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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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Last Stop for Nina

24128143990_82ae90bc25_oJonathan will be closing out our season shortly with a preview for 2016; but first I’d like to say goodbye.  As I warned at the beginning of the season, this is my last hurrah with Heavy Medal.

In that post in September, I’d mentioned I’d been doing this “long enough.”  Although the books change each year, the process doesn’t, and to some extent I feel I’ve said what I’ve had to say. And while I recognize that getting top billing lends authority that I’ve tried my best to own, I hope this blog is about what each and all of us think about books and readers, not just me and Jonathan. So I’ve long been ready to detach myself from this byline and make room for other voices, and will be glad for the room for other pursuits, including the blog Reading While White, and my candidacy for ALSC President (against my good colleague and 2016 Newbery chair Ernie Cox, who I thank here for facilitating such a groundbreaking and affirming selection for the 2016 Newbery and honors).  ACL / Bayviews will continue the live local mock discussions in the Oakland/SF Bay Area.

Every year I’m amazed and refreshed by the level of discussion we’re able to achieve on this blog, and, at the same time, how differently rich is the discussion we have in our in-person Mock Newberys.  Always there, but only rarely here, are we able to truly exchange ideas…. to make an argument, know the person is listening, have a conversation to a point of understanding, if not agreement.  It does happen here, it is simply harder to facilitate, and so I want to send out a huge appreciation for those of you who bring your arguments to this blog in the spirit of a collective discussion. Please continue to do so.

Book awards recognize the hard work of book creators, and point readers to good books.  But neither of these can be the only end for an award that holds up one book above others, because we know that there are many other excellent books, hard working creators, and deserving readers of a myriad of tastes.   The end result of book awards should always be a broadening and strengthened articulation of what can stand for excellence in the field, in order to promote the creation of more excellent work… and to prompt those of us who are in the business of connecting child readers with books to seek it out and share it, wherever we find it.

That is why I am so truly appreciative of the award committees who, this year and last in particular, have clearly worked to consider a truly open view of what can make a book “distinguished” for children, especially with the recognition of distinguished text that is inseparable from its graphics, and of representations of excellence for less-acknowledged ages in the span of the awards.  In the process of doing this, recent committees have also clearly looked to diverse experiences for examples of distinguished work.  It is hard work to do all this, and I know it depends on group trust that makes room for challenging thinking.  Working from the criteria, one can use previously winning books to help set a bar.  But rather than then looking for other work like those books, we can instead ask what it is these books tell us about writing… how it speaks to readers, what can make it unique or excellent as opposed to derivative or mediocre.  How is it that writing achieves that miracle of creation within a reader’s mind, and where else can we find it?

Asking that, we may then find true excellence in something familiar, but we won’t also be able to find it in something new unless we keep this active mind, asking “what don’t I know, yet?,” and listening to others who can speak to different experiences and interpretations.  And if we don’t make room to award something different some of the time, we’ll never have a spectrum of award winners that do the body of literature, and its readers, justice.

“He wondered how his nana always found beautiful

where he never even thought to look.

He looked all around them again, ….”

–Matt De La Peña, Newbery Medalist


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. Nina, thank you for your leadership here. It has provided me years of thinking and learning. Your thoughtful, provoking, probing, enlightening, sensitive, courageous, insistent, intelligent, and always clearly deeply felt posts and comments have done so much to help all of us to look and read newly and differently. Even when I disagreed with you, I was taking in and keeping hold of your ideas. Ideas that will stay there to impact my reading and thinking in times to come. I feel enriched by what you did here for this aspect of my life — a hugely important one — and happy to know we are friends and that this change for you will never change that.

  2. For a writer, reading the discussions here is consistently inspiring (if occasionally terrifying), and reminds me again and again of the responsibility and challenge I have to make books good and true enough that children will, in turn, make them their own. Thank you, Nina!

  3. Frances O'Roark Dowell says

    Nina, I’ve so appreciated your passion, your intelligence and your honesty, perhaps this year most of all. You’ve been consistently patient and gracious through sometimes difficult and cantankerous discussions. Thanks for all the hard work you’ve done here. You’ll be missed!

  4. Sam Leopold says

    Thank you Nina. Your analysis has made me a more effective teacher with my students. I will miss you. Thanks.

  5. Thank you so much for everything, Nina.

  6. Nina, thank you for all the criticism and enthusiasm you’ve shared here at Heavy Medal (and for your work throughout the profession). Reading this blog has made me a better reader, a better librarian, and a better awards-explainer!

  7. Thank you for your service to this conversation Nina. To coordinate a blog of this caliber take so much time and energy. I’m in awe of what you and Jonathon have accomplished here and wish you the very best of futures in all your new endeavors. I’ll be looking at Reading while White and since my life will be taking me to the Bay area with some regularity in the next decade I’d love to join in your live mock Newbery conversation some time.

  8. Leonard Kim says

    Nina, thank you for your guiding spirit of this wonderful forum. I especially want to convey my gratitude as one of your non-librarian readers — just a dad with kids — being allowed to participate in the discussion. I’ve certainly learned and changed a lot from following Heavy Medal, and indirectly I think my children have as well. Thanks again.

  9. Good luck, Nina, with all your other pursuits! Thank you for everything – this blog and the discussions in Oakland helped me grow as a professional and as a reader. I would not be the librarian that I am, or as thoughtful a committee member, if it hadn’t been for your insights and example. Thank you for setting such a high bar.

  10. Thank you Nina. Your insights into children’s literature and wonderful writings will be missed here but I look forward to your future accomplishments.

  11. Nina, I feel as if I’ve been schooled at your knee. I’ve been here since the beginning, usually with my big fat foot in my mouth. With your own eloquent writing you have shown not only the need for distinguished literature for young people, but also a keen understanding on how to evaluate the lofty elements in direct commitment to those they are aimed at. Thank you for sharing your insights, knowledge, and mostly your dedicated heart.

    Happiness on your next trails.

  12. You did a great job here, Nina, and I look forward to your further adventures!

  13. Thanks so much for your work on this blog, Nina! You’ve done good work here.

  14. Can’t wait to see what you do next Nina, I’ve enjoyed following your valuable contributions here at SLJ. Best foot forward and best of luck.
    Thank You

  15. Gene Nelson says

    Thanks for your wonderful service to our community.

  16. NINA: ONTO tomorrows…

  17. Sheila Welch says

    I’m not even sure how I found this blog a few years ago, but I’m so glad I did. I’ve appreciated your contributions that have helped stretch my thinking about children’s books. Thanks for doing such a great job and best wishes !

  18. Safranit Molly says

    Somehow I missed this farewell post last January and I am only now learning that Nina’s voice will not be a guiding influence on our conversations this year. Nina, I have appreciated your leadership and insight so greatly over these last many years. As so many others have said, I am a better reader, a better advocate for excellence in literature and a better teacher because of your voice in my head. I acknowledge that there comes a time for all of us when change is necessary, but I will say that your perspective and expertise will be greatly missed here. Read freely and happily. Shalom.

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