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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Oakland Mock Results!

We had a wonderful Mock Newbery discussion Sunday afternoon, with 20 in attendance, and 15 voting (who had read all nine titles).  Yet…we ran short of time to come to a conclusive consensus.  We took 3 ballots over the course of 45 minutes, and then just called time.  Here’s how it went.

Ballot 1

Ballot 1
All nine titles received some votes, with the 1st place votes distributed among the first six (alphabetically by title). HIRED GIRL had 5 first place votes; but MOST DANGEROUS was ahead in points with the most votes overall.  GOODBYE STRANGER was fairing well; and while GONE CRAZY had the same number (3) of first place votes,  ROLLER GIRL had plenty more votes and points, even with none in first place.   We had a free-for all discussion for about 10 minutes following this votes, with much from fans of DROWNED CITY and ROLLER GIRL who now saw a glimmer of a chance for these.  Now that people could see where the initial support lay, we turned back for a second round of voting, to see if it would shift.


Ballot 2

Ballot 2Well, Still very little consensus.  While ECHO and RHYTHM RIDE came off this ballot, the crucial votes just seem to have shifted around.  We saw that, indeed, DROWNED CITY and ROLLER GIRL started looking  better, each gaining 1 first place votes, as did MOST DANGEROUS (garnering 2 more votes total).  GOODBYE STRANGER also picked up some steam.  And we were no where closer.  Now, very brief discussion continued around the first place vote getters.  Did DROWNED CITY achieve more with it’s spareness than MOST DANGEROUS for all its effort?  ROLLER GIRL or GOODBYE STRANGER give a more authentic view of girlhood?  HIRED GIRL achieve consistency of character?  We hustled back to a third ballot, watching the clock.

Ballot 3

Ballot 3MY SENECA VILLAGE fell off in this round, and what we started to see was a compaction of votes that happens when you’re down to six titles and fifteen votes.  While MOST DANGEROUS continued to gain support and now had the most first place votes along with points, it was still not really at a consensus, as 1st place camps only seemed to be firming up.  Without a good hour ahead of us to unpack these camps through discussion, reflect, and vote again, we decided simply that we would call these our top ranked books, and I’ll type them out here if that board is hard to read, in order by total points:

MOST DANGEROUS: 38 points (6 1st, 2 2nd, 4 3rd…12 votes)

ROLLER GIRL: 33 points (2 1st, 7 2nd, 2 3rd…11 votes)

HIRED GIRL: 22 points (4 1st, 2 2nd, 2 3rd,…8 votes)

GOODBYE STRANGER: 19 points (3 1st, 1 2nd, 1 3rd….6 votes)

DROWNED CITY: 14 points (1 1st, 2 2nd, 2 3rd…5 votes)

GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA: 9 points (1 2nd, 2 3rd…3 votes)


I hope that others who were there can chime in on our discussion about each of these titles and how they differed from discussions here.  I’ll very briefly highlight:

DROWNED CITY…supporters found a clear theme artfully presented through spare, precise, communicative text that worked exactly as intended alongside the pictures.  We did talk about the lack of the racial story element; though we noted text that did emphasize the economic disparities.

ECHO….as you see from the voting, not as much appreciation for this than in Jonathan’s group.  Though my defense for the audience for this book was noted, there was general disappointment with what felt like “lopsided” pacing, and many many quibbles that went undefended.

GONE CRAZY IN ALAMBAMA…seemed to make strong feelings on both sides, and not a lot of middle ground.  You see in the voting that a few went all out for it from the beginning, but most chose to cast their bets elsewhere.

GOODBYE STRANGER…we noted Stead’s fine prose, chillingly realistic characterization.  Some discussion about the “you” voice, with some voice strong arguments for it, and others continuing to have issues. This came up again in post ballot discussion.

HIRED GIRL… much of the appreciation was as noted here. While I put my concerns on the table (as well as appreciations), I did not push them as that was not really the point of this exercise, and we only touched on them lightly.  More concerns had to do with whether Joan’s voice really worked, as it didn’t for many, and with the “avuncular function” of the ending, seeming an unsatisfactory resolution for Joan’s character.

MOST DANGEROUS… This was a book that everyone wanted to talk about, and remembered, noting that the way Sheinkin presents this story makes it irresistible even if you never wanted to read the subject, or thought you had before.  Some questions about interpretations, “glossing over” some parts (such as his first marriage).

MY SENECA VILLAGE…This was a favorite for a few, and we talked a bit for how to approach it: as historical fiction? History? Poetry? We noted how much it delivers…also, how much it expects of its readers and how little it gives outside of the poems themselves, trying to imagine the perfect readership, and its approach.

RHYTHM RIDE… This was appreciated for how differently it approach nonfiction in comparison to our other two titles, though as with HIRED GIRL there were camps about the voice and its effectiveness.

ROLLER GIRL… Many fans for this story, as you can see from the voting.  I think this was the surprise book on the table.  In discussion, we compared it to GOODBYE STRANGER and then talked about how each achieved its story differently through its form.   There were no concerns with this book voiced that I can recall, except in out to consider the text in concert with, while apart from, the illustrations.




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’m fascinated by ROLLER GIRL doing so well. I think it is a terrific book, but for me the art is critical, much more so than last year’s EL DEAFO so I’d love to hear more about how you all considered it only if it “detracted.” I know I keep returning to this, but I’m such a rule-bound person and my mind just can’t get around this issue. I’d love to be able to though! I am especially thinking of certain emotional moments in the book that are so strongly made through the art. And those energetic images of them skating. (Have the book at school and will look at it when I get there.) But perhaps it is possible to read the text away from the art and see it as strong in the way I was able to do last year with El Deafo? Anyway, very very curious about how you all did this.

    • I can’t get past this either. I raised a similar concern back in the original Roller Girl post. I don’t see how the text is distinctive on its own when it’s the illustrations that make the text distinctive. The illustrations don’t accompany the story, they help to tell the story. Unless I am mistaken, that fact places Roller Girl firmly in Caldecott territory. The ALA just needs to create a separate graphic novel award. It would clear up this confusion once and for all.

    • Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says

      Monica, I think Jessica has done a great job of describing it. I would say don’t try to read the text away from the art. They are doing their job together. But when you are evaluating the Newbery criteria, base your evaluation on what it is the text is doing, in its part.

      We talked a lot about the character arc, the complexity of a friendship that changes into something else, and a protagonist who learns not to be SO self centered, but actually is realistic still so by the end of the story. These are themes that are developed on every page, in elements sometimes more by the text, sometime more by the pictures. As an example, we looked at the images of the flowers being left behind on the last page. This is a story element told entirely through the pictures. So we couldn’t use that element as a measure of the book’s distinction. But that scene itself is only the final (very effective) element to a complex arc that resides much in text, and starts in fact in text when she introduces (sorry, book not at hand so from memory) “When Nicole and I were still friends….” We liked the meta-element of having the story related to us in this way.

      • Nina, thank you! I especially appreciate you describing how you considered the flowers at the end and decided it wasn’t necessary to appreciate the book as a whole. I also think this is a book that benefits from in-person discussion rather than online for some reason. Both Jessica and Mary Ann speak to that experience. As much as I’m an online person, this feels like a situation where seeing and being in person is better:)

  2. Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says

    So interesting! Both of our groups really liked MOST DANGEROUS and THE HIRED GIRL, but whereas we liked ECHO you gravitated to ROLLER GIRL.

    We all know that EL DEAFO and THIS ONE SUMMER created a stir last year when they crossed the Newbery and Caldecott thresholds last year. You may not know, however that kid’s comics dominated the Eisner Awards. In addition to the three audience specific awards, they won Best Short Story, Best Coninuing Series, Best Limited Series, Best New Series, Best Anthology, Best Graphic Album–New, Best Graphic Album–Reprint, Best Archival Collection, Best Writer, Best Artist, and Best Publication Design.

    Gene Yang won Best Writer for his work on AVATAR and THE SHADOW HERO, and now he has been named as the next National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature! The love affair between comics and children continues! Would love to see them remain a presence in this year’s YMAs, too.

  3. Jessica Lee says

    I was lucky to be a participant in this year’s Oakland mock-Newbery. I came in knowing that I was firmly in the MOST DANGEROUS camp and was gratified that so many agreed with me, even if we didn’t reach clear consensus. But selecting a second and third place title was trickier for me. The discussion really pushed me toward ROLLER GIRL. At first, I was hesitant, feeling that the images carried so much of the story, and that it was not a terribly unique or distinguished book. Upon a second look, I noticed just how much text is on every page, and how the images echo and enhance the story but do not carry it. As for whether or not the book is distinguished, participants pointed to the character arc and complexity of character, the uniqueness of setting and situation, the realistic nature of the relationships and the conclusion, and to the narrative complexity of the protagonist reflecting back upon her experiences with a more mature voice than the juvenile character presented in the story. To not consider ROLLER GIRL because it is a graphic novel seems unfair to an entire format.

    I heartily agree with those who support the idea of ALA creating a new award for graphic novels. But I also recognize that graphic novels meet the criteria for both Caldecott and Newbery and should not be excluded from such awards. Just as the possibility that a book that is considered for the Printz not be excluded form the Newbery, similarly books that are heavily illustrated can be “distinguished contributions to American literature for children” and should be judged on the merits of their text and story.

    • Jessica,

      Thanks! Your comment is a wonderful model of what happens in the work of real committees (for Newbery and other awards) in my experience. You came in open and able to listen and consider and change. Now, based on all of this, I need to take another look. If ROLLER GIRL gets recognition by the Newbery Committee, I will be convinced that the criteria work as is! (I’m not a fan of yet another award for graphic novels as I think the Newbery is the only one the general public really pays attention to so I’d like to see such newer innovative writing and book creation as is now happening with graphic novels be recognized through that most-important award rather than create yet another one the public won’t attend to.)

    • Thanks Jessica, your post is so true to life and real committee experiences.

  4. I agree with Jessica in many ways. First of all, lucky to have been a participant and have learned so much from these discussions. Secondly, in my growing appreciation for Roller Girl. And finally, in how we can (and should) look at graphic novels as an entirety, considering the way they meet the criteria of themes, plot, character as a whole text. I would argue that one can interpret the word “text” to be the whole printed book.

    Last night, inspired by the discussion, I wrote this longer post about Roller Girl ( and tried to consider the different Newbery criteria. The words and pictures both contribute to these. For example, the roller derby setting is created both from the motion in the artwork, but also in the idea of the derby competitions, in the action-words, in the humor from the players’ names.

    As Jessica said, not to consider Roller Girl or Drowned City just because of the format seems unfair and unreasonable. I would not have been able to come to this ah-ha moment without sitting around a table with other passionate, thoughtful book-lovers talking in depth about interesting stories. I feel very lucky, indeed.

  5. My couple of students that read Roller Girl absolutely loved it! They are very neat girls who just loved the strong girl power character!

  6. I was also fortunate enough to attend the Oakland discussion and was surprised at how my opinion changed as the discussions proceeded. I entered fully committed to The Hired Girl, Echo and Most Dangerous. By the end, I recognized the faults others identified in my favorites and was (not easily) swayed to change my votes as we progressed. While I like Roller Girl, I also didn’t see it as a truly distinguished contribution but the excitement among the others in attendance was quite evident. The most interesting and enjoyable part of this process was recognizing just how important the actual conversations and listening to one another can be. What a wonderful profession we’re in that we can keep learning and growing together!


  1. […] As for what might get some ALA sticker-love this time around, the field seems wide open this year. I’m especially excited at the possibility of more boundary-breaking selections like last year’s This One Summer and El Deafo while still wondering what is possible given the current Newbery criteria. Happily, recent discussions are really helping me, especially the comments here. […]

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