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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Final Discussion List for Mock Newbery

Well, despite all my dithering, nothing on this list is going to surprise anyone, except, perhaps, for what isn’t there.

Our live Mock Newbery discussion and election will take place on Sunday, January 10th, from 1pm-5pm, in Oakland CA. RSVP to me for details.

The first half of the discussion list was posted last month, and showcases a few highlights from a year of strong nonfiction:

Almost Astronauts by Tanya Stone
Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman
Claudette Colvin by Philip Hoose
Marching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge

The other four titles we will discuss and consider are:

The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman
I do think it’s interesting and important to include some genre/format stretching titles on the list. I was sad not to find any Poetry that rose quite high enough in my own estimation or that I could get others to comment on…though I still think those titles I posted on are very worthy of note.  Happily, there’s a clearly strong contender in the picture book category…perhaps because it is a longer picture book with dynamic and notable narrative techniques that we can compare to some of the other titles on the list. 

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
by Jacqueline Kelly
Surprised? Neither Jonathan nor I seem overly fond, but it does have a strong following, and I’ve yet to respond to the commenter who challenged me on my complaint that I found it structurally lacking.  This one is sure to provide rich debate, and that’s what I’m looking for.

When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead
Should be no surprise. Should be a racous debate with Jonathan there. đŸ˜‰

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
I think this is the "sleeper" that people are overlooking. Haven’t heard many people talk about it here. It reads "simple" on the face, but read the whole thing, reflect, and consider a young audience. I think it offers engaging and accessible complexity to a slightly younger end of the chapter book audience than the Newbery usually nods to.  And it’s different in tone than other titles on the list: another thing I look for.

I did put myself through paces deciding whether I could squeeze another title or two onto the list.  I try to keep it to 8 for a couple of reasons. First, we need everyone participating to read every title so that we can really compare one against the other, and so that everyone can participate in the voting.  This gives the best semblance to the process of the actual committee, which to me is the most interesting thing about this discussion, and makes it  very different than a general book discussion club.   That means I need to keep the number of titles, the overall length of all of them, and their general accessibility in mind. If there’s a book people simply can’t bear to read, or can’t easily find…they won’t. If there’s too many titles, it’s more likely that that will happen.

Secondly…it’s an exhausting afternoon. Those who have been there can attest to it. There’s plenty of snacks and sugar, but it’s just…draining.  And a tight agenda. We could add another half an hour on in order to get two more titles on…but I want peoples minds to stay intact, not turn to mush at the most crucial parts at the end.  

So to extend the list, I have to be convinced that the discussion would really be better with the additional titles.  We’re not the real committee, we can’t read everything they do, and so any shot we want to take at a "predicition" is really a wild shot.  With the 8 titles above, I think we’ve got a good sampling for a representational and productive discussion.  I’m not sure adding anything else would improve it without risking one of the factors above.  

Thus, here are some titles we won’t be discussing on January 10th, but which we should certainly keep discussing here:

A Season of Gifts. Yes, this provides for rich and important discussion. However, I have a pretty good idea at this point of where the discussion goes, and it is so emotionally fraught, and so difficult to keep short, that I fear it would really eat away at the agenda and the energy of the afternoon if I included it.   I think the discussion on this title is actually a better discussion when it’s taken out of the confines of the Newbery. 

The Rock and the River.  Maybe this one is just too fresh for me and I’ll regret not including it.  But I didn’t see anything in it that was different enough–in Newbery criteria–from other titles on our list that I thought it would really extend the discussion.   Read it anyway for yourself!

Lips Touch. Now, this would extend the literary discussion.  But we have other titles that address age-level crossover (Charles and Emma most noticeably), and I think this one would eventually go out on it’s ear on that issue, and so just end up taking up space. 

…or, of course, any of the other myriad of titles we’ve mentioned, or haven’t yet found.  The Mock Newbery discussion is an exercise, and I think it’ll be a good one with the 8 titles above. Let me know if you want to attend…and meanwhile, we don’t have to limit ourselves online.

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 finally finished LIPS TOUCH, and do really think it’s too mature for the Newbery, almost by definition. But Wow! What a writer Laini Taylor is! I hope she gets a lot more attention than she has in the past. Why hadn’t I heard of her before the publisher sent me an ARC of SILKSINGER, along with a copy of BLACKBRINGER? I still think SILKSINGER would be a fantastic Newbery candidate. Liked it better than LIPS TOUCH, even though that was excellent. More masterfully plotted. Have you finished it yet, Jonathan?

    Your list looks great, Nina, including your almost-on-the-lists. I can’t get out to the West Coast, but I will try very hard to read these titles before 2009 ends so I can consider them for my 2010 Sonderbooks Standouts list.

  2. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I’m still in the middle of SILKSINGER but had to surrender it to one of my LIPS TOUCH readers. I like what I’ve read so far, although not as much as LIPS TOUCH. I think the pacing in LIPS TOUCH is more leisurely than it is in SILKSINGER . . .

  3. Kathy Isaacs says:

    WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON stands out for me this year. This is a reading treat – the folktales embellished and woven together into a narrative that is simultaneously a connected set of folklore and a traditional quest adventure with an appealing female protagonist. If I were still teaching, I would read it aloud or include it among my reading selections for sixth graders – and I don’t often come upon books I feel are worthy of that kind of attention. Elizabeth Bird’s blog review says much I would want to say. It’s obvious the designer and publisher agreed about the book’s merit. I hope you’ll talk more about it.

  4. Carol Edwards says:

    I’m with Kathy about the Grace Lin book. This one has remained in my mind as a rich and rewarding read.
    I also agree with all your reasons to not include certain titles. I’ve done mocks with 10 titles, and it is really hard for every one to have a fair chance when people don’t have time to read them all. The actual committee is not limited, we know, but that’s why we call it ‘mock,’

  5. I just finished reading Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and had the same reaction to it that I had to When You Reach Me, I wanted to dive right in and read it a second time. This is one of my favorite books of the year.

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