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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Gallery: More Underdogs?

The following books–another baker’s dozen–have received starred reviews, but have not received any discussion, let alone mention, on the blog this year.  Are any of these strong Newbery contenders?








































































































































































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. UPROOTED is imho above the age range for Newbery, and the material could have easily been published as an adult title (as has been the case for a couple recent Marrin books). I personally found it important but also so dense and physically cumbersome that it exhausted me.

    I’ve seen a number of mentions in comments for ALL RISE; I think it’s a fine collection book but I don’t think it rises to Newbery status. I really enjoyed SOPHIE QUIRE and it deserves its stars, but again, great collection book, not really in the Newbery realm.

    SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS was discussed on Someday my Printz yesterday even though I think it’s squarely middle grade.

    • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says

      I hear you on the Marrin. He seems to cram the history of the world into each of his books. Definitely an upper end title. I see the merits of the book, but doubt the committee can build consensus around this one over younger, but still excellent titles like SOME WRITER! and SAMURAI RISING.

      Now that you mention it, I do remember ALL RISE in the comments on a couple of posts. Don’t recall SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS here, although I did see Joy’s post recently. Kind of gives off a little BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA vibe, no?

  2. Leonard Kim says

    I’ve read 3. As TK mentioned, ALL RISE appeared in the comments on the last Underdogs? post. I think it’s comparable to THE SECRET LIFE OF LINCOLN JONES, which was featured here, though I personally liked LINCOLN JONES better.

    I agree with TK’s assessment of SOPHIE QUIRE. My younger 2 kids loved it.

    I think the real sleeper here could be IT AIN’T SO AWFUL, FALAFEL. It’s sort of your standard girl navigating life, friends, school, parents, etc. book. It’s hook is that the protagonist is a 1970s Iranian-American. Betsy Bird recently put out her last Newbery post, where she linked contenders with current issues. This would fit right in. And it’s really very good, even though I and nobody else has brought it up before.

    • We just finished out Mock, and in the after discussion we mentioned how much those of us who’d read it adored, IT AIN’T SO AWFUL FALAFEL. I’d put it on my list but it is also in the realm of “my kind of book”, which I’m afraid sometimes gives me blinders.

      I very much liked Perry T. Cook, but found fatal flaws in it for a Newbery. Such a warm positive book. Perhapse a little easily resolved.

      THE LAND OF FORGOTTEN GIRLS is terrific, kind of grittier than the cover would lead you to believe. Although it shows the sisters in a compromising situation, it dosen’t look for easy fixes but sill leaves you with hope.

  3. Kate McCue-Day says

    I haven’t read any of them but a few of my 5th graders read Mayday and loved it. One of my very bright girls “sold it to others” so it has been out of my classroom library for weeks so I haven’t had my turn yet!

  4. Loved All Rise (strong plot, well-developed/engaging characters, unusual setting) and would be pleased if it received some Newbery recognition; while Projekt 1065 was a page-turner, the plot went completely off the rails by the book’s conclusion (not that the kids at my library care – very popular) Didn’t get to the rest.

  5. Marybeth Kozikowski says

    My heart skipped a beat (okay, melodramatic but we all understand how we can get about a book) when I saw the cover of All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook on the blog site. Just had to join the conversation. I reviewed it for SLJ almost a year ago and it’s a book that lingers – is distinguished – for its sheer originality in concept and compelling characters. Does it hit on enough of the other criteria? That’s up to the committee members to decide. But if I were lucky enough to be among them, I’d make an argument for Perry as an unequaled character in this year’s fiction: he’s completely authentic in expression and reaction, yet an example of integrity and honesty who serves as an inspiration to all the other characters.

  6. Hey, it’s great to see my fellow Portlanders Deborah and Kathleen here! I’m a long time fan of Deborah Hopkinson and A BANDIT’S TALE is a strong addition to her impressive roster of titles.

    Kathleen Lane’s book is a debut about a girl whose struggles with anxiety are magnified by a murder committed in her neighborhood. Here’s what I thought was brave and ultimately compelling about her book. Main character Maggie deals with her anxiety by reciting a litany of locked doors and windows and whispered invocations for protection. This litany is repeated and added onto throughout the story. On the one hand, that’s annoying. On the other hand, I have a new appreciation for what a person suffering from anxiety goes through just to face the day with a semblance of normal behavior. It’s an invitation to compassion for a kind of kid who is seldom portrayed in kids novels beyond the stereotyped side character the scary-cat. It’s a worthy story and one I hope will be widely read.

  7. I’ll put in a word for THE HAUNTING OF FALCON HOUSE, since I think it’s really flown below the radar this year. When I read it back in March, I found it surprisingly deep, with a great setting, strong main character, some delightfully funny moments, and a nice, twisty plot. I do think some of the secondary characters are more caricatures than characters, and by nature the story is going to appeal to some readers and leave others cold. I hesitate to place it above some of the books that have been discussed over and over as contenders; I think it’s a worthy read that has had trouble finding its audience, as it’s not really spooky enough to be a true ghost story, but it looks like it ought to be — plus, it feels very Russian.

    • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says

      While I know the reviews pegged it as middle grade (4th-8th), I think it may actually work best at the youngest end of this spectrum and perhaps even for precocious 3rd graders, or as a read aloud to 2nd and 3rd graders. Very short chapters–56 in all–plus lots of drawings throughout. Plus, as you mention, it’s not really the scariest ghost story. I think the interest level probably peaks between 3rd-5th grades.

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