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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal


While I scour my library for picture books to hold against Hook for discussion, here’s some thoughts on possible poetry Newbery contenders.

Marilyn Nelson’s Sweethearts of Rhythm has made some people’s lists of favorites. Nelson is an astonginshly adroit poet, and here she takes poems about music and weaves them into an arc that speaks to war and peace, equality, and freedom of expression.  The themes are often complexly embedded in the poems, making this best  for an older audience than one might expect from a picture book, but still firmly within the Newbery range.  I find I have to work too hard on some of these poems for the payoff (and the typeface doesn’t help!), but the overall payoff is of a rank with many of our nonfiction contenders.  Your thoughts?

Hope Anita Smith’s Mother Poems starts off seeming like an appropriate collection to share for Mother’s Day…but suddenly turns, when the Mother figure disappears.  Each poem is complete in itself, getting to the heart of the many ways a girl feels about her mother, or her lack of a mother, or other people’s mothers, or other people trying to be her mother. The voice here stands out on par with that in many novels I’ve read this year.

Alice Schertle’s Button Up!: Wrinkled Rhymes is "light fare" but exiquistely so. Schertle writes true and perfect "verse"–it rhymes, it has internally logical rhythm, it is funny, good to read aloud, and memorable. Just a couple of nibbles for those who haven’t looked at this yet: "We are the jammies that Joshua wears, / not jammies for penguins, / not jammies for bears, / not jammies for tigers with knots in their tails…", or, from "Jennifer’s Shoes": "We are learning the ways / of Jennifer’s world: / the way that Jennifer’s / toes are curled, / the softness of carpet, / the steepness of stair, / the curve of the rung / under Jennifer’s chair…"

Arnold Lobel’s Odd Owls & Stout Pigs is a collection of nonsense rhymes discovered and illustrated by his daughter. Yes, "The author(s) may be awarded the medal posthumously."  Generally I shy from posthumous collections of unpublished works…the works are usually unpublished for a reason. Lobel was such a writer though that this work stands out magnificiently. If some of the rhymes about owls and pigs are funnier than others, if it seems to run on, the overall tone of the book–a smorgasboard of silliness–allows perfectly for such an assemblage.

Nina Lindsay About Nina Lindsay

Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at


  1. I haven’t seen the others, but I loved Button Up! Seeing some snippets separated from the illustrations, I’m reassured that they stand on their own. I don’t remember the picture that went with Jennifer’s Shoes, but it still manages to be vivid.

  2. May I also put forth Joyce Sidman’s RED SINGS FROM TREETOPS? Yes, it’s nature poetry — but makes such innovative use of imagery that it really stands out among other collections this year. The use of the color spectrum as a unifying theme almost makes the book a poem cycle.

  3. Cindy Dobrez says:

    I think Sweethearts of Rhythm is an amazing book. I love the perspective of telling the story of the band from the instruments point of view and the illustrations are awesome. How Pinkney did both this book and Lion and Mouse in the same year is astounding (although I understand he has worked on Sweethearts for several years).

    I second the recommendation for Red Sings from Treetops. I also think Cuckoo’s Haiku is an exceptional haiku book, in addition to being a great gift book for birders.

  4. I loved Sweethearts of Rhythm. I read everything for the dedication page to the author and artist notes. Both were very imformative.

  5. Has anyone thought about All the Broken Pieces as a Newbery contender?

  6. HI Nina,
    Thank you for putting this out there. I agree with your opinion and I hope more people would come to agree with this as well.
    Poetry can definitely help you form a positive state of mind and an optimistic outlook in life. Either you read poetry books or write poems, these activities can slowly release the stress and other negative emotions that you were feeling.
    Check my blog How Poetry Helps you in Diffrent Ways
    Hope this will also help. Thanks.

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