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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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At Long Last — the 2018 Heavy Medal Long List for Balloting

Given that each year more than 3,000 children’s books eligible for the Newbery are published, each of the 70 titles receiving even a single nomination from the Heavy Medal readers already signifies certain distinctive qualities.  We thank you all for sharing with us what you have loved this year.

After compiling reader nominations and considering discussion potentials, we present to you a long list that will serve as our final Heavy Medal slate for balloting.  In the next few weeks, short “official discussion starter” posts will give all of us chances to examine each of the 18 long-listed titles even more closely.

For those who are interested in participating in a full-on mock voting process (voting for the top three, tabulating, discussing, re-voting, tabulating, discussing, etc. until a final winner emerges) please finish all of these titles before February 5th when our voting procedure starts.  For those who do not have the time to read all of these titles before February 5th, no worries, there will also be a general poll for you to support your favorites!

We look forward to hearing more from our readers in the next few weeks!

The 2018 Heavy Medal Long List

  • All’s Faire in Middle School

  • Beyond the Bright Sea

  • Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

  • First Rule of Punk

  • The Hate U Give

  • Hello Universe

  • Her Right Foot

  • I’m Just No Good at Rhyming

  • Loving Vs. Virginia

  • Orphan Island

  • Patina

  • Princess Cora and the Crocodile

  • Real Friends

  • Refugee

  • Tumble and Blue

  • Vincent and Theo

  • War I Finally Won

  • Wishtree

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. Leonard Kim says:

    It’ll be interesting to see how many people will have read them all in time for the “full-on” mock. I wonder if we can get the full Newbery 15.

    The list respects the Heavy Medal reader nominations except for one case. So I would love to hear the thought process behind choosing PATINA over more-nominated books like PIECING ME TOGETHER or THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET, especially as this affects the HATE U GIVE head-to-head discussions.

    • Dear Leonard, we really really hope for a Newbery 15!!! Or even more. There is more than a month for those who really want to have as much a full experience as possible to catch up on the reading. WE highly highly encourage everyone to do so!

      As to Patina: according to our final spreadsheet count, it received FOUR nominations and Piecing Me Together and The Stars Beneath Our Feet each received THREE. The only two titles on this long list that did not receive 4 or more nominations are Her Right Foot and Orphan Island: both were on our Short List so they are already part of the final list. Did you tabulate them differently?

      (My heart bled a little bit when we had to cut Piecing Me Together…)

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Hi Roxanne, I was just going by Sharon’s tabulation on the December Nominations post:

        According to that, PATINA had 3, while the other two had 4, and it didn’t look like any of the later nominations changed that. I certainly don’t begrudge PATINA her place.

      • Leonard — I went back and re-looked at our nominations — it looks like the spreadsheet we last updated is more accurate and there might have been some errors in the 12/15 post. Sorry for the confusion.

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

        I think that’s my bad on the incorrect PATINA total. I got it wrong on a couple different nomination updates, but I double checked the reader nomination comments and yes, it got three nominations in October and the fourth in November.

  2. I’m late to these discussions, but having recently read through the posts — and since this is already coming up again in the commentary here — I wanted to ask a question, with apologies that it is belated. Why is it that The Hate U Give, and other titles specifically by Black authors and Black women especially, must first and foremost be compared to other books by Black writers? I don’t recall seeing a requirement that a title by a White author, for example, be compared to other books by White people and found best in that category first — regardless of the age of the book’s intended audience. (Also, just a note that while the convention may be to drop articles from titles, the “the” in THUG is important! Otherwise it’s HUG, which is not quite the same thing.)

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Sarah, I am one of those people who has repeatedly suggested comparing PIECING ME TOGETHER with THE HATE U GIVE. My reason for linking these two specific books is practical. The Newbery is awarded to the “most distinguished” book. To make that determination, it’s easier to make apples-to-apples comparisons before apples-to-oranges, on the logic that if a book isn’t more distinguished than a similar book, there’s not much reason to leap to compare it to a dissimilar book. In my case, the idea of comparing PIECING ME TOGETHER and THE HATE U GIVE (and PATINA) doesn’t have anything to do with who the authors are, but the similar premise common to these books — in each, the protagonist attends an affluent private school in which she finds herself both a racial and economic minority. So it makes sense to start one’s deliberations by seeing which book does this scenario better in terms of the relevant Newbery criteria of Setting, Character, etc. I don’t think it’s anything more than that. After all, nobody is leaping to compare these books to CLAYTON BYRD or LOVING VS. VIRGINIA.

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Huh, I just noticed how similar the covers of ALL’S FAIRE and FIRST RULE OF PUNK are, and now that I think of it, those books would also make a good discussion pair, even more than comparing the two GNs together (which may seem obvious at first, but on reflection, since you can’t consider art, why would you?) I’d also like to see us discuss the tone of HER RIGHT FOOT vs I’M JUST NO GOOD and the inconclusive endings of TUMBLE AND BLUE vs ORPHAN ISLAND (despite that book’s similar cover to BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA.)

      • I’d also love to examine how grown-ups and grown-up relationships are handled in First Rule of Punk, Clayton Byrd, All’s Faire, The War I Finally Won, etc. Can’t wait to delve into THAT one!

    • Sarah, great question and reminder! I will fix the title for THUG right now.

      I’m not sure that we always have to compare black author titles against other black author titles at all. However, when there are similarities in certain plot/character development or settings, it is natural to put two titles or more next to each other and discuss. For example, I posted about Orphan Island and Beyond the Bright Sea, both by White authors, because they happen to both have orphans and set against an island backdrop. So, one could have easily argued that we did purposefully compare two White author titles against each other.

      I also posted about Patina, Piecing Me Together, and mentioning THUG on the same post, because I noticed that all the main characters are female, black, and attending schools that they each expresses, within the context of the book, as not their natural fit: and all of them also discuss their racial identity and growth within the progression of the book. These are not my inventions but authorial choices that one could make connections with — which I imagine we all do quite naturally as readers. Yes?

      That said, I agree with you wholeheartedly that we should not reflexively group books simply by author backgrounds. For example, we might consider First Rule of Punk and Clayton Byrd in light of the presentation of music in both books and in children’s lives. And we could easily consider the treatment of adoption (and interracial adoption) in Beyond the Bright Sea and Patina.

      As we get to the final discussions of all the long listed books, I hope to see many interconnectivity between books being brought out and discussed!

      • I’m also with Sarah here, and I wonder if it might be better for the Committee (or us) to compare books on structural and rhetorical grounds, which seem to me addressing the criteria more exactly than do author identity or plot. I wonder, for example, about what differences there are in points-of-view: first-person, double-first-person (I’m reading one of those now), etc.

      • Roger — I don’t think we will ever compare books by their authors. As I said in my response, we’re comparing certain titles because they have similar character development + thematic + settings: which are all valid literary exploration, as structural discussions are. I, for one, am most interested in how the authors present their work: viewpoints, tenses, tones, prose construction, etc. etc. In the era of prioritizing Own Voices and when these own voices sometimes express similar scenarios, there is a heightened chance of discussing side-by-side books by authors from similar identity backgrounds. Am I off?

  3. I’ve read 11 of the 18 titles so I have a little work cut out for me. A few are graphic novels so I hope to read those rather quickly. I doubt I’ll be able to get my hands on a few of the titles so I might just sit those out.

    This list cements my feelings though, that 2017 was a rather down year for MG fiction. This genre is usually my jam and there just isn’t much out there that I’m finding myself ready to passionately defend. BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA is growing on me, when compared to all these other titles and HELLO, UNIVERSE is still my favorite of the group I think.

    Still baffled at ORPHAN ISLAND’s inclusion, but whatever. Should make for a good debate! 🙂

    • Mr. H., which titles are you still waiting to read? I wonder if we could figure out some way to make sure that you have access to them?

      • Thanks Roxanne! I just checked out 4 of them at my public library this afternoon so I’ll see how long it takes me to get through those before I ask for help. My school has ALL’S FAIRE and REFUGEE. The only one I really don’t think I’ll be able to get my hands on is HER RIGHT FOOT. I’ll see how far I can get.

    • Mr. H., it will be so great if you could join us as a member of the Heavy Medal Newbery 15!

      • I read WISHTREE and I’M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING this weekend and I’m down to HER RIGHT FOOT and REFUGEE! I think I’ll make it…

  4. I’ve not read five of them and likely won’t get a chance to since I’m on an Ohio Committee and have tons of reading for that to do between now and February.

    But I’ll watch the discussion from afar and chime in on the titles I’ve read. 🙂

  5. Thrilled to see this long list and hoping to be able to finish the 7 I haven’t yet gotten to, so that I can partake in the rich discussion surrounding these novels! Happy reading, all!

  6. I can’t explain how thrilled I am to see The First Rule of Punk on this list. I was so afraid it might slip through the cracks!!

  7. I’m excited because the only book I haven’t read on the long list is PRINCESS CORA and that looks like a quick read. I’m going to have to do some rereading of some of the titles that I read earlier in the year,

    I am also excited about The First Rule OF Punk making the long list. I enjoyed that book. It hasn’t stayed on my bookshelf at school either; so my students have been enjoying it, too.

  8. Just finished Orphan Island. Anyone else see the similarities to The Giver?

    • DaNae C Leu says:

      While I was content with the ending of THE GIVER, long before the sequels came along, ORPHAN ISLAND totally betrayed me as a reader. Jonah’s world was built on a developed foundation. ORPHAN’S world is dangled as a mystery that seemed to promise a reveal. Which never came. Big old middle-finger at any reader who flew to the end to get answers.

    • Kate, I’d love to hear more about the similarities to the Giver here — even if we won’t be able to compare them during official discussion of Orphan Island.

  9. DaNae C Leu says:

    Ha, if I go back and finish LOVING VS VIRGINIA, I’m set. We just came up with our shortlist of nine. The only one we have that you don’t is THICK AS THIEVES. I wish I’d have shown up in time to cast a vote for LONG WAY DOWN. Once I saw it on the page, it shoved other choices aside.

    • So glad that you will be able to be the Heavy Medal Newbery 15! (Really want to get to or exceed that magic number!) Long Way Down’s elimination from the National Book Award’s finalist slate was a shock to me, too!

  10. I agree about the unsatisfying end to Orphan Island. I really wanted to know what was going on. I just felt like the rules, the way everyone was safe from harm, and the way she escapes with Loo is similar to The Giver. I think kids will be very upset with unanswered questions. Will share with my class this week and if kids read it I will ask them their thoughts.

    Side note..loved One Amazing Elephant!

    • Wait a second, she doesn’t escape with Loo… does she?

      It’s been a LONG time since reading ORPHAN ISLAND, I’ll have you know.

      • Yes, she escapes with Loo and it’s one of many annoying parts to me, because if the whole point is that the island is now messed up because she broke the rule of “there must be 9” she’s now taking it from 10 to 8! I must admit I’d heard a lot of negative things about the book before reading it, but I really, actively disliked it. Characters ranged from unlikable to unbelievable and there were so many very obvious plot points–Ess is supposedly just going off to pee, and Jinny is shocked when she realizes she’s actually gone to the cliffs to look for the bracelet she had just been talking about going to the cliffs to find. I’ll stop here, but I’m definitely more passionate in my dislike of this than I am about liking any others this year!

      • Ugh, you’re right! I was confusing Ess with Loo. Sorry!

        I agree, I believe her leaving with Loo broke A LOT of “rules” of the island and called into question why more than one kid never tried leaving before!

        Frustrating, yes.

    • Kate, you’re right. There are plenty of similarities.

      To get tangential, it’s funny because I had a friend when THE GIVER came out, who insisted that Lowry mimicked a plot from a Sylvia Engdahl book. I forget which one. When I read it, it showed loosely the same totalitarian government structure, but the stories themselves where very different.

  11. Good morning! Dr. Arica L. Coleman, author of THAT THE BLOOD STAY PURE, reviewed Patricia Hruby Powell’s book on the Lovings.

    Coleman discusses problems in Hruby’s book, here:

  12. @Debbie Reese. I’ve read the post at your website. I am wondering if you could provide a text of the letter that Mildred Loving wrote to the ACLU? You have an image of it that I can’t read. Thanks.

  13. Genevieve says:

    Roxanne, may we participate in the discussions even if we will not have time to finish all the books and be part of the Newbery 15? I know that we should only participate in the general poll, not the official mock vote, if we haven’t read all the books.

    • YES, PLEASE jump in any time! We are not the official committee and won’t hold people to the strict rules. We are only posting about how the real committee works for those who find this information of interest. Of course, if you’d like to practice how to discuss according to the tips, guidelines, etc., that will be great, too.


    • Great, Adele. Could you tell us why you love Real Friends? Roller Girl received a Newbery honor previously so it is not eligible for the award consideration this year. But the author’s new book, All’s Faire in Middle School is Long Listed here. Have you read it? Do you like it? Why? Which do you like more? Real Friends or All’s Faire in Middle School? Why?

      Sorry for all these questions but I’m excited to hear from you! Please respond.

  15. Roxanne,
    I have a suggestion for next year. I am going into my 4th year as an indie bookseller and it has become more and more clear to me that much of the diverse writing comes from small independent and medium sized regional presses. I’m looking at the long list above and seeing such a preponderance of large press titles, most coming out of New York publishing houses. I would love to get a more balanced field. Not that the books above aren’t worthy–only that we haven’t given the whole field of books published this year full and equal consideration.
    I think a good starting point is just keeping a tally of how many books we discuss here that are from big publishers and how many from small and regional publishers.
    And then I think it would be worthwhile to actively look for regional titles that might be worth consideration. One way to do that would be to ask one or two children’s booksellers in each region of the ABA to keep an eye out for award worthy MG fiction and non-fiction at the smaller presses which come to regional trade shows but not BEA or ALA. I would be happy to do this for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. I’d be happy to recruit another pacific northwest bookseller or two to help. We could do the same for all the other regions in the US. It’s not such a huge ask because indie booksellers are at their trade shows anyway looking for the next sparkling debut or breakout author.
    I’m happy to pitch in on this for next year. And again, let’s not derail this years nominees so late in the game. It’s just something that’s been on my mind since I’ve become a book seller and I think over time we can do better at recognizing excellence that comes without the New York City postmark.

  16. Rox Anne Close says:

    I would love to be part of the discussion. I have read twelve of the eighteen books. I have all the rest of the books on the list, and am working on reading the rest of them by February. I am a second grade teacher, and will hold a mock Caldecott contest in my classroom, but I always like to read all the possible Newbery winners for the year also. Love this time of year!

    • Hi, Rox Anne (how fun to have you here — I’m “Roxanne”) — in about a week, we will send out an official call for those who wish to be part of the Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Committee Members — who have read all the 18 titles by the time we start the special online ballot (an additional poll that aims to mimic the Newbery balloting procedure more closely.) Please feel free to comment from now on to the titles you have already read! We will send instructions and links via email after the “Committee” is formed.


  1. […] receiving a fair amount of Newbery buzz. Heavy Medal, School Library Journal’s mock Newbery blog, has placed the book on their long list. In two separate posts they, and their commenters, have weighed in on the writing. We here at […]

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