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A Top Three? Already?

Nominate blueSome time in October, Newbery Committee members will each submit three official Nominations.  They’ll do two more each in November and December, for a total of seven. Nominations are not ranked, just submitted as a group. Up until now, members have been submitting monthly Suggestions.  This is how they share titles of the books they feel other members should read.  You can Suggest books that you rate very highly, but you can also add them for other reasons: maybe you Suggest a book in a genre or age range that isn’t well represented so far, even if you don’t think it’s a contender yourself, for example. Suggestions are submitted without any justification; it’s a running title list that builds over the course of the year.  By the end of September there may be 80 – 120 suggested titles (or more or less…even the number is confidential).

Nominations are different. This is your first chance to select books for the selection discussions that will happen at the Midwinter meetings. All nominated titles start off on the table when Midwinter discussions begin. It’s also an opportunity to share your reasons for nominating a book in written form. So members typically spend a lot of time deciding which books to put forward. Once the October Nominations are compiled, it’s also the first time the Committee can get a sense of what titles might be strong contenders in the minds of their co-members. A very rough sense, since there are still many unread books at this point, but it’s still pretty exciting.

Members typically consult with no one as they make Nominations (from the Manual:  “members must maintain confidentiality about the books that are nominated by committee members”), but we don’t have that restriction here. So the three of us will share some thoughts about Nomination titles and strategies, then invite you to put some titles forward yourselves, as well as any thoughts or questions you might have about the process. Roxanne and Sharon, what’s risen to the top of your lists so far?


I am a slow reader and have always relied on other members’ suggestions and played catch-up all the time.  I also have a terrible time to not finish books so even if something is not to my liking, I have to read it to the end.  This further reduces the number of books I can get through at any given time frame.  So I spend my time reading the books themselves and almost never read reviews during the Committee year. However, since I know that Sci-Fi, Fantasy, non-traditional genres tend not to receive as much fanfare (even within the committee itself,) I try to be the first reader for certain titles. The first round of nomination in October is always such an exciting moment.  As Steven pointed out, as a committee member, I get to see how many others feel similarly as me regarding certain titles.  It’s also quite telling to see how many people have nominated the same types of books.  Of course, there are always those complete out-of-the-left-field nominations that make me scratch my head: what was this person thinking?

Right now, my favorite books include: Real Friends by Shannon Hale, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng, Patina by Jason Reynolds, and Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia. But since I am still playing catch-up, these might change greatly in the next two months.  Depending on what you and Sharon and others suggest.  I am about to read Wishtree, Tumble and Blu, Schomberg, and All’s Faire in Middle School, and some 15 other titles on our shared Google Doc of 100-plus entries.


It’s always a battle for me to decide what to nominate first.  I want to make sure the “important” books make the table – the ones that everyone is talking about. At the same time, though, I want to ensure that personal favorites get discussed and these are ones maybe less likely to be nominated by others. I think for October nominations, I’d go for slightly oddball nominations, assuming that the Hello Universes and Clayton Byrds and Beyond the Bright Seas will have plenty of champions.  

Of course when I say oddball, I don’t mean not worthy.  I mean titles that I think are potentially the best of the best and deserve discussion, but that I don’t necessarily know have the eyes of others on the committee.  

I feel like I still have so much to read that my favorites may still be yet to come!  I definitely recommend checking out All’s Faire in Middle School, Roxanne.  It moved high on my list quickly and remains there.  I also am a big fan of Clayton Byrd Goes Underground.  The Hate U Give, which we still need to talk about, is up there for me.  Beyond the Bright Sea, too.


Steven, please remind me: is the list of October nomination anonymously compiled by the Chair and then disseminated to the committee members or are our names attached to the nominations/write-ups?


I’m not positive, but I believe that is up to each year’s committee or its chair. In my two years the nominations did have names attached and that makes most sense to me. Monthly suggestions are typically anonymous, so with nominations you can put your words and your name behind a book for the first time. When I read other people’s nominations I don’t know that it helped to know who wrote what, though. There was always so much to think about with the titles and the words about them, that I was never also able to track who wrote it.


During my Caldecott year, we didn’t attach names to nominations.  It was interesting that way, and I was OK with it!  We claimed our nominations during discussion, for the most part.


This is also a chance to gauge and start thinking about strategy.  If many people have put their precious nomination quota on a particular type of books, and that happens to be something I do not particularly care for, I will start making particular notes on ways to point out why those titles are NOT distinguished or eminent. It’s always wonderful to see a strong support of a title that I personally feel very positive about — but some might make the mistake by thinking that no more efforts need to be made to convince other committee members to vote for that particular book when the time comes.  Things change and shift so much during Committee discussions that nothing is for sure.

Steven and Sharon, do you pick the ones you think you are the sole supporter for first? Or do you wait for the second/final round of nomination to ensure that an oddball title gets on the table? What are your nominating strategies?


I’m always torn between finally being to say, officially:  These are my top three books!  And the more strategic approach, which for me is to nominate titles that I fear may not be ranked as highly by others. So looking at the list of suggestions can be helpful. This year I’d guess VINCENT AND THEO would have a lot of suggestions and GIVE BEES A CHANCE hardly any.  So I might pass on V AND T, assuming it will get on the list, and go for BEESIn November or December I might chime in with V AND T, especially if I feel like I can add new insights that haven’t been mentioned on other nominations. I think I’ve generally split those two:  two top titles and one wild card in October, and maybe one of each in November and December. But it’s tricky, because you might read several great books in the next month or two and find yourself unable to fit in a title that you strongly support.


Exactly what Steven says, and what I alluded to above.  It is such a decision!  I think, also like Steven, I’d start with the ones I feel no one else is likely to nominate.  Especially for the October nominations, where this strategy feels safe.


I find reading the written nominations pretty fascinating.  Members will have different comfort levels with written communication, and there is no required format or word length (unless the chair or consensus sets these…my committees never did). So you get quite a variety of approaches. Roxanne or Sharon, have you found that the written nominations of others had an impact on how you viewed the books?


Definitely!  I mean it’s even happening here, just on the blog, where we don’t have formal nominations, but I’m reading two respected colleagues opinions. I mean, I always value respected colleagues’ opinions, but in this case we are talking about other people who are doing the same quantity of reading and with the same criteria in mind, so it is really quite different than reading regular book reviews or combing goodreads for what people think.  I don’t think a written nomination has been a total mind-changer, but it definitely helped me look at books differently when I went back for a re-read.


I must confess that I don’t really find those nomination write-ups too helpful to me.  I will read them and print them out and attach them to my notes and files to refer back to while we have our in-person discussion but it is the latter that really makes a true impact on my ballot decisions.


If I were to nominate right now I think I’d go for THE HATE U GIVE to make sure it at least got good discussion and wasn’t passed over due to perception of age of reader, ALL’S FAIRE IN MIDDLE SCHOOL (a long shot), and CLAYTON BYRD GOES UNDERGROUND.


If I had to nominate three titles today, I’d go with VINCENT AND THEO (likely contender) and GIVE BEES A CHANCE (long shot), as mentioned above. And I would add WELL THAT WAS AWKWARD (long shot #2) and guess/hope that MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON will have other support.  Anyone else willing to put forward a top three so far?

Steven Engelfried About Steven Engelfried

Steven Engelfried is the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at


  1. Leonard Kim says

    Question: in your experience, can committee members, through access to advance copies etc., expect to be aware of most of the year’s offerings by the time the first round of nominations rolls around? This relates a little to the sentiments expressed by Roxanne and Sharon about how their favorites “might change greatly in the next two months” or are “yet to come.”

    My October nominations would be Willems’ WELCOME, Hale’s THE PRINCESS IN BLACK AND THE MYSTERIOUS PLAYDATE, and Powell’s LOVING VS. VIRGINIA. I won’t tire you all with lengthy justifications yet. Briefly, WELCOME elevates an often eye-roll-inducing genre, is suitable for the entire 0-14 range, and is as smart in its writing and layered in emotions as any book this year. Hale’s book is so fun and accessible that it almost escapes notice how high the craft is here. On Goodreads, I wrote, “There is more poetry in this book than in many ‘real’ poetic books for children.” I think the strengths of LOVING VS. VIRGINIA don’t need much explication. I think they are fairly apparent and just needs a lot of people to read it.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

      Publishers do send many books to committee members, but in my years it was mostly published copies, rather than ARCs or galleys. Our guideline was that members could read advance copies, but reading the final version as well was required in order to nominate. I’m pretty sure the only time I read advance copies would have been way early in the year if I picked any up at Midwinter. But having so many books from publishers does make it easier to plan and respond quickly to a recommendation or review (because you might have the book right on hand). So do the compiled committee selections, which help you narrow down and prioritize. But fall is a tricky time. You’re catching up (at least I always was), looking at nominations from others, and awaiting titles you’ve been hearing about but don’t have yet, plus trying to make sure nothing gets missed. This year’s committee has a bit of a catch-up cushion, since Midwinter is in February, but it’s still pretty intense.
      Leonard, your WELCOME nomination is a good example of what could be an effective long-shot nomination. I read it, thought it was excellent, and wrote some notes. I had a sense that the words themselves might be distinguished, though the illustrations do a lot too. But wasn’t sure, put the book down, and moved on, because there’s always more to read. Seeing it show up a couple months later as a nomination would force me to look harder, think more deeply, and try very hard to measure that book’s qualities against others. And your written justification might help me to identify the elements that I was impressed by, but couldn’t (or at least didn’t) articulate effectively at the time (“layered in emotions” has already got me thinking).

  2. Meredith Burton says

    I am behind this year on reading, but based on your blog, I am catching up and have enjoyed all the books you’ve you mentioned thus far. I’ve also read some others, and my top three nominations would be:

    1. Hello, Universe, by Erin Entrada Kelly. The merging of the multiple-perspective narrations, the relationship between Lola and Virgil, and the use of Philippino folktales as symbols for Virgil’s predicament make this story stand out. It’s been one of my absolute favorites this year. Moreover, I would love for a book featuring a disabled protagonist to receive strong recognition. I often feel those books are overlooked. The Schneider Family Book Award is phenomenal, but I just don’t feel books featuring disabled characters are given their appropriate due. Valencia is one of the strongest characters I’ve encountered this year.
    2. Pablo and Birdy, by Alison McGhee. Very poignant story of a young boy trying to find out about his origins. The narrative voice is third-person and slightly old-fashioned, and the examination of parenthood, (whether by blood or not), is vivid. The cast, (including the animals), is diverse. Pablo’s relationship with his parrot companion, Birdy, is moving and emphasizes sacrifice.
    3. Joplin, Wishing, by Diane Stanley. The examination of friendship and sacrifice is strong. I also loved how family was explored, (the past can influence the present). Loose ends are tied up nicely. The story explores art history in a clever way. There is also a strong friendship between a boy and girl, (a friendship, not a romance. I loved that aspect of the story).

    I wish we were not limited to just three, but those are my top ones thus far. I also loved See you in the Cosmos, by Jack Ching, (I think the narrative structure alone makes it worthy of consideration), Refugee, by Alan Gratz, and Beyond the Bright Sea, by Lauren Wolk.

  3. I love hearing so many past committee members’ strategies for nominating titles. I’m going to try my hand at some of those strategies and leave aside some of the more obvious choices and go for ones I’d really like to discuss here:
    In truth, I actually think this is an obvious nomination, because it’s beautifully written, has a powerful, underrepresented voice, the plot is gripping, and there are still lines from it that haunt me – especially Lolly’s conversation about how little society expects of them. When I finished reading this book, the book still wasn’t finished with me. My heart belongs to this title and I can’t wait to talk about it more.
    2. REFUGEE
    This book is SO relevant, but some of the scenes might be too jarring and in your face. The first chapter alone may be too intense for many readers. However, the interconnected stories of the three different protagonists, the relevancy, the multiple themes, the incredibly fast-paced plot, and its very strong appeal make it worthy of serious discussion in my book.
    I can’t express enough how much my club members love novels in verse, and especially Margarita Engle’s. Her age-appropriate handling of the bad decisions adults make (think back to MOUNTAIN DOG for another example) is both refreshing and liberating. I love the pace and the vivid setting of this novel. I appreciate the authenticity of her voice in her descriptions of Cuba. I have questions about the ending – does it lead too much to a sequel, or can it stand alone? This is definitely a conversation worthy title!

  4. Matt Bowers says

    My three nominations would have to go to The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Cartaya, Wishtree by Applegate, and Thick as Thieves by Turner.

  5. Eric Carpenter says

    In my first round I would go with Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder, Patina by Jason Reynolds, and A Different Pond by Bao Phi.

  6. Oh man. I feel like I am so far behind! There are so many books I haven’t read yet. But if I had to nominate 3 right now:

    1. The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Deedy (Long shot / Picture Book)
    2. Refugee by Gratz
    3. The Hate U Give by Thomas

  7. It was doing the nominations when I was on the 2008 committee that made me realize that I was capable of being strategic, something that I had no idea about myself and still makes me chuckle. My first set of nominations (we only did them twice back then) were from the heart, the second far more strategic in that I put in at least one title purely so it would be on the table to argue against another. I did love it, but it had no real chance of going anywhere.

    Right now I would probably nominate Auma’s Long Run because I am seeing very little about it here and don’t know if that is because it is seen as lacking or simply hasn’t been read. Just would love folks to discuss it unless they really think it shouldn’t be on the table at all.

    The other two — hard to say. There a couple of books just out or soon to be out that strike me as contenders: Kathryn Erskine’s Mama Africa and Chris Harris’s I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups. Not sure they would be my nominations, but do want to draw attention to them here.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

      I’m Just No Good at Rhyming was close on my first Nomination list two, but I had only just finished it. I’ll do a post on that one next week…

      • Leonard Kim says

        Could you take a quick look at Derby’s A NEW SCHOOL YEAR for that post too?

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

        Yes, I’ll check out A NEW SCHOOL YEAR. I also liked ONE LAST WORD by Nikki Grimes, though it’s a very different kind of poetry book than I’M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING.

  8. In past years by this time, I have several favorites and agonize over which ones I love the most. It’s like picking a favorite student: unfair because I love all of them in their own unique way.

    Having said that, I have not been particularly wowed this year. Though I liked a lot of the titles this year (and, yes, even loved some), there are none that I would clutch to my chest and plead with the Imaginary Newbery Committee in my head to pick.

    My top three at this point (and I still have five on my to-read list):
    1. Vincent and Theo
    2. Train I Ride
    3. Loving Vs. Virginia

  9. Jonathan Hunt says

    I’m feeling a bit underwhelmed by the middle grade fiction that I’ve read so far this year with the exception of the ineligible A FACE LIKE GLASS, but I think PATINA and BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA are probably the most worthy. I’m looking forward to I’M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING in the poetry category. And In the books for older readers category, I very much like STRANGE THE DREAMER, VINCENT AND THEO, THE HATE U GIVE, and THICK AS THIEVES. I suspect those will all be a chore to build consensus around, but I’d be game for any of them. But still lots of reading yet to do.

    Anyone else struggling to understand how both THE HATE U GIVE and LONG WAY DOWN get left off the National Book Award shortlist? 🙁

    • Well, there goes my theory that The Hate U Give would land the trifecta of the NBA, CSK, and Printz.

      Geez o man. What were they thinking?

    • I can totally see why The Hate U Give would not have strong support — if you look really closely at the plot-building devices (relying on the fact that she just HAPPENS to have a white boyfriend and other pretty artificially imposed events and characters,) some readers might find THUG fairly literarily pedestrian. (I also have an African American colleague who objects to the portrayal of the ‘hood in the book — she finds it inauthentic. (She identifies as from the ‘hood.)

      As to Long Way Down — some readers might not be able to get over the fact that it relies on supernatural elements to preach the message. It’s not just an internal realization manifested as perceived dialog between the main character and his dead relatives and friends but actual spirits who reveal things that main character would not have known.

      From the short list, I only have read 2 — Clayton & American Street — so I can’t comment on the other titles. American Street, to me, compared against The Hate U Give, feels slightly more character-realistic. However, it also employs quite a bit of “just so happens”… in plot building (and I definitely have some reservation about who dies in the hand of a police officer as an emotional blow to the main character.) The other three all seem way beyond the Newbery age-range. If they are NOT, someone please tell me so I will read them. Otherwise, I will have to wait until after January.

  10. I echo Joe’s thoughts. I’m not finding myself passionately getting behind any one title this year. HELLO, UNIVERSE still has risen to the top for me but really only by process of elimination. I personally, enjoyed VINCENT & THEO but just question if it’s really a book for kids. I’m not sure how I feel about the strategic nominating of titles we KNOW are too old for kids because then I feel like titles that are more likely choices get robbed of some discussion time. I’m thinking of THE HATE U GIVE, specifically.

    At this point in time, I haven’t read enough to be strategic so I would just go with my favorite 3…


    HELLO, UNIVERSE has already been discussed here. I think REAL FRIENDS sneakily does a lot of things well for a graphic novel.

    About LOVING VS. VIRGINIA… I think so often, when the “age appropriateness” issue is a factor, in my opinion it comes down to style. Sometimes I read a “children’s” book and wonder if the author cares at all about who they are writing for. Sometimes I felt that with VINCENT & THEO (sometimes not) and sometimes I felt that with MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON. With LOVING VS. VIRGINIA, I think Powell made very careful choices with her verse narrative that made this somewhat mature theme, suitable for children. That’s what stood out to me about LOVING VS. VIRGINIA.

    • Eric Carpenter says

      I’m sure THE HATE YOU GIVE will get its own post soon, but I’d love to know why you think it is too old for kids. There are tons of 12,13,14 year olds reading and loving THE HATE YOU GIVE. I’m thinking of a specific 12 year old girl who came to our normally just adults book club meeting (we alternate between YA and MG) when we read it, and had so much to say about the book. She was clearly effected by Thomas’ book and I’m positive she’s not alone.

      • I guess I’m probably guilty of being stuck in my 5th grade bubble… Maybe THE HATE U GIVE is a bad example. It’s just being marketed as a Young Adult book because of the age of the main character and I would assume it’s Reading Level and Lexile Level would be very, very high. When you search the book on Amazon, comparable titles are all young adult books because of the themes it is tackling.

        Every year, the age factor is something debated with a few titles here and there and its fun and enlightening to see all the different perspectives. I guess I’m sensitive to it a bit because of the grade level of kids I teach and my opinion that the age ceiling was placed in the criteria to keep the conversations directed toward books for kids in general. Not necessarily as an excuse for fans of particular young adult books to argue why they could be read and distinguished for this child or that child.

        So, sorry, I don’t have a good answer for you. I will say, Heavy Medal is good for me because it forces me to step outside my box a bit to keep up with conversations!

      • Sara Coffman says

        Maybe it has to do with the context kids inhabit? In my school, a fairly sheltered and definitely conservative environment, the sexual content, language, and party scenes make it a risk for even my High School collection (though I did get it in there!). There’s no way I could recommend that book to a 12-year-old without parental approval. But in a different setting, where kids are less sheltered and more in the world depicted by Thomas, this book might make sense for a younger audience. Just thinking out loud here…

      • Just a note because I was curious after reading this conversation – has The Hate U Give listed at a High-Low lexile of 590.

      • Eric, I might be wrong, but I don’t think that Mr. H is saying that 12, 13, and 14 year olds won’t pick it up and read it (and enjoy it). Kids in those age groups often pick up books that aren’t written specifically for them. I was reading Stephen King at 11. I had 6th graders reading Eleanor and Park and Looking for Alaska and The Mortal Instruments. None of those books was in my middle school library.

        I don’t think The Hate U Give was necessarily written with that younger audience in mind (but, really, the only way to know for sure is to ask Angie Thomas). For me, though I liked the novel, what keeps it out of consideration for me is the pervasive language. As a former middle school librarian, I can say I would not have purchased it for the library (for the same reasons I didn’t purchase Eleanor & Park and most other 14+ books). With the exception of School Library Journal, who marked The Hate U Give for grades 8+, library journals designated this in the 14+ category.

        This is not to say that the committee isn’t discussing the novel. They might be. But I think it will be a tough book to build consensus around.

        As for lexiles, that Jen brings up, a lot of adult novels have low lexile numbers. Lexile doesn’t address content or age appropriateness. Charlotte’s Web has a higher lexile than The Sun All Rises, but we aren’t assigning the latter to fourth graders, even though it’s an appropriate lexile number.

      • That’s exactly what I’m saying. Thanks!

        I guess the way I see it, if Angie Thomas truly *intended* on 12, 13, and 14 year olds being the intended audience, she would not have made her main character 16 years old. Now, I will say, reading the criteria over again, it’s a little different than how I’ve always summarized it in my head…

        “A “contribution to American literature for children” shall be a book for which children are an intended potential audience. The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered.”

        I have never really paid attention to the words “intended potential” in that opening sentence. That opens the door I guess to a wider range of texts. However it’s the second and third sentences that disqualify THE HATE U GIVE in my opinion. I don’t think Angie Thomas took into thoughtful consideration the understandings and abilities of a 14 year old reader. She didn’t have to! That wasn’t the book she was writing. Her main character is 16. Remember, I’m only speaking about Newbery “eligibiility” here, not the book’s merits. Could this book be read and appreciated by some 12, 13, and 14 year olds out there? Of course. But it doesn’t mean the book was “intended” for them or that their abilities were considered when Angie Thomas wrote it. I think the fact that Starr is 16, says it all.

        I will say, the “intended potential audience” phrase is something I have typically glossed over so it has me thinking about all this a little differently now…

      • I think it’s interesting that for Mr. H the “intended potential audience” broadens the scope, when, for me, it’s what narrows it down. Like Joe, I was reading Stephen King in middle school (anecdotally, most of the adult fans I know of Stephen King started reading him around that time in their lives). Obviously kids who are 12/13/14 form a potential audience for King’s books – but they are certainly not the *intended* potential audience. Potential audience is enormous. There will always be outliers, so virtually any age is a potential audience. But that word “intended” suggests to me a pool of books that were always meant for children up to 14, not just books that are read by individual children. This is also where the criteria for consideration for a child audience comes in.

        With several of the books we’re hopefully going to be discussing that are “older” this year, I would make the argument that when the author was writing the book the audience they had in mind was not children. (Although, as Joe says, we’ll never really know what was in an author’s head. It’s possible the author doesn’t even know.)

      • Eric Carpenter says

        I didn’t encounter any words in this book that the 5th graders at my school don’t use. There is certainly nothing inappropriate for a child here (when definition of a child includes 14 year olds, as the newbery definitions define child).
        I’d take it a step further and say that if the book lacked the language included in THUG, then it would not display excellence in presentation to a child audience (i.e. 13 and 14 year olds) because to not have these words thereby making the characters feel inauthentic.
        For example I’ve just started HELLO, UNIVERSE but from what I’ve read, I thought Chet, the bully character, seemed very fake using the word “pansy” when in my experience with this age, an 11 or 12 year old bully would much more likely call the Virgil a “little b**ch” or “f***in’ b**ch” when not around adults.

      • Leonard Kim says

        I think this discussion underlines the importance that, per the Manual, Newbery committee members “represent a broad range of geographical areas as well as sizes and types of libraries.” I don’t think anybody is necessarily going to change anybody’s mind about a book’s age appropriateness, but that’s arguably not the point. The point is there is a lack of consensus here. (It’s why I’ve backed off championing VINCENT AND THEO. *I* believe it’s age appropriate and a Medal contender, but that’s just me, and I want to help get to the “least unhappy answer”.)

        Also just my opinion, but I don’t think many of the real-life behaviors, hardships, and horrors faced by many real children are suitable material for and should not be authentically recreated in books for a child audience.

    • Leonard Kim says

      Like many before me, I’m going to cite the Newbery Manual:

      Questions for committees to consider include these:
      * Is there any 14-year-old for whom this book is suitable?
      * If so, is it distinguished enough to be considered?
      * If so, exactly what 14-year-olds would respond to it, and why?

      A book may be considered even though it appeals to a fairly small part of the age range if the committee feels that
      * it is so distinguished that everyone of that age should know the book; or
      * it is so distinguished, in so many ways, that it deserves recognition for the excellence it provides to a small but unique readership; or
      * it is exceptionally fine for the narrow part of the range to which it appeals, even though it may be eligible for other awards outside this range.

      So…for the first section, I think it’s important to remember that these are “Questions to consider.” They are not a decision tree. I don’t agree with the interpretation that a “yes” answer to the first question means a book is automatically eligible and that, going forward, it need only be discussed in terms of literary quality and not age appropriateness. Actually, I think the third question, often ignored because it’s not a yes/no, is the crucial one. To take Joe’s examples (Stephen King, John Green, et al.), the answer to the first two questions could be yes, but really thinking about the third muddies things. My 12-year-old has read King and Green and seen a few R-rated movies. Why does he respond to them? At some level, it is the thrill of experiencing something older and somewhat forbidden and wanting to feeling mature beyond his age. But I think that’s actually evidence that, despite the first two “yes” answers, these things are in fact not “for” him and thus too old. So maybe that actually means the first answer is really “no.” The question doesn’t ask, “is there any 14-year-old who can read this book” but whether the book is “suitable” for children, which is really more of a values question, so can’t be unambiguously decided.

      In the second section, there are some areas where I don’t agree with some people’s readings. Regarding the second “feeling”, I definitely think that “precocious and mature children” does not qualify as a “unique readership.” (It might be interesting to read what people think a legitimate “small but unique readership” might encompass.) Regarding the third “feeling,” I read this as saying that even if a book could be read by older readers, it is “exceptionally fine” specifically for 13-14 year olds. That the book is in fact ideally pitched towards 13-14 year olds. I do not read it as saying a book may be considered if it is exceptionally fine, pitched to an older audience, but could possibly (even profitably) be read by 13-14 year olds. One book I’m glad I read this year is Weston’s SPEED OF LIFE. I don’t think it’s quite Newbery-level, but it’s good and really gave me a concrete example of what a book “for” 14-year-olds looks like. The protagonist is 14, and yes maybe a little of the content may be old for younger readers, but it is exactly the content that believably concerns the 14-year-old character, and everything is at her eye level. On Goodreads, I contrasted it with THE PEARL THIEF, which I think is a better book, and it could be read by a 14-year-old, but isn’t for them. I hope she won’t mind my quoting her, but in a comment, DaNae supported this by writing, “I adored THE PEARL THIEF, but found the sensibility to be older than Newbery range. Although my fourteen-year-old self would have loved it, while much of it went over my head. It was very reminiscent of my mother’s mystery romances I read at that age.”

      • So, I can’t speak for everyone, but the reason I chose The Hate U Give as one of my top three is because it deserves at the very least a discussion if not thorough consideration. SLJ lists the age range as “grades 8 and up.” Horn says “high school and up.” Publisher’s Weekly says “14 and up.” Harper Collins – Young Adult. Clearly this book was written for an intended audience that includes 14-year-olds, and therefore in my opinion is certainly deserving of a nomination.

      • As usual, Leonard, you bring nuance to the conversation. I’m appreciative of your thoughtful insight, and will turn over in my head what you’ve brought to the discussion here.

        Eric, I think you bring up a good point about different readerships. In 17 years of public ed, I taught in three unique areas each with, what I would consider, different readerships of varying abilities, interests, backgrounds, abilities, etc. I’ve met a lot of bullies in my time – some like Chet, some worse than Chet – but I can’t say that they’d all use the same kind of language. And, if you look at the comments on our previous discussion of Midnight Without a Moon, you might note that “pansy” is a *very* effective word for a bully to use. God knows when it was hurled at me as a child, it froze my blood to the bone.

        (Mr. H., you are so not a bully. I think you’ll understand my comparison.)

    • To clarify: I agree that Lexile is not a good way to determine child audience. I only put that out there because Mr. H stated that he “would assume it’s [The Hate U Give’s] Reading Level and Lexile Level would be very, very high” and wanted to point out that the content matters more. I haven’t read nearly enough this year to nominate anything unfortunately, but did read The Hate U Give and found it worthy of discussion in general. I would also be comfortable recommending it to many middle school students. Hard to know though when I haven’t read barely anything to compare it to, if it would be in my top three right now.

      • Ah! I stand corrected, Jen. Thanks for redirecting me to the comment that sparked your response.

  11. Sara Coffman says

    Hmmm…. I’ll go with

    1. SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS by Jack Cheng
    2. PASHMINA by Nidhi Chanani (I also loved REAL FRIENDS, but I’d nominate this one to get a head to head conversation going on these powerful graphic novels. FWIW: I don’t think ALL’S FAIRE is as strong).
    3. Since I don’t *have* to decide on one, I’m going to use this third slot to give a few long-shot options:
    HER RIGHT FOOT by Dave Eggers
    WELL, THAT WAS AWKWARD by Rachel Vail
    PATINA by Jason Reynolds

  12. Sara Coffman says

    One more thought/question:

    A few of you have mentioned being underwhelmed by the options this year. Do you think there is a hangover effect from the previous year? Put another way, if you have an overwhelmingly powerful choice in one year (THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON), do readers subconsciously hold up the current year’s books in comparison to that title and find them falling short?

    • Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says

      I don’t think so. People say this every year. It typically means: I have not read widely enough to find as many excellent titles as I would like.

  13. Kristin Casale says

    These were the best books I’ve read so far this year, and they offer a lot to their intended audiences. Strange Fruit and the Pearl Thief in particular I’m really behind.

    Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable

    Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song by Gary Golio

    The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

  14. Meredith Burton says

    I think Ms. Coffman makes a wonderful point. Some years, certain books seem to stand out so vividly, and I think we find ourselves unable to find others that compare in both the writing and subject matter. For me, I read The Girl Who Drank the Moon this year, and it’s been hard to find anything from 2017 that comes close to it. But, I’m hoping that’s just my reading tastes. I’m a huge fantasy fan, and there have been very few fantasies I’ve enjoyed this year. I am reading Girls Made of Snow and Glass right now, and it is very powerful, but I don’t think it’s the appropriate age range.

    I also think that, as readers, we have our preferences for certain genres and writing styles, so it’s often hard to pick things that are distinctive. I admire the committees because they learn from each other and might get to read things they would normally not read.

  15. I’d nominate:


  16. I would nominate:

    The War I Finally Won
    The Hate You Give
    All’ s Faire in Middle School

  17. I don’t remember the criteria saying anything about “intended” audience. How long has that been there?

  18. It is pretty hard to choose but I think my nomination as this point would go to:

    1. Beyond the Bright Sea
    2. Princess Cora and the Crocodile
    3. Charlie and Mouse

  19. Becky Petrin says

    Love all the food for thought in this discussion, especially for The Hate U Give and Vincent and Theo, both of which I loved, but would perhaps push towards Printz. I’ve also found this discussion of nomination strategy so interesting.

    On that note, my current three nominations would be (in no particular order):
    1. The Crack in the Sea
    2. Beyond the Bright Sea
    3. Refugee
    (and definitely seeing a Sea theme here…)

    I feel like Loving vs. Virginia might need to fit into my choices at some point. I also have Hello Universe and Patina on my to read list for the weekend.

  20. I have not, as Jonathan says above, “read widely enough to find as many excellent titles as I would like” so far this year. However, here are my three:


  21. steven engelfried says

    Lots of interesting reader nominations; 18 so far and more to come, I hope. Here’s a quick update on reader nominations so far. It’s a pretty spread out field [updated November 5 with 22 sets of nominations]:


    Beyond the Bright Sea
    Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
    The Hate U Give
    Hello Universe
    Loving vs. Virginia
    Real Friends

    All’s Faire in Middle School
    Charlie and Mouse
    A Different Pond
    Thick as Thieves
    Train I Ride
    Vincent and Theo
    Well That Was Awkward

    1 NOMINATION (22)
    Crack in the Sea
    Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
    First Rule of Punk
    Forest World
    Give Bees a Chance
    Her Right Foot
    Joplin, Wishing
    Orphan Island
    Pablo and BIrdy
    Pearl Thief
    Peter and Ernesto
    Princess Cora and the Crocodile
    Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate
    Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet
    See You in the Cosmos
    Stars Beneath Our Feet
    Strange Fruit
    Strange the Dreamer
    Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
    War I Finally Won

  22. Here are the top three books I’d like to get on the Newbery table:

    1. Train I Ride
    2. A Different Pond
    3. Her Right Foot

    I’m so excited to see CHARLIE & MOUSE get nominations. I read it once when it came out and loved it, but I’d need to read it again with the criteria in mind to see if I can get behind it for Newbery-worthiness.

  23. My 3 so far.. with lots still to read! In no particular order.
    The Wishing Tree!!!
    The First Rule of Punk
    Beyond the Bright Sea

  24. Renee Watson’s Piecing Me Together is, for me, The Hate U Give themes for a younger intended audience, with an intentionally brisk pacing. Watson positions her work somewhere at the intersection of poetry and prose and her coming of age story features those distinct anchor characters I associate with Newbery winners. This definitely would be my first nomination.

  25. This question is for Steven Engelfried- is there a site online where I can access the current nomination list as well? I am new to Newbery and the process, but from what I understand the list you posted was from committee members for the month of October, correct? Where did you find your information? I would like to be able to get any additional updates as they are released. I know these nominations are just recommendations at this point- but I have lots of reading yet to do.

    Thank you!

  26. I also just realized you may have actually just been summarizing this thread! If that is the case, how does one learn more about the recommendations of the current committee?

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

      You’re right, Jennifer, the list of nominations per title I posted was just from the comments on this blog. Apologies if that was misleading. As for the recommendations of the current committee, they are completely confidential. Members do nominate three titles in October, two in November, and two in December, and we’ll follow that process here just for fun. You can find out more in the Newbery Medal Procedural Manual. There’s a link to this in the “Committee Resources” section at the bottom of this page: Pages 28-30 describe the process of Suggestions and Nominations that the committee must follow. Pages 34-37 discuss how the discussion and voting works. The Manual also states that “specific titles or lists of titles under consideration…are not for public discussion at any time prior to, during, or following the selection of the awards” (37-38). So not only do we never know what the real committee is discussing now, we won’t even learn any details after the awards have been chosen. But we sure are curious…….

  27. I’m late adding my nominations since I have been catching up on my reading. Here are my top 3:

    1. Refugee by Alan Gratz
    2. Hello, Universe by Erin Kelly
    3. Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams- Garcia

  28. DaNae C Leu says

    I ostracized myself from Heavy Medal, while I worked on a hairy project. Now I’m hopelessly behind.

    To summarize (to any who listen):

    I do feel I’ve read widely this year, and yet I’v felt an absence of wow. (Until two days ago)

    I‘m in the camp of, books written for the under 15-year-old and books read by the under 15s are two different categories.

    My 3 non-counting votes: HELLO, UNIVERSE, PATINA, THICK AS THIEVES

    I just finished a title I’m gaga over, but I don’t think it was out way back when this post began. So I’ll save it.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

      Now we’re all curious about the one you just finished…but we’ll do our second round of nominations here in a couple weeks, so I guess we can wait.


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