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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Current Mock Newbery Nomination Result and a Brief Discussion of DiCamillo, Henkes, and Reynolds

Newbery Committee guidelines dictates that once a book is officially nominated, even if it’s a single nomination from just one of the 15 members, it must be read by all members and placed on the “discussion table” in January. Last week, 49 readers (thank you all) nominated total of 46 titles. I did some math and discovered that every 3 (3.2 rounded down) Heavy Medal nominations would equal 1 Newbery nomination (roughly 1/15 of total readers who participated in the Heavy Medal nominations process) and to be considered viable for . Those that meet this criterium are listed below — with a link for a detailed tally sheet for all the titles and the number breakdown.

New Kid18
Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise11
Queen of the Sea10
Line Tender9
Pay Attention, Carter Jones8
Lalani of the Distant Sea7
Sal and Gabi Break the Universe6
Eventown5
Other Words for Home5
Genesis Begins Again4
Place to Belong, A4
This Promise of Change4
Beverly, Right Here3
Bridge Home, The3
Look Both Ways3
Planet Earth is Blue3
Sweeping Up the Heart3

Please click on this link if you’re curious about all the titles and the # of nominations each received: Detailed Tally Sheet.

Out of the five 3-nomination titles, three are from previous Newbery honorees: Beverly, Right Here (DiCamillo,) Look Both Ways (Reynolds,) and Sweeping Up the Heart (Henkes.) Perhaps you have not felt compelled to nominate any of them. Perhaps you have not even read them because you’re busy discovering new authors and new voices. If you’re on the Newbery Committee, seeing these titles nominated by a fellow committee member would mean that you must now carefully examine or re-examine them for merits and reasons that excite other readers.

All three books are relatively short – 196 to 256 pages. All three authors are masterful in constructing sentences with distinctive cadence and fine-tuned imagery. The flavors are different, but each begs to be savored.

All are realistic fiction and all the main characters interact with the adults around them. Beverly and Amelia both have inadequate parents. Both discover more reliable adults and friends their own age who help them cope with sorrowful circumstances. On the other hand, the many adults in the ten middle school student stories: teachers, parents, grandparents, a janitor, and a crossing guard, are responsible, caring, supportive, or endearing.

Thematically, DiCamillo and Henkes explore parental failings, while Reynolds presents reliable and healthy adult-child relationships. How successful each author presents their adult characters would be one of several aspects be investigated and debated.

Of course, whether readers would feel strong connections to the main characters would also be explored by the Committee members. By nature, it is harder for readers to fully invest in short story characters: since each story presents mere snippets of the characters’ experiences. Reynolds, however, manages to give us vividly memorable portraits: The Low Cuts and their elaborate scheme to bring joy to a friend’s gravely ill mother; Bryson, who defends his friend against the rumor mill; Cynthia and her stand-up comedy routines and loving relationship with her grandfather, just to name three.

Short stories that are only loosely connected to each other seldom garnered Newbery recognition — will Look Both Ways defy history? It is, after all, short-listed for the National Book Award!

Both Beverly, Right Here and Look Both Ways are fall publications and might not have made their way to many readers’ hands by our October nomination deadline. Will more nominations come through for them in the November nomination round (11/14 to 11/20)? If you have read them, please comment and let us and others know your opinions and whether to place them in the serious contenders pool!

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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 roxannefeldman@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    I appreciate the sense of community that emerged from LOOK BOTH WAYS. Not so much that all of those kids and adults were tightly tied to one another, but that they co-existed in the same environment, all trying to find their place and make an impact. Not all of the stories were equally strong, though. And this just may be “wrong reader for this book,” but I was put off by the amount of space devoted to boogers in the first story. I’m okay with some grossness, and I can see how the lighthearted back-and-forth dialogue establishes character and sets up the ending, but it seemed a bit over the top. I clearly need to ask some sixth graders about that, though.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    While thoroughly grossed out by all the booger talk, I did appreciate the lighthearted back-and-forth that you mention, Stephen. So many of the books this year deal with such heavy topics (namely death and grief) that it was refreshing to read something that is both distinguished in writing and funny/real life. Granted, I haven’t finished the book so I can’t speak to the other stories, but so far I think Reynolds has written something that is easily relatable and accessible to many ages while still maintaining that high level of writing that we expect from him. (The booger section did make me gag. 🙂 I know several kids who would love it though.)

  3. DaNae Leu says:

    I was impressed with LOOK BOTH WAYS more than I loved it. He did an excellent job painting the pictures and people of the neighborhood. As I progressed through the book I found very little connection to the characters in the stories before. Over this past weekend I read Fran Dowell’s THE CLASS, which is also a book with multiple POVs. Unlike LBW all the stories interwove and kept me engaged with the classroom narrative. The writing in THE CLASS felt much more straightforward and less ‘literary’. but for me it was more engaging. Also, a dozen cookies if anyone can explain the whole bus falling from the sky metaphor?

    While every bit of SWEEPING UP THE HEART felt lovely and literary, I found a hard time staying engaged and being interested. I can’t criticize a bit of it, just felt blah.

    I’m wild about BEVERLY, Dicamillo always takes my breath away with her ability to show characters and emotions without spelling them out. She shows so much trust in her readers.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      I was also unsure about the school bus in LOOK BOTH WAYS. The broom dog that Canton throws away (188) has meaning within that last story, but I didn’t get how the references in the earlier stories were meaningful. Maybe on a second read…

      • I really liked circling around to the broom dog. But still all the stories could have stood alone without any connection to the others. I think it was just that kind of book. The characters were great, some a bit bigger than life.

  4. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    “Trust in her readers” is just right, DaNae. At certain points BEVERLY was one of the most depressing books of the year. Poor Mr. Dewby, and the dead dog, and Jerome, and Iola and her son… Beverly states it: “Everything was terrible” (141) and “No matter what, things are never fair” (172). Elmer confirms: “Most everything is incredibly stupid” (175). But there are clear glimpses of goodness throughout. Beverly can’t see them so well yet, and she’s the narrator, so that means readers have to notice them, without her (or the author, through the narrator) pointing them out. And her narrative voice is really distinct. She meets all these characters, and rarely (never?) really states what she thinks about them, but we learn that from what she says and what she does.

    • “At certain points BEVERLY was one of the most depressing books of the year” Steven, I know. I agree with this sentiment, but it is also the book that gave me the most hope? DiCamillo is not afraid to be dark, but she manages to world-build in such a way that imperfect people find their best selves while still being so imperfect and wonderfully worthy of trust and compassion.

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

        I agree, DaNae: there is hope throughout and it has more substance to a reader when it’s fighting to break through the hard stuff. In the end, it even seems like Beverly’s running away was in search of hope (though she wouldn’t acknowledge that), not just running away from a bad situation. She has moments with Iola and Elmer where you can see she’s recognizing their goodness and showing compassion, even though she still sees her lot as pretty bleak.

  5. Matthew Bowers says:

    Just checking in and noticed that at least one of my nominations was not on the spread sheet – River by Elisha Cooper.

    I’m enjoying the discussion this season.

  6. Kate McCue-Day says:

    I loved Beverley! It was my favorite of the series, but that’s not surprising because she was my favorite character in Raymie. She is such an incredibly developed character who I cling on everything she says. I am just consistently amazed by Kate DiCamillo’s writing.

  7. I must confess that even though I nominated Sweeping Up the Heart, I don’t see myself being able to convince 14 other committee members that it’s the most distinguished title of the year. I feel similarly about all three: all have strong points, and yet all could be easily picked apart and “defeated” by critical readers. Beverly’s encounters are in the same vein of many DiCamillo’s books: larger or stranger than life — but this book seems is simply not “tall tale” enough to sustain these situations: her driving the car to and from the VFW, her getting a job at an actual restaurant, her instant winning over all these strangers, without compelling evidence of her “innate charm.” And in Look Both Ways — some of the less impactful stories could definitely bring down the quality of the whole book. A drawback that short story collections often cannot avoid. And yes, I am with you, Steven: I wonder why the book starts with a seriously gag-inducing booger story and not the emotionally rewarding second tale of the Low Cuts to set the tone of the book and its sense of community. Could anyone who appreciates this particular tale shed some light? Do you feel that young readers would be drawn or repelled by the story? Please share real-life reactions if you have them.

    • I must confess, I haven’t finished BEVERLY yet… I’m about 1/3 of the way through it, but something you mentioned Roxanne got me and it’s something I’ve been thinking about and not sure if it was intended or what DiCamillo is saying about it.

      Beverly is attractive. Freddie is jealous of it. At least a few other adults have made reference to it. Is this why she is so easily welcomed by strangers? Damsel in distress, sort of. And is there something to be said for this?

      Enough has been made about Beverly’s looks in the early stages of the book, that I can’t believe DiCamillo made her out to be attractive, just because. There’s always a point with DiCamillo, I feel.

    • I think gross description is a hook that Reynolds uses to lure in reluctant readers. I know that it worked well with Ghost where he begins with a boy named Andrew Dahl who “holds the world record for blowing up the most balloons … with his nose” and then moves on to the snot inside those balloons. My 5th grade students always appreciate that passage when I read it aloud and Ghost continues to be one of the most popular books flying out of my library. I anticipate that when I read the first page of Look Both Ways aloud, it will have similar results. Maybe not the best way to win a Newbery but it does keep his readership going – and literacy is what Reynolds is all about.

      • I’m curious about the notion that “gross bits” are ways to entice reluctant readers. It seems to me that it’s more about particular sensitivity and not necessarily reading competency. It also seems to me that it sells young readers short: that they need these bits to be “hooked.” (Don’t get me wrong, I have deliberately picked gross-out stories to read aloud — mostly because it allows my students to see me as an adult who shares a knowing wink with them than my belief that they only go for such humor.)

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