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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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2019 Heavy Medal Award — Reader Poll

HMACReaders, stay tuned.  We are still in the process of our Third (and might not be the Last) Round of Balloting.

As evident from yesterday’s whirlwind of comments (more than two hundred before we closed the comments for the two posts,) our 17 Heavy Medal Award Committee members are taking this task of picking a Mock Newbery Winner extremely seriously.  We are so grateful for everyone’s dedication and thoughtful examination of these books.

Our exercise here also sheds light on the difficulty of the consensus process of any Newbery Committee each year.  How does a group of 15 (or 17 in our case) individuals come to agreement when we all have such divergent reading tastes and personal and professional experiences?

As we await the next round of results, I invite Heavy Medal readers to cast your vote on your topic choice from our finalists (and a write-in option, too).


(updated) You have until Sunday, January 27, 11 p.m. EST to cast your vote.

Please also feel free to comment on what you have observed through these past few weeks, and especially yesterday.


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. Melody Allen says:

    I have been so impressed by this group of volunteers onthe HM Mock Newbery. I greatly appreciate your dedication to reading all the books, rereading, and posting insightful, well considered comments that have enriched my understanding of the books I have read. Wonderful model of the process set up by Roxanne and Steve. Being retired, I was able to keep up yesterday eith the rich analysis and respectful support for favorites.

  2. I also think this experience informs me how important it is to have those two long days of people sitting in the same room, breathing the same air, looking each other in the eyes, consulting the passages on the pages, and agreeing AND disagreeing with each other’s take on each book. It’s so compact but also so focused. Our HMAC members spent their entire day — each with duties to perform and young library patrons to care for — focusing on delivering great discussions.


  3. I noticed today as I started seeing the 3rd ballot results come in — that none of the books by or about persons of color have remained on our table.

    I did not participate in the voting process but I had a lot of opportunities to chime in when everyone was discussing…

    I feel that I did not do a good enough job articulating why I think Little Charlie is so superbly penned or how the narrative choices/tone of Styx Malone is extremely sophisticated, or pushing for others to consider that Poet X is squarely written for 13 and up readers with a realized and entirely relatable protagonist, or advocating more for the Night Diary as a quietly realistic and powerful historical fiction.

    Nisha, Candice, Mia, Charlie, Caleb, Styx, Xiomara — and other cast of characters — you’ll all live in my heart for a long long time.

  4. Thanks so much for this great blog, which has demonstrated how difficult it is to reach consensus on an award winner. It is particularly hard in a year like this with so many good titles. Each individual has a legitimate favorite and I can see how hard it is when my favorites were “off the table.”
    I definitely feel prepared for the awards webcast on Monday.

  5. Mary Clare O'Grady says:

    What is the deadline for voting in this poll? I am finishing up one of the nominees today and hope to get one or two more read over the weekend.

  6. I think Monday’s outcome might be very different from our choices. Our winner last year, totally deserving, did not make it to the official Newbery slate, either.

    • This is one of those years that feels really wide open because there are a lot of great books with different strengths. I know I will be riveted to the livestream on Monday!

      • Courtney Hague says:

        I definitely think this year is going to take us all by surprise. And this will be the first year in 7 years that I won’t be able to watch the livestream. I am so upset but I don’t think my laptime crowd will accept the YMAs as a legitimate reason to cancel.

  7. I’m truly curious about Monday morning as well. I’ve heard it said before that when the crop of MG fiction is weak, the door is opened for wild cards. Wild cards would be nonfiction, graphic novels, picture books, upper age range books, etc. This makes sense to me having been part of this discussion for two years now and learning how challenging it is to build consensus.

    I think this has been a STRONG year for MG fiction though, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Will there be any genre wild cards? Or will MG fiction dominate?

  8. I’m still pulling for Poet X as one of the honors wild card.

  9. Roxanne, why be so insistent on Poet X for a Newbery, when many readers would consider it, in terms of content, a shoo-in for Printz recognition? I agree with you that it is a wonderful book!

    (The age overlap of the Newbery and Printz awards drives me slightly crazy….)

    • I feel this so much. I wish there were a clear, bright line between the two. The Printz criteria explicitly state that the book must be published as YA. The upper range of the Newbery is much more blurry. And if YA books win both, younger readers don’t have an award in that year that is theirs. I think books should be eligible for one or the other, not both. I know it’s not spelled out that way; I just feel very strongly that it should be. I guess this drives me more than a little crazy!

    • Of course Poet X would probably be a Printz winner, and perhaps a Morris winner, and perhaps a CSK, too. That does not make it not qualified to win the Newbery. We do not drop a distinguished and eligible book just because it might win another award.

      I have other reasons, too:

      Poet X is absolutely suitable for the upper range of the Newbery. My advocacy is always to fully realize the potential of the Newbery since it is not a Middle Grade Book Award. I’d love to see more books for a wider range of readers appear on the final slate each year. The reality is that Newbery & Caldecott are truly the awards that could change an author’s life, when it comes to the prestige and sales. To me, Poet X is truly one of the best best best books of 2018 and I think the author deserves the recognition and financial gain.

      I do not share the sentiment that Middle Grade readers are deprived if the Newbery does not have a MG title as its winner for any particular year. (I don’t think the kids quite care, actually. Their favorite books almost never win literary awards and it has never prevented them to love Magnus Chase, or Maze Runner, or Wendy Mass books, or Real Friends, etc. etc. etc.)

      • I have spent a lot of years working in middle schools and often find that the Newbery is a little bit low range for student appeal and the Printz goes more to high school books so I support the upper boundary of the Newbery being explored more. That’s why I support it. I also agree with Roxanne’s other points.

  10. I loved POET X, but I hope it receives Printz recognition. I think some of the content is too mature for the Newbery age range and I know it is too mature for my middle grade readers. But I felt the same way about LONG WAY DOWN. I’m really hoping for books that I’ll be able to share with my students.

    • I do not believe that any of the content in Poet X is too mature for 13/14 year olds. Long Way Down is one of the favorite books for our 8th grade Lit. Circle — their analysis of the poems, symbolism, and emotional impacts, etc. told me that the book is definitely just right for them. I feel similarly about Poet X which will be offered to them for the next round of Lit. Circle. (And next year, it will be part of my 7th grade YA offerings.)

      • Roxanne,
        It’s probably that I’m old-fashioned, but I would not have wanted my children to read Poet X when they were 13/14. I did read the books they read when they were younger. But I’m happy that Poet X received the recognition that it did, particularly the Printz.

      • Sue, I’m curious what’s in Poet X that makes it not suitable for a 7th or 8th grade reader?

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

        I don’t want to speak for Sue, but it seems like she’s saying that POET X would not have been the book for her own children. And I would guess that’s the case for many parents, teachers, and 13/14 year olds themselves. Likely the same is true for LONG WAY DOWN, CARVER, HOUSE OF THE SCORPION and other honored books. The question really is whether or not there might be other readers in the 13/14 year old range who could be part of the “intended potential audience.” POET X seems like a book that will really resonate with some kids that age…just not all of them.

      • Steven, thanks for pointing out that i switched the audience from Sue’s own children to a generic 13/14 year old. So, I should rephrase my question as such,

        Sue, what’s in Poet X that you would not want your children to read when they’re 13/14?

  11. Thank you, as always, for making this all possible. This blog is one of the highlights of my year. I really enjoyed this year checking each month to see what books had been suggested and hope that aspect will continue. It was nice to have a little something to tide us over through the off months! This year may have been the best ever. The discussion was especially rich and I have learned a lot from reading all the analysis from this awesome committee. I hope one of these days I will have time to be able to commit to participating!

    • Agree, reading Heavy Medal is a big highlight of my professional career each year. For those of us who work for small or economically disadvantaged libraries and cannot attend conferences, it is an opportunity for professional development, collection development ideas and contact with the outside world of children’s literature enthusiasts. Thank you so much for making it happen this year!

  12. Thanks for noting the whiteness of the books that made it into the final round, Roxanne. I was struck by this as well.

    On a personal note, getting to read some of the discussion of Sweep following my comments was definitely eye opening.

    I appreciate the time, thought, and effort that goes into Heavy Medal, and people’s participation here. And, at the same time, also think there are many ways the discussions continue to reflect problems with the industry as a whole — problems that also mean this does not feel like a welcome space for many.

    • Sarah, do you mean the space of Heavy Medal? Or the world of Librarianship? Or the Children’s publishing industry?

      • Yes to all of the above!

      • What do you think contribute to this atmosphere? Are you in conversation with others who who feel the same way as you do? Specifically about Heavy Medal the blog itself? Are there ways that you see could shift it?

      • There’s a lot here to address, and I’m probably not the right person to answer these questions. I do know that there have been many discussions here in the past about the whiteness of Heavy Medal, and about responses here to issues of representation in children’s books (and to the people raising those issues. I did note a difference in the way people addressed me when I raised concerns, vs. how people have reacted to Black and Native people who’ve raised concerns about books here in the past.) More recently there was some discussion when the make-up of the HM committee was announced. To me, the selection of a final list of books by white authors relates back to those same issues and discussions. (As does what I would characterize as a continued emphasis on distinguishing between questions of representation, vs. analysis of “literary” elements in a work… with these being framed as somehow unrelated. I was glad to see that someone linked to the new, expanded ALSC guidelines in a recent thread! But there also still seem to be a lot of comments that position issues of representation as being outside of relevant Newbery criteria.)

        Again, though, I am probably not the right person to answer these questions. For anyone who may have missed it, I recommend reading this post from Alexis at Indigo’s Bookshelf:

      • Sarah, thank you for your thoughtful comments here. I, too, am wondering about the “separation” here — I also wonder about literary evaluation and how it is so tied to personal reading history and preferences: and I think there exists biases, always, without malice or overt ill intent. I’m thinking about how Journey of Little Charlie has been looked at both here and at my school’s Mock Newbery and how it seems that there is a concern over Curtis’ writing style, pacing, or even clarity — while I consider all of these aspects his strengths: his consistent use of dialect, slower but naturalistic reveal and progress of character development, and his letting the actions and almost paradoxical thoughts “speak” for Charlie’s transformation and character. The whole time I was reading Little Charlie, I was thinking — it’s like reading Huck Finn’s internal struggle — against his upbringing and racist norms and it’s done so brilliantly with heart and humor. I did not go to bat for Charlie, nor did I go to bat for Styx or Poet X, or Night Diary.

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