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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

December Nominations

In December, the real committee submits two more nominations and this is crunch time.  It’s the committee’s last chance to nominate titles (unless things come out later in the year) and each member’s last chance to ensure that their choices are on the table for discussion.

Here at Heavy Medal we did nominations in October and those results are here.   We also collected your nominations in November and those results are here.  Now is your last chance to add your voice and nominate two final titles for consideration.  We will look at all of these nominations when we create our long list which we will then use for voting!

Please comment with your final two nominations and we’ll see what happens!  Lend your support to previously nominated titles, or get a favorite on the list that hasn’t shown up yet!

As for me – I’m going to nominate THE 57 BUS and ORPHAN ISLAND.  The 57 Bus is a longshot that I’d like to see discussed, and Orphan Island I think has gotten a bit lost in the shuffle because so many people reacted poorly to the plot.  I think it is worth an in depth discussion, and just want to add a nomination.

57 Bus    orphanisland


What would you like to nominate?  We’ll be announcing our long list on December 22nd, so get your nominations in quickly so we have time to consider them!  Can’t wait to read what you all have to say.

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. Leonard Kim says:

    Being strategic specifically for this blog, my nominees would be PIECING ME TOGETHER and THE CRACK IN THE SEA. They already have a couple nominations so possibly this would help push them onto the “long list” where they could compete against THE HATE U GIVE and (presumed long-lister given the large # of nominations) REFUGEE.

    If I weren’t strategic, I’d probably instead use a nomination to signal which serious contender I’d vote for (VINCENT AND THEO), because it’s a little depressing just to nominate books which don’t get support. Though I still think, just to encourage people to read it, I would nominate GHOSTS OF GREENGLASS HOUSE, which is lovely (and seasonal) even if mine may be its only nomination.

    In an actual Newbery simulation, I probably wouldn’t bother re-nominating VINCENT AND THEO and put yet another book on the table like THIS IS HOW WE DO IT (partly to compare against books like HER RIGHT FOOT) but given the long list format here, there’s really little point.

  2. Leonard,

    I read GREENGLASS HOUSE to my 5th graders back when it was new. When we reached the plot twist in the end, my class went nuts. Absolutely bonkers. I had Twitter up on my computer and my screen was turned on for the class to see. I Tweeted at Kate Milford about the pandemonium in my classroom and the class was able to see her Tweet back on the screen in just a matter of seconds! She wrote “AHHH! I know what part you just read!” The kids thought it was so cool that we were reading a book, having such a moment, and at the exact same time, somewhere else in the country, the author was kind of experiencing that moment with us.

    From that moment on, I have had a bias toward Milford. She’s one of my favorite authors. GREENGLASS HOUSE is another one of my all time favorites (probably for the reasons mentioned above). I’m halfway through GHOSTS OF GREENGLASS HOUSE and absolutely love it so far. I think Milford’s steampunk, quirky descriptive style is fantastic and just about every character in her large casts of characters are usually multi-dimensional.

    I’d definitely get behind GHOSTS OF GREENGLASS HOUSE, but have a feeling it’d suffer from by not standing on its own.

  3. As for my nominations…

    1) UNDEFEATED by Steve Sheinkin
    2) HELLO, UNIVERSE by Erin Entrada Kelly

  4. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    One key part of the real Newbery process we miss here is seeing the actual written nominations and evaluating how well they make the case for each book. I might think about adding a nomination for HER RIGHT FOOT or LONG WAY DOWN if I thought that I could highlight positives about the books that other nominators hadn’t touched on. But for this blog, I’ll add two that haven’t received nominations so far:

    BOUND BY ICE: Though the lack of responses to a post last week is not encouraging.

    BECOMING KAREEM: This was surprisingly effective. I’m a big basketball fan (though never a huge Kareem fan), but this was about much more. He does a nice job of conveying what it was like to be a kid like him in that time and place while also bringing in the perspective of an adult reflecting on his past.

    • Leonard Kim says:

      While reading BECOMING KAREEM, I thought to Google whether Jim Thorpe had written a memoir (apparently not). Abdul-Jabbar’s reflectiveness is something I realized I missed from UNDEFEATED though of course it would be impossible for Sheinkin to do for Thorpe what Abdul-Jabbar can do for himself. I especially like how Abdul-Jabbar breaks chronology to show decades later his and his coaches’ changed perspectives from the time the recounted events happened. On the other hand, comparing these books made me appreciate that UNDEFEATED‘s Newbery argument might actually lie in Sheinkin’s outsider’s and historian’s ability to take classic big game narratives and yoke them to the social themes he is concerned with. Whereas in BECOMING KAREEM, there actually isn’t that much sports excitement there, and I think that may be a missed literary and “presentation for children” opportunity.

  5. Meredith Burton says:

    I would like to nominate:

    1. Flying Lessons and Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh. This is a book I have read several times this year. Each time I read it, I am struck by the authors’ abilities to examine seemingly insignificant events in their characters’ lives. A boy’s summertime trip with a grandmother, for example, or a young girl’s time spent at her father’s work site bring momentous changes and insights to the main characters. The diversity of the characters is also well-needed and wonderfully conveyed. The different writing styles are also interesting.
    2. The Summer of Owen Todd, by Tony Abbott. This novel explores sexual abuse of a child through a friend’s eyes. The dilemma of the main character, the pressures in his own family, and the heartbreaking predicament of his friend are explored with tender care. There is also some humor, and the characters are multi-layered. There are no easy answers, but the story is written honestly. The first-person narration is excellent.

    Honorable Mention: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, by Karina Glaser. This has a Penderwick’s feel and was one of my favorite reads of the year.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      Flying Lessons would be an interesting discussion. Tricky to evaluate with multiple authors and styles. I thought some stories were stronger than others; Matt de la Pena’s and Jacqueline Woodson’s for example, but that’s typically true of a short story collection, even if they’re all by the same person.

  6. My last 2 nominations:

    ME AND MARVIN GARDENS by Amy Sarah King because I am surprised there has not been more discussion of the unique interplay of science fiction, ecological solutions and child/animal bonding.

    David Barclay Moore because I am interested in a discussion of the literary merit of Black English/African American Vernacular.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      Yes, ME AND MARVIN GARDENS was excellent. And really doesn’t fit neatly into a category. Lots to think about with that book.

    • YIKES I’m really troubled by Kate’s reasoning for why she’d like THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET included in discussion. It’s unclear to me how the inclusion of AAVE in a text would have any effect on the “literary merit.” (P.S. I’m using quotes here not to be sarcastic but to acknowledge that the idea of “literary merit,” as much as it very much is a Newbery factor, is neither actually a concrete thing at all nor is it an unoppressive structure).

      • Kazia, I definitely would love to discuss further regarding Kate’s statement and your objection. I’m intrigued by the idea that “literary merit” could be both subjective and a “power” structure. Do you mean that by singling out the author’s choice of using “AAVE,” Kate has already placed Star Beneath Our Feet in a separate (lower?) category from the other titles that utilize “proper, white English”?

        Do you object to the notion that an authorial choice (such as using a specific dialect) should be included in discussing the “literary merits” or at least “literary components” of a book?

      • Thanks for continuing the discussion, and apologies in advance for the mini essay! To me, singling out the use of AAVE in a text to discuss a book’s potential literary merit implies a belief that using AAVE potentially jeopardizes a book’s literary merit–despite that 1) every book discussed on Heavy Medal has at least a certain implied, agreed-upon standard of literary excellence and 2) to put AAVE as *the* reason for inclusion in discussion would be as out of place as singling out the use of Spanish in a text. It’s a literary component, for sure, and can arguably impact the merit of a text (think, for example, of the discussions last year about mistranslated Spanish in FRANK AND LUCKY GET SCHOOLED). But Kate’s singling out of AAVE in relation to the potential merit (or implied lack thereof) in THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET, harkens back to the ideologies that you mentioned that AAVE is “improper”, “bad,” or “less than.” So I’d argue that yes, whether intentional or not, this is the implication of Kate’s comment.

        In terms of power structures and subjectivity and literary excellence, I think this is something that you, Roxanne, touched on beautifully in your post about Rick Riordan, popularity, and quality of presentation! And to go ever further, what language and whose writing is considered “literary” (and thus having “literary merit”) has always been about (sometimes unconsciously) upholding kyriarchical power structures. One big way that oppressive systems entrench themselves is when those in power present their subjectivity as objectivity. The idea of whiteness and middle-class English as “proper” and “meritorious” is a false equivalence naturalized by the power held by white middle class English speakers.

      • Kazia, thanks for this mini-essay! I would like to continue this discussion in January on a stand-alone post, perhaps. Let’s make this more visible! Could I copy/paste your paragraphs as the main body of a future post?

      • For sure! I’d love to continue the discussion, Roxanne.

      • Whoa. Wow. Kazia, you and I totally read Kate’s sentence differently. I interpreted it as something positive – AAVE as voice that *has* literary merit.

        Maybe because Kate’s comment was vague, we should be charitable in interpreting her meaning. Until proven otherwise – should Kate choose to respond – I like to think that she had noble intentions.

        If it turns out Kate thinks AAVE is not meritorious, then we can have this discussion. (And, to be sure, Kazia, we are on the same side here.)

      • Joe, I am sure that Kate’s comment was totally meant as a positive note: that the author employs AAVE well into the narration and she would love to be able to discuss it further with Heavy Medal readers. What I take away from Kazia’s comment is the question of WHY is it something we need to single out in our discussion. Is there some inherent hierarchy when it comes to style, tone, phrasing, etc. as we read and think about books and especially books for young readers. If so, is that hierarchy warranted? If so, which elements are considered “elevated” and which are on the bottom of a pyramid?

  7. I’ve been looking at the Goodreads list of all the books I’ve read this year, and I still can’t believe how many underwhelming titles there were. It’s such a stark contrast to 2015 & 2016 where there were almost too many great books to champion.

    Reflecting, though, there are two titles that I keep coming back to as the top of the slop, and those are the two I will nominate.

    LOVING VS VIRGINIA – chillingly good poetry, it may push the age limit, but it’s worthy of discussion.

    THE WAR I FINALLY WON – I don’t know if it’s too sequel-y, but it *is* the only book I read this year that I held tightly to my chest afterwards, sighing with satisfaction. I can’t think of a single ding against it.

  8. Eric Carpenter says:

    1. THE 57 BUS – This is a bit of a cheat because I don’t know if I would be brave enough to champion this on my own, but knowing that Sharon is putting it on the table, I would be right there with her championing this one with all my energy. I’ve thought about, and talked about this title more than any other book in 2017.
    2. I’M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING – When helping students find a new read, I can open this book up to any page read any one stanza and the student is ready to snatch it out of my hand and check it out.

  9. 1. Tumble and Blue
    2. First Rule of Punk

  10. 1. See you in the cosmos
    2. I’m just no good at rhyming

  11. YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR by Mitali Perkins
    PIECING ME TOGETHER by Renee Watson


    I’ve just started BOUND BY ICE. I’m enjoying it so much, I’m tempted to nominate it.

  13. sam leopold says:

    1. Loving vs. Virginia
    2. Tumble and Blue

  14. Matt Bowers says:

    One Last Word by Grimes
    Tumble & Blue by Beasley

  15. Sara Coffman says:

    1. See You in the Cosmos
    2. Her Right Foot

  16. Mary Clare O'Grady says:

    1. Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
    2. The Stars Beneath Our Feet

    I still have so many to read!

  17. Sharon McKellar Sharon McKellar says:

    Please continue sending in December Nominations. Here’s an update of reader Nominations so far, and we’ll update at the end of the week. So far we have 159 nominations and 68 titles.

    I’m Just No Good at Rhyming
    The War I Finally Won

    Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
    Hello Universe

    Loving Vs. Virginia

    4 NOMINATIONS (10)
    All’s Faire in Middle School
    Beyond the Bright Sea
    First Rule of Punk
    The Hate U Give
    Piecing Me Together
    Princess Cora and the Crocodile
    Real Friends
    Stars Beneath Our Feet
    Tumble and Blue
    Vincent and Theo

    Crack in the Sea
    Her Right Foot
    See You in the Cosmos
    Thick as Thieves
    The Train I Ride

    2 NOMINATIONS (12)
    The 57 Bus
    Charlie and Mouse
    A Different Pond
    Forever or a Long Long Time
    Glass Town Game
    Midnight Without a Moon
    One Last Word
    Orphan Island
    Pablo and Birdy
    Well That Was Awkward

    1 NOMINATION (33)
    Auma’s Long Run
    Becoming Kareem
    Bound by Ice
    Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
    Fault Lines in the Constitution
    Flying Lessons and Other Stories
    Forest World
    Ghosts of Greenglass House
    Give Bees a Chance
    Greetings from Witness Protection
    Joplin Wishing
    Langue of Thorns: Midnight Tales
    Long Way Down
    Lucky Broken GIrl
    Me and Marvin Gardens
    Pearl Thief
    Peter and Ernesto
    Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate
    Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine
    Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet
    Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library
    Ship of the Dead
    Strange Fruit
    Strange the Dreamer
    The Summer of Owen Todd
    Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
    Warden’s Daughter
    Way to Bea
    You Bring the Distant Near

  18. Fault Lines in the Constitution
    All’s Faire in Middle School

  19. Hello Universe
    And my favorite of the year…
    The First Rule of Punk

  20. Sheila Welch says:

    1) I’m Just No Good at Rhyming
    2) Loving vs Virginia

  21. 1. The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish
    2. The Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg

  22. 1) The War I Finally Won
    2) Beyond the Bright Sea

  23. 1. The War I Finally Won. Best character development of all the books I read this year.
    2. All’s Faire

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