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2016 Spring and Summer Favorites?

2015 Newbery CoversAnd we are back!  Many thanks to all of you who’ve care-taken this blog from February through August at the 2016 Newbery Watchlist post, especially my hero Jen J of the Spreadsheets for her monthly updates of starred reviews.  It is  a handy place to start exploring award possibilities, though we are always quick to point out that the number of stars alone does not denote award-worthiness.  Though “buzz” seems to dominate the blogosphere during the award season, I value this blog as a space to really pick apart what actually makes “distinguished literature” for children.  Last year’s awards felt very special to me,  felt like they pushed that envelope, and I’m looking forward to this season’s discussion in particular.

Since I am a slow reader, I’m still catching up on spring and summer titles for this year, and we’ll assume at the start that you are too.  Which are your favorite spring or summer titles that could be contenders for the 2016 Newbery, based on its terms and criteria, and considering the diversity of reading interests that it serves?  I’ve read and enjoyed X: A NOVEL, GOODBYE STRANGER, THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA.  Haven’t yet gotten to, but they are on my pile: TERRIBLE TYPHOID MARY, MARCH: BOOK TWO, THE CURIOUS WORLD OF CALPURNIA TATE or STELLA BY STARLIGHT.  What is on your shelf?

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:

    Yay! So happy to have Heavy Medal back in business!!!!
    For me the spring and summer contenders so far are: GOODBYE STRANGER and THE BOYS WHO CHALLENGED HITLER. The rest of my spring/summer favorites list includes books to have the annual sequel discussion about: THE WHISPERER, THE PENDERWICKS IN SPRING, COMPLETELY CLEMENTINE, and GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA.


    The titles I am most excited to discuss this season are ORBITING JUPITER and MOST DANGEROUS

  2. Wow! When you said “back after Labor Day,” you meant it! Hooray!

    My favorites so far: Echo, The Detective’s Assistant, and The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. I have some catching up to do, though!

  3. Also: A Handful of Stars is a top favorite.

  4. ECHO, far and away, is the best children’s book I’ve read in years. I can’t imagine anything coming even remotely close to it this year, though I am anxious to read GOODBYE STRANGER.

  5. Jenna Friebel says:

    I don’t feel I’ve read anything yet that really screamed “Newbery Winner!” at me. That said, GOODBYE STRANGER and GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA are two I’ve read that have had the a lot of buzz around them, and I agree they are worth discussion. A few other titles I was impressed with but haven’t seen much buzz around are: LISTEN, SLOWLY; WISH GIRL; and THE TRAP. On my TBR list: ECHO and THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE.

  6. Still need to read Echo and The War That Saved my Life (I’ve tried starting it 3x!). I loved Goodbye Stranger.

  7. Safranit Molly says:

    I’m so glad Heavy Medal is back! I’ve been waiting and checking every day! The top of my list so far is Echo, but the other books you’ve mentioned are contenders too. I also liked Circus Mirandus, Dear Hank Williams and Nooks and Crannies. Echo remains far and away above them all, in my estimation. I’m eager to hear your discerning thoughts on all of the above! Let the discussions begin!

  8. Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

    Nina, can we add Jen’s spreadsheet to the navigation bar on the right hand side somewhere? We spoke at Midwinter and she is on board with this, and it would make it so much easier to access it when you don’t have to go back to an old post and find the link.

    In addition to Jen’s spreadsheet, I think the following Travis Jonker post is an excellent resource for people mulling over potential mock Newbery titles.

    And, finally, my top three at this point in the year (in no particular order): ECHO, THE HIRED GIRL, and MOST DANGEROUS. 🙂

    • Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says:

      Got it. The “Newbery Links” section (just below the ads) has been renamed “Resources” and now includes a permanent link directly to Jen’s spreadsheet!

  9. I am very behind on this year’s reading, but I’ll echo all of the support for, well, ECHO, as well as THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, GOODBYE STRANGER, and LISTEN, SLOWLY. My dark horse so far is MOONPENNY ISLAND. Looking forward to reading a number of fall releases, particularly nonfiction.

  10. I can’t wait for the discussion on ECHO. I just didn’t feel it, and I feel like I’m the only person not in love with that book, so I want to understand what I’m so clearly missing.

    I loved GOODBYE STRANGER, and really enjoyed WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, though it wasn’t without problems.

  11. Alys, you aren’t alone – I’m also not quite as into ECHO as I feel like I should be. I enjoyed it, but I also had some issues with it.

    Reading through the comments, it’s clear that I need to move THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE to the top of my TBR pile immediately.

    I loved GOODBYE STRANGER, I thought STELLA BY STARLIGHT was gorgeous, and I can’t wait to tell kids about THE BOYS WHO CHALLENGED HITLER. Also, I don’t often read sequels, but THE WHISPER floored me – I’m very anxious and excited about the final book.

  12. We literally just received The Hired Girl (as in it wasn’t cataloged this morning and is now being processed), and cannot wait. It sounds terrific, and I’m always very keen to read historical fiction with Jewish characters that isn’t set during the Holocaust, as important as those books are.

    Alys–there have been books that have received a ton of praise that just didn’t speak to me, for some reason. Meanwhile, there are books that flew under the radar that I really loved and wish received more attention (The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee Tucker Frazier and Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt come to mind). Doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily missing something!

  13. THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, ECHO, THE PENDERWICKS IN SPRING, and GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA are my favorites so far. On the Penderwicks, I thought it was the strongest of the series, but wonder about the sequel issue – would love to hear what any new-to-the-Penderwicks readers think.
    MARCH: BOOK TWO was very strong.
    I thought GOODBYE STRANGER was good, but wasn’t as taken with it as I was her last two books (different age target, of course, but I expected to love it and didn’t quite). Same for STELLA BY STARLIGHT – liked it, but didn’t love it.

  14. I spent the Labor Day weekend with Circus Mirandus. I loved it.

  15. I have read and enjoyed many of the books folks are talking about including Gone Crazy in Alabama, Goodbye Stranger, Circus Mirandus, Completely Clementine and Moonpenny Island. My dark horse is The Water and the Wild, by K.E. Ormsbee!

  16. You’re back, you’re back!


    Looking forward to reading many of the above, including THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, THE CURIOUS WORLD OF CALPURNIA TATE, and several others.

  17. Linda Wolfe says:

    I am head over heels in love with ECHO!

  18. Ask me again in October…my favorites are coming out in the next 6 weeks, of course!

    In the meantime, here is my picks of the litter:

    FUZZY MUD by Louis Sacher
    ECHO by Pam Ryan
    CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley (AUDIO)
    OCTOPUS SCIENTISTS by Sy Montgomery


    Also popular at our local Mock discussions were ECHO and FISH IN A TREE, but they don’t rise to the level of top three for me. I’m looking forward to reading THE HIRED GIRL and MOST DANGEROUS for future discussion.

  20. I’m a big fan of many listed here. But I’m especially tickled to already see Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer already mentioned, my not-so-dark-horse-anymore. I’m going to start reading it aloud to my 4th grade class tomorrow — always a good way for me to see it again in a different way.

  21. I haven’t fallen “head over heels” for any book yet. My favorites so far are Goodbye Stranger and The War That Saved My Life. Echo felt forced to me, but I’m curious to hear from others who loved it. Looking forward to reading The Hired Girl and Orbiting Jupiter. I enjoyed the second Calpurnia Tate, Penderwicks, and Stella by Starlight, but wouldn’t put them on my Newbery list.

    • Ally Goodwin says:

      I didn’t “read” Echo; i listened to the audiobook instead. That should win an Odyssey…outstanding! Not sure how it would “read” without the music from the audio which enhances the story

  22. Ramona Price says:

    My favorites haven’t shown up yet here so I’m going to throw them out:
    I debate a little about Blackthorn Key because it’s not as “literary”, more action-y and fantasy-y (how would you say that out loud?), but has a great historical setting and the focus on 17th-century science and technology is really interesting and something I’ve rarely seen in that genre.

  23. Yum, Heavy Medal my favorite back-to-school treat.

    I find GOODBYE STRANGER flawless and kind of get drunk on how well it is written. My list also has ECHO, LISTEN SLOWLY, THE PENDERWICKS IN SPRING, and COMPLETELY CLEMENTINE. Although with the last two, I will freely admit to having little objectivity as I am a shameless member of the Pennypacker/Birdsall fan club. (Sometimes face-painting is involved.)

    I feel THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE may be a strong contender with a few quibbles. STELLA BY STARLIGHT suffered greatly due to my reading if directly after the a fore mentioned perfection of GOODBYE STRANGER. The writing was much too expository to be distinguished but the story has value. I find GEORGE more of an important book than exceptional in its writing.

    I am a little insane over the wait for ORBITING JUPITER and I think Eric should quit bragging about his advanced copy. Also, THE HIRED GIRL just showed up today for me as well.

    This is the list I have going for my students. I would be interested if anyone sees any glaring omissions:

    Don’t pay too close of attention to my stars they are more based on my personal enjoyment of the title and not criteria.

  24. So happy there is love here for Listen, Slowly! I adored that one, along with The Penderwicks in Spring. I’m looking forward to reading people’s opinions on Goodbye, Stranger, because I felt pretty apathetic toward that one.

  25. Hannah Mermelstein says:

    I also loved THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, and was completely charmed by THE DETECTIVE’S ASSISTANT. But my favorite so far is THE MARVELS by Brian Selznick. Nobody’s mentioned it above yet, likely because Selznick’s form could be unlikely to win a Newbery, but I actually think this one has a chance. With the exception of a lovely ending that is only told in pictures, the entire story that’s told in pictures at the beginning is described in the text. It was actually the text that I found most gorgeous about this book, and while the pictures certainly add to it, I think that with only the text this would still be my favorite. Anyone else with me or am I completely off-base here?

    • THE MARVELS will not be released until next Tuesday, so you are ahead of most of us.

      • Safranit Molly says:

        DaNae, I did not love The Marvels, though I was very pre-disposed to love it. I will look forward to our discussion on that one. I am open to having my mind changed!

  26. Cindy Yeager says:

    I really enjoyed The War That Saved My Life, as did my nine year old daughter. She did a book report on it, including sewing 2 American Girl sized outfits resembling Ada’s clothing, one from her life before and one from her life after being “saved.” We grubbied up her AG doll’s knees for the before outfit and used her AG doll’s crutches for the after outfit. She had a great time with the project and learned a lot about the time period and also the sad fact that not every child is loved as much as she is.

    I am really looking forward to reading Drowned City and The Hired Girl.

  27. The third graders are loving FIREFLY HOLLOW, and so am I.

  28. So many wonderful books are mentioned above, but the book I’m currently thinking most about is THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH. I’m looking forward to reading Drowned City… and so many more!

  29. Jenny Staller says:

    I’ll add my voice to the chorus of those who loved THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, and I would probably throw a vote towards CIRCUS MIRANDUS as well. I really did not enjoy GOODBYE STRANGER, which I so wanted to love, and I’m excited to hear from those of you who are enamored of it. Definitely have a lot in my TBR pile!

  30. Benji Martin says:

    Welcome back! So far my favorites are Penderwicks in Spring, Echo, Goodbye Stranger, and the Thing About Jellyfish. My long shot favorite is Swan by Snyder. It’s very lyrical and lovely.

  31. Yay! Heavy Medal is back. 🙂

    My favorites so far are GOODBYE STRANGER, LISTEN SLOWLY, and A NEARER MOON

    Though thinking about A NEARER MOON, I find it interesting that it is one of two truly excellent books written by Melanie Crowder released this year. AUDACITY may fit better for the Printz but definitely works for the upper range of Newberry too.

    I loved THE PENDERWICKS IN SPRING but wonder about the sequel aspect.

    I’m largely underwhelmed by the books getting the most talk this year. Some I’m just apathetic about (ECHO, THE HIRED GIRL) and some I have serious issues with (THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE). Looking at the Mock Newbery List on Goodreads, I can also add CIRCUS MIRANDUS and FISH IN A TREE to the latter.

  32. I’d like to hear others share about THE WAY HOME LOOKS NOW, TIGER BOY, and ENCHANTED AIR. They haven’t been mentioned but are wonderful books worthy of consideration.

  33. Sharon Verbeten says:

    I, too, loved FIREFLY HOLLOW and look forward to THE MARVELS, esp. after reading Brian Selznick’s Arbuthnot Lecture. Was disappointed that THE NEST by Canadian Kenneth Oppel would not qualify for Newbery; it was outstanding!

  34. Oops! I was checking for Heavy Medal in August — and then let it slip past! Welcome back!

    My favorite reading of the year so far was Gone Crazy in Alabama. I like the epic family tale feel to it. I think it may be the best of the three.

  35. Hooray! You’re back! I’m always so intrigued to see which books make the discussion list. I think this is one of the best years for fiction in a long time. Here are the ones that I am most besotted with this year as being worthy of discussion and possibly Newbery-worthy, listed alphabetically:

    Circus Mirandus (Cassie Beasley)
    The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate (Jacqueline Kelly)
    Finding the Worm (Mark Goldblatt) No one has mentioned this yet. It’s the sequel to Twerp, but it’s totally stand-alone and spectacular
    The Hired Girl (Laura Amy Schlitz)
    Paper Things (Jennifer Jacobson)
    The Penderwicks in Spring (Jeanne Birdsall)
    The Seventh Most Important Thing (Shelley Pearsall)
    The War That Saved My Life (Kimberly Brubaker Bradley)

  36. Echo is by far the best book I’ve ever read so it is at the absolute top of my list. I really enjoyed The War That Saved My Life. I just finished Dear Hank Williams and have to say for those midway through thinking, “Should I finish it?” like I did, I say do not underestimate the power of this book. Now that I’m through I want to go back and reread it.
    I’m really looking forward to reading Orbiting Jupiter and The Hired Girl.


  1. […] while emulating the work of the real Printz committee. Relaunching a few days after SLJ’s “Heavy Medal: A Newbery Blog,” “Someday” and its bloggers have already begun speculating which 2015 YA works might win the […]

  2. […] 2016 Spring and Summer Favorites? by Nina Lindsay — from Heavy Medal/SLJ […]

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