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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal
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

Thirteen Kids in Peril and One Grieving Young Woman: death, danger, and two of the year’s best nonfiction titles

Death and danger fill the pages of two of the best books nonfiction of the year: ALL THIRTEEN recounts the true story of a perilous cave rescue, while DANCING AT THE PITY PARTY explores the impact of losing a parent with grace, insight, and a bit of humor. Both titles warrant serious consideration for the Newbery Medal.

First Time a Charm?: A debut novel that could be a Newbery contender

A MANY FEATHERED THING “is a spot-on depiction of the utter middle-ness of adolescence.” Guest Blogger Sara Beth explains why even though Lisa Gerlits’ book is a “debut novel from an unknown author,” it just might have a chance at a Newbery Award.

“It’s a Good Book and I Love the Message, but…”: how “didactic content” can impact the Newbery Medal

The Newbery Award is “not for didactic content,” but that doesn’t mean the Award can’t go to books that educate and illuminate young readers. How do we determine when the lessons a book conveys are the result of distinguished writing….or mere didacticism?

Can You Win A Newbery in 32 Pages or Less?: How picture books might fare in the race for the Medal

The most distinguished book of the year doesn’t have to be a full length novel. With carefully chosen words and distinguished execution of literary style, shorter books for young readers could shine in a Newbery discussion, as recent years have shown. Will a picture book break through in 2021?

A Graphic Novel Repeat? Could SNAPDRAGON become the second consecutive Newbery winner in this popular format?

The title character in Kate Leyh’s SNAPDRAGON is “smart, strong, brash, independent, and aware of her outsider status: it gets to her, but she refuses to be someone she’s not, and that takes guts.” Guest blogger Aud explores the distinguished qualities of this engaging graphic novel, which could be a contender for the 2021 Newbery Medal.

Newbery-ish: Do expectations limit the scope of a search for the most distinguished children’s book?

What do we think of when we think of a “Newbery book?” Do we jump to the most common and familiar qualities of past award winners? Or can we truly and fairly consider any form, style, content and age range, as long as they result in a truly distinguished children’s book?

Guest Blogger Post: KENT STATE

In his introduction to KENT STATE, Guest Blogger Leonard writes: “the book is beautiful. It is powerful. It directly and continually involves the reader from the very first line.” Join the Mock-Newbery discussion of Deborah Wiles’ innovative book.

October Nominations Total

Heavy Medal readers have selected three titles to put forward as nominations in our Mock Newbery process. Check out the list of 34 of the best children’s books of 2020.


Guest blogger Lynette notes that In KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES, “Grief can…reside in the
conversations that we have and the words, both said and unsaid, the dead leave behind…” Join our Mock Newbery discussion of Kacen Callender’s powerful novel.

Family Dynamics, New Friendships, and Political Intrigue: Distinguished Plots

In three excellent children’s book from this year, new friends solve a mystery from the past, a boy tries to find his place within his family, and a king’s attendant decides the fate of an empire. Are any of these creative plots worthy of consideration for the 2021 Newbery Medal?