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Coming Soon: The 2020 Heavy Medal Award Committee

Though January is still 60+ days away, it’s time to take a peek ahead at our plans for the third annual Heavy Medal Award Committee. The HMAC will be made of dedicated Heavy Medal readers engaging in intense online book discussion, culminating in a mock vote for the Heavy Medal Newbery Medal book. Here’s how it all will work:

On December 13th, the Heavy Medal Finalists will be announced. This is a list of 12 or more eligible titles that the HMAC will discuss and eventually vote upon. Annisha, Roxanne, and I will select the titles based on Heavy Medal Nominations (those begin next week!), starred reviews, variety of genres and age levels, and our own personal whims. Just kidding…no whims. We take the selection very seriously. But yes, there will be some titles left off that will disappoint some people.

Shortly after that, we will call for HMAC Volunteers. Members will need to commit to reading all of the books on the list and then participate in some pretty intense online discussion of each title. We will also ask most or all of the HMAC to introduce one of the titles to start the discussion. Book discussions will run from January 2nd through January 17th, with a new book up every weekday.

On January 18th, members will take part in the Heavy Medal Newbery Balloting. We’ll follow the official Newbery voting procedure as closely as we can. Voting may continue for several days, since re-balloting is often required to reach a clear winner. We will have a winner by January 23rd at the latest. (The real Newbery will be announced on January 27th).

If you’re curious about how those discussions go, you can take a look at last year’s posts from January 2019. (I just re-read a bunch of these posts: some truly excellent in-depth discussions!)

Non-HMAC members can also participate by adding your own comments to the January book discussion posts. We will also conduct on online vote for all readers in mid-January.

We’ll continue with more book posts and the first round of reader Nominations next week. If you have any questions about how the HMAC procedure works, you can post them below or email Annisha, Roxanne, or myself directly. We’re also interested in suggestions: if you have ideas about how we might make the HMAC even better, let us know!

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. I’m so excited to see the reader nominations! Also thinking hard on which titles I’d like to see advance to the next level.

  2. Leonard Kim says:

    In previous years the list included books none of the eventual committee nominated and truly supported. Also the list might omit books some committee members were truly passionate about. Could you consider creating a “long list” of say 20 – 30 books and then, once you’ve lined up the committee, let each member select the book they will present, guaranteeing those 12-15 books will each have a strong advocate? If you are concerned such a list may be lacking in range in genre, age, diversity, you can fix that by having the three of you (Steven, Roxanne, Annisha) on the committee and having your own individual choices ensure the list has the range you want. Or maybe you could have the committee members submit their top choice secretly (using an online form) — presumably some people will select the same book, and that will give you a certain number of slots to flesh out the list while making sure each committee member’s “book of the heart” is included. Or may be at least, should the situation arise where you have a committee member who had no nominations make the list, let them add one of their nominations?

    • These are good ideas, but I have a counter-argument, which is the time commitment of ensuring that you’ve read all of the books on the list in the two weeks between the list announcement and the beginning of the discussion.

      I need to know what the final list is going to look like (or at least have a pretty solid idea) before I can commit to ensuring that I’ve read all of the books on the list before discussion starts, and I suspect that I’m not the only one in that position. It’s one thing to see that I haven’t read three or four of the books. I can read that many in the two weeks between the announcement of the committee and the beginning of the discussion. But if it’s more like 6-7 books that I haven’t read, that’s going to be a struggle.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Yes, I think you’re right. Scratch that. I do think that, based on previous years, some transparency about Nominations is probably warranted. A simple statement for example that “the top X nominees will be on the list.” That way we have a clear stake in the Nominations but knowing the cutoff heads off any complaints of “but Y had more Nominations than the book you chose.” The question is what X should be. Maybe 6? That’s half the list and leaves plenty of room to fill in gaps if you need a picture book, or non-fiction, or “old” book, etc.

        Another idea is to release a list of 10, and leave the last two as “Committee choice” — the books that this particular committee really want to discuss. This would just make formal what you did last year with Snow Lane (which the mock committee gave an Honor to) and Just Like Jackie.

        Maybe those ideas would be more practical. Definitely think you should consider the first one at least.

  3. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    Thanks Alys and Leonard, these are all good ideas. I’m seeing three key things that we should do, one way or another: 1. Announce part of the list early so that Committee members can get reading done without cramming it in after mid-December. 2. Align the list of finalists with titles HMAC members nominated themselves, at least to some degree. 3. Leave discretion to balance the list as needed with related titles (by genres, ages, etc.). These all seem do-able, with specific details to be worked out….Is there more we’re missing?

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