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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Oakland Results

Our maginificant group of participants.

Our maginificant group of participants.

What a wonderful afternoon of book discussion with these amazing people!  I’m excited to do a little bit of a recap for you, and all of the participants have been encouraged to chime in in the comments to share their perspectives, points of view, and any parts of the discussion they think the world should know about!

Huge thank you to all who came out and participated.  It was really a great time.

So, to discuss the 9 books, we had 11 people.  In the picture, back row first, there’s Lesley, Meredith, Sarah, Jessica, Jessica, Mary Ann, me (Sharon), Angela, Erica, and Diana.  Armin is missing from the photo, as she had to leave early.

In terms of voting, we had 9 voters, as one person hadn’t read all the books and one had to leave early.  Given this, the math required a winning title to get 5 first place votes and to have at least 5 more points than the next highest scoring title.

So, what won????

drum roll

hate u giveWINNER:  The Hate U Give

HONORS:  Hello Universe, Real Friends, and Wishtree

Were this the real Newbery discussion, that’s all we would tell you!  In fact, it’s more than we’d tell you, because you would never even know how many books were nominated and on the table.

Lucky for us, this wasn’t the real Newbery discussion so we can tell you a bit more about our process and how the balloting went.  So, after spending 12 minutes per title discussion the books (using the CCBC guidelines and looking at the criteria), we did our first ballot, not expecting it to lead to such a clear winner.

But, a clear winner it was!

A clear winner!

A clear winner!

As you can see, The Hate U Give got well over the 5 first place votes required, and got 8 out of 9 people’s top slot.  For that last person, whoever they were, The Hate U Give ranked 3, giving it a total of 34 points.  The next highest scoring book was Wishtree with 13 points, significantly lower than the margin of 5 required to declare The Hate U Give our winner.

From here we decided that we would re-ballot to look at our options for honor books, if we were to have any at all.  We eliminated the titles that had 0 or 2 votes, leaving us with 5 to vote for.  We hoped that this would give a clear picture of any other titles that rose to the top and deserved honors for also being distinguished.  Since The Hate U Give took so many votes in the first round, we felt that another ballot would help create clarity.



This interesting bit of not-clarity led to a great discussion on how a committee might decide on honor books, how many honor books is appropriate, and if we felt that any of the books on this list were “truly distinguished” enough to warrant an honor.  Ultimately we felt that we either had 3 honor books (the 19, 18, and 17 points) or 0 honor books.  Some members of the group argued for 0, and others argued for 3, and in the end we went for 3.

In a larger committee discussion this process might have been easier/clearer.  It also might have been longer and more complicated.  First of all, there’s a big difference in having 9 voting members vs 15 voting members in terms of what the spread would have looked like.  Second of all, of course, there’s a big difference in having 9 books on the table vs the dozens the real committee is looking at. As it was, no one felt strongly enough about these individual titles to give compelling arguments for or against them being honor books.  This maybe should have meant we had no honor books at all, but that seemed no fun in a mock newbery, and the truth is, these books are all wonderful!  So, in a way, choosing 3 was a bit of a compromise to the process as it was and the mockness of the mock newbery process.  There’s a lot that can mimic the real process, but even more that cannot.

In terms of the discussion itself, some of what I found most interesting:

  • There was absolutely no concern at all about the eligibility of THE HATE U GIVE in terms of age.  Granted, we are all SF Bay Area located, so diversity of geography does not, by nature, exist in our group.
  • There was concern about the eligibility of VINCENT AND THEO based on age, primarily in terms of the treatment of mental illness and the darkness that comes with a family member suffering.
  • There was no concern about the eligibility of books based on format and illustration in REAL FRIENDS, HER RIGHT FOOT, or I’M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING.
  • Discussion around ORPHAN ISLAND, WISHTREE, CLAYTON BYRD, and HELLO UNIVERSE, I felt were quite similar to the discussions we’ve been having here around these titles (in our comments).

PLEASE, correct me where I’m wrong/you disagree, and add your own thoughts, everyone who was in attendance!  I know we’d all love to hear your perspectives.  I think it would be especially interesting if you each shared what about the winner made it the most distinguished book for you.

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. Jessica Lee says:

    As always, I am in awe of the people who attend this, arriving with stacks of books brimming with post-it notes. The thoughtful conversation, looking at a range of qualities for each book, pushes us all to be more conscientious readers.
    I was surprised that the most contentious issue that came up in our discussion was about the ambiguous ending of ORPHAN ISLAND. Some loved it and felt it showed respect for the young reader; others felt it didn’t fit with the world building and would frustrate most readers. Being a lover of ambiguity, it was hard for me to hear that as a criticism, but those who felt it was not quite distinguished made compelling, text-based arguments. The best thing about this discussion is walking away realizing that you can love a book that others don’t, and that neither of you is more right.

    Except THE HATE U GIVE. Everyone is right about loving that book.

  2. It was a really thoughtful discussion and it’s good to know so many people are working hard year round identifying the best books for youth.

    I really appreciated that almost our entire group found THE HATE U GIVE distinguished. I’ve been hearing and reading elsewhere that so many folks think it’s for older readers and I assumed (incorrectly) that it would be an uphill battle…a battle for which I was over prepared.

  3. Lesley Mandros Bell says:

    It was a wonderful discussion with a roomful of enthusiastic and observant readers-I am so grateful to have been able to participate.

    What stood out most for me about The Hate U Give was its overall exceptional coherence of theme, language and emotion. From the story arc to the varied rhythms of speech in the individual characters to the rounded and well-drawn supporting characters there was an impressive consistency which made a powerful story truly resonate with the reader.

  4. Uncanny …


  1. […] final books and preparing for their decisions; Heavy Medal is getting ready to vote online and the Oakland results are in! The actual ALA Youth Media Awards ceremony will be on Monday, February 12 beginning […]

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