakland, CA – 1/28/18
  • Online voting on Heavy Medal begins – 2/5/18
  • The real Newbery winners are announced – 2/12/18

This short list was selected to include titles that would work well together in a in-person discussion and that cover a broad range of eligible titles in order to mimic the kind of discussion the real committee has.  They are all books we think the real committee may be discussing, but of course we’ll never know what is on their table for sure.

And now, our short list, in alphabetical order by title:

  1. Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams Garcia
  2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  3. Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
  4. Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers
  5. I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris
  6. Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
  7. Real Friends by Shannon Hale
  8. Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman
  9. Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

clayton byrd  hate u give  hellouniverse her right footImJustNoGoodAtRhyming   Orphan Island  realfriends  Vincent and theo wishtree

If you haven’t read these titles, now’s a good time to get that reading going!  And stay tuned for your chance to nominate some more titles.

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. An intriguing list, to be sure! A little sad that Train I Ride and The War I Finally Won didn’t make this short list, but hope to see them both on the long list.

    I only have to read three on your shortlist (yay!), one of which I have to get over some serious author-issues to plow through. :)

    Looking forward to the discussions!

  2. I know you said the “long” list will be, er, longer, but I was looking for a little clarification on a few of the titles you picked just out of curiousity. I’m not trying to be nitpicky at all. Please don’t take it that way. I’m just interested in the thought and selection process.

    For instance, THE WAR I FINALLY WON was tied for the lead on this site with 6 nominations last time I checked. Along with REFUGEE. Neither made this list. What was the reasoning behind that? REFUGEE has been given some time on here and I can maybe see why that one would have been not included based on the discussion, but THE WAR I FINALLY WON has not really been given ample discussion time on here (outside of my sequel points) and it received the most nominations…

    Furthermore, a book like ORPHAN ISLAND (sure to be divisive) only received 1 nomination on here (along with TONS of other once-nominated books) but was included on this shortlist. Why was this title chosen? Wouldn’t the real committee choose their final books (shortlist) based on their own nominations?

    Like I said, answer or not, but I was just merely curious. I’ve read most so I’m looking forward to debating and discussing all of them.

    • steven engelfried says:

      Great questions, Mr. H. You identified one of the toughest decisions we made in our phone conversation where we finalized the list, between WAR I FINALLY WON and ORPHAN ISLAND. WAR had lots of nominations, some strong support from readers and at least one blogger nomination (mine). I won’t speak for Sharon or Roxanne, but in the end I leaned towards ORPHAN because it was a more unusual book and WAR was a more traditional Newbery title (and the first book had already earned an Honor). Those are terrible reasons for selecting a Newbery winner, but can be justified for selecting Mock titles. With most Mocks, you’re thinking about the mix of books, the likely reactions, and including a potentially “divisive” book can be a good way to give participants a feel for the process. That’s the direction we chose, but we could have easily gone another way.

      As for the real committee, you’re correct, the final books are based on their own nominations: “ONLY books previously nominated or qualify as late publications and are suggested by committee members be considered at the Midwinter Selection Meeting. No books may be added to the list once the Midwinter Meeting begins” [Newbery Manual]. So the nominated books are the only ones discussed (unless there are any late publications added in January).

      Though they don’t all necessarily make it to discussion. Committees may choose to review the list of nominated books before discussion begins to confirm that all titles still need to be discussed. This can be a time saver; if you reduce the number of books you have more time to discuss the remainders. Typically the nominator of each title is asked if she still wants the book discussed; if the answer is no, any other member can chime in and request that it stays on the table. It requires unanimous agreement to remove a book without discussion.

    • Sharon McKellar Sharon McKellar says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Mr. H. Steven said it about as well as could be said. This list wasn’t picked based on reader nominations or even what we might have nominated if we were on a real committee. It was picked, as in year’s past, to create the most interesting discussion we could imagine that incuded a diverse range of titles. This piece of the process is QUITE different than how the real Newbery would work, and by nature has to be because the size of the list has to be so much smaller than the list that the real committee is likely looking at! in a 4.5 hour in-person discussion, we just only have so much time for so many titles and we want to make that expereince as rich as possible, even if it means leaving out favorite books (The War I Finally Won being one of mine, as well).

      We *are* however doing a longer list that WILL be based more on those things (reader nominations etc), which isn’t something we’ve always done here in the past. We just thought this was a way to stay true to the mission of this blog and the needs of the in-person discussion while ALSO letting our readers’ nominations have a bit of a voice.

      It’s all a bit of an experiement and we’ll see how it goes, but creating this short list is heartbreaking every time, let me tell you! :)

  3. Thanks Sharon and Steven for the explanation! Like I said, wasn’t attacking. Merely curious. From years of participating on here, I thought I knew the answer, but for some reason I was thinking about the nomination process and narrowing down discussion worthy texts.

    Off topic, I have enjoyed the thoroughness and clarity of the posts this year. Thanks to Sharon, Roxanne, and Steven. Curious to see how some of these discussions wrap up.

  4. Carol Edwards says:

    I’m an advocate for Orphan Island for many reasons but one aspect it really adds to this list is the ‘not already honored author’ title. I think as the committee looks harder at the actual writing of the books on the table, previous prejudices about authors fade away and newer voices emerge. Which is one aspect of the awards I dearly love.

    • Sharon McKellar Sharon McKellar says:

      I agree! All complicated feelings aside about the ending, the world building, the message etc, sentence by sentence, I think Laurel Snyder wrote a stunning novel and the writing shines.

    • Carol, that’s how I felt when we were discussing the Short List. I could totally imagine myself being persuaded by other members who are really supporting Orphan Island and vote for it in the final balloting process. As I say often, the Newbery winners are ALWAYS going to be a surprise: even for those who serve on the committee and for those whose favorite book of the year gets the gold. To have 14 other members supporting one’s top choice is always going to be a pleasant surprise – and to change one’s mind about titles throughout the deliberation process is another.

  5. Kate Todd says:

    With a 15 member Newbery Committee, and each person nominating 7 titles, it is possible to have 105 books if there are no duplications. In actual practice about how many titles are actually discussed?

    • Sharon McKellar Sharon McKellar says:

      It is possible, for sure, although probably not probable, that 105 books would be nominated and on the table. Every book nominated needs to be discussed. Sometimes that might be quite short with people giving a lot of negatives, not a lot of positives and/or the nominator withdrawing the nomination if everyone agrees that the book doesn’t have a chance.

      But real committee discussions can go for hours and hours and all night long and getting through each book, when the list is long, can take a long time!

      (That’s why we keep our short list short – to have time to get through discussion in just a few hours.)

    • I would say the safe bet is about half of that 105 because there are bound to be quite a bit of overlap, members nominating titles others already nominated. That’s quite common. It might be even fewer than half. 3-4 dozens?

    • Usually there are less than 105 titles to discuss because for the first round of nominations you have no idea what other members of the committee are going to nominate. So there is bound to be duplication in that first round. Then I think the magic begins to happen. Members begin to see how certain titles are gaining strength and want to add to that, while also at the same time wanting to make sure the discussion has breadth and depth. The second and third round of nominations are very exciting. Again, you don’t know what other members of the committee are doing until you see the list. I don’t think I am uncovering any secrets, but the process really does allow for a broad list of titles to be on the table and for consensus to begin to build.

  6. Kate Todd says:

    I recognize the need to keep a Mock Newbery list short to make discussions manageable. However, I think most people who participate in a Mock Newbery are hoping that the eventual winner is among the books that were discussed.

    • Sharon McKellar Sharon McKellar says:

      Agreed and we hope so as well! I think any of the books on our short list have a chance. It is always hard to predict, and this year felt particularly hard with so many options but so few total standouts. But, like I said in the post, we picked titles we expect are on the table in the real discusion and that have a chance of taking home a medal!

      Sometimes the winner is on our discussion list. Sometimes the book is one we hadn’t even considered (like The Higher Power of Lucky), but we do our best to balance a good discussion and a list of books that have an actual chance with the time we have in the room together.

      I’m at a loss for what will win this year! I do think the books on our list have a chance. Sounds like you have some precitions that don’t match our short list. Would love to hear them.

      • I will probably be disappointed if none of the books we have discussed here on Heavy Medal (which includes many many more titles) receive recognition. However, it will also be fantastic if there is a winner that still awaits me discover post-YMA announcement in February!

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

        It is always fun to see how predictions go. But at the same time, I do like the surprise years. I think about 2007: “Whittington” was my favorite book of the year and I thought it had no chance, but it got an Honor. “Show Way” was great, but I thought, picture book, so no chance…it got an Honor too. And I hadn’t read “Criss Cross,” the Medal book, and it’s now one of my favorites.

        On my committee years our Medal books were on most people’s radar (“When You Reach Me” and “The One and Only Ivan”), but each year had at least one Honor book that wasn’t being talked about much (“The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg” and “Three Times Lucky”).

  7. I definitely have a New York bias. So CLAYTON BYRD GOES UNDERGROUND and THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET are at the top of my list. It is easy to visualize the children I worked with at NYPL in the locations described in these books.

    • Sharon McKellar Sharon McKellar says:

      I totally get that. I definitely have Oakland bias. And Rita Williams Garcia hits the mark for us, too! (Especially One Crazy Summer which is one my forever favorites.)

      • Genevieve says:

        I wish there was a Morris equivalent for children’s books (or is there one that I don’t know about?). THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET is such a terrific debut.

      • I absolutely agree, Genevieve. I’ve not yet read STARS, but TRAIN I RIDE was a wonderful debut. As was MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON.

  8. My faculty Mock Newbery group met yesterday and we had a fun time “nominating” titles. We went around the room and had each person nominate one title. Then we went around again, allowing people to nominate new titles, second already nominated titles, or pass (depending on how many they already have read and how strongly they felt about certain titles.) We went through 3 Rounds of nomination, with a couple of members who have read a couple dozen titles to nominate one or two more titles. We came up with this final list – 14 titles total, with diverse format and genres. Our in-person meeting will be held the weekend before the YMA announcement. I have no clue whether any of these titles have a chance of winning the Newbery but it sure has been fun so far! (x 2 or x 3 = 2 or 3 people nominated the same title)

    Clayton Byrd x 2
    Hello Universe
    Her Right Foot
    I’m Just No Good at Rhyming
    Pearl Thief
    Piecing Me Together x 2
    Post It
    Real Friends x 2
    Refugee x 2
    Schomberg x 2
    See You In the Cosmos x 2
    Tumble and Blue x 2
    Vincent & Theo
    Wishtree x 3

  9. Do you mean Posted by John Anderson [Post It]?
    How many people met for the nominations?

    • Kate, oops. Yes, Posted 😉 And twelve of us (of 14 or 15 in the group) met and nominated. I “forbid” anyone from discussing their views of the books with each other through our process — wishing to emulate as closely as possible the actual Newbery process: that all things said should be “on the table” for all to hear. No alliances shall be made either in Support or in Defeat of any title! haha

  10. Public and school librarians have selected a final list for voting in the annual Rhode Island Mock Newbery. Approximately 30 books were discussed over the course of three meetings/three months. Before voting on January 17, we will have one last discussion of:

    1. Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk
    2. Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Garcia Williams
    3. Cyclone by Doreen Cronin
    4. Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers
    5. Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
    6. Patina by Jason Reynolds
    7. See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
    8. The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla
    9.The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
    10. The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

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