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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

2nd Ballot Results — Good Work!

15The field has been further narrowed.

The opinions have been weighed and considered.

The votes are more concentrated.

But… we still do not have a WINNER!

The front runner is I’m Just No Good at Rhyming with SIX 1st Place Votes and total of 31 points.

However, it still has not received the necessary EIGHT 1st Place Votes.  Nor does it have an 8-point lead over Princess Cora and War I Finally Won. 

So, Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Fifteen members, you must discuss again.  If at all possible, please point out strengths or flaws that have not yet been raised by others on the Committee.

We will ballot again tonight — at 7:00 P.M. EST.  And hopefully to publish results either tonight or tomorrow morning.  Our deadline for selecting a winner will be sometime Wednesday….

We also welcome Heavy Medal Readers to comment on the process and the results so far.

1st Place 2nd
3rd Place Total Points
All’s Faire in Middle School 2 1 8
Beyond the Bright Sea 1 3
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground 1 3
First Rule of Punk 2 1 2 15
The Hate U Give 0
Hello Universe 1 3
Her Right Foot 2 4
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming 6 1 2 31
Loving Vs. Virginia 0
Patina 0
Princess Cora and the Crocodile 4 3 25
Real Friends 2 4
Refugee 0
Tumble and Blue 0
Vincent and Theo 2 1 8
War I Finally Won 3 3 2 25
Wishtree 3 6
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. I’m excited to see this round of votes!

    Here’s my contribution to this discussion: I really enjoyed PRINCESS CORA but I would say that I don’t read many books this size/style (and I don’t read many princess books). I was charmed by it and recommend it to kids but I wonder if I am missing out on some of its virtues because I am less familiar with this type of early reader. Could anybody comment on that as one of its strengths? That might help me!

    • Jennifer Hartley says:

      I think PRINCESS CORA is an outstanding example of a beginning chapter book — longer than most beginning readers but not quite a full on middle grade book either. It does what it is intended to do amazingly well. The word choice and sentence length encapsulate this stage of reading development while also making the story interesting to the reader.

      It is a fable or fairy tale and as such has to fit a certain formula; yet, it plays with those same restrictions in ways not often seen. First of all, I was struck by the fact that Cora’s parents want to make her the best QUEEN ever, no mention of a king in the future. They fully believe she is capable of running a kingdom in her own right and set forth to prepare her for it. Second, although the Crocodile can talk and was supposedly sent by a fairy godmother, there is no real use of magic in this fairy tale. Cora solves her problem by talking to her parents and presenting her case (of course, the Crocodile has prepared the way for her). In the end a compromise is achieved in a reasonable manner after all of the chaos of the Crocodile. And as someone pointed out in the previous discussion of this book, Cora does not agree that the Crocodile is bad since he did just what he was sent to do; and she keeps him and feeds him like a responsible pet owner.

      In conclusion, I feel that PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE is an outstanding example of a beginning chapter book and a fairy tale for a modern child with all the overscheduling and ridiculous rules of modern society disguised as princesses and crocodiles. I think every beginning reader should have access to it (not MUST read it since that would not make Cora or the Crocodile happy).

      • This has me seriously reconsidering CORA. Thank you Jenn.

      • Great post! You have given me a lot to think about. Thank you!

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Jennifer, at one point the Newbery Manual states, “A book may be considered even though it appeals to a fairly small part of the age range if the committee feels that it is so distinguished that everyone of that age should know the book.”

        Even in your defense of this (“every beginning reader should have access”), I don’t know that we would go as far as that Newbery standard. I’m now googling best early chapter books, and I now think Mr. H is on to something. PRINCESS CORA is more heavily illustrated than your average early chapter book — it looks more like Frog and Toad than it does Cleary, but I think the text is more difficult in some respects than other less illustrated early chapter books (like the Magic Treehouse books Mr. H’s 2nd-grade daughter reads.) Maybe again, illustrations make it “less effective”? I guess I’m just saying I’m not sold on PRINCESS CORA being the model early chapter book it’s presented to be. I agree with Mr. H that the ideal audience is a little nebulous. The things adults appreciate about it may actually detract from its “excellence of presentation” for its presumed target audience.

      • One list comment, before I head out the door, on the illustrations. Did anyone else think Cora looked to old for seven? Was it distracting?

  2. Genevieve says:

    On TWIFW, which would be my top choice if I were on the committee, I noticed that one or two Mock committee members mentioned that they had an issue with Ada regressing at the beginning of this book.
    For me, other commenters on the post about TFIFW explained why I never saw that as a problem – it happened when Susan said things that Ada interpreted to mean Susan was looking to send her away, which blew away her fragile trust:

    Susan Nilsson says:
    January 24, 2018 at 3:45 pm
    I feel like the regressing is completely true-to-life. Ada is a child living with trauma, and trauma survivors (children and adults) are constantly doing a dance with insecurity and re-activated terror. I find this especially realistic as she spends the beginning of the novel staying in a hospital with caretakers (nurses) who are strangers to her. Wouldn’t this cause a bit of regression in any child?

    Roxanne Hsu Feldman says:
    January 24, 2018 at 4:56 pm
    Susan, great point! My annoyance did not hinder my appreciation of Bradley’s skills in many areas — and now perhaps my annoyance is totally gone!

    Mary Z says:
    January 25, 2018 at 1:34 pm
    I saw the regression happen when she had the trauma again of Susan talking about “making arrangements.” Even though Ada wasn’t really being rejected, for several days she was certain she was, which I think is more than enough trauma to cause some regression in trust.

    • The regression seemed completely plausible to me even before others weighed in about it. I’ve definitely appreciated the earlier comments about this title as it wasn’t one I’d been really considering much as I had liked it.

      • I agree. There’s so much about the world that Ada doesn’t know at all. I didn’t think her regression was just for the sake of resetting the story but was a realistic depiction of how difficult her abusive childhood is (and will continue to be) to overcome.

    • Adrian Zeck says:

      Regarding TWIFW:
      The manner with which Ada’s regression took place was just one of the things I felt took away from a stronger plot.

      The whole book felt like it was trying to do too much. Xenophobia, refugees, “the horrors” of war, Steven’s “storyline” that faded to the background, what is family; I personally thought there were too many story lines going on for any of them to feel emotionally relevant for the reader. What Bradley did so well in TWTSML, creating a cohesive plot, she seems to have all but forgotten here.

      Its a “fine” book, but not distinguished IMO.

    • Adrian Zeck says:

      Can someone also explain to me how a sequel to a Newbery Honor winner is even up for debate, I thought the book had to stand alone? I don’t feel there is enough reintroduction of the characters and their stories for this to stand by itself.

      Also would someone care to discuss how a sequel to an Honor winner is better than the original? (If we’re still considering it for the Mock Newbery Medal?)

      • We don’t all agree on the sequel issue, but my opinion is that if a book is a sequel, part of a series, etc., that is one of the things it is trying to accomplish as a book, so it’s one of the things we should be evaluating. So I don’t think it needs to be able to stand on its own. (Although Jordan read it as a stand alone and contributed his experiences with that on the other thread.)

        In terms of what the first book won, that’s not relevant at all. We aren’t deciding between the first book and the second or deciding what the best book ever written is, we’re deciding what the best book is of those eligible this year.

      • Adrian, Jonathan Hunt convinced me years ago, I believe in the discussion about A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, that Newbery books in a series do not need stand on their own, although we are only debating the book of the given year, but we don’t need to erase the knowledge of the other book. Remember both THE GRAY KING and THE HIGH KING, both fifth book in a series, received the medal.

        Also, just because a TWIFW has a lot of meat in it, (“children need to eat meat every day”) did not make it feel unfocused to me. Every bit of it let to then resolution and the added to the theme of resilience.

      • Adrian Zeck says:

        Okay I can see what you are all saying about interpreting the self-contained entity criteria. Thank you for explaining that.

        I think it’s fine that it “has meat” but for me I didn’t find that meat to be “well done”. Everyone else is welcome to think differently.
        I thought that she throws a lot out and not a lot stuck for me when I read it. Then, when I compare it to other works this year, TWIFW didn’t come close to measuring up. But, that’s just my opinion and my read of the story. I was underwhelmed.

    • As far as the regression goes, both my husband, who is a school psychologist, and another professional who work with traumatized kids found Ada’s regression completely genuine. A recovery that is only on the upswing would have been easy and misleading.

      I particularity liked how much she didn’t want to be grateful to the Thorntons.

  3. Cherylynn says:

    Clayton Byrd Goes Underground still has a vote, do you want to convince me? I have heard no discussion. The same goes for Beyond the Bright Sea and Hello Universe and Wishtree. I would like to know why you think they are better than some of the other books. We have discussed the other books the still have votes at least a little, but obviously you (those who voted for them) still think these are important. Please champion the book if you want it to be a contender.

    • I am a fan of both Hello Universe and Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, but don’t see them having a shot anymore here so would rather spend the time focusing more on those that do. We need to reach consensus and to do that we have to begin giving up beloveds at this stage. (I actually already did that with the last ballot:)

      • Cherylynn says:

        I dropped a vote for one of the above. I am curious if some of us are dropping things we
        could have more consensus on in favor of the three books that are being discussed the most. Looking at the discussion with only a few exceptions we are only really discussing three books at this point.

    • I can’t speak to all of these but I can give some of the arguments for Clayton Byrd Goes Underground and Beyond the Bright Sea.

      Clayton Byrd is an emotionally strong book with several very distinct characters and a tightly-written plot. Musicality flows throughout the text as well as theme with lines that sing the blues. The lessons of how and when to forgive are deftly taught as Clayton and his mother move through the well-known stages of grief. In some ways, his mom has been grieving her father most of her life and only now can she really begin to move past anger. To Clayton that anger makes her unapproachable until they both move on to other stages.

      Beyond the Bright Sea shines in evocative setting and the three strong main characters. The complexity of both mysteries, to me, is amazingly respectful of the child audience and their abilities to discern what is happening without being too obvious. Identity and family are familiar themes in Newbery books and this one encompasses both quite well.

      Now, saying all this, Leonard may be right and people may merely be voting for these two to keep them in contention for the honors. But those are at least some of the things I personally see that make them contenders. And some of those my mock members brought up as well.

    • Adrian Zeck says:

      I really thought Applegate did a lot of wonderful things with WISHTREE. For me, it was distinguished.

      Interpretation of the theme or concept.
      Great idea to cast the ancient all knowledgeable narrator as a tree. A tree is all about symbiosis and collaboration with all the species. This tree doesn’t understand why all it’s people don’t get along. All its animals get along. Love it.

      Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity, and organization.
      While Applegate and Red could limit the hazards of the book the way the story unfolds allows the characters and the plot to develop. Red “doesn’t want to make a big deal” of anything so while there are hints the big reveal with Maeve has more impact when it hits.

      Development of a plot.
      One of the better family/refugee/immigrant stories from this last year. Using the ancient Red the reader “sees” how quickly an immigrant/refugee seeking shelter in the tree or near the tree become established members of the community.Red’s family is everyone who seeks shelter under her leaves.

      Delineation of characters:
      Most of the main characters are pretty well established and their motivations are only revealed through Red’s interactions with them. There are flawed characters. Their isn’t universal acceptance in the end. I think the characters were wholly realized.

      Delineation of a setting:
      Literally can be any town with be oak trees. While other stories rely more on the idea of a physically named location, it limits the connection to most readers. Honestly with so many books being set in New York City, its refreshing to see stories set in ambiguous town USA. Much more approachable to the reader.

      Appropriateness of style:
      Very appropriate for the age range under consideration.

      • I agree very much with this evaluation of WISHTREE.

      • I liked the voice of WISHTREE very much, but did not find the plot memorable. Right now I’m thinking squirrels, inhospitable meanness, folklore in a wispy sort of way. I suggest that we need to let the tree, with its 3 third place votes, go. Of course don’t chop it down….just …let…it go to live out its long wish-giving life forever more — just not as a Heavy Medal Mock Newbery winner:)

    • I’m not sure WISHTREE should be lumped in with the others few mentioned. Point totals, sure, but 3 different people still included WISHTREE on their ballot.

      What I appreciated about WISHTREE, was that it took an issue that could have been presented in an overly didactic way, and it did NOT present it in that way at all. Yes, Red is confused why people can’t get along, but this isn’t in a “all humans suck” kind of way, like I was expecting it to be. In fact, by the end of the story, the only real meanness came from the individual who carved the word into Red’s trunk. It reminded me of that old Mr. Rogers quote, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”” There ended up being far more helpers in this book, than people doing wrong. I liked that this was the approach.

  4. Leonard Kim says:

    Question (to Steven?): When and how will we determine whether there will be a separate Honors ballot vs. Honoring the runners-up on the Medal-deciding ballot?

    Cherylynn, I think some of these isolated 2nd/3rd place votes are from people wanting to keep books eligible for Honors if there is a chance there’s going to be a fresh Honors ballot.

    Also, in order to get to a Medal winner, I think voters might be choosing only one of the front runners, because if you are vote for multiple front runners, it makes it harder to achieve the needed point difference. So people might be using 2nd/3rd place votes on non-contenders for that reason.

    But again that raises the issue of whether we have a separate Honors ballot or not. If there isn’t a separate Honors ballot, then people might well have to vote for more than one front runner, if they want one to win the Medal and the other an Honor, even though it makes it harder to get to a Medal-winner overall.

    • In my Committee experience we did not address Honors until we had a Medalist. To be honest I’ve never understood people saying a book was a good honor book rather than a gold medal. Right now we need to reach consensus on a winner and not think about honors.

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

        My experience has been exactly the same as Monica’s, and for the same reasons. The focus needs to be on finding the most distinguished book. And according to the Terms and Criteria, Honor Books “shall be books that are also truly distinguished.” The way I read that: Honor books should be books that are at the Medal level, but only one title gets that. So the final Medal ballot should reveal the books that truly had a shot at the Medal. A book that doesn’t do well on that ballot, will likely have little chance to earn an Honor, and that makes sense to me.

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Monica and Steven,

      I understand the argument, and I think the Medal selection process is great for selecting a single winner. But I worry that the Honors process is less satisfying. Take a look at our ballots. Clearly many people gave up their first choice in order to back one of the 3-4 frontrunners. I don’t believe everyone really changed their minds, but are trying to get to consensus and compromise. That’s great. But the way Honors work, it seems to me most people would be happier to revert to their original preferences, given that multiple Honors can be awarded, instead of Honoring the failed front-runners they may have switched to in the spirit of compromise but wasn’t actually their preferred choice. Does that make any sense? It’s clear in my head, but maybe I’m not explaining well….

      • I follow you. And I think I agree with you. I am backing off of HELLO UNIVERSE and ALL’S FAIRE (which are my two personal favorites) to start supporting one of the 3-4 titles we seem to be settling on. I feel like I can no longer think about articulating their strengths because I have an opinion about one of the remaining 3 contenders I want to make sure is heard. So it seems unfair to toss my other favorites from the Honors discussion.

        However, I would suppose the Honors books need to be consensus as well. And if consensus is naturally building around 3-4 titles and the ship has sailed on my two personal favorites, then we may already have our Honor books too.

        Sounds like consensus is probably the key.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        But why does there need to be consensus for the Honors given how fluid they are? There could be half-a-dozen Honors, which would make most Committee members happy without anyone having to sacrifice for the sake of consensus. To repeat myself, the Newbery process is fabulous for determining a consensus single Medal winner. It’s not an optimal process to also select an arbitrary number of Honors, especially after multiple ballots where people have compromised to get to a single winner.

        Nevertheless, from reading the Manual, I do understand that how to select Honors is not decided until after the medal-winning ballot, so will shut up about it given where we are in the process. Sorry for the distraction.

      • Leonard, that makes plenty of sense!

  5. Regarding I’m Just No Good at Rhyming. The subtitle And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups had me thinking of the subtitle of the German 19th century ironic book, Struwwelpeter: Funny Stories and Droll Pictures with 15 Beautifully Colored Plates for Children Ages 3 to 6. That book, too often misunderstood as being serious cautionary tales, is in fact a sharp parody of them.

    Something I so appreciate about this book is that there are so many ways into it. One way is to open it up randomly and enjoy a single verse. I’ve just landed on Eight (pages 105-106) which is interestingly very much in the Hoffmann meter as well as Lear and others of that ilk. I can see that poem working beautifully alone for all sorts readers who were at least eight in age (among other things). Another random opening gives Ten Ginormous Hippos Jumped on a Bed which will skew younger for audience. And while the illustration is fun it is definitely not needed to get the joke.

    As for nostalgia, I agree with those who have argued that children can be completely nostalgic for recent pasts. So You’ll Never Feel as Tall as When You’re Ten will absolutely be meaningful to those who are eleven, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen as for adults.

    • I totally agree with kids being nostalgic, but I still think that is a poem from a grownup POV lamenting adulthood and idealizing childhood. It doesn’t seem nostalgic in the way kids are. I guess the main way I remember kids being nostalgic is, I miss kindergarten when everything was easy and fun. (Insert whatever age before them they’re missing.) So I can see a 12 year old in junior missing a lot of thins about being 10, but the idea that there were unlimited possibilities then and not now doesn’t really seem like one of them. Although if they were a very happy, confident 10 but are having a rough time in junior high, maybe. But I wouldn’t think a lot of junior highers would be reading this.

      • I think the poem is telling 10 year olds that it’s awesome to be 10. It might be nostalgic from an adult reader, but I don’t think that means kids won’t be able to get it.

      • I pretty much agree with Mr. H here that it’s telling ten-year olds how great it is to be ten.

        When we got RHYMING at our house, my husband, who is a fourth-grade teacher, commented that it seemed like it was written by someone who knew about teaching poetry. (It definitely made him want to use it to teach poetry!) I think of that in particular when I read the poem about turning ten. It pairs so well with “On Turning Ten” by Billy Collins. (I hope it’s ok to mention an outside poem here – we have mentioned Silverstein as another comparison.)

        I don’t think that makes it didactic but I do think it is in a very deliberate way preparing them for a broader world of poetry while also being smart and funny.

      • Although I adore this book, I’m having a hard time throwing all my weight behind it. Mostly because it does hit a flat note here and there. I don’t know if it is a strength or weakness that every poem will not be for every reader.

      • Kari, thank you for that reference because I hadn’t read the poem, but it illustrates my point exactly. The Collins poem *is* a poem from a ten year old POV about what it is like to be 10. He is nostalgic for his past and looks towards the future warily, but both are completely from a kid perspective. Whereas our poem is not. If you asked a 10 year old about being 10 or even what is great about being 10, I don’t think he’d list any of the things in this poem. It’s just not a poem about the experience of being 10. It’s an adult saying, hey ten year old, you don’t know how good you’ve got it, and you’d better appreciate it now because it’s all downhill from here.

      • Katrina, I can’t reply again in the thread but even though I see this the opposite way I am happy to have shared the Billy Collins poem with you! It’s a great one.

      • It is—thank you for introducing me to it!

      • I agree with Katrina that it’s more a looking-back poem rather than describing 10-year-old life. I find that middle school students are very nostalgic. It’s about that age that they start to really feel like they’re getting older and they miss the “good old days” of being a kid (even though they still are kids, to us anyway). I thought this poem really captured that nostalgia twelve-year-olds feel.

  6. I absolutely find CORA AND RHYMING strong and unique contributions to the cannon. However, I’m going to make a case to put THE WAR I FINALLY WON in the medal position. (I’m not going to have much time before the next vote is due. I’m eating stale popcorn for lunch to get this out before I’m besieged by second graders. Does my pitiful sacrifice make you stand up and pay attention?)

    I think TWIFW is a harder sell, as it is such ‘A Newbery type of book.”: Historical fiction, girl protagonist. My Permabound poster is littered with similar. But let us realize Ada is a character in a million. Bradley has given us such a vivid and enduring protagonist, one with a voice that shouts to be heard over every other. One that will climb through the ages and feel forever genuine, and vibrant, and nuanced. Remember the scene where Susan gives her the doll for Christmas? Her reaction of knowing that type of childhood, the one where little girls play with dolls, was forever beyond her own. A moment filled not just with poignancy, but moving her character forward, beyond the hurts done to her in the past and accepting the reality and strengths of the present. A moment that built on the theme of resiliency seen throughout the book.

    And let’s not just look at the amazing depth of the characters. The setting and plot were both so layered, always moving the story and the character’s forward. Each new event that gave us another glimpse of the war’s home-front, felt like an added brick to the structure of this incredible story: the shared pig, to the London visit, to the distrust the town had of a young German girl.

    There may come a time when I may concede to place this book in the honor position, but that time has not come. I feel strongly that it rises to the top. Particularly after our last discussion.

  7. Leonard Kim says:

    I am repeating myself from the original PRINCESS CORA post – I liked it but disagree with the opinion that the text approaches perfection and shuns superfluity. I have complained for example how the same events involving the Crocodile and the King were presented 4 separate times:

    1. The beginning of Chapter 5 shows the actual events.
    2. The end of chapter 5 has the crocodile telling Cora, “And then I told your father I didn’t want to jump over that stupid rope, and he asked me if I was being a good girl. It was the way he said it. Anyone would have bitten him. But he wasn’t even fun to bite (56)
    3. In chapter 6 her dad tells Cora, “A wicked crocodile chased me and tore my pants–no, don’t look!’. . . . That crocodile tore a hole in my pants!’ (64)”
    4. In chapter 7, the Kings says again, “The one who tore a hole in my pants, and chewed on my rear end, and got crocodile spit on my behind? (67)”

    I feel, despite being short, a perfect PRINCESS CORA would have been even shorter. For a book specifically aimed at beginning readers, I feel “most distinguished” means every word has impact and purpose, and no word is wasted or superfluous. I don’t think PRINCESS CORA quite meets that standard.

    • Jennifer Hartley says:

      I thought the repetition was on purpose since many children learn that way. Also, fairy tales and fables often incorporate repetition. I can see why it might be a bit trying for adults, though.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Jenn, I don’t think this is a fairy tale-style repetition the way, for example, a couplet like “Shake and quiver, little tree, Throw gold and silver down to me” is repeated multiple times in Cinderella, nor is it the helping repetition for truly beginning readers one might find in Dr. Seuss and ilk. I am a big advocate of effective repetition, but this isn’t it for me.

    • On my first read of CORA, I thought it was cute and nothing more. Since then, many on here sang its praises and forced me to revisit many parts of it. I still find it cute and nothing more. I think my reservations come down to its style. Some are defining it as an early chapter book but it reads far more sophisticated than your basic early chapter book. My 2nd grade daughter for instance, reads and gobbles up Magic Treehouse books. Those are early chapter books. She picked up Cora and struggled with the text. And she’s a good reader for her age.

      I know, personal anecdotes probably don’t belong in this conversation but her response to the text seemed to justify my reservations. I struggle a bit with who the audience is for PRINCESS CORA and if Schlitz actually missed her mark. Was she too sophisticated for her intended audience or was she too juvenile for her actual audience? Does that make sense?

      • As I understand it, it’s supposed to be for kids transitioning from early chapter books to MG novels. So it’d be a next step for your daughter.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        I’ve tried to post this many times, but it hasn’t been taking. Hopefully seven copies don’t suddenly spring up. Anyway, as Steven suggested before, PRINCESS CORA might be that example where illustrations “make the book less effective” (especially compared to I’M JUST NO GOOD’s illustrations). In a previous comment, I stated that a line like, “He had teeth hanging down from his top jaw and more teeth poking up from his bottom jaw (16)” is not the kind of sentence one really needs in a book with illustrations. I would now add that it isn’t that effective a sentence for a beginning chapter book anyway. I can imagine other ways to say the Crocodile had a lot of teeth that could be more effective for the intended readership without sacrificing descriptive whimsy. I don’t love the choice of the word “jaw” and I am not sold on the sentence construction with its two participle phrases modifying “teeth.” This might be an example of what you’re saying, Jordan.

    • Leonard and Jordan,

      About Princess Cora, I chose to give myself a treat and read it to my second and first graders today. We were only about to get through three or four chapters within our time limit. What I found is that while I was having a great time, the attention of the all students didn’t click in until the crocodile showed up. Once I got his voice right, they were riveted.( I figured he might have a bit of a southern drawl.) I”m abysmal at singing, but a few still cheered after his songs. So what I’m saying is, Leonard might have a point that there could have been some tightening, especially up front.

      Jordan, as far as the age, you are correct that it is a step above the pedantic word choice in Magic Treehouse, and pushes vocabulary a bit. It might work best for the intended audience as a read-aloud before a self read.

      I still think it is strong on structure, and I particularly like the quieter moments with Cora on her own, following on the heels of the crocodile frenzy.

      I do think when you put it along side THE WAR I FINALLY WON, it is not as strong.

      • My very rough impression of CORA is that the story (or plot) was picture book material. But Schlitz stretched the text out into this picture book/early chapter book hybrid that resulted in a confusing style to me. It feels like the type of book you should be able to sit down and read in one sitting with children (like your first and second graders!) But it’s a bit too long for that.

        (I’m aware now that my criticisms of the book don’t seem to be specific or substantial enough for this stage in the ball game. I just haven’t really considered this a serious contender until now. When it is!)

    • I don’t actually see that as repetition. You need to see each of those points of view, they’re all accomplishing different things. I think only the last one counts as repetition and I don’t remember the context at the moment to assess whether it’s needed or not.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Katrina, I don’t view it as repetition either (that was Jennifer’s characterization.) I see it as an unnecessary recounting of events, so I disagree that we “need to see each of those points of view.” Why? I agree they all accomplish different things–I admitted the same when I originally cited these passages in the other post–but what do they really add? Especially in an early chapter book? A book like this shouldn’t have any padding, and despite its short length, I felt there was quite a bit of padding. I think I’m feeling the same thing as Mr. H when he wrote, “My very rough impression of CORA is that the story (or plot) was picture book material. But Schlitz stretched the text out into this picture book/early chapter book.”

        I’m not saying these passages are an unmitigated folly. I like this book. It’s a very good book. But such quibbles are what make it fall short of “most distinguished” for me.

      • Do you mean why do we need those sentences or why those events? As events, I think they add humor and character development. And if you took them out, you wouldn’t have much plot left!

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Why does the Crocodile need to tell Cora what he did to the King, when we just saw it earlier in the chapter? Why does the King need to tell Cora, twice, what the Crocodile did to him? Even if getting their verbal testimony added something more than what we saw from the omniscient third-person narrator view, it could have been done with fewer words. Look at the number of “and”s in the sentences I quoted. And why did the King need to say three separate times that the Crocodile tore his pants?

      • Because the humor is in the retellings and reactions, not just the initial event. So the crocodile is telling Cora not to ell us what happened, but to get the croc’s take on what happened, which is both funny and he gets to sympathize with Cora about each person and give voic3 to her frustrations. And then she has the opportunity to go, oh dear, you weren’t supposed to do that! And then she has to go see the damage for herself and fix it. And now I’m just summarizing the plot! But that’s kind of my point—it’s a three step process for each of the three grownups, and threes are good in storytelling and in humor. In your ideal shorter version, does each event just happen with none of the responses? Or do you just want the responses to be more streamlined?

      • Leonard Kim says:

        More streamlined. It’s primarily an execution thing for me- the whole thing seems just a mite flabby to my taste. Granted my complaining about one of kid lit’s best writers is like the Emperor telling Mozart, “Too many notes, just cut a few, and it’ll be perfect.”

      • Lol ????

  8. DaNae, I agree with you about Rhyming and Cora. I appreciate your comments about TWIFW. The Christmas doll scene is one of the most memorable scenes of any book on this list. I have been having my own kind of war with this book and these points help clarify some things for me.

  9. Any thoughts on development of plot in First Rule Of Punk?

    • Sorry, this is not “plot” related, but I did not like Malu’s mother in THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK. I felt that the mother’s sole purpose in the narrative was to ground Malu in Mexican heritage and share tidbits of Mexican culture with the readers and I don’t even think she did that genuinely. She felt like a highly contrived character. And being one of the major character’s in the book, that’s a big knock for me.

      • Adrian Zeck says:

        I appreciate your perspective about Malu’s mother. I think that’s exactly the view Malu has of her mom. I felt that Perez’s characterization of her mom and dad are how Malu sees them, so that’s how they’re presented to the reader. I think that this method of parental presentation contributes to both Malu’s growth and the plot’s development. You see that in her ‘zines. Her dad’s ‘zine is something you would make about a best friend. Her mom’s is more akin to an overbearing teacher.
        If you look at the character of her father, as Malu sees it, you’re presented with a cool relaxed record store owner. However, that doesn’t mean that’s who he is. I felt when the reader steps back they can appreciate how Malu’s dad is too busy trying to be her friend instead of being a parent.
        As such, Malu’s mom is burdened with having to be the responsible parent. her education/job have her acting overly heavy handed regarding Malu’s cultural education. I thought it was something that Perez allowed Malu to understand as she meets other strong women with a deeper connection to their Mexican heritage than Malu. Something Malu didn’t think was important at all before moving to Chicago. However, once she sees that her heritage is dynamic and personally approachable she becomes more accepting of her mom (who she realizes that she totally misjudged as a one dimensional Super Mexican when she was really so much more).

      • Considering Malu’s perspective, this makes sense. Thank you.

      • I think a common theme in middle grade is that realization that your parents are 3-dimensional people. Though that was part of this book, I don’t think the realization happened with enough impact. It seemed to be thrown in toward the very end and we didn’t get to see how that really affected Malu.

    • In terms of FRoP – Adrian had a great summary of the strengths of FRoP in the earlier post, but I am starting to agree with another commenter – I think the ending was a bit rushed and abrupt. I felt as though the initial pacing did a wonderful job setting up the characters in fluid and precise fashion, and really drew readers in (at least it did for me). The combination of punk history tidbits, character quirks and specific setting (Chicago) really made it both familiar but intriguing to younger readers (I also want to echo another commenter that it is refreshing to have a book NOT set in New York City, but able to successfully such a strong sense of place.) I felt like Malu’s universe was one that was authentic and fascinating and Perez’s medium, like CORA and RHYMING (with the inclusion of zines) just something great to add to the canon as well. And the zines really enhance the text and flow well with the narrative.

      That being said, I now think that the resolution of the punk band and her friendships felt a bit too abrupt, and Malu’s reconciliation with her mother could have been a little more nuanced.

      A wonderful debut book that I’ve been recommending to many of my graphic novel readers and music lovers, but I do think the plot/characters/voice pale in comparison to TWIFW, and the uniqueness of the medium does not quite equal that of RHYMING (although I think FRoP would win out over CORA in terms of distinguishing originality and medium, but I think that’s just personal taste. Just don’t see CORA as that unique, given the plethora of re-told fairy tales with a humorous and modern vibe.)

      Looking forward to the next round of voting!

  10. Leonard Kim says:

    Regarding RHYMING, I used to have these reservations: 1) lack of technical polish; 2) the number of throwaways; 3) maudlin moments. Others have identified these defects as well.

    However, I have since changed my mind that these elements should harm its candidacy. I mentioned that I looked at a list of “all-time great comedy movies” and these “flaws” are present to pretty much the same degree in many of them too. This leads me to conclude they are not really flaws with respect to what this book sets out to do. Maybe they are even strengths. The moments of cheesy, Chaplin-esque sentimentality demonstrate a deep-down absence of mean-spiritedness, which is crucially important in this kind of comedy. The number of throwaways may be needed to attain the minimum “funny” threshold for a larger enough readership, because, as widely noted, not every joke works for every person. And while I still would have liked a slightly higher technical standard, it’s undeniably good writing and, in an apples-to-oranges comparison, I think it’s less important in a book like this compared to a book like PRINCESS CORA.

  11. Cherylynn says:

    With Princess Cora and the Crocodile I had more trouble with the logic than with the language. Some how a crocodile with a large green snout and sharp teeth looks like the human princess except for the tail. p.21, The mother at the beginning of chapter four does not hear the crocodile as he unsuccessfully balances an inkwell on his snout. I assume this means he drops it. But she does hear the tinkle of the chandelier. The father is running in place not looking at his watch because he has weights in both hands and never notices that his daughter is a crocodile. Is he blind? p. 44 I have to admit, it is a cute book, but I do not find this as distinguished as others on the list.

    • But subverting expectations is what makes it funny! Those are all things I would point to as examples of her distinguished execution of humor. (Also, the distracted parent parts feel particularly relatable, since every kid sometimes feels like their parent isn’t paying enough attention to them. Sometimes enough to think, “you wouldn’t even notice if I turned into a crocodile!”)

  12. sam leopold says:

    Rhyming is the one title I have changed my mind about the most with these discussions. That and The War I Finally Won are two books that have become more distinguished for me with each reading. These discussions have been good for me. I love my students, but 12 year olds usually cannot go as deep in their Newbery analysis as those of you on the Committee. My initial feelings about my top three books have completely been turned upside down and my third ballot will be different from the first two—–but I swear to tell no one….. I appreciate the in-depth analysis given by my peers here.

    • just wanted to echo sam’s sentiments here…

      agreed!! These discussions have been fantastic and so helpful in my engaging with the book on a deeper level (and not just skimming as many books as possible for the fastest blurb I can give a book-thirsty 4th grader!) And agree, I am starting to feel differently about how I will vote next, and hopefully, we will reach a consensus!

      thank you to all for your wonderful discussion and for letting me be a part of it! #newbie

  13. sam leopold says:

    Katrina, I agree with the relatable parent point. My students said that was their favorite part of the story.

  14. sam leopold says:

    For what it is worth, I have always felt that Wolk’s word choices in Beyond the Bright Sea are some of the strongest examples of quality writing in this year’s contenders. I know it only had 3 points in our second ballot, but that still does not change my feelings about the strength of the quality of writing in that novel.

  15. sam leopold says:

    And I know I am in the minority on this one, but the discussions concerning Vincent and Theo have not completely persuaded me from keeping it completely off my ballot. Only choosing three is kind of hard when there are 4-7 books, in my opinion, that would not surprise me by being given a gold medal next Monday.

  16. Posting here for Leonard:

    Hmm, it seems the 2nd round comments have been closed and the 3rd round voting opened whil I was typing and posting this last comment. Hate to waste the effort, so I’ll just leave it right here…

    Please bear with me as I try to work through this in my own fashion. I have with me a copy of BEA GARCIA: THE CURSE OF EINSTEIN’S PENCIL by Deborah Zemke, which I thought was an outstanding 2017 early chapter book, though not quite Newbery level. Unlike PRINCESS CORA, it is an 8$ paperback befitting an early chapter book series. Even though PRINCESS CORA is ostensibly for a slightly younger readership and BEA GARCIA has twice as many pages, they actually have similar Lexile levels (610 vs. 590 for PRINCESS CORA) and not too different word counts (PRINCESS CORA has ~10% fewer words.)

    I’m going to literally pick a random number (36) and turn to that page for both.

    He sang: “I am Princess Cora’s pet- Am I her favorite croc? You bet! Inky-stinky, dry or wet. And I am inappropriate!” The Queen couldn’t stand this. “That’s a bad rhyme!” she shouted. She picked up a fat book and threw it at the crocodile. “Reptile!” she yelled.

    BEA GARCIA (full disclosure – I’m starting about 1/2 way down, after the illustrations and speech bubbles)
    Here’s Bert, trying to ruin everything. You can’t see him because I’m not going to draw him, but you can hear him. No way, Bert. I’m not drawing you, especially not in Australia.

    I think the two passages are representative enough. Surely the passage from CORA has its delights, but it is also comparatively sophisticated, more than you’d expect from the two books’ superficial appearance. I think Schlitz is trying to adapt her style to a younger audience, and that shows, but she doesn’t quite meet the demands of a “true” early chapter book, and that shows too. As Mr. H implies, I don’t think the compromise is completely successful for either the young reader or the adult reader looking for Schlitz’s usual literary mastery.

  17. Jenn Potter says:

    From another #newbie, I have to say thank you to this group. I am such a lover of MG fiction and this has really forced me to go back a reread at several books with different points in mind. The one book I haven’t been able to get my hands back on [to reread] is Rhyming since it is currently checked out. I may have to try to go borrow it back in the morning.

    After reading Cora for the third time I have to say that it still catches my eye. I read it to my second grade daughter and she was delighted. The critics are right that this is a little long and has some tougher language for younger readers but the characters are so grounded in tradition and yet inexplicably themselves that to me that raises Cora into the “distinguished” category.

  18. sam leopold says:

    Leonard, excellent comments and analysis. I find there are many parts of Cora where the compromise is successful. But, as you pointed out, there are parts where it does not. For me, a book that is “most distinguished” does not have to be flawless, but it does have to show consistency of distinguished qualities throughout the entire text. I see at least a couple titles on our list that do this better than Cora.

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