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2016 Newbery Watchlist

By this time of year, the YMAs have usually been announced and we’re signing off with some suggestions of what to read in the coming year.  So consider this an early version of that post (if you’re attending ALA make sure you grab these galleys), and then we’ll culminate with some responses to real Newbery choices.

ECHO by Pam Munoz Ryan (three starred reviews)

KIRKUS: A multilayered novel set in turbulent times explores music’s healing power. Sweeping across years and place, Ryan’s full-bodied story is actually five stories that take readers from an enchanted forest to Germany, Pennsylvania, Southern California and finally New York City.

LISTEN, SLOWLY by Thanhha Lai (three starred reviews)

BOOKLIST: Twelve-year-old Vietnamese American Mai is a Laguna Beach girl who can’t wait to spend her summer at the beach getting to know HIM, the boy on whom she has a major crush. Imagine her horror, then, when her parents announce that she must, instead, travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who will search for clues to the fate of her husband, who disappeared during what Mai thinks of as “THE WAR.”

STELLA BY STARLIGHT by Sharon Draper (three starred reviews)

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: Stella’s desire to become a writer parallels her father’s determination to vote. In a powerful scene, the entire black community accompanies three registered black voters to the polling location and waits silently, “Ten. Fifteen. Twenty-five minutes,” until the sheriff steps aside. This compelling story brims with courage, compassion, creativity, and resilience.

THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (three starred reviews)

The plot at times stretches credulity — spunky Ada nabs a Nazi spy — but the emotional content feels completely true, especially in the recognition of how deeply Ada has been damaged and just how far her journey will be to both physical and mental health. This is a feel-good story, but an earned one; and though there are echoes of such classics as Magorian’s Goodnight, Mr. Tom and Bauden’s Carrie’s War, this is distinct and powerful in its own right.

These four books appear at the top of my starred review list, but if there are other books you have read or are anticipating then please bring those to our attention, too.

Jonathan Hunt About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at


  1. Eric Carpenter says

    Rebecca Stead’s GOODBYE STRANGER is fantastic and in my mind an early front runner for 2016.

    2015 seems to be shaping up as a big year for series fiction. I’m looking forward to the discussion of COMPLETELY CLEMENTINE, the final installment of the always well received Clementine series. Pennymaker does a great job tying up the series with this beautiful conclusion. Could this one pull a High King and grab gold?
    FORGOTTEN SISTERS, the final Princess Academy book, is also quite good (I liked it better than Palace of Stone) but I’m sure it will run into the same stand-on-its-own issues that Palace of Stone encountered.
    There is already lots buzz around two other series books: the long awaited PENDERWICKS IN SPRING and GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA and I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for arcs of both this weekend.
    I’d love to hear about some 2016 nonfiction to be on the lookout for.

  2. I’m looking forward to Louis Sachar’s FUZZY MUD, Brian Selznick’s MARVELS, and Margarita Engle’s ENCHANTED AIR as well as those already mentioned.

  3. Rita Williams-Garcia’s Gone Crazy in Alabama is fabulous. Definitely a Newbery contender. And Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye, Stranger too.

  4. Battle Commander Battle Commander says

    Regarding nonfiction, I’m looking forward to Philip Hoose’s The Churchill Club.

  5. I thought for surely you couldn’t be talking about next year already?!?!? I’m still making my way through a few last minute stragglers from 2014. And I’m definitely putting all of these on my TBR list! Thanks for the (early) heads up!

  6. DaNae, Laura Amy Schlitz does have a new novel coming this year from Candlewick. It’s called The Hired Girl, and was announced earlier this week in Publishers Weekly:

  7. The three of these four that I’ve read (Echo is TBR) are phenomenal! The Churchill Club looks like it’s going to be a fantastic companion to Number the Stars in telling more stories of Danish resistance during WWII. I’m hoping DaNae is secretly psychic and now Megan Whalen Turner will announce the next Eugenides book.

  8. I’m looking forward to THE CURIOUS WORLD OF CALPURNIA TATE too.

    • Barb Outside Boston says

      A sequel?! squee!
      I had no idea this was is the works. Now if they can just give it the most appealing cover ever…

  9. Wow, this group has been so helpful this last year – and I’m excited to say, I already have the four titles Jonathan listed on hold – I picked them out myself!!! Will be compiling a list and reading all year, rather than playing catch-up as I have in previous years. Thanks to all the participants and

  10. I read Stella By Starlight and really liked. It has a wonderful voice, setting, and character development.

    I haven’t read any of the others people have mentioned yet, but I’m happy to say I have copies of most of them. Listen Slowly is up next on my list.

  11. Not to worry; Orbiting Jupiter is intensely realistic.

  12. I finally got all the January journals entered in my starred reviews spreadsheet; here’s the 3-stars or more report. I did not look into author eligibility. Books marked YA were reviewed Gr. 9 and up or ages 14 and older – 14 is still technically Newbery range though – I’ve noted those that reviewers said skew younger):
    5 stars: Supertruck by Stephen Savage (picture book)
    4 stars: Earmuffs for Everyone (picture book biography)
    3 stars:
    All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (YA)
    The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks (YA)
    The Case for Loving by Selina Alko (Non-fiction picture book)
    The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner (YA)
    Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan (Middle Grade)
    Fatal Fever by Gail Jarrow (Non-Fiction)
    A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins (Picture Book)
    The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick (YA – SLJ says Gr. 7 and up though)
    Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner (YA)
    Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai (Middle Grade)
    Mesmerized by Mara Rockliff (Non-Fiction Picture Book)
    Razorhurst by Justine Labalestier (YA)
    Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (Graphic Fiction)
    Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman (YA – PW says 12 and up, Kirkus says 13 and up)
    Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper (Middle Grade)
    The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond (YA)
    Wangara Maathai by Franck Prevot (picture book biography)
    The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (middle grade)
    When Otis Courted Mama by Kathi Appelt (picture book)
    X: A Novel by Shabazz and Magoon (YA – SLJ says Gr. 8 and up)

    • Jen J, when you say you are entering everything with 3 or more stars, what review sources are you drawing from? Thanks!

    • Awesome work (as usual), Jen J., but all Newbery completists should keep this in mind: Marcus Sedgwick, David Almond, and Franck Prevot are (I believe) not U.S. citizens and therefore would not be Newbery-eligible. There may be others on the list as well. Of course, I may be totally wrong about those three. That is all. =)

  13. Thanks Sam! I didn’t have time to research nationalities so I definitely appreciate that info – I knew there were some in there! There’s also a lot of titles there that, while technically eligible, are clearly outliers. As this year’s awards show though we should definitely not discount them!!

    Jonathan already highlighted the most likely suspects with this post. The two others I definitely want to look at from the list above are Roller Girl and Fatal Fever. I’m hoping a few more pop up when I get to the February data, too.

    Erica, I look at SLJ, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Horn Book, the Bulletin and Booklist. For raw data you can see the link to my spreadsheet here:
    I sort things best visually by color, so the highlighted rows indicate how many stars a title has. Orange for 6, Purple for 5, Green for 4, Blue for 3 and Peach for 2. On the journals tab I highlight each journal in blue as I get the data entered. I do occasionally find mistakes I’ve made, so my apologies for any that you see!

    • That spreadsheet is definitely a thing of beauty. Thanks again for sharing! In addition to Jonathan’s titles and the two that you mentioned, I’m most looking forward to Shadow Scale; LOVED Seraphina and hope this one can live up to my probably-unrealistic expectations.

  14. Jonathan Hunt says

    Jen, would you mind if we posted a link to your spreadsheets (stars and bests) on the right hand side where we have Newbery links and other Mock Newbery Sites?

  15. That would be awesome Jonathan! As long as you don’t mind me pointing people here to look for them if needed!

  16. February update! I’m listing all the 5 and 4 star titles, but for the 3 stars only listing new stuff that I didn’t mention in my comment above. Hat tip to Sam Bloom for the nationality notes.
    5 stars:
    Earmuffs for Everyone by Meghan McCarthy (picture book biography)
    Supertruck by Stephen Savage (picture book)
    X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon (YA)
    4 stars:
    Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (YA)
    Fatal Fever by Gail Jarrow (Non-Fiction)
    The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond (ineligible by nationality?)
    Wangari Maathai by Franck Prevot (ineligible by nationality?)
    3 stars:
    The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith (YA)
    Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt (Picture book)
    The Death of the Hat by Paul B. Janeczko, selector (Poetry collection – ineligible, I believe)
    Gordon Parks by Carole Boston Weatherford (Picture Book Biography)
    The Grasshopper and the Ants by Jerry Pinkey (Picture book fable)
    The Main Coon’s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen (picture book poetry)
    Mosquitoland by David Arnold (YA)
    P. Zonka Lays an Egg by Julie Paschkis (picture book)
    Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre (non-fiction picture book)
    Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson (picture book – Canadian?)
    Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowery with Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley (Non-Fiction)
    Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman (picture book)

    This was a really good month for picture books! In terms of likely contenders though, I’d say the best bets are Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom and maybe Mosquitoland which has reviews dipping down to age 12 and Grade 8.

  17. Only new stuff and stuff that moved up in star rankings for the March update; also I’m not putting in the stuff marked above as probably ineligible:
    5 stars:
    Challenger Deep by Shusterman

    4 stars:
    All the Bright Places by Niven
    Echo by Ryan
    Gone Crazy in Alabama by Williams-Garcia
    Roller Girl by Jamieson
    Wolfie the Bunny by Dyckman

    3 stars:
    An Ambush of Tigers by Rosenthal (Non-Fiction Picture Book)
    Audacity by Crowder (YA)
    The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Sarcone-Roach (Picture Book)
    Beastkeeper by Hellison (probably ineligible by nationality)
    Black Dove, White Raven by Wein (YA)
    Cuckoo Song by Hardinge (ineligible by nationality)
    Elvis: The Story of the Rock and Roll King by Christensen (Picture Book Bio)
    Hold Me Closer by Levithan (YA)
    Last Stop on Market Street by de la Pena (Picture Book)
    Lost in the Sun by Graff (Middle Grade)
    March, Book Two by Lewis and Aydin (Graphic YA Memoir)
    Smick! by Cronin (Picture Book)
    The Thickety: The Whispering Trees by White (Middle Grade)
    The Truth Commission by Juby (YA – Canadian, ineligible I believe)
    The Walls Around Us by Suma (YA)

  18. April Update:
    Roller Girl by Jamieson moved from 4 stars to 5.

    New to the 4 star list:
    Alex Crow by Smith (up from 3 stars – YA)
    The Dead I Know by Gardner (new – YA)
    A Fine Dessert by Jenkins (up from 3 stars – Picture Book)
    Hold Me Closer by Levithan (up from 3 stars – YA)
    Lost in the Sun by Graff (up from 3 stars)
    The Night World by Gerstein (new – Picture Book)
    The Walls Around Us by Suma (up from 3 stars – YA)

    New to the 3 star list:
    Ask Me by Waber (picture book)
    Blackbird Fly by Kelly
    Bone Gap by Ruby (YA)
    The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Hoose (Non-Fiction)
    Circus Mirandus by Beasley
    The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Kelly
    Dime by Frank (YA)
    The Game of Love and Death by Brockenbrough (YA)
    The Great War – illustrated by Jim Kay (Short stories – some authors English – likely ineligible)
    I Am Princess X by Priest
    Kissing in America by Rabb (YA)
    The Last Leaves Falling by Benwell (author lives in Bath – ineligible?)
    Lost in NYC by Spiegelman (Graphic)
    The New Small Person (Picture Book – English author – ineligible)
    Nimona by Stevenson (Graphic)
    The Princess and the Pony by Beaton (Picture Book – Canadian author – ineligible?)
    Shadowshaper by Older
    Stonewall by Bausum (Non-Fiction/YA)

    Looking at movement in the 4 and 5 star lists Roller Girl and Lost in the Sun are probably the most interesting.
    In the new to 3 stars there’s some middle grade novels this time around (Blackbird Fly, Circus Mirandus and The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate), a couple of Middle School/YA crossover titles (I Am Princess X and Shadowshaper), a couple of graphic contenders (Lost in NYC and Nimona) and one non-fiction (The Boys Who Challenged Hitler). The rest are probably long shots for being too old or too young, but you never know!

    Happy reading!

  19. Olivia Martin says

    @ Jen thank you for doing this and for updating. As a middle grade librarian with a small budget, I am always looking for good books to add to my shelves. This helps tremendously.

  20. LIke a River by Kathy Cannon Wiechman
    Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
    Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt

  21. May Update – Spreadsheet link:

    X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon (YA) – moved up to 6 stars

    Moved up to the 5 star ranking:
    Alex Crow by Smith (YA)

    New to the 4 star list:
    Boats for Papa by Bagley (Picture Book) – NEW
    Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Hoose (up from 3 stars)
    Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, The by Kelly (up from 3 stars)
    Goodbye Stranger by Stead – NEW
    March, Book Two by Lewis and Aydin (Graphic – YA) – NEW
    More Happy Than Not by Silvera (YA) – NEW
    Shadowshaper by Older (up from 3 stars – YA)

    New to the 3 star list:
    8: An Animal Alphabet by Cooper (Picture Book)
    All the Rage by Summers (YA)
    Beastly Verse ed. Yoon (Poetry Collection – ineligible)
    Boys Don’t Knit by Easton (YA – British author – ineligible)
    Conviction by Gilbert (YA)
    Enchanted Air by Engle
    Fell of Dark by Downes (YA)
    Firefly Hollow by McGhee
    Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Vernon (Graphic Hybrid)
    In a Village by the Sea by Van (Picture Book)
    It’s Only Stanley by Agee (Picture Book)
    Lumberjanes, Vol 1 (Graphic)
    Meet the Dullards by Pennypacker (Picture Book)
    My Bike by Barton (Picture Book)
    Return to Auggie Hobble by Smith
    Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Albertalli (YA)
    Small Wonders by Smith (Picture Book Bio)
    Wait by Portis (Picture Book)

    Goodbye Stranger and Enchanted Air are both by previous winner/honor authors making them worth a hard look; Firefly Hollow and Return to Augie Hobble could also be likely contenders.

    • Kathy Corbiere says

      @Jen – Thank you for the link to your Starred Review spreadsheet. I’m MS media specialist, like Olivia Martin, culling the best of the best YA titles for my 8th graders. What a treasure!

      • I’m glad this is a useful thing to others and not just a fun project for me!

        Also – I missed a 3 star title because of an AND & inconsistency in my typing – also it may have been a little late when I put that list together.
        Anyway, Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson should be worth a look with stars from SLJ, PW and Booklist.

  22. Safranit Molly says

    Thank you to all that contributed to this early list! I’m compiling a list for my students. Thanks to all of your contributions we can all get started early this year! We are grateful!

  23. June Update – Spreadsheet link:

    6 stars:
    Challenger Deep by Shusterman (YA)
    X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon (YA)

    Moved up to the 5 star ranking:
    Lost in NYC by Spiegelman (Graphic)
    The Walls Around Us by Suma (YA)

    New to the 4 star list:
    8: An Animal Aphabet by Cooper (up from 3 stars – Picture Book)
    Firefly Hollow by McGhee (up from 3 stars)
    Razorhurst by Labalestier (up from 3 stars – YA – dual citizenship?)
    Tommy by Blumenthal (NEW – Non-Fiction)
    Waiting by Henkes (NEW – Picture Book)

    New to the 3 star list:
    Enormous Smallness by Burgess (Picture Book Biography)
    Honor Girl by Thrash (Graphic Memoir, YA)
    Rude Cakes by Watkins (Picture Book)
    Where’s Walrus? And Penguin? by Savage (Picture Book)

    Not a ton going on this month comparatively. Firefly Hollow by McGhee and Tommy by Blumenthal are the most middle of the road contenders listed here, I think. See you next month!

  24. Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger and Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War that Saved my Life are both deserving of the Newbery Medal and I hope to see them listed as honor books.


  25. Wow, way to predict… Read all of the books you chose, and thrilled two of them made it through Jonathan.

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