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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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Narrowing Down the Newbery List: Choose two for November

What books have risen to the top of your Newbery list? Now is your chance to put forward two titles for the Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Nominations process. We’re following the process of the real Newbery Committee, so this will be the second of three rounds of nominations. A month ago, readers each nominated three titles. Those totals are here. We can each add two more for November, then will call for two more in December for a total of seven. If you missed nominating in October, you can do all five this month…that’s not allowed on the real Committee, where all members must do 3 + 2 +2 in the same time periods, but we’re not that strict here.

Please share your titles in the comments below. And it’s fine (but not required) to share a bit about why the books you chose stand out, along with thought process that you used. When you just have seven books, this middle round can be especially tricky. It’s tempting to include an under-the-radar book that others might not be thinking about. At the same time, with so many excellent books this year, you may not want to use up a nomination on a title that you think will be long shot to get wide support. You might also look at the list so far and use your nomination to help balance the list in terms of age range, genre, format, or subject area.

I had several strong contenders this month, but winnowed it down to three. One is an automatic: EVERYTHING SAD IS UNTRUE by Daniel Nayeri jumped to the top of my list when I read it last week. I’m not sure how many others will see it as one of the best children’s books of the year, but I definitely think it needs to be in the discussion. My other two possibilities are excellent books that also help with that list-balancing thing to some degree. Since there were no picture books nominated in the first round, I’m thinking hard about Lesa Cline-Ransome’s OVERGROUND RAILROAD. We do have some nonfiction represented on the list already, but I feel that ALL THIRTEEN by Christina Soontornvat is the standout in that area so far. I’m still undecided, but will add my official two in the commentsbelow soon. Please share yours as well. We’ll accept nominations through Saturday, November 7th.

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. Julie Corsaro says:

    ECHO MOUNTAIN is a definite pick. While I have four strong candidates for my fifth spot, I’m going to go with BECOMING MUHAMMAD ALI. While I haven’t had much time to sit with it, it was an enjoyably artful read.

  2. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    I finally decided:
    EVERYTHING SAD IS UNTRUE by Daniel Nayeri: My best of the year so far. Distinctive, excellent in all literary qualities, and I think (but am not sure) that its distinguished elements work for the Newbery age range as well as they do for older readers. Guest Blogger Amanda will post about this one later in November.
    ALL THIRTEEN by Christina Soontornvat: In the end I chose this as my second nomination because it just came out. I would want to make sure that other members have time to read this one and seriously consider it.

  3. Leonard Kim says:

    It wasn’t flawless, but I am going to put up STRONGMAN: THE RISE OF FIVE DICTATORS AND THE FALL OF DEMOCRACY by Kenneth Davis. In a discussion of non-fiction as literature and excellence of presentation for a child audience, I want this in the mix. I am currently listening to Hopkinson’s WE HAD TO BE BRAVE and by coincidence just started her chapter on the rise of Hitler. It’s interesting because I think Hopkinson’s book is very good so far, but also makes me appreciate Davis’ distinctive qualities all the more.


  4. 1. BEFORE THE EVER AFTER by Woodson
    2. WE DREAM OF SPACE by Kelly

  5. Kate Todd says:

    SHOW ME A SIGN by Ann Clare LeZotte
    Historical fiction introduces Martha Vineyard Sign Language and other aspects of deaf culture.

    Well written story about coping with anxiety, divorce, homophobia and new family relationships.

  6. Echo Mountain 100% for character, setting, language, and emotional depth
    Very impressed by We Dream of Space, particularly Kelly’s ability to so thoroughly develop three such different characters and her trust in the reader to understand the emotional resonance of each character’s journey.

  7. 1. Clap When you Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo.
    2. Skunk and Badger, by Amy Timberlake.

  8. Kate McCue-Day says:

    1. I can’t possibly not pick Becoming Muhammad Ali. Kwame’s voice IS Ali’s, it’s just beautiful.
    2. King and the Dragonflies.

  9. 1. A Wish in the Dark–Soontornvat
    2. Snapdragon–Leyh

  10. Echo Mountain: Lauren Wolk
    The List of Things That Will Not Change: Rebecca Stead

  11. Mananaland by Pam Munoz Ryan is my pick. I am constantly in awe of Ryan’s minimalist, evocative prose that knocks me off my feet: “Max followed Papa through the clearing. Weeds and thistle grew through yesterday’s cobblestones. Pyramids of rock rose up where walls had collapsed. Blackberry vines choked the sides of a well. Yet a whisper of the palace’s beauty was still there in the magnificent shell and the remaining walls that once surrounded grand rooms. Even the cobwebs looked like veiled curtains.” (p 67-68) WOW. Ryan evokes a vivid yet brief description that conveys the locals’ reverence. Mananaland is timeless, relevant, beautifully expressed. A knockout. Please, give this author the Newbery already!

  12. Melisa Bailey says:

    Mananaland and Village of Scoundrels are 2 of my top picks but there were so many good books this year.

  13. Brittin Clark says:

    Fighting Words by Bradley
    Becoming Muhammad Ali by Alexander & Patterson
    List of Things that Will Not Change by Stead

  14. Mary Lou White says:

    I am almost done with Every Sad is Untrue – it is one of the very best books I have read in any category or age group in a long, long time, and certainly this year. It is one of those hard to categorize age-wise though. Daniel is 12 in the book, telling his story, but it is clear that it is really the adult Daniel telling the story through the voice of his adult self. It is an adult story in so many ways, but it reminds me of two others: To Kill a Mockingbird and Wolf Hollow. Not in content, but the same feel – an adult telling a child’s story. Does this take it out of Newbery territory? Wolf Hollow, which was originally written as an adult book, got a silver medal.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      I agree that the question of age range will be a big one for EVERYTHING SAD. He is an adult teller, but also conveys that 12 year old worldview so perfectly at times. I’m really looking forward to hearing what others think about this one. We’ll have a post on this book on November 25.

  15. Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk
    The Way Back by Gavriel Savit

  16. 1. When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson for character development and excellence of presentation to a child audience
    2. Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri for unique style and distinct character voice

  17. Jennifer H says:

    Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
    Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

  18. When stars are scattered
    Leaving Lymon

  19. Five historical novels I have already taught and will teach:

    1. Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte—after I read the galleys, I had fun telling my colleagues, “There’s a post-Revolutionary Massachusetts story you’ve never heard.” Rare deaf history from an insider’s view that includes other marginalized groups. My students were shook by the ideas of disability and ‘normalcy.’

    2. A Ceiling Made of Eggshells by Gail Carson Levine— another meticulously researched novel and tale of courage with a heroine who takes control of her fate. Not a plethora of books on the topic. Great title! Don’t understand why no one is talking about this one. Sometimes we want only one kind of book from an author.

    3. We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly—I think we sometimes take for granted how terrific a writer Kelly can be. Less hefty in detail than the last two, but a teachable as well as enjoyable novel. Was pleasantly surprised Kelly did the little illustrations.

    4. Kent State by Deborah Wiles—Wiles has done magnificent, groundbreaking, enticing historical MG and YA novels—this is one of her best. Leonard Kim’s Heavy Medal blog is a good evaluation. I list it with the caveat that I believe it’s upper high school level and content—when the event is generally introduced to students.

    5. Leaving Lymon by Lesa Cline-Ransom—absolutely first rate companion to Scott O’Dell Award winner Finding Langston. Excellent period detail, as relevant as ever, and I’m always looking for shorter novels for some students.

    Maybe some controversial viewpoints. Echo Mountain is a terrific story—but it won’t replace Hesse’s Out of the Dust on my (or a lot of other teachers’) curriculum. Gordon Korman’s War Stories is more solid to me than the IMO fanciful The Blackbird Girls.

  20. Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
    When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson

  21. My 5:

    1. Echo Mountain
    2. When the Stars Are Scattered
    3. King and the Dragonflies
    4. We Dream of Space
    5. Show Me a Sign

  22. Allison M says:

    1. We Dream of Space
    2. The List of Things That Will Not Change

  23. Echo by Lauren Wolk
    Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

  24. Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – I believe this is by far one of the most important children’s books I have read in a very long time. I hesitated to read it because of the subject matter but Bradley’s approach was so sensitive and focused not on the horrible acts but the aftermath of coping and dealing with such a traumatic experience. I wish the child me had had a novel like this.

    The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman

    Kent State by Deborah Wiles – I love books written in verse and this one was written so well for me that I could hear distinct voices as I read it.

    The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

    Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

  25. 1. When Stars Are Scattered
    2. Fighting Words

    (I feel like I shouldn’t pick two previous Newbery honor winners from my own year on the committee, but these are my legit favorites this year.)

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      Interesting coincidence, Destinee….But also: the two from this year are such different kinds of books than the ones they wrote in your Newbery year.