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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

National Book Awards Finalists

poetx  When the National Book Awards Longlist was announced a few weeks ago I wasn’t sure it would relate very much to mock-Newbery stuff.  As Roxanne pointed out in her post, at least five of the ten books were very much on the older end of the teen audience. But today the five Finalists were announced and it turns out they were the five that fit the Newbery range best of all. And four of the five received at least one mention during our first round of Nominations here on Heavy Medal.  SLJ’s reviews for the five titles are here.

THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo received one nomination on Heavy Medal, from Katrina, who says it “definitely works agewise for junior high,” and I think I agree. I read it a while ago and was pretty impressed. So far this year we haven’t really discussed books that might challenge the Newbery definition in which “children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen.” This will be good one to test that out on.

THE ASSASSINATION OF BRANGWAIN SPURGE by MT Anderson and Eugene Yelchin has received three nominations on Heavy Medal. I just finished this one today and will definitely consider using one of my remaining nominations on it. This is another book that will lead us back to the Newbery Terms and Criteria, since pretty substantial pieces of the story are told through Yelchin’s illustrations.

THE TRUTH AS TOLD BY MASON BUTTLE by Leslie Connor received four nominations from Heavy Medal readers. We discussed this one on the blog a couple weeks ago.

THE JOURNEY OF LITTLE CHARLIE by Christopher Paul Curtis has six nominations on Heavy Medal. Curtis is the only author among the finalists with past Newbery recognition (two Honors and one Medal). LITTLE CHARLIE is the third book in his “Buxton Chronicles,” but stands on its own just fine.  We will have a Heavy Medal post on this book coming up soon.

HEY KIDDO by Jarrett J. Krosoczka didn’t receive any Heavy Medal nominations, but it was just released this week. I’m still on a waiting list for this one and am eager to read it. It’s a graphic novel memoir by the author of the “Lunch Lady” series… but clearly this is something very different. It’s another one where we may struggle with the upper age range and where the Newbery Criteria define “contribution to literature” as a statement that “indicates the text of the book.” We plan to post about this one soon also.

Of course it’s important to keep in mind that that each year “Panels develop their own criteria for the National Book Award.” Which is completely different from the criteria that the Newbery Committee uses, and which we try to stick to on Heavy Medal. So there’s no reason to expect winning titles to be the same. In fact, since the NBA for Young People was re-established in 1996, there’s only been one book that’s won both the NBA and the Newbery, and that was twenty years ago: HOLES by Louis Sachar.

Still, it’s interesting to note what’s being honored in other award circles, and this year the NBA finalists are definitely ones that Mock Newbery folks would be looking at anyway. Other than the absence of THE BOOK OF BOY, it looks like a terrific top five.



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. My copy of Hey, Kiddo is supposed to arrive today! Excited to read it.

  2. I’m thrilled with the National Book Award’s shortlist. In the middle of BRANGWAIN right now, and it is swiftly rising to my top five for the year. It’s LOL-funny *and* incisive… though I have questions about the images – I fear they may make the book ineligible. We can discuss that at length later, I suppose.

  3. I absolutely LOVE that Mason Buttle is on this list. It’s been my personal favorite of the year, hands down, but I’ve just feared that it’s literary merit wouldn’t hold up in conversations on this site. Maybe it will!

  4. I’ve read HEY, KIDDO and I have no doubt that it falls into the Newbery age range. I’d consider it an essential purchase for many middle school libraries. The narrative covered does extend through Jarrett’s high school years, and I would argue that that’s additional evidence of its suitability for the upper third or so of the Newbery audience–I imagine that Jarrett’s increasing autonomy, and the opportunities and disappointments that come with taking advantage of it, make the narrative more useful (for lack of a better word) for students who are navigating the transitions of early adolescence.

    This isn’t an argument about literary excellence–which I’m very interested to have!–but just hopefully a vote that we not argue the age piece too much and focus on the actual book as a book through the lens of the 14-and-under reader.

  5. I loved BRAGWAIN. I am hoping that since Roller girls was able to receive a Newbery honor that this would keep it in contentions even with the illustrations. I am a slow reader and I plowed through it in less than a day. It was just such a creative concept. I feel that this one may be looked at as out of the age range possibly and maybe more of a contender for the Printz (But with LONG WAY DOWN getting a NB honor last year, you never know). MASON BUTTLE is a close second. I just had such a connection with his character and even though it deals with some heavier issues, Mason attitude just made you have hope for him and his situation. I have not read HEY KIDDO but will get my reserved copy from the library soon!

  6. My first thought after reading Hey Kiddo last week was “I needed this book *years* ago, thank goodness someone finally wrote it.” A book that represents the experience of youth who have been personally affected by the opioid epidemic, or are being raised by a family member other than their parents, or who have an incarcerated parent, or are estranged from a parent, or have a household that contains love along with some really rough stuff, or even just a coming of age story that isn’t centered around romance – and does all of that in a format that makes it accessible to a broader audience (including kids who aren’t “big readers”) – there’s not much out there like it, and there needs to be. I am grateful to the author for filling this void with such powerful and thoughtful honesty.

  7. Steven Engelfried says:

    THE POET X has just been announced as the winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

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