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Presenting: The Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Fifteen

15Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Fifteen members, thank you all so much for having read all the long listed titles and for volunteering to take part in the Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Committee!  Your ballot will be emailed to you tonight.

When serving on the real Newbery committee, all members would know each other’s age/age range, skin color/ethnic background, gender/gender identity, sexual orientation (sometimes,) and professional background that led each one to the table since they are meeting face to face and also asked to introduce themselves.

To simulate that reality, we officially present the Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Fifteen with more details about each member below.  They will cast their votes and engage in more detailed discussion starting tomorrow. All other Heavy Medal Readers, expect to cast your votes on this blog, starting tomorrow, in a general poll, as well.

Adrian Zeck, age 35, is a white, straight male from Concord, NC.  Adrian is a Library Assistant in the Children’s Department of the Cabarrus County LibraryOne fun fact: “I worked for four years as a Park Ranger at the nation’s only national park dedicated to American Painting, Weir Farm National Historic Site in Wilton, CT.”

Cheryl Lynn Mann, age 52, is a white straight female from Elkhart, Indiana.  Cheryl Lynn has worked in a public library as a children’s programmer for the past 17 years.One Fun Fact: “I am an avid knitter and quilter.”

DaNae Carol Leu, age 54, is a white straight female from Utah.  DaNae has been an Elementary School librarian for fourteen years. No degree.One Fun Fact: “I listen to a continuous loop of the audios of Harry Potter like background music. They put me to sleep every night. A student this year thought he could stump me on HP trivia. He had no idea what he was up against.”

Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, age 36, is a Chinese straight female from Washington, D.C. Evelyn is a school librarian at Holton-Arms Lower School.One fun fact: “I was born and bred in Singapore, so had a steady diet of British children’s literature! Enid blyton, anyone??? (That’s why I always have a weird craving for treacle and midnight feasts….)”

Jennifer “Jenn” Potter, almost 40, is an Irish/Norwegian/Melting pot of other things straight female, and single.  As part of a career change Jenn went back to school now has an MLIS from the University of Rhode Island.  She works in an elementary school teaching about 500 students a week in grades 1-5.  Fun Facts: “I typically read a book a day, sometimes two, and most of them are middle grade chapter books… I love my job!  Plus I am a single mom of a 10 year old son and 8 year old daughter both of whom have stacks of books in their rooms as their bookcases are overflowing. I also love to travel and have been to all seven continents.  My most recent trip was backpacking in Italy with my kids.”

Jennifer P. Hartley, age 41, is a white, Appalachian Scots-Irish, bisexual genderfluid person from Raleigh, NC. Jennifer worked for 5 years as a Teen Services Librarian for Austin Public Library, 6 years head of Children’s Services for Danville (VA) Public Library, and 1 year youth services librarian Wake County (NC) Public Library. Jennifer served on the Texas Lone Star committee and the Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee and runs a Mock Newbery for 6-10 graders.One Fun Fact: “I love crazy socks and crochet character hats for fun in my spare time.”

Jordan Kyle Henrichs, age 36, is a white, straight male from Cedar Falls, Iowan. Jordan has been a 5th grade elementary teacher for 13 years.One Fun Fact: “I earned my Masters in Educational Leadership and am pursuing elementary principal positions.”

Kari Baumann, age 38, is a white straight female Greensboro, NC.  Kari has been a school librarian for 10 years and teaches children’s literature for a nearby university.One Fun Fact: “I have a son named Atticus and a cat named Neville.”

Katrina Tangen, age 38, is a white female from Costa Mesa, CA. Katrina is a reader, writer, former child who briefly majored in Folklore and Mythology.One Fun Fact: “My favorite book as a kid was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (though I still have to look up how to spell her name—so many ways it could go wrong!)”

leonardLeonard Kim, age 43, is a Korean American (2nd generation) straight male.  Leonard has 3 kids.One Fun Fact: “I donated the Little Free Library on my photo to my local nature preserve.”

Mary Zdrojewski (Mary Z), age 34, is a white American (Poland, Italy, Sicily, and Alsace-Lorraine) straight female from Wellsville, NY.  Mary Z has been a school librarian for a PK-12 school for 10 years.One Fun Fact: “I sing constantly without even noticing. My students can tell when I’m walking down the hall.”

Monica Edinger, age 65, is a white, first generation German-Jewish straight female from New York, NY.  Monica is a Teacher, Reviewer, Writer (of and about children’s literature). She contributes to a variety of publications including the New York Times Book Review, and the Horn Book Magazine. Along the way she has helped select several awards including the 2008 Newbery and the 2015 New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books; I also originated and co-ran School Library Journal’s Battle of the Kids’ Books. A lifelong educator, Monica teaches fourth grade in New York City and, after writing several books for teachers, wrote her first for children, Africa is My Home: A Child of the Amistad, and is hard at work on another. She blogs at educating alice.One Fun Fact: “I’m a lapsed illustrator. (You can some of my work here and here.)”

Samuel F Leopold, is a married male whose family came from Italy and Germany.  Samual has been a language arts teacher for 30 years. He started doing mock Newbery elections with his students in 1989. He has certification in Children’s literature and gifted education and tries to read about 200 novels a year. He loves books!!!One fun fact: “I am a complete Batman geek.”

Steven Engelfried, age 57, is a caucasian male from Wilsonville, OR.  He has an MLIS degree and is Youth Librarian for 30+ years.One Fun Fact: “I was on Jeopardy (but I didn’t win)”

Wendy Lavenda-Carroll, age 62, is a heterosexual caucasian female from Cummaquid, MA. Wendy has been a Librarian for 12 years and has one child.One Fun Fact: “I’m a huge reader, mostly children’s YA and fiction, LOVE Harry Potter, and love to shop.”
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. *applause*

    Go, team, go! So excited to see what this crew yields!

  2. If we’ve learned anything in the last two decades, it’s that all we ever know about a person’s background is what they would say about themselves, since looks and names can be deceiving, and identity is fluid. And then, what they say about themselves may not correspond to reality. Which is why ideological balance is always a lot more important than identity balance.

    I still look forward to the results. As Joe says, “Go, team, go!”

    • This is a point to ponder, “ideological balance is always a lot more important than identity balance.” The question then is: how do we assess ideological balance from a huge pool of potential candidates. Also, then, is what kind of balance would we like to strike. Any example/thoughts that you would like to propose?

      • Anonymous says:

        Hi Roxanne. I am the same Anonymous as 10:05 a.m.

        However rough and imprecise, a good ideological balance starting place would be an equitable mix on committees of political progressives and conservatives. That would not be hard to inquire about, and most potential committee candidates would likely be forthright on the subject.

        Another balance adjustment to make committees look more like America would be more attention to the distributional mix of library professionals affiliated with public schools versus those affiliated with private schools. America’s public/private K-12 student attendance ratio is 90% to 10%, according to the Council for American Private Education i.e. 90% of K-12 kids go to public schools. It would be excellent to see this reality reflected on awards committees,though it may distress the many librarians doing such outstanding work on behalf of children’s literature at private schools, since there would be many fewer slots for them. This delineation could be checked independently.

        Anyway, just some thoughts. I look forward to hearing what you and others think..

      • Thanks for responding, Anonymous. I definitely could see how balancing the kinds of libraries / librarianships will be useful. Also — public libraries vs school libraries. One of the unfortunate reality is that serving on the Newbery is completely “volunteer” work. It means that there is not only no compensation, it demands the committee members to attend at least 3 Conferences: conference fees + lodging + transportation + meals. Not a cheap gig — and not every institution will support their librarians to frequently attend conferences.

        As to political affiliation and views. Do you happen to know out of all the ALSC members, how many of them are politically conservative? ALSC proposed that diversity and inclusion are major themes to the organization. So, in a way, certain values are guiding the entire organization. Newbery’s existence is closely tied to a particular set of ideologies already. Even if I could easily agree with your proposal on principle, I am not sure that it could be realized.

    • I’ll weigh in here.

      Anonymous, I’m confounded why political ideologies would factor into the committee at all. In your estimation, are books “liberal” or “conservative” and therefore would need to be picked by bipartisan agreement? I’m sincerely confused by this remark. Maybe I’ve interpreted entirely out of context.

      I do think you bring up a good point about using a swath of school librarians – from both private and public. Parochial school librarians certainly function in a different realm than, say, a middle school librarian in a suburban school district. I would argue, though, that geography would play an even stronger hand in creating a more diverse selection committee. I have read criticisms that committees seem to be populated by librarians from large libraries in cities rather than those in smaller towns. I’d be interested in the perspective of those who have been on committees to chime in.

      It seems, too, that some people have served more than once – or on several different committees – while some never get selected at all. And I am sincerely curious about the selection process in that regard.

      • Joe, you said, “I have read criticisms that committees seem to be populated by librarians from large libraries in cities rather than those in smaller towns. I’d be interested in the perspective of those who have been on committees to chime in.

        It seems, too, that some people have served more than once – or on several different committees – while some never get selected at all. And I am sincerely curious about the selection process in that regard.”

        In my experiences, the President of ALSC always strives to use the appointment process to ensure more geographical diversity and there is a strict rule about not serving on Award / Notable committees more than once every four years. It’s also been my experience that many newer ALSC members do serve on award committees. Perception is not always the same as reality, seems to me.

      • Thanks, Roxanne! I’m glad my perception isn’t reality. In the meantime, I’ll keep applying (and crossing my fingers).

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks very much for engaging on this, Roxanne and Joe. Joe, I suggested political diversity because it is a basic tenet of social justice thinking that everything is political, resting on power dynamics in society. If that is the case, then a balance of political views could help to broaden definitions of excellence, etc. I don’t think that conservatives in general could not honor an value of diversity and inclusion, but I imagine their definition of it might be a bit different, and their voices do deserve to be heard if balance is important.

    Roxanne, I have no idea how many ALSC members are conservative. But I bet if the organization put out a call for conservative members because it wants to balance the memberships of its awards committees, such librarians would come out of the woodwork to join, as well as it being front page news in the New York Times. It’s worth a try, anyway.

    In any case, is there a good argument against making the school library member balance of committees 80% public school librarians and 20% private school, or something like that? The one point I can think of is that we need also to take into account university professors, public librarians, etc. However, with school library members, I think that balance makes sense.

    Roxanne, that’s a great point about support from institutions for the librarians who do engage in membership.

    • Anonymous, I truly can’t tell if you’re trying to get a rise out of individuals with your word choices. I’m going to assume you have good intentions and respond as best I can, with the caveat that I can only speak for myself.

      1. ” it is a basic tenet of social justice thinking that everything is political” – help me to understand what you mean by this. I believe in social justice, but I don’t think everything is political. For example, I don’t believe that providing children with books that reflect their experiences (which is, to me, social justice) is even remotely political. It’s necessary. Can you illustrate to me how it’s political? Should children not see themselves reflected in literature.

      2. “I imagine their definition of it might be a bit different” What conservative viewpoints honor diversity and inclusion in a different way than what is already being awarded? Are there recent winners that you feel are not inclusive of conservative viewpoints? For example, how are any of the four Newbery books from last year somehow slighting toward conservative viewpoints? Is it hard for you to imagine that there aren’t conservatives on the awards committee or that a conservative would *not* have selected any of these books? How do you know there aren’t conservatives on the committees?

      3. “as well as it being front page news in the New York Times” I hope you’re being glib or tongue-in-cheek here.

      4. “Roxanne, I have no idea how many ALSC members are conservative.” I still don’t understand why this would be anyone’s business.

      5. Are private schools (parochial or otherwise) never represented in ALSC committees? Maybe one of the individuals who has been on a committee can answer this.

  4. sam leopold says:

    The above discussions are very interesting……all I know is this, I have many “conservative” friends and just as many “non-conservative” friends—-and one thing most of us all have in common is we love books!!! And that is why I love Heavy Medal…..we can discuss wonderful literature from the perspective of the Newbery Criteria and not have bitter feelings toward each other if our favorite book is not chosen. If only the real world could reflect such a possibility.

  5. Very quickly….

    * I remind myself that the Comments section is probably not the place to go tongue-in-cheek. Yes, the words about the New York Times were a joke. Maybe not such a good one.

    * I’m less concerned about private school librarians on committees than about having enough public school librarians so that the national 90%/10% public/private K-12 school things is considered and balanced.

    * The two big discussions that woke me up to the way that children’s literature has become aware of politics, and that the social justice people believe the recognition of politics is a good thing, were these

    I’m not saying it’s right or it’s wrong, I’m simply referring to the reality I see in front of me. As for the past four years’s winners, I like them a lot. But a committee with a different political balance might have come to different conclusions.

    Again, thank you to everyone for the excellent and stimulating discussion. And I’m still with Joe on, “Go, team, go!”, as well as with Sam about the important of helpful disagreement. And with Roxanne, for running Heavy Medal.

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