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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Gallery: One More Batch

Here’s one final group of books with multiple starred reviews.  It just goes to show that we can really only scratch the surface here on this blog in terms of covering the breadth of books that the committee is likely to read.




































































































































































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. After surviving two brutal elimination rounds, NINE, TEN now stands on my students’ final Mock Newbery ballot, joined only by six other books. Their enthusiasm for it makes me want to read it.

    They cast their final votes next Thursday. If their trend of enthusiasm continues for it, I imagine it will nab an honor.

    • My book club has also been very passionate in their support of Nine, Ten. This was not a book I had seen much buzz about. Honestly, I had never heard of it until it arrived at our book fair in October. Several students recommended it, so I put a “Donate Me” tag on it, and someone bought it for the library. I have not had a chance to read it yet because it is never, ever checked in.

      The only one of these I have read is Soar. I absolutely loved it. It is a familiar sports underdog story, but probably the best treatment of this plot I have ever seen, with twists that make it unique. Jeremiah’s voice just pulled me in and instantly stole my heart. However, it does have tiny flaws that would probably exclude it from Newbery recognition in a year of so many strong contenders.

  2. I’m just finishing SUMMERLOST and really, really like it. Wasn’t thinking of the Newbery as I read it, but it has really strong characters and a good plot.

    WHEN FRIENDSHIP FOLLOWED ME HOME has spread like wildfire in my classroom. One girl read it, then her sister, then their friend, then another friend. They all really liked it. Might have to give it a read.

  3. Does the Notables discussion list give us an idea of what the committee is discussing? There are 63 middle grade fiction novels on the list. Is it safe to assume, the Newbery is coming from one of those… Unless that is, something from the picture book list or Team Nonfiction stands out?

    • The Notables committee is completely separate from the Newbery committee, so it’s possible a book could get a Newbery and not be on the Notables Midwinter discussion list. Though, I think if that were to happen the book might automatically be added to the final official Notables list.

      • It is possible that a Newbery and Caldecott contender won’t be on the discussion list. Theynart automatically added. I was on notables when this b came ALSC policy. One of the years I was on Notables we didn’t like the book that won the Caldecott and weren’t planning to include it. We were saved from not having to discuss it once the announcement (pre press conference) was made. Just a little history.

  4. Hannah Mermelstein says

    Since I’ve been the only one voting for SOAR all along, I suppose this is my chance to speak up for it! Soar had me from the first sentence: “I’m probably twelve years old; that’s what the doctors think.” I LOVE Jeremiah’s origin story, his adoption by the nerdy computer guy who knows nothing about babies. I definitely think Soar is distinguished in its characters (Jeremiah, Walt, Dr. Dugan, the other kids — Franny, Benny, etc.). I could see an argument that Jeremiah is too mature to be believable, but I actually found his character refreshing and lovely, and the fact that the book made it into our school’s Mock Newbery Committee makes me think kids agreed in some way. The plot reads as both familiar in a way that is relatable, and entirely original in a way that is important enough to distinguish it. And themes — father-son relationship, created family/community (he and his father, the baseball team, Dr. Dugan, the town…), and a familiar inspirational theme, but I would argue very well realized.

    I liked SUMMERLOST, PAPER WISHES, and NINE LIVES enough to include them in our Mock Newbery Committee. They all had strong proponents, but none made it into our finalists. I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of them get an award, but a little surprised.

    I included TOWERS FALLING in our Mock Newbery instead of NINE, TEN, and it has made it into our finalists. There are things I like about it, but I don’t think it deserves Newbery love as much as the kids do. Haven’t read NINE, TEN.

    • Ha! I must have been writing about SOAR above at the same time you posted your comment. Characters and theme were also the areas in which I found it to be distinguished, and I did not think Jeremiah was too mature to be believable at all. I know boys like him and do not see them represented often enough in literature. I also loved how he departs from your typical sports book protagonist in that, while he is passionate about baseball he also has other interests (robots, eagles), and the effortless way those other areas of his life blend back into the theme. Every little piece is there for a reason, but it never feels contrived.

      The one issue I had–I kept waiting for Jeremiah’s relentless positivity to falter. Realistically, I think any 12-year-old in his situation would have that moment of doubt at some point, and if he had that and had to fight his way back from it, that would have made the book stronger IMO. But it never happened. This was the one thing that kept this book from rising to the top for me. It was one of my favorites of the year, and I nominated it for a state award. I just couldn’t quite see it as the most distinguished. However, I would be pleasantly surprised if it ended up with an honor.

      • Hannah Mermelstein says

        That makes sense, Wendy. Jeremiah is kind of the steady one as others have their arcs. I have heard something similar said about other books, that if the main character doesn’t change enough from beginning to end, it’s not an award-winning book. (I know you’re not saying he doesn’t change at all, only that his positivity never falters.) Maybe I’m just not a careful enough reader in some ways, but that’s not always something I notice. So I wonder, is this an absolute? A rule we should consciously keep an eye out for? Or is it something that people naturally notice when reading that detracts from their experience, that I just don’t tend to notice?

      • Another vote for SOAR as a very good book, if not Newbery.

  5. Of this batch, I’ve read SUMMERLOST and AUDACITY JONES. In my opinion, both were fine, but not exceptional.

  6. Leonard Kim says

    I have read NINE TEN, AUDACITY JONES, and SOAR. I enjoyed AUDACITY JONES but wouldn’t go so far as to say it merits Newbery consideration.

    There’s been a lot of discussion this year about child readers’ emotional response to the contenders. Personally I am more and more having doubts about the importance and value of this for the Newbery. I think it could be all too easy to use cliche and convention to elicit feelings of inspiration or sympathy or whatever; things become cliches and conventions because they have been proven to work. I see some elements of this in books like NINE TEN and SOAR. But I think using such elements, as effective as they may be, are almost the opposite of what the Newbery stands for in literary quality. I am starting to interpret “quality presentation” more as quality presentation of “literature” and less whether a book is inherently lovable to children because of the emotions it invokes.

  7. Since I started my reading for Heavy Medal in January, using the Starred Reviews list, I have read almost all of these — and enjoyed them. I must say, I am eternally glad NOT to be on the actual committee. I’ve done this reading/discussion exercise for three years and it did not take me long to realize what an incredible job the committee does each year. I have done the reading in order to better serve the children in the library where I’ve worked by knowing more about the new books they would enjoy reading. I’ve retired this year so may not comment here anymore, but want to say how enjoyable this has been, and how much I respect all of you — especially Jonathan. Thanks for all your hard work!!

  8. This list includes many books I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this year. Thank you for discussing them and for sharing others for me to read. I learn much from your discussions, too. I once took a class from Kathleen Horning (excellent material presented) with the intention of learning just exactly what makes a “Newbery” winner. I learned a lot, but not the answer to that burning question. I will react to this year’s winners with the knowledge that the choices represent only the opinions of 15 readers. I simply no longer believe you can distinguish between an excellent peach, cherry, and plum. And this year, the competing books seem to of extraordinary excellence.

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