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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Easy Reader Roundup

9781423178286_p0_v2_s118x184-1To date, only one easy reader–FROG AND TOAD TOGETHER–has been recognized by the Newbery committee, so the chances of one breaking through seem improbable, if not downright impossible.  But if last year taught us anything it’s that miracles can and do happen, occasionally.

One of the problems is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.9781452154619_p0_v1_s192x300  Easy readers don’t win Newbery recognition so publishers don’t think to send them to the committee.  (Bad publishers!)  The bloggers at Guessing Geisel recently listed their favorite contenders for SLJ.  How many of these do you think the publishers sent to the committee?  How many did the committee search out and read on its own?  How would they even know where to look (aside from the aforementioned Guessing Geisel) since these books tend to be under starred by review journals? (Bad reviewers!)  It would be a diligent committee member, indeed, who made the effort to track them down, let alone advocate for them.

9781935179993_p0_v1_s192x300I only note two easy readers with multiple starred reviews this year, both of them comics from Toon Books: BENNY AND PENNY IN HOW TO SAY GOODBYE and THE REAL POOP ON PIGEONS.  Of course, there are always picture books such as THEY ALL SAW THE CAT or NANETTE’S BAGUETTE (okay, I’m the only one touting this one as an easy reader, but still).  And at the top of the Geisel range, THE PRINCESS IN BLACK series appears to be eligible, too.  So there’s quite a bit to get excited about if you start looking at books for emergent readers.9781935179931_p0_v1_s192x300

If any series deserves Newbery recognition it is Elephant & Piggie, and–lo!–the final book in the series was published this past year to very little fanfare.  Some might argue that THE THANK YOU BOOK is hopelessly dependent upon the previous books, and while it’s true that long time fans will welcome the parade of cameo appearances by various characters, anybody who has witnessed an Oscar acceptance speech should be able to relate to the story.  A knowledge of previous books does enhance the reader experience, but doesn’t impede the neophyte.  Moreover, I love the return of the broken fourth wall from WE ARE IN A BOOK!, a book many cite as one of the stronger entries in the series.9780763690892_p0_v1_s118x184

9781484722862_p0_v2_s192x300Fortunately, THE THANK YOU BOOK doesn’t have to compete against the other books in the series.  It doesn’t even have to compete against other Elephant & Piggie books this year.  The E&P voting bloc–please, dear God, let there be an E&P voting bloc on the Newbery committee!–will not be split between two to three books.  This is a dark horse, to be sure, but I personally could definitely nominate and vote for this one!

But!  Mo Willems has created an E&P spinoff series and I’m very intrigued by the first couple of entries–WE ARE GROWING by Laurie Keller and THE COOKIE FIASCO by Dan Santat.  They deserve a post of their own.  So until next time . .

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. Safranit Molly says

    I just read Narwhal, Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton and found it an utter delight! I’m not campaigning for its Newbery chances or even its Geisel chances (my book group thought perhaps the hand lettered font might be a problem for the Geisel committee) however it’s a wonderful romp of an early reader graphic novel and I certainly hope to see more adventures for Narwhal and Jelly.

  2. Leonard Kim says

    Jonathan, THE THANK YOU BOOK is a brilliant suggestion. I only hope 1 of the 15 had a similar thought and nominated it. Time to change my Goodreads vote…

  3. Every year when I introduce Mock Newbery to 5th and 6th graders I get at least one kid who asks why Harry Potter never won the Newbery. That’s easy enough to answer. But one time a kid asked if THE CAT IN THE HAT ever won the Newbery and I had to say, “No. Um, I guess the committee thought RIFLES FOR WATIE was more distinguished.” And the kids are like, “Rifles for what-ie?”

    Obviously, the Newbery does not exist to guess which books will be enduring classics. But it’s sort of sad that some of our most distinguished children’s authors never received an honor you could say they richly deserved.

  4. Dr. Seuss did receive a few Caldecott honors though.

  5. I just finished a school-wide. concurrent Mock Caldecott (3-6)/Gisel (1-2).

    I’m so tired.

    The only crossover book I had for both was THEY ALL SAW THE CAT and I do so love the language in that, I wouldn’t even cry if it managed to score a silver for Newbery. I’m also pretty crazy about the very Monty Pythony HUNGRY BUNNY HORDE.

  6. I consider 26 Fairmont Avenue an easy reader. It was a Newbery Honor Book

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