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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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NBA Longlist Announced

While the  October nominations are in progress, and continue through Saturday, just a quick note about the NBAs. The 2020 National Book Award Longlist for Young People’s Literature was announced a while ago. Of the ten titles named, only two have been mentioned so far here on Heavy Medal: KING OF THE DRAGONFLIES (guest blogger post coming on Oct 9) and WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED. Six of the remaining eight are October or November publications, so most of us haven’t read them yet. Five of the eight are for teen readers, but from reviews at least, it seems like all or most of them could fit into the Newbery definition of children as “persons of ages up to and including fourteen.” 

We shouldn’t expect the NBA’s to line-up with the Newbery, and they often don’t. The Newbery Committee must follow specific Terms and Criteria that the Committee; with the NBA, judges “develop their own criteria” each year. Since the Young People’s Literature category was reinstated in 1996, only one book (HOLES) has won both awards; four Newbery Honor books have also won the NBA. Have you read (or do you plan to read) any of the NBA Longlist titles? Are there any that we should be sure to include in our Mock-Newbery process? 

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. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    Today the 5 Finalists were announced (from the original 10-title longlist):
    KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES by Kacen Callender
    WE ARE NOT FREE by Traci Chee
    EVERY BODY LOOKING by Candice Iloh
    WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED by Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed
    THE WAY BACK by Gavriel Savit

  2. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    SLJ reviews of the five finalists are grouped here.

  3. Julie Corsaro says:


    Full disclosure: I am not a fan of graphic novels for the Newbery as the award is for writing, and pictures in this format are essential for telling the story. Obviously, recent Newbery committees have disagreed with me! However, each committee must interpret the criteria during its year of eligibility, and not turn to past winners for guidance or justification.

    I know that it has been argued here that pictures are “text,” an academic school of thought, for sure. But I don’t buy it. That said, WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED may be the book under discussion on this blog, which best straddles the line between being distinguished on the whole and having immense child appeal, a relatively rare occurrence. As a result, I think it merits deep discussion. I would also be thrilled if it lines up with this year’s NBA regulations and won the grand prize.

    • Julie, you’ve made a good point about graphic novels. To take the argument a step further, how do you feel about picture books winning the Newbery? I’m thinking of one example, LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET. I understand that judges must follow the rules and cannot unilaterally make changes, but it seems to me very difficult to separate words and pictures in that book, or in many other picture books, as well.

      • Julie Corsaro says:

        That’s an interesting question, Emily. I’ll have to think about it. As far as committees following the rules and making changes goes, I think there is enough wiggle room in the criteria for members to argue for and against the inclusion of both graphic novels and picture books. In addition, there is the following: “Each book is to be considered as a contribution to American literature. The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.” I think the word “primarily” may come into play in such a discussion, as well as the phrase “less effective.” Since picture book texts can be akin to poetry, I think it may be possible to argue that they stand on their own, depending on the text, of course.

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

        A couple things I think about, though I don’t always convince myself. One is that the words don’t have to stand on their own. They don’t have to do all the work, they just have do the work that they do, for that particular book, at a distinguished level. In a picture book or a graphic novel, for example, that might mean that the words might not contribute at all to “delineation of setting,” if that’s all accomplished by the illustrations. But since the Criteria note that “the committee need not expect to find excellence in each of the named elements,” we can still look at plot, style, and theme, for example, and possibly find the most distinguished text.

  4. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    Then there’s the definition of “text,” especially in relation to graphic novels. I used to think that was simple: text = words. But a broader definition, where text can refer to the content communicated by the author, opens things up. Roxanne Feldman interviewed Shannon Hale on HM about a year ago. Ms. Hale talked about the differences between the writer’s role in picture books vs. graphic novels:

    …graphic novels are completely different animals. The majority of the writing I do doesn’t show up on the finished page. Like most graphic novelists, I write panel-by-panel. For each panel, I describe the visuals that the artist will draw in that box: the characters, setting, action (I have to pick the best freeze-frame moment of action), emotions/facial expressions, even weather and lighting if necessary, as well as including any dialog, captions, text, sound effects, etc.

    So even though she’s not creating the actual images, she’s directing them, and creating text that will, with the illustrations, achieve the impact on the reader that she envisions.

    Applying that to a book from this year, there’s a sequence in ASTRONAUTS: WOMEN ON THE FINAL FRONTIER where we learn about Sally Ride’s early missions, which steadily increased in importance (96-97). The illustrations show each lift off, accompanied by “shake,” “rumble,” and sometimes “boom.” Those words are rendered in increasingly bigger and bolder fonts, to visually represent the excitement of her groundbreaking accomplishments. It’s the artist who draws those, but the textual meaning must come from the author, or at least the author and illustrator together. I really have to work at this line of thinking, and I’m not sure I succeed at really grasping “text” as more than words, but it’s the only way I can work out to bring most graphic novels into Newbery discussions….

  5. Julie Corsaro says:

    I certainly agree that in and of itself, the text in a graphic novel can be determined to be a distinguished contribution to children’s literature. I do think something is lost, however, without the graphics. (Since you bring up setting, Steven, doesn’t time pass in the gutter in graphic literature?). I’m a fan of Shannon Hale’s and regularly recommend and gift the Real Friends and Princess in Black books, always with great success. I also remember reading Roxanne’s piece last year, and found it informative then and informative now. But I think the committee has to work with what’s in front of them. Who’s to say what the contribution of the editor was? Or the book designer? Or even the marketing director? Given that book making is a collaborative art and craft, perhaps the focus on a single creator and the hierarchical nature of book awards is the real culprit. But I admit I’m happy enough to play, and imagine everyone involved with an award-winning book is happy, too.

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