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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

What’s Missing?

9780545870740_p0_v1_s192x300The year’s almost over and the 2017 Heavy Medal has been going for three and a half months.   We’ll announce our “Long List” on Friday, which will include roughly 18 titles that we’ll use for our on-line voting in early February.  You’d think by now we’d have covered every book with a decent shot at Newbery recognition.  But of course we haven’t.  Roxanne, Sharon, and I have chosen to highlight books that have caught our attention because of their high quality (as we see it) or the attention they’ve gotten from others (reviews, buzz, etc.). But we’ve all read books that we didn’t have time to highlight, or chose not to.  And, speaking for myself, I have not read every book that I’d hoped to.   

By my count we’ve written about 20 posts on single titles and covered another 20 or so in posts where we group more than one book in a related theme.  So that’s 40+.  Reader nominations have identified 60+ titles so far, with more to come for December, so we clearly left out many with strong support.  And additional titles of interest have shown up in comments to posts.  So there are a bunch of noteworthy books out there that we just haven’t had time or space to feature.  And of course we have no idea at all what the real Committee has nominated.   

Here are a few that I regret not getting to so far:  

I read ME AND MARVIN GARDENS by Amy King fairly early in the year.  It’s an intriguing first children’s novel (with three starred reviews) by one of the most interesting YA authors around (aka A. S. King).  IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS by Karen English (four starred reviews) is a very strong historical fiction title, taking place during the Watts riots of 1965.  I considered writing about SHORT by Holly Sloan early on (only one starred review), but chose WELL THAT WAS AWKWARD instead and never got back to it.   And I worry that I haven’t looked hard enough at one prequel, THE PEARL THIEF by Elizabeth Wein (five stars), and one sequel, THICK AS THIEVES by Megan Whalen Turner (four stars).

Anything else that we’ve missed?  Late publications, under-the-radar, small press titles?  Others that haven’t been mentioned at all by readers or bloggers on Heavy Medal?  Is there a book out there that has a chance to surprise everyone on February 12th when the awards are finally announced?   

Steven Engelfried About Steven Engelfried

Steven Engelfried is the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at


  1. THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU by Jennifer Maschari was a pleasant little treat for me this year. It’s received zero stars, which is kind of shocking to me. The characters were well developed, and the plot – although fairly familiar and trope-y – will resonate with a lot of children. I thought the treatment of the subject was realistic and thoughtful, and the struggles of Emily, the protagonist, were all-too-familiar (and will be for a lot of middle school kids). It hurt my heart to read the book, but I thought it was lovely.

  2. I’m a little surprised that there hasn’t been any talk about THREE PENNIES by Melanie Crowder. It’s a really unique, interesting, and to me very moving take on what could be a familiar story of a girl in foster care who can’t give up on the idea of finding her birth mother, told in very short chapters from a variety of viewpoints, some human, some not–a bit reminiscent of AS King’s Printz Honor book Please Ignore Vera Dietz, but very firmly middle grade. The book has 2 starred reviews.

  3. Meredith Burton says:

    The Marvelwood Magicians, by Diane Zahler, (Boyd Mills Press), is a wonderful book. I don’t believe it received any stars, but the characters are diverse, and the main character’s struggle to hold onto her identity is very vivid and relatable. The fantasy circus setting is also vivid.

  4. Derrick Barnes’s Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut? Getting loads of Caldecott attention, but text s terrific too.

    • I second this. I loved that book.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      Just read this. Interesting to think of as Newbery. The “ode” is excellent with or without pictures.

      • Rereading has me moving it to the top of my Good Reads Newbery list.

      • I agree, Steve. Unlike LAST STOP, which for me, didn’t work without the images – CROWN absolutely does. Your use of the word “ode” is apt – the text very much comes across as a stirringly written adulation poem. Each word is so precise and perfect. It doesn’t edge out THE WAR I FINALLY WON for me, but I’d be thrilled to see a shiny silver or gold on its cover.

      • Oh, geez. Right.

        “Ode” isn’t your word, Steve. It’s right there on the darn cover. Anyway, I’m going to read it for the umpteenth time because it just so happens to be sitting in my office. Yay!

  5. The message of The Crown seemed really vain to me, and I couldn’t get past that. Despite the suggestion that each style has its own place and strength, the overall idea that one’s self-image and self-worth can be tied to appearance is an unusual theme.
    The illustrations were for me much stronger than the text. I found the text font strangely pedestrian on the page, too, considering how the hand-lettered words on the title page were so brilliant. Aside from the uniqueness of the book, I don’t think it rises to award level.

  6. One Amazing Elephant!!!

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