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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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Welcome Back

It is the day after Labor Day, and time to getting rolling on a new season of Heavy Medal!


Jonathan signed us off in January with a list to look forward to, and you’ve all been adding to it as the months have trickled by. Danae is excited about THE CROSSOVER, THE FAMILY ROMANOV, and REVOLUTION. Jennifer Schultz concurs on the later two and adds HALF A CHANCE. Genevieve says: GHOSTS OF TUPELO LANDING, A SNICKER OF MAGIC, and FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE! are at the top of her list.

Focussing on the spring and early summer list for now, what are your top choices for the Newbery?  If you haven’t yet this year, why not take a quick review of the Newbery Criteria, and tell us why you think your favorite titles could be considered “the most distinguished.”

This past May, I chaired the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards Committee…a completely different kind of selection process, which some of you’ll remember us talking about with Thom Barthelmess a couple of years ago.  I will say that THE PORT CHICAGO 50 is also tickling my fancy for Newbery, and those who remember how I felt about BOMB may be surprised, but I think this one has none of that one’s hang ups.  My favorite spring fiction so far is WEST OF THE MOON, but Jonathan tells me he’s not quite as wild for it as I am.  The one I’m not so wild about myself? ….REVOLUTION.

So throw out your thoughts, and we’ll start discussing spring titles.

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. Eric Carpenter says:

    I’m most excited about THE 14TH GOLDFISH and the trio of titles whose themes revolve around the idea of storytelling/creation NIGHT GARDENER, THE RIVERMAN, and WEST OF THE MOON.

    I am still waiting to be knocked off my feet by a nonfiction title this year but really enjoyed both PORT CHICAGO 50 and RED MADNESS. I’ve got FAMILY ROMANOV on deck just as soon as I can make it through THE GREENGLASS HOUSE (was this one a breeze for anyone? it’s taking me forever).

    I do hope we discuss REVOLUTION even if the author is convinced it is entirely ineligible.

    Mostly just excited that Heavy Medal is back! Looking forward to some great discussions this fall. Hope Jonathan isn’t too constrained by his Caldecott duties.

    • Completely agree with you about NIGHT GARDENER, THE RIVERMAN, and WEST OF THE MOON. I am loving all these books about storytelling. It’s interesting that you mentioned slogging through THE GREENGLASS HOUSE because that’s another one at the top of my list, and it also has storytelling elements to it. I devoured it.

      NIGHTINGALE’S NEST is another strong contender for me with its stunning magical realism. I also adore ABSOLUTELY ALMOST, but probably wouldn’t peg it for Newbery.

  2. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I have two favorites so far–THE FAMILY ROMANOV and BROWN GIRL DREAMING–and I can’t imagine they won’t both still be in my top three at the year. I could be happy with either one winning the Medal. Still have a couple dozen books I’d like to read, though.

  3. Hooray for the return of Heavy Medal! I *LOVE* BROWN GIRL DREAMING. I also really enjoyed THE NIGHT GARDENER, REVOLUTION and WEST OF THE MOON. I could also get behind THE PORT CHICAGO 50.


  5. You’re back! I came right here when I signed into my work computer–didn’t even check my blog roll. I’m way behind on my reads; we have Fall 2014 books rolling in shortly, and I still have some from spring/summer that I need to get through. I do have Half a Chance on my list, but something about the conclusion gives me pause.

  6. So glad to see Heavy Medal back in action!
    I very much liked A SNICKER OF MAGIC, but probably wouldn’t see it up for Newbery contention.
    So many of the books everyone has mentioned weren’t even on my library’s order list as of the beginning of August, but I put suggestions in for a bunch of them and they’ve been ordered. So I will read them soon!

  7. Hooray! Hooray! Welcome back! I’m super behind on reading new books this year, and have been reading madly for Capitol Choices. But the last one I read and loved — The Winter Horses, by Philip Kerr, is not eligible for the Newbery. I’ll be looking forward to see which ones I should catch up on.


    Just got FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH, have REVOLUTION, RIVERMAN and NIGHTENGALE’S NEST ready to read. Looking forward to BROWN GIRL DREAMING! So glad Heavy Medal is back!

  9. BROWN GIRL DREAMING is at the top of my list but it’s also the only title I’ve managed to reread (in ARC and then final form). Others that really impressed me were THE NIGHT GARDENER, FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH, REVOLUTION, I’m looking forward to hearing other people make a case for THE FAMILY ROMANOV and WEST OF THE MOON, both of which I enjoyed. And if this were to be the year we finally see a graphic novel get a medal, EL DEAFO would get my vote.

  10. Chelsea C. says:

    Many of my favorites have already been mentioned so I won’t bother repeating them. I want to throw in another vote for THE CROSSOVER. Some of my other favorites of the year that haven’t been mentioned yet are BOYS OF BLUR and CAMINAR, and I enjoyed COURAGE FOR BEGINNERS and THE SPY CATCHERS OF MAPLE HILL, though I’m not sure they’d make the top of my Newbery pile. In the fantasy genre, THE WITCH’S BOY really impressed, though I know others have preferred EGG & SPOON (which dragged a bit for me). Is RAIN REIGN on anyone’s list? I haven’t read it yet.

  11. Could there be even more Newbery love for Joyce Sidman? Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold, illustrated by Rick Allen, is stunning. (Sidman got a Newbery Honor in 2011 for Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night., also illustrated by Allen.)

  12. I have enjoyed so many of books mentioned so far, but there have only been a handful that have really stood out for me. BROWN GIRL DREAMING hands down is at the top of my list. I love a memoir that does more than just being a memoir. The writing, the layers in themes, and a story arc that is completely fleshed out brings this to the top of my list easy. Others that have really stood out for me with their storytelling are CROSSOVER, PORT CHICAGO 50, THE SITTIN’ UP, WEST OF THE MOON, and THE FAMILY ROMANOV.

    The ones that haven’t done anything me: REVOLUTION and SNICKER OF MAGIC. (I actually had several qualms about REVOLUTION.)

  13. Of the books we’ve reviewed, CAMINAR is easily my favorite. However, the library is still working on filling my holds for BROWN GIRL DREAMING and PORT CHICAGO 50, so that’s not at all set in stone.

  14. Leonard Kim says:

    Happy to see this post, as I otherwise have only one person locally that I talk books with (the owner of the local children’s bookstore). We both independently agree REVOLUTION is the best we’ve read this year so far. I think REVOLUTION and THE RIVERMAN are head and shoulders above everything else this year in fiction (I haven’t read some of the top non-fiction contenders yet.)

  15. Hooray! You are back! I mostly lurk because I’m never able to read as much as the other commenters do, but I love to follow the conversations. I’m currently reading THE GREENGLASS HOUSE by Kate Milford, and so far like it a lot, and I also thought Jeannie Mobley’s SEARCHING FOR SILVERHEELS was very well done and I’m hoping it gets some attention. I know there are others, but as those are recent reads they are freshest in mind. BROWN GIRL DREAMING and SNICKER OF MAGIC are in my TBR pile.

  16. I am so happy when this post shows up in my feed every September. It’s a great start to Fall!

    This will be a tough year for me, because I have really and truly LOVED a whole lot of books. Narrowing down will be hard, but my favorites thus far are: BOYS OF BLUR, THE NIGHT GARDENER, GREENGLASS HOUSE, REVOLUTION, PORT CHICAGO 50.

    I really liked but didn’t quite love THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH, ABSOLUTELY ALMOST, UPSIDE DOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Could be talked into any of these though.

    Books I’m not excited about at all: THE RIVERMAN, A SNICKER OF MAGIC
    I just picked up my copy of BROWN GIRL DREAMING today, and am really looking forward to it. As usual I”m woefully behind on non-fiction, but have the new Fleming on hold.

  17. samuel leopold says:

    Brown girl dreaming, The Red Pencil, Greenglass House and Nightingale’s nest are my top 4. The writing in Brown girl dreaming is amazing and the book is distinguished in several of the Newbery criteria categories.

  18. Welcome back!

    I really love BROWN GIRL DREAMING. I also thought A SNICKER OF MAGIC is wonderful and has some gorgeous lines of writing, but I’m not sure how much it will stand up in discussion. I wonder if it will be seen as too simple and sweet by the committee? And I would love to see some love for Nate, but I’m not sure that FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE stood out as a contender for me this year. I’m behind in my MG reading, so I’m loving seeing all these suggestions!

    • And I also loved The Crossover but am curious to see where it might fall age wise or if it will be overlooked by both Printz and Newbery.

      • Eric Carpenter says:

        I hadn’t considered CROSSOVER anything but MG. I’m trying to remember if there was any young adult content. Yes the characters are high schoolers but the prolems, themes and actions of said characters never seemed young adult to me. Can you refresh my memory or give am escape of why CROSSOVER would be YA.

      • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

        I thought the main characters in THE CROSSOVER were in eighth grade. For me, the bulk of its audience is 10-14 making it fair game for both committees, but the Printz has being skewing older for years, NAVIGATING EARLY notwithstanding, so I’d place a Newbery bet first.

      • I think it’s firmly MG too, but since Printz does go from 12-18, it could fall into discussion for Printz as well as Newbery since it’s audience is 10-14. Printz tends to skew older, but they could surprise us this year with a younger title.

      • Also, those titles that seem to fall on the fringe 10-14 age group sometimes get overlooked because they’re “too old” or “too young”. I don’t think THE CROSSOVER will have that happen for Newbery as being “too old” but I’m curious if it will be looked at by both committees. We’ll just have to wonder! 🙂

      • THE CROSSOVER so warrants consideration from both the Newbery and Printz. It has made it on Oregon’s Mock Printz discussion list which I am happy to see and say! I am usually not a big fan of books in verse, but my two favorites this year both happen to be.

      • Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says:

        We’ll be posting soon about THE CROSSOVER, and there’s a perennial argument about “crossover” age titles, but I just want to start by saying that these committees NEVER “overlook” a distinguished title because of the age question. If the book is worthy of talking about, it will get talked about at committee, and the age question resolved separately at each table. If a tween audience book doesn’t get picked up, by either, we, as the public audience, may imagine that it was “overlooked,” but we wonder the same about any title we liked that didn’t get a medal…don’t we?

      • Nina, yes I know the committee won’t disregard something over “overlook” it because of the age question. I served on the 2013 Printz Committee, so I am familiar with the process and I know THE CROSSOVER will most likely be talked about it in both committees. What I meant was I wonder if in discussions it will stand out as strong compared to the other books and how far it will stick around in the nomination discussions in both committees. And I’m sure if it doesn’t make it, people will think it was “overlooked” and not discussed.

  19. BROWN GIRL DREAMING is also high on my list as is RAIN, REIGN and THE NIGHT GARDENER. I also think NEST is a possibility. Other books I’ve liked not necessarily Newbery but who knows are SNICKER OF MAGIC, and DREAMWOOD

  20. I see J. Patrick Lewis’ HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS and Angela Johnson’s ALL KIND OF DIFFERENT to be worthy of discussion and likely contenders this season. I have BROWN GIRL DREAMING waiting for me. I’m looking forward to starting it soon!

  21. I agree with all of the Woodson fans – Brown Girl, Dreaming is phenomenal. My school building will rock on its foundation if this book is not lauded. I used Composition Notebook as an opening in my middle school English classes. The whole book is absolutely brilliant.

  22. I’ve also been thinking about Patricia Hruby Powell’s picture book biography Josephine. Like El Deafo it is hard to consider primarily the text. Jonathan tried valiantly in a previous year to make a case for one of George O’Connor graphic novels and I certainly pushed for the picture book, Each Kindness last year. The energetic text in Josephine feels levitated by the art and I suppose I need to really look at it on its own to see if it really is then distinguished on the same level as others we are considering. That said, I’m a fan.

    As for El Deafo, I’d love to see someone make a good case for it as I think it is fabulous.

    • Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says:

      I’ll take you up on both of those Monica, so stay tuned. They’re on my list too, though I have the same questions as you about Josephine.

    • I’ll take up the case for EL DEAFO! But I think the case will be the need to create a MAJOR AWARD for graphic novels. Leg lamp a given.

  23. Bella Gotti says:

    How is no one talking about THE MEANING OF MAGGIE?!

    • Lorie Bonapfel says:

      I loved that one as well. It’s funny, touching, and very real. I love books in diary format when the characters give you thier life with all the the good, the bad and the ugly. It kind of reminded me of the adult series The Spellman Files, where she annotates her diary entries and feels like a fish out of water in her own family, I liked that the author kept it real at the end and did not go for what I call the “sachharine ending”, which is as much as I will say because of possible spoilers. If you haven’t read this one, it’s one to seek out for it’s wonderful story.

      • Your Spellman Files comparison made me put it on my list right away. Though sadly our library does not have it, but I suggested it to them. Thanks!

    • Leonard Kim says:

      While I was reading THE MEANING OF MAGGIE I thought it was OK but felt there were some flaws. But when I read the end material and learned that to some extent this was a memoir (though the cover states it is “a novel”), suddenly I felt more sympathetic to it. I don’t know why that should be.

  24. I liked A Snicker of Magic a lot, but Esther Erlich’s Nest seems like Newbery material to me. Anyone else?

  25. EGG & SPOON. I personally adored it and am eager to get it into the hands of a child to get his/her viewpoint.

  26. Our Eva Perry Mock Newbery kids just talked about their favorites of summer reading last week. A few of the most favorite include: Nest, Bird, Paper Cowboy, and The Sittin’ Up.

    • Tracy Dodge says:

      I loved Bird but haven’t heard anyone talking about it. I’m glad the kids enjoyed it. My other favorites of the year so far include The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing and The Night Gardener.

  27. I loved Countdown and still remain unconvinced by the arguments I heard germane to the pictures and other media, but the committee did not select it, so the point is mute. However, I think Revolution does a fabulous job of integrating this extra material directly into the plot structure and I think the story really captures the time period exceptionally well. The story is better and the various voices of the book much more interesting and compelling. The fact that this book contrasts so well with current events (Ferguson anyone?) is so much frosting. Whether this will be a book that rises above all others this year remains to be read, but so far it is a book that certainly deserves serious consideration.

    I adore Brown Girl Dreaming and I would absolutely love to see it make the list with The Crossover–RAH RAH POETRY!

    In a retro moment, I read The Paperboy this summer and so want to thank the Committee for honoring this FINE book! I liked it more than the winner (which I also appreciated).

  28. My library got a lot of books in this week, so I checked out 10 from your favorites yesterday. THE CROSSOVER is terrific!

  29. Sheila Welch says:

    Among the Goodreads Newbery Group members, there’s been a lot of enthusiasm for A SNICKER OF MAGIC but I am not a big fan. I love the opening, but I feel that it loses its way. Of the other books I’ve read that are eligible for the Newbery, none has leaped out as a winner. These include, BIRD, NIGHTINGALE’S NEST, UPSIDE DOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, HALF A CHANCE, and I’m in the middle of THE 14TH GOLDFISH. The ones I like best are UPSIDE DOWN, CHANCE, and I’m liking GOLDFISH more as I get into it. I wonder about UPSIDE DOWN with its ten-year-old main character who seems older. Will middle school kids want to read it? Does that matter? There’s a lot of vivid description of the horror of Katrina, and the family relationships are strongly portrayed.( I have complaints about the cover and the type used for the text, but those have nothing to do with the author’s writing.) This might be the “WONDER” of 2014. And I do have a few reservations although not as many as I have with WONDER. CHANCE is an engaging story that brings art (photography) into the mix with other issues –environmental, friendship, senile dementia, and family. I’m looking forward to reading the ones mentioned above, in particular BROWN GIRL DREAMING.

  30. Reading through the suggestions, I suddenly noticed that we’re in a major avian theme this year: Nest, Bird, Nightingale’s Nest, Egg & Spoon, Under the Egg,

    • Can someone please send a Blue Angel to sky-write a message over my house when Heavy Medal starts up? I live near an Air Force Base so how hard could it be? It is going to take all day to get caught up and who is going to process my new books and teach my students in the meantime?.

      I’d like to sit with my arms primly folded in the front of the class and point out that Nina said to talk about SPRING titles.Those of you lounging in the back did not follow instructions and skipped ahead.

      Early in the year I adored TUPELO LANDING and CROSSOVER. But wondered if this was doomed to be a weak year when other highly reviewed books fell short. A SNICKER OF MAGIC made me throw up a little every time the word spindidiliy showed up on the page. I thought HALF A CHANCE was going to be a given or me as it is just my kind of book, but it fell short. NIGHTINGALE’S NEST was lovely but somewhat inconsistent for me. THE RIVERMAN – Not even a little bit. The deftness of the plotting and the interweaving of folklore in WEST OF THE MOON is wonderful. ABSOLUTELY ALMOST has one of my favorites characters of the year but I would have liked the story to have a bit more pizzazz.

      At the beginning of summer REVOLUTION set my heart on fire. I am NOT looking forward to bashing it is about to get.

      If we are going to move further into the year it is all about THE ROMANOVS. I have BROWN GIRL DREAMING on deck for book club in another week. I still have not read PORT CHICAGO. I lugged it around as I dealt with a personal loss and I’ve not been able to get back to it.

    • Sheila Welch says:

      Yes, Alys! I noticed the birds too. Also HALF A CHANCE has a pair of loons who are important to the story.

      Just curious: Anyone know how UPSIDE DOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE is doing in major review journals? It was published in April and has 93 reviews and 257 ratings on Goodreads.

      • Looks like it’s been reviewed by Booklist (which means positive – they don’t publish negative reviews) and is listed in Baker and Taylor as having positive reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, and VOYA., but no stars. Horn Book Guide’s review reads to me as “good, but imperfect” and there doesn’t appear to be a review from PW or the Bulletin according to Baker and Taylor.

  31. I have not read Brown Girl Dreaming yet, but my favorites at this point are Ehrlich’s Nest and The Boys of Blur. The Night Gardener and Crossover were strong contenders for me too.

  32. I just finished UNDER THE EGG last night and I thought it was wonderful. I hope it’s a contender.

  33. Benji Martin says:

    I really liked BROWN GIRL DREAMING, THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY, THE GHOSTS OF TUPELO LANDING and THE 14TH GOLDFISH. I’m currently enjoying GREENGLASS HOUSE. I’m so glad Heavy Medal is back!

  34. Our staff Mock Newbery group has been meeting monthly since April, and I just wanted to share what we’ve been discussing. Each month, I float a list of about 7 titles and everyone chooses their top 3. This year, we’ve discussed:
    The Port Chicago 50 – Half a Chance – A Snicker of Magic – Nightingale’s Nest – The Riverman – The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond – The Night Gardener – Revolution – West of the Moon – Caminar – The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill – Absolutely Almost – Boys of Blur

    The titles with the most overall support so far are probably Absolutely Almost, The Night Gardener, West of the Moon, and Caminar though Boys of Blur and Nightingale’s Nest had some big fans but were also more divisive.

    In the next couple of months, we’ll be covering:
    Brown Girl Dreaming – Half a World Away – Greenglass House – Rain Reign – The Madman of Piney Woods – Egg & Spoon
    We’ll also be choosing 3 final titles from the year that didn’t make the cut earlier, so I’m not sure what those will be.
    We’ve had 12-15 folks at each meeting, so it’s really felt like an actual Newbery discussion in some ways. I’m always curious to see which books will divide the group, and which will have more of a consensus opinion.

    Anyway, I think we’re going to end up covering most of the notable titles, though we can’t hit everything. I’m so excited to hear about the fall books, and I’ll certainly share our results come January.

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