Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

1st Ballot Results – Far from the End

15The Heavy Medal 15 have cast their first ballots, and the results are below.  There is no winner at this point because a Medal winner needs to receive 8 first place votes (VINCENT AND THEO has 3) and the margin between 1st and 2nd place must be at least 8 (I’M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING leads by 5).  Members must now continue discussion of the books still remaining on the ballot, then vote again.

In the real Committee, titles that received no votes would be removed from contention, which in our case would drop only one title.  In order to accelerate the process, Roxanne proposed that we eliminate all books with no first place votes; that would drop 7 from contention.  One member, though, noted that LOVING VS. VIRGINIA stands in sixth place in terms of point total, ahead of six books that did receive a first place vote.  Should LOVING VS. VIRGINIA be included in the 2nd ballot?

This particular situation wouldn’t come up in the real committee, since they would not eliminate books that did receive any vote.  After a bit of back and forth email discussion and reconsidering her original proposal, Roxanne decided that the only title eliminated from the table is Orphan Island which did not receive any vote. All the other titles are up for further discussion before second round of balloting which will happen after discussion today (and perhaps tomorrow).

As a new experiment, we are going to try to reserve the Comment area for the Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Fifteen members as much as possible so they are talking to each other.

Heavy Medal 15:  1st Ballot Results:

 Title 1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place Total Pt.
All’s Faire in Middle School 2 1 11
Beyond the Bright Sea 1 2 8
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground 1 1 5
First Rule of Punk 1 2 8
The Hate U Give 1 1 5
Hello Universe 1 1 7
Her Right Foot 1 1 6
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming 2 1 3 17
Loving Vs. Virginia 3 9
Orphan Island 0
Patina 1 2
Princess Cora and the Crocodile 1 2 10
Real Friends 1 2
Refugee 1 1 7
Tumble and Blue 2 6
Vincent and Theo 3 12
War I Finally Won 1 2 1 12
Wishtree 1 2 8

(Note: To check the math, there should be 15 votes each for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.  The total number of points added up should be 135.  This chart checks out on both.)



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. Can we openly talk strategy in this comment section? Is it allowed to use the vote totals to try and sway people away from certain titles?

    • Sorry, I hit submit too quickly. What I meant to ask was whether or not our comments need to continue to be about the merits of the books? Should we stay away from making it a total numbers game this early?

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

        Good question, Mr. H. Since we’re trying to follow real Committee procedures as much as we can, I’d say let’s stick to books for now. Members should be highly focused on “most distinguished book.” I’m guessing we’ll see a lot of books with one or two votes drop off as members recognize that they are not likely to contend….so vote totals will play a part in people’s votes, but I think it’s better to let that happen individually, with the casting of the 2nd ballot, rather than play into the discussion. Hope that makes sense…

        One thing we can do that the real Committee can’t, though, is share our thought processes afterwards. When we get a final result it will be interesting to hear strategies related to book arguments and to voting.

  2. Leonard Kim says:

    Two quick hits:

    VINCENT AND THEO: Though this received the most 1st place votes, these were the only votes received. I’d like to get a sense from my colleagues whether this is primarily driven by concerns of age appropriateness and/or quality presentation for children (as opposed to feeling it is not distinguished.) Committee member Sam has already testified that his group of 6th/7th graders made this their top choice in a mock vote, though I also appreciate that Destinee’s 6th-graders found this a difficult book. I ask my colleagues to consider the Manual’s standards: “it is so distinguished that everyone of that age should know the book” and “it does what it sets out to do as well as or better than other, younger books.” I think if there’s any book this year where it could be said, any child who *could* read it *should*– this may be the one.

    WAR I FINALLY WON: I truly enjoyed this book, so I hadn’t really laid out any reservations about it before. But I wonder whether its appeal is more due to “popularity” and “didacticism” that is forbidden by the Criteria than out-and-out literary excellence. I liked the characters, but objectively wonder whether they are too conveniently predictable as vessels of the message. There’s no real suspense over whether Ada will overcome her prejudice about Ruth and learn to start paying things forward, or overcome her fears and literally become symbolic through Jonathan’s intention to name his plane Invincible Ada because “that’s what we’re fighting for.” It’s an emotional and inspiring book, but the conveniently “right” thing always seems to happen. (I guess my feelings are similar to how I felt about the later seasons of Downton Abbey – despite the enjoyable characters and plot elements, the show became too safe to ever feel anything was really at stake.)

    • Jennifer Hartley says:

      That’s interesting about Sam’s group, since my Mock group of 6-10 graders were very lukewarm about VINCENT AND THEO. They found some points interesting but overall felt the writing was textbook-like (not sure I agree with them on that). Some of them also brought up age appropriateness, but they tend to be a bit conservative in their views.

      I kind of agree with you about THE WAR I FINALLY WON. While it is a great ending of the original story, it did feel like everyone was playing the roles they were given. However, the handling of grief and anxiety was extremely well done for the age of the characters and the time period.

    • Leonard, my own personal reservations about VINCENT & THEO remain about age appropriateness and NOT distinguished writing. My concern over age appropriateness has absolutely NOTHING to do with the inclusion of prostitutes etiher. In fact, I think Heiligman handles that rather appropriately (I’ve often wondered if it even needed to be mentioned at all but given the importance of Vincent’s relationship with Sien, I think it does). My reservations about age appropriateness are: A) Vincent’s life is not a subject that most 14 year olds need to know about in detail and B) the relationship between he and Theo is very adult in nature, especially with a focus turning on Vincent’s mental illness in the second half of the book.

      FWIW, this remains one of my personal favorite reads of the year, but I’m 36 years old. I studied Van Gogh in an art elective class in college. Until then, I had only probably ever seen his Starry Night work. That’s my only reservation.

    • THE WAR I FINALLY WON: Does there have to be suspense? There is definitely conflict of many kinds between the different characters. The death of several characters kept the story from feeling too safe. As a genre-specific comment, I think that the author does a good job of using historical information, not just for context, but as true world building.

    • As for THE WAR I FINALLY WON, I still have some slight reservations about it standing on its own (which may or not be part of the criteria depending on how we interpret the author’s “entire body of work” phrase.)

      I think Ada’s character arc is complete in the end with her visit to Elsa Street and as emotional as it was, I think its true payoff may only be felt by those who have read the previous book. Meaning Ada’s character arc didn’t actually begin in this book, it began in the first one. Otherwise, why end the story here? I don’t know where Ada came from because I didn’t read THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE and I found myself wishing I had during this finale.

      I also feel like much of Ada and Susan’s relationship hinges on Ada wanting to help Susan get over Becky and having not read the previous book, I have to be honest, I didn’t really know who Becky was! Some comments on here have applauded Bradley for the subtle way she detailed Susan and Becky’s relationship. Some have even had to explain to children what their relationship was. I have to be honest, if it hadn’t been hinted to on this site by readers of the first book, I’m not sure I would have picked up on it! Maybe I would have with a second read… I think this is somewhat important because like I said, much of Ada and Susan’s relationship hinges on who Becky was.

      DaNae did a fantastic job detailing story lines that start and stop in this book, allowing it to stand on its own. In the end, I really did enjoy this book and was emotionally invested by the end so that’s saying something. And maybe it DOESN’T need to stand on it’s own because what it is, is a sequel, and it may accomplish its sequel-ness better than any other title out there!

      • Jordan, I almost forgot I wanted to address Susan and Becky’s relationship. I found it readily apparent to most adults, and not to most children upon reading the first book. I can see that it is not really alluded to much in this book. I actually find this a huge strength of Bradley’s writing. Most children of the age wouldn’t be aware of Lesbian relationships, even ones right under their nose. The topic wasn’t discussed openly with children. Most of my student’s don’t connect it, as they also live where it is often not discussed openly. But they have no problem understanding that Becky meant a great deal to Susan. Perhaps you would need both books to fully understand this? I don’t advocate that they stand alone, but according to my memory, Johnathan said a Newbery book did not need to stand alone. And I always hold to the belief: IF THE HUNT SAID IT, IT IS GOSPEL.

      • I can live with not fully understanding who Becky was from this text alone. I understood that she was someone very important to Susan and I suppose that’s all that was necessary. I just wondered about the execution of the writing (was it too subtle) if we were supposed to have a better understanding of their relationship.

        I like what you said about this text maybe not being able to stand alone entirely, but it has it’s own distinguished merits all the same. I can see that.

    • As far as VINCENT & THEO, I don’t think many children in the age range have the maturity to understand the deep significance of his mental illness. I found this book to be more about his illness than his art. I feel most books try and leave young readers with hope. I felt so hopeless after reading this. So grateful for what Van Gogh left the world, but so hopeless. I hate when adults decide what children are capable of handling. I wouldn’t hesitate to give this to a young reader and would leave it to them to make the choice, but in giving an award, we are proxy for choice. We are saying you should be ready for this. And I feel the book stretches the understanding and sensibility of even most fourteen year-olds.

    • I see a stronger case for THE HATE U GIVE being a book that everyone of that age (13/14) should know than I see for VINCENT AND THEO. I enjoyed VINCENT AND THEO and thought their relationship was beautiful but — and I am struggling how to say this exactly — I was not sure why this book was written for children specifically. It could have had longer sentences and been written for adults and been just as good if not better. There was nothing in particular that made me think, “This story needed to be told to kids.” That dimmed it for me (similar to how someone mentioned that WISHTREE could have been about anything which I hadn’t thought of but did find to be true).

      I didn’t find THE WAR I FINALLY WON to be didactic.

    • Adrian Zeck says:

      In reading these contenders I feel there is a sharp delineation between:
      and the rest of the nominated titles.
      The three titles above I feel are award worthy, but not Newbery Award worthy. While I think they are each compelling and well written, I don’t think that children are the intended audience. Much of the discussion FOR these titles has centered around children in the upper limit of the award criteria. While I do not believe the award should focus on the lowest range of the age spectrum, I also do not think it should focus on the highest age of the spectrum. “Committee members must consider excellence of presentation for a child audience.” Not presentation for only 14 year olds.

      So I cannot support any of those titles for the Mock Newbery. I’m sorry.

      • Jennifer Hartley says:

        That is not how the award works. It is not a “middle grade” only award. The committee is to consider ALL books published for children 0-14 inclusive, so those three books are definitely qualified to be discussed. The only question we should be considering is if they are distinguished enough to win the award, not whether they are too old (or too young).

    • Mary Zdrojewski says:

      In rereading VINCENT AND THEO, what makes this distinguished *for children* even if we say, yes, fourteen-year-olds could read this and enjoy it, does that make it a book for 14-year-olds? It seems to me that it fits more with New Adult — the themes seem more about finding a place in the world and struggling with finances and mental health issues while doing so. I would consider this book perfect for the 18-30 range. 14? Not really. What of the conflict in this story would be of interest to children even of that age?

      • Leonard Kim says:

        I personally am not seeing the YA-like emphasis on mental illness and adult issues that others are. In the original post, I claimed this book works thematically for a strong reader as young as 10, because I saw the primary themes as being sibling relationship and artistic blossoming, which are both well-established middle grade themes, even more than in YA. I commented on this extensively in the original post, so I will just paste in one illustration of this with respect to the portrayal of the brothers’ relationship:

        If we look at the first chapter. . . what does Heiligman choose to tell us?

        1) The brothers drive each other crazy: “[Theo] needs a break from Vincent’s gusts, his squalls, his constant talking and lecturing. And to make matters worse, lately Vincent has been furious at him.” (4)
        2) They have opposite personalities: “[Theo] loves his brother’s brilliant mind, his gregariousness, even his fiery temperament. Vincent can be a good antidote to Theo’s own inwardness and tendency to melancholy” (4)
        3) They are close. They have a close family. They are close personally. They are best friends. “Theo has been valiantly living up to that prayer. He’s been Vincent’s best friend for most of the last fifteen years, ever since they made a pledge to each other on a walk” (5).
        4) They help each other. Theo supports Vincent. Vincent gives Theo a social life: “He’d been lonely in Paris, so lonely, and now, even though he doesn’t have a wife and family, Theo at least has a circle of friends through Vincent.” (6)

        Does Heiligman really ever move beyond these parameters of the relationship? I think instead she patiently and meticulously illustrates and re-illustrates these facets as the brothers progress through life. Aren’t these sorts of facets exactly how countless middle grade and middle school friendships and sibling relationships are framed and portrayed? I think Heiligman deliberately chose to present the relationship on terms like these precisely in consideration of a young audience.

        Look at THE WARDEN’S DAUGHTER. If you switched the introvert and extrovert, are Vincent and Theo as portrayed by Heiligman substantively different than Spinelli’s portrayal of best friends Cammie and Reggie? I would say getting inside Cammie’s head requires as much maturity as being in Vincent’s, and I’d be surprised if anyone invoked the Age Question for THE WARDEN’S DAUGHTER.

  3. Let me lay out the case for why THE WAR I FINALLY WON is the most distinguished of the year. No other title we have lays out character better. We are never told who they are; we are shown through their actions. For me Ada’s voice is as strong and clear as Anne Shirley and Lyra Silvertongue.
    I didn’t find the plot predictable, there was a great deal of anxiety for both Ada and me when Susan got sick. More than the war the loss of Susan would have obliterated Ada’s life, I believed it could go either way. Bradley does a masterful job of tying early threads together by the end, including the interest and longing Ada showed in Ruth’s grandmother, and in the final pages finding one of her own. (I wish I’d made notes, or had a copy at hand to make a stronger case)
    I object to the notion that if a book is seen as popular it can’t be distinguished. Somehow it needs to less accessible to be good? Go and tell THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN that to its face. I’m not sure that is what Leonard was saying about TWIFW, but this is without a doubt, both distinguished and accessible. Although the fact that it is fairly long and a sequel may make it less accessible than at first glance.
    I’m stealing time from work and won’t have time until tomorrow morning to get back into the comments. I will read what other cases are made, but when is the next vote.

    • Leonard Kim says:

      What I am not sure about is whether I liked TWIFW because Ada simply was a certain kind of appealing character that showed bravery and generosity and understanding as opposed to whether I liked TWIFW because Baker did the most distinctive and distinguished job with the book. To make an analogy, I still respond in the intended way to a competent (as opposed to truly distinguished) sports movie or meet-cute romance or war movie, because as I’ve said before: cliches are cliches because they’re proven to work. We respond to them. I truly enjoyed TWIFW, but I have a suspicion that what I enjoyed may be because of its use of familiar, proven norms rather than its being “individually distinct.” That’s what I meant in my use of “popularity.”

      That said, I completely agree we should favor accessibility in a book. Not saying at all that a book needs to be less accessible to be good. It’s funny, but I personally think one of VINCENT AND THEO’s greatest strengths is its accessibility, as I tried to explain in an original post comment. But obviously people disagree with me and I have no further argument on that front.

      • Leonard, I hope you know I highly respect your POV on almost everything. But the “I liked it too much to like it.” is making me giggle lots of giggles. (Also, I’m getting punchy)

      • Leonard Kim says:

        DaNae, clearly I’m flubbing Good Communication 101 here. Maybe I’m saying my response to THE WAR I FINALLY WON felt like it could have been a Guilty Pleasure? I might say similar things about FIRST RULE OF PUNK or ALL’S FAIRE, all good books that I liked. But when I tried to put my finger on why I enjoyed them, I couldn’t really identify that which was Distinguished as defined by the Newbery terms. Though of the three, I’m closest to being convinced by TWIFW.

      • I think I get what you are saying, I look back a few years and know I made the same assumption about a title that ended up with the Medal. I found it too easy to like, too accessible and wondered it that made it less distinguished. I championed two other books that year which seemed more innovative: BOMB, & SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS. When IVAN went on to win, my first thought was of course it is the medalist, it should be the medalist.(I know I continue to bring up this particular title but I do find it the strongest winner of the past few years, and I continue to marvel at the connection it makes as it is introduced to new wave of students.)

        I don’t see TWIFW having as broad appeal, but I agree it is accessible to most any reader, I also find it mostly perfect.

  4. My time to weigh on on Loving Vs. Virginia. I have to say that her pregnancy with Sidney is presented really confusingly to me. Rereading those pages (86-95) felt like two very different huge things were happening to Mildred. On the one hand she is pregnant, we don’t know at all how it happened, if she is upset about how it happened, or the result. On the other hand she is distressed about the square dance at Sparta School where she isn’t allowed in. And is upset, of course. Or is she upset about the pregnancy? About needing to tell Richard? All seem plausible, but none seem clear to me. At the end of this sequence she tells Richard “everything.” What is “everything”? When he goes away and, on the next page, tries to think what to do — what is it exactly? Then it is on to the birth. I can definitely see readers figuring Richard is the father because no other father is ever mentioned.

    Such a contrast to Vincent and Theo where I was never confused about what was happening, even when Vincent was in the depth of madness or Theo in the depths of despair.

    • I can’t even help myself. I have so much work to do and this addiction is sitting in the middle of it.

      Thank you Monica, I was so confused by Sydney’s birth and it wasn’t until I read outside material that I realized he was not Richards child.

    • I was confused about Sidney too. Since it sounds like there’s controversy over who his father is, maybe she was leaving it open on purpose? Looking at it again, there are lots of hints that Richard is not his father, but it’s certainly not clear and I didn’t pick up on that as an option at all the first time through.

      • May I comment that a book that needs outside verification falls a bit short of distinguished. I felt like the book was trying to keep the reading age lower by not stating that Mildred has sex, but if it were a little more up front it would be less confusing.

    • I read the discussion on here before I read LOVING VS. VIRGINIA. Someone had linked to a page where the author sounded particularly proud of how she had handled the Sidney storyline. When you know what actually happened, you can see how carefully she chose the words.

      For me, even knowing all of the backstory, I found that part of the story to be, at best, deliberately obscuring what was happening, but I also thought I could see why she thought she had been clear, because she knew the story.

      • This is interesting, because I was actually thinking of this very same thing this morning! I believe it was mentioned in Dr. Coleman’s review of the book, that Powell gave her a copy with a note that she was excited to hear Coleman’s reaction to how she handled Sydney’s parentage. It’s ironic that she seemed to be proud of this while others have pointed to this as a confusing element of the narrative. Many others now.

        I agree with Kari, that when rereading some of those portions of the book, I can see the clues. Powell knew what she was doing. But is the execution lacking in the end?

  5. Cherylynn says:

    The War I Finally Won has wonderful sentence level writing and realistic characters. My problem with it is the theme or plot. I am not sure which to call it. The story feels really scattered to me. It felt like there were too many things the author was trying to do in the book. I saw parts of the story that included the effects of abuse, the effects of the surgery and being normal for the first time in her life, the effects of being poor versus her rich neighbors, the effects of the war, the effects of prejudice against a Jewish girl, the love of animals and ease of realating to them versus relating to humans, the effect of a deceased person on a family, the effect of prejudice against the relationship of Susan and Becky, the difficulty of living in a house with someone with whom you don’t get along. These are all just my memories of the book. I am not saying it was not a good book, but I found others more distinguished.
    Vincent and Theo was a great book as an adult who is interested in the art of Vincent Van Gogh. I had no personal knowledge of his brother, so I found the book interesting. I am one who does question the age of the book. I live in a conservative Midwest community who does not want their children even in middle school to be talking or reading about prostitutes. I also think that being older would help in understanding some of the mental health issues and the relationship problems. I am not saying that this age can’t read the words on the page, but unless they have direct experience with mental health issues I think it is harder to understand the implications the way it is shown in this book.

    • (Remember how I said I wouldn’t be back, clearly I’m a big fat liar)

      Cherylynn, I agree the plot is full, but I found all the element threaded together with out supplanting others. Perhaps some of it could have been left out made the story more svelte, but not better. Many criticize Harry Potter for being too long, but I wouldn’t get any one chapter away. I wouldn’t be willing give any part of the TWIFW either.

      • Cherylynn says:

        Can you tell me what ties them all together? I had trouble with a unifying theme for so many different feeling story lines.

      • Cherylynn, why does it need to have one overarching theme? I think the strength is that these characters are well-rounded and part of that is that they have multiple things going on in their lives.

      • Adrian Zeck says:

        I think if anything TWIFW could have benefited from being longer. Maybe that would have helped with the development of the plot.

      • Cherlynn, I’ve been working backwards. I sort of answered your question further down. My pick for theme is: KEEP CALM, AND CARRY ON. Resilience.

  6. My objection to Vincent and Theo is quality, not age. I found the writing choppy and although I learned many interesting things, overall I found it a bit of a slog and agree with the kids who found it textbook-y. Agewise, I do see the arguments that the focus on the adult brothers’ relationship is maybe not the most kid-friendly topic.

    Leonard, don’t start backing off of War I Finally Won! You’re one of the reasons I went back and reread it. I liked it but didn’t love it the first time (because I had just read the first one), but the second time through brought it up to the top of my list. The characters, the setting, the deft use of historical detail are all distinguished. Someone in the thread on it said it was dense in a good way and I think that’s a useful description. So much happens but it doesn’t feel crowded. Jordan, that’s helpful to hear how it worked for someone who hasn’t read the first one. I can see that you wouldn’t get the full story. But I definitely think that the sequelness of it is part of what it’s trying to accomplish and that it is distinguished as a sequel. (Unless you read them immediately back to back, then there’s a bit of a problem with the narrative arc. So it kind of depends on how you think sequels should be read!)

    • Katrina, thank you for admitting the slogishness of V&T. I knew I was supposed to wowed so when I was bored, I felt I fell short as a reader. I did find the information interesting, and at times emotional (mainly depressing), but I was often impatient with all the info-dumping.

      • Oh good, I’m glad I’m not the only person in the universe who feels that way. I was getting self-conscious about it!

  7. I think “I’m No Good at Rhyming” is funny, but I don’t think the poetry quality is super great (mainly meter problems). Since it scored so highly, I’d be interested to know whether other people disagree with me about the quality of the poetry or if you’re evaluating it more as comedy and not worrying about that.

    • I believe I’M NO GOOD AT RHYMING to be one of the best contributions to children’s literature. It certainly got one of my votes. It does not rise above THE WAR I FINALLY WON, however. Element for element TWIFW is stronger, but I will push to keep I’M NO GOOD AT RHYMING to the forefront of our committee’s thoughts. It’s a book that should find a place on every child’s nightstand.

      The other title that I also find an excellent contribution to the cannon is PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE. Not a word out of place, perfectly meets the understanding of the target audience, more fun the second time around.

      And who wouldn’t want to sing:

      “I am princess Cora’s pet –
      Am I her favorite croc? You bet!
      Inky-stinky, dry or wet. A
      And I am inappropriate!”

      I want to give every child the chance to be as inappropriate.

      Both IJNGAR and PCATC fill, if not a vacuum, a shallow pool of like material. I found them very distinguished in what they do.

      • DeNae, I’m definitely with you on Princess Cora. I listened to the audiobook this week and I think that’s helpful for getting a sense of it without the pictures. Of course, you’re adding another element with the reader (who is delightful). But it totally held up without the illustrations.

      • Adrian Zeck says:

        I enjoyed PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE. In my opinion I didn’t think it had the most distinguished characteristics among the contenders, but it was a strong book and easy to recommend.

      • Jennifer Hartley says:

        I’m with you on CORA but not on I’M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING. While CORA AND THE CROCODILE is a perfectly worded and paced older beginning reader that dabbles in fable, IJNGAR steers a bit too far into adult nostalgia and derivative territory for me to feel it is truly distinguished.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        I like both, despite all my questioning. I’m starting to think that anything that can be said about one can be said of the other — both have some virtues that may appeal to adults more than children, both could have used some editing (I disagree with the contention that Cora has near-perfect prose, but I already presented that viewpoint in its own post), both truck in a combination of the madcap and dreamy, and both are accessible to early reading.

        I think if push came to shove and we had to pick only one or the other, it seems I’M JUST NO GOOD has broader and more obvious appeal to a child audience, no?

      • My initial reservations about I’M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING had to do with this Jennifer. The adult nostalgia you speak of. I worried about the poems working better when read by adults, reminiscing about childhood and if real children could truly appreciate just how awesome it is to be a kid when they haven’t been anything but.

        However, I have read these to 10 and 11 year olds this year, and can attest to the fact that the laughter and meaning is NOT lost on them.

      • Ack… *conceding*

      • Mary Zdrojewski says:

        I read IJNGAR to students in grades 1-6 (not the entire book, just selections). Not every poem worked with every grade level, (younger than grade 4 did not appreciate the “Thanks for nothing Robert Frost” line), but this book had something distinguished for every level. If I’d had more time, I think PK and K would have loved some of them, also. My 4th grade students could have spent hours just rereading and discussing “The Door.” (“Are you going out or are you staying in?”)
        I disagree that it had rhythmic problems. Poor meter is one of my pet peeves, and I didn’t find a problem with it in this book.

    • Leonard Kim says:

      I completely agree with you, and that would be one reason I might be swayed not to vote for it. But I’m starting to wonder whether it’s really that important. It’s still smart, effective, “good” writing.

      Another reason I might be swayed not to vote for it is, as noted in the original post, the amount of “filler” — I think the Newbery argument for this book is more “holistic” rather than looking too closely at its parts. I think its advocates need to seriously consider what % of the book is “distinguished” and whether that matters (or can the book be judged just on its best parts?) Also, what % of the book is distinguished for children? (e.g. even if it weren’t fluff, does the book get Newbery credit for the “Two Roads” poem?: ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – / I took the one less travelled by … / Since then I’ve been completely lost. / Thanks for nothing, Robert Frost!’) Are its emotional high points more appealing to parents and immature grown-ups?

      • Cherylynn says:

        For me, that little poem that you didn’t like was a credit to what this book does so well. It takes a poem that is known and something that kids need to know as cultural knowledge and will have heard of at a certain age, and acknowledges that it is poetry that not everyone is going to get. It is funny, but it also has a deeper meaning. What else do you think is filler? I thought every poem in any poetry collection is carefully selected. I know that we have no way of knowing what did not make the book, but I am sure that there were even more poems to choose from than made the final book.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Cherylynn, that’s an interesting premise. I know that Monica has read the poems aloud to her 4th-grade class, where yes she could explain the “Two Roads” poem (though would she have gone so far as to pull out the original and explain it as need-to-know cultural knowledge?) But my 3rd-grade daughter just read the book by herself. I have no idea what she made of a poem like “Two Roads”; she certainly didn’t ask me to explain it. I suspect her relationship to the book is similar to what mine would have been with Silverstein as a child — breezing through the volume, maybe choosing to skip ahead if a poem didn’t strike my fancy, and maybe revisiting particular favorites while never going back to others. I’m fine with that. I like this book and agree with all those who feel it adds to a valuable and underrepresented genre. But I think a book can be welcome and valuable without necessarily being the most distinguished contribution to literature. I just want to be sure everyone is comfortable with a book where any naysayer could pull out many individual parts and question how it is distinguished. There are many, many single gag poems here – and it’s a legitimate critical question (to which I am open) how and at what point a weight of jokes becomes “distinguished.” Steven mentioned “Somebody Stole My Bagel Hole” in the original post; just before that is “Chocolate for Breakfast”; Right after “Grown-ups are Better (I)” that Mr H singled out for praise is “The Good-Child Test” – these are just a few among many entries that an uncharitable person might describe as “filler.”

        And I too still don’t understand the “Door” poems.

      • I think you bring up a good point with this Leonard and it really comes down to whether or not you believe every single poem within the collection needs to stand on its own. Personally, I do not. Because I think as a collection, they all serve their purpose, even though some are filler. If we had 25 kids read this book and asked all 25 of them to list out their favorite 5 poems, I bet in tabulating their responses you would find almost all of the poems in the book mentioned. I think poems that some look at as filler some kids would love.

        I think if the theme that I picked up on wasn’t so evident and wasn’t woven throughout as much as it was, then I agree, most of the poems would have to be distinguished in isolation. But Harris wasn’t aiming to put together a random collection of poems. There is a theme here. And that’s what I think makes the collection special.

        What’s interesting to think of is the passes we give other literature then. What about the slow parts in other books? Does every chapter of a novel have to be able to be pulled out and be distinguished in isolation? Or are you saying that since poetry can be read ala carte, it’s different than a novel and when choosing this particular award, there should be an emphasis on each one being distinguished?

      • Leonard Kim says:

        All I am really trying to say is that I think “most distinguished” is a terribly high standard. I would question whether a novel with “slow parts” and weak individual chapters could be “most distinguished” and I just want to be extra careful here too. I am totally open to the argument that the sum here is much greater than the whole of its parts. I am open to the argument that it doesn’t really matter that many of the poems could have been left out, or put in a different order, or been written better – but that might be a hard argument to make to someone bent on fighting this.

        I think I am coming around on this. I’m looking now at someone’s list of greatest comedy movies of all time, and the possible criticisms I’ve raised could definitely be made of Monty Python, Mel Brooks, and Airplane! and the sentimentality that could be seen as not an asset can be seen in Chaplin movies and Groundhog Day. So maybe the things I usually consider “important” in literature and poetry aren’t so much. This raises apples-to-oranges questions, but I can see the path for this book as far as our committee is concerned.

      • I don’t want you (Leonard) to feel like you’re conceeding anything either, or finding an easier title to vote for (I know you’re high on VINCENT & THEO). Just about everything everyone has said on here today has me thinking differently about all the titles.

  8. While it may not scream “distinguished” out of the gate, there are a few things that I think I’M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING does as well as, or better, than any of the other contenders…

    1) Theme. I look at these poems as a collection, all speaking to how amazing it is to be a kid. There are poems that serve no point other than being goofy but as parts of the collection, this works for me because children are the audience. But then there are moments of deep insightfulness. And that insightfulness is presented in a way that is easy for a child to digest. It’s not over the top, but it’s not too implied and buried either. My favorites were: Grown Ups Are Better I, You’ll Never Feel As Tall As You Are When You’re Ten, The World’s Best Offer, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, and I’m Shy On The Outside. The mixture of silly with deep, made for a strangely cohesive feel to me.

    2) Comedy. Comedy can be subjective, I get that, but I think Harris truly excels at creating something genuinely funny here. That is not an easy feat. It can be easy to write off comedy as not being “distinguished” but I think there is enough smart playing with language (pretending not to write good poetry but then writing it anyway) to count as distinguished. I agree, it’s not the same type of distinguished as the narrative prose in The War I Finally Won, but in my opinion, distinguished all the same.

    • I agree very much with you, Jordan.However, I will give the caveat that I felt really dumb whenever one of the Door poems rolled around. I knew they were connected and didn’t get the chance to find out how before it was whisked out the door. This is what I mean when I say element for element it does not rise as high as THE WAR I FINALLY WON.

    • I agree about RHYMING. I think the silliness distracts you from how hard it worked to be good.

    • Mary Zdrojewski says:

      As to the comedy aspect, I can think of very few books (or any media) that are just as funny for older readers as for younger readers. This book struck a good balance between the two. There were some times that it dipped more to one side or the other (while 6th graders laughed at the ginormous hippos, the 1st graders rolled on the floor), but overall I think it accomplished humor with a skill that is rare.

    • I appreciate your articulation of the strengths of I’M NO GOOD AT RHYMING, all of you. I want to especially concur with Mr. H’s point that every poem in the collection doesn’t have to be equal in quality any more than a work of regular fiction does. I suspect that if we unpacked, chapter by chapter, each of the works of fiction here we’d find phrases, sections, and such that worked better than others. And so it is with this title for some.

      Additionally, kids read what they want where they are. That is, younger kids often just zip by the romantic/sexual content of books with complete disinterest to get to what does interest them. Here I would guess kids who enjoy their first encounter with this book (which is at school so I can’t be specific) would keep going and, if some are wonderful, will jump past those they don’t like as much.

      Also, I want to just again say that the antecedents here are far more Carroll, Lear, etc than Silverstein.

      And the design is awesome. I suppose we can compare it to the two graphic novels in that regard. I’m assuming the writer, illustrator, designer, and editor worked very closely together as do the writer and illustrator for REAL FRIENDS.

      While I can see the arguments for VINCENT AND THEO being post-Newbery agewise, I don’t for this one. As someone here pointed out older kids can be nostalgic for their youth as much as adult readers. But I still recall the ones that are dead-on perfection for ten-year olds. Still feels a very strong title to me.

  9. Adrian Zeck says:

    I’ll try to keep my contender post to two books apiece.

    THE WAR I FINALLY WON – It’s very hard for me to consider this book in a bubble and only judge the title on its own merits. I found it lacking compared to the WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE. I felt that Ada’s character regressed just to be antagonistic and to create drama in the story. I thought that too many new characters and stories are introduced. Is the book about who are the people that truly make a family. Is the book about immigration and how people of other cultures are no different than us? I feel that if TWIFW stuck to one of those instead of melding and mixing them both it would have been a stronger book.

    I was really impressed by I”M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING. I thought the use of language was distinct, clever, and truly excellent. The only thing that might keep me from voting for an HONOR might be some of the poems needed the aide of Lane Smith’s illustrations. So I’m not sure if that makes the book less effective, but I would be open to a discussion.

    • Cherylynn says:

      The poems using illustrations to work is using pictures even less then is used in the graphic novels on the list. If the illustration makes the book less effective, would you ever vote for a graphic novel? Some of those were on our list and got first place votes.

  10. I definitely agree funny is hard and I’m all for funny as distinguished. And there is a lot of funny in it (although a little more hit and miss on that front than I’d like). The more serious poems I found a bit cheesy. And some of them seemed more from an adult POV. For example, “You’ll Never Feel as Tall as When You’re Ten” seems like an adult missing being a kid, not really a kid POV. And “The World’s Best Offer” is technically a kid POV, but it still feels like a parent thinking about cuddling with their kid more than what a kid would actually be thinking/feeling.

    I’m not sure what you mean, Jordan, by “pretending not to write good poetry but then writing it anyway”?

    • Cherylynn says:

      So we are talking about reading with kids who are 12 and 14. Don’t you think that they could look back at being ten. Or be younger than 10 and hear that poem and get something out of it.

      • I don’t think 12-14 is the target age-range here is it? The book overall is a bit all over the place agewise, which can be either seen as a pro or a con. The literal audience of that poem is obviously a ten year old (since it’s talking about “you” being 10). But describing 10 as an idyllic time is the nostalgic view of an adult who doesn’t remember what it’s like to actually be 10. (And it’s kind of doom and gloom about your future!)

      • Agree with this.

    • I will confess that when I sporadically read this book to various grades I cherry-picked what I read, depending on the audience. After trying the moving poem about being ten, to ten-year-olds I never chose that one again. I stuck to the funnier ones, and found that we didn’t always agree on what was funny. I was also tricked at one point into reading the Avocado poem aloud – that did not end pretty. I did choose to read the When you are Ten poem to adults, who just melted and proceeded to pull out their phones to place their orders on Amazon.

      So, wide range of readers, but not for every page.

  11. Agreed with the age-appropriateness for V&T, the Hate U Give and Loving. Think there are other books which provide more universal themes across the age range.

    Speaking of age – I wasn’t sure if princess Cora would really appeal to older readers.

    I’d also love to discuss All’s Faire – loved the messaging, nuanced characters, setting and great accessibility across all ages. But what do people think re: the graphic novel piece? Looking back at the previous discussions also re: Real Friends – can the text stand alone? How do we judge the merit of a graphic novel with just text? (Although at least with All’s Faire, author/illustrator is the same person.)

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Re: All’s Faire, I have a somewhat similar reaction as I did to THE WAR I FINALLY WON. I really enjoyed the book, but I think just maybe that’s because it did conventional things well in terms of characterization, plotting, theme, etc. where it is arguably very similar to other “school” books like FIRST RULE OF PUNK, REAL FRIENDS, and PATINA. As much as I liked it, I think we see similar books, as good, year after year. So what makes it really “individually distinct” and “most distinguished”? Maybe Delineation of Setting, but I think a lot of that is in the art.

    • Adrian Zeck says:

      I think Graphic Novels totally have a place in literary award discussions. Even when the illustrator isn’t the same as the author.
      The illustrators don’t make a unilateral decision to characters look a specific way or view their surroundings in a specific way. That’s the authors influence without explicitly having to write “I thought of my sister as a terrifying monster”
      I just don’t know if these two selections are particularly distinguished. They felt very similar with REAL FRIENDS being more emotionally compelling to me.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Agree with this – I’d have trouble formulating an argument that ALL’S FAIRE is “more distinguished” than REAL FRIENDS. More likable and accessible? Sure.

      • I think Real Friends is much stronger too.

      • I think the argument I read earlier in their own respective threads for REAL FRIENDS over ALL’S FAIRE was a bit of “less is more.” I disagree with this. Especially when much of the “less” in REAL FRIENDS, depended on the execution of the illustrator’s work. I know that Hale was involved in telling what the illustrator how she wanted the scenes conveyed, but it still wasn’t Hale that did the work. We don’t know what this book would have looked liked in the hands of a lesser capable illustrator. Maybe the bear sitting at the table wouldn’t have been as effective. Maybe the look on Shannon’s face in certain moments wouldn’t have showed her emotions as effectively.

        ALL’S FAIRE was my favorite of the year but I’m waning on it here because I’m not hearing other strong support. The setting was unique and Impy was a realistic empathetic character. I especially liked how in-the-moment reactions that seemed genuine (drawing mean cartoons, tossing the squirrel in the pond) had massive implications. I think this is right up kids’ alley. I enjoyed REAL FRIENDS and for a while, loved it for what it was, but ALL’S FAIRE just felt like such a more complete work to me.

    • I think Princess Cora does have a pretty wide age range, since it can be read as a long read-aloud picture book and also seems like the kind of thing that younger middle grade readers would be willing to read down for (fairy tales and humor). And someone in the other thread mentioned their fourth graders (I think) were reading it and liking it.

      • I would also point out that PRINCESS CORA doesn’t need to appeal the the whole range of Newbery readers. Just like VINCENT & THEO doesn’t need to appeal to younger readers. I’m just not convinced that many of those readers are younger than fourteen.

      • Mary Zdrojewski says:

        Yes, PRINCESS CORA has been a hit with my 3rd and 4th grade readers (it is never on the shelf). I don’t think the idea of being stifled by overbearing adults forcing you into monotonous schoolwork is limited by age. The writing is clear, yet funny, and my readers seem to make an emotional connection with Cora. It has the feel of a middle grade novel but with accessible writing. (If I were to compare this to the other accessible text middle grade novels, the difference would be laughable.)

    • I was convinced by the comments in the earlier post of the work of the writer in tandem with the illustrator for REAL FRIENDS. I did find it a very strong title. While ALL’S FAIRE resonated more personally I could easily be convinced to vote for the former as i thought it excellent too.

      • Mr. H, I’m with you on preferring ALL’s FAIRE over REAL FRIENDS for the same reasons. I too liked REAL FRIENDS tremendously when I first read it, but liked ALL’S FAIRE far more for the reasons you give (as well as the ones I’ve articulated in other posts). I voted for it, but an trying to figure out if there is any point to in the next ballot as I too am not sensing a lot of support for it. We need to reach consensus, dagnabbit!

  12. I have read The War I Finally Won three times. Each time I see many areas of distinguished writing. But what keeps me from putting this first on my ballot is the many different conflicts in the story. I agree with Cherylnn on this point. A lot of books over the years have tried to do too much within the story. This takes away from the smooth flow of the plot and sometimes muddles up the clarity of the theme. On the other hand, one of my students argued that the many diverse issues helps the book be even more distinguished because it creates personal layered “wars within the war. ” I am chewing on that thought…. and listening to your arguments. I think I could be turned on this title…..maybe.

    • I agree the plot is dense, but issues never seemed to be shoe-horned in just because. All events flowed from a “and then this happened,” type of plotting.

  13. Adrian Zeck says:

    My favorite among the contenders was THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK.

    Interpretation of the theme or concept
    I thought the concept and process was well thought out and exceptionally clear. The combination of clear writing and Malu’s ‘zines paint a crystal clear and distinguished theme. What made this title most distinguished for me were the characters and the presentation of the story.

    Development of a plot
    The only issue I might see in the plot is how neatly the end of the story is wrapped up, but many of the other contenders stuffer from a similar fate. However, I thought the plot was compelling and interesting for all children. It’s a plot that while we might see fish out of water stories done before those characters are typically white. Here Malu is a fish out of water, but not because of her ethnic identity, but because of who she is. I thought it was interesting that Perez had Malu “discover” all of the things her mom had been trying to teach her on her own. Which I feel is a pretty compelling story for young readers.

    Delineation of characters
    I thought all of the characters were compelling and nuanced. One of my favorite things was Malu’s perception of her mother and father. She thinks of her father as this wonderful figure, and her mother is an oppressive figure. However, taking a step back and looking at the characters as a reader one sees the differences. Her father might be “cool” but he’s still acts like a kid and not an adult. I felt that all of the characters involved in FRoP evolved/learned/grew (aside from Malu’s father) by the end of the book. I thought from the beginning to the end the presentation of these characters were one of the most compelling reasons why I thought it was distinguished. Some of the other contenders introduced characters, but only created surface motivation for these ‘background’ characters.

    Delineation of setting
    I really enjoyed the “fish out of water” setting Malu gets moving from a southern college town (cough Gainesville) to Chicago. I thought that both settings were extremely accurate and easy to understand.

    Appropriateness of style
    This is where I think FRoP distinguishes itself. Perez/Malu’s ‘zines tell the emotional/background information that might bog down the story in such a beautiful innovative method. I don’t really think of them as illustrations, because the ‘zines rely so much on text and written words to convey their point.

    • I didn’t like Punk. I did like the fish out of water part, but I’m going to have to disagree on the rest. The characters felt very fuzzy and distant to me. The be yourself theme got a bit heavyhanded for me. All of the educational content crammed in there drove me nuts. (And Malu’s highly variable level of knowledge on all sorts of things.) And there barely was a plot. Nothing happened! It was, what, halfway through the book when she starts getting the band together? Before that it’s basically just starting school and complaining about the move.

    • I enjoyed THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK as a fish-out-of-water story and I appreciated having a non-white protagonist. But overall, I thought it was just average for those things. I recommend it to kids but it didn’t wow me.

  14. Cherylynn says:

    Katrina, I can’t reply where you said that the War I Finally Won does not need a theme. My answer is that one of the criteria is interpretation of the theme or concept and this book does not do that well. If I am talking about real life instead of a story it would be different. Lots of events are true of real life, but most stories can be simply explained in a few words. This is a story where the author had some reason or purpose in writing it. For most of the books we have on the long list I can state a theme or at least explain the basic plot, this book I find to be more muddled for me.

    • The criteria says interpretation of theme is one of the things you can look at, but it specifically says not all books will have or need all of the things listed. I take the reprimand that it’s fiction, not real life (I was thinking that at myself when I was writing it), but it’s not exactly what I meant. I think I meant that the subtlety is a positive for me, not a negative. There are books that are high concept and can be summed up in a sentence, but there are many books that can’t be. This is a character-driven story, so I wouldn’t expect that to be the case. Although that’s really a plot v character thing. In terms of theme, if you can say this is a book about _____, it seems to me likely to be on the didactic side. So I guess actually I don’t exactly disagree with you–it’s sort of a meandering plot. But that doesn’t bother me here. There’s not a huge main arc, but the pieces all fit together.

    • Actually, I’ll concede further than the plot seemed more meandery the first time I read it, but felt much tighter rereading it. I think the focus winds up being mostly on grief, even though that doesn’t come into it in an obvious way for awhile. Although, yeah, actually that’s much more of an overarching theme than I was thinking, because it starts with Mam dying and then you have Jonathan and at the end closure with Becky. And Ada’s fear when Susan gets sick is sort of grief-related.

      • *that* (not than)

      • It may sound trite, but I’ve always thought the theme of TWIFW could be summed with the axiom: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. What every type of shit was thrown their way, the character’s eventually discovered they could shovel .through it. I feel it is the unifying theme of all the sub-themes: grief, loss, family, community.

  15. Agree with Adrian!! Yes, absolutely loved the story arc of Malu in FRoP and how the tension between the characters fluctuated, deepened and mostly got resolved. I’d forgotten about how much I liked FRoP after reading so many others on the long list!

    Also – perhaps this is showing my age, but I had to explain what a “zine” was to my 3 and 4 graders!
    Ps: I did like the little nod to adult nostalgia but how it also introduced the whole history of punk and punk culture in a way that felt authentic and flowed (perhaps as opposed to the subcultures of the Renn Faire in All’s Faire).

    • I too had to explain ‘zines to my 4th graders! I found PUNK a very accessible and entertaining book. Had had some questions about the lack of adult intervention, but somewhere it was pointed out that we were seeing it all from Malu’s POV and there is no reason the adults (parents, that is) were not more involved than we readers thought. I do recall a reservation someone made that I thought was important — the oddness of the mother being so into Latina culture yet not aware/practicing certain elements of it. Perhaps Day of the Dead? Can’t recall just what and not ready to chase it down. (I’ve got a cold and have to comment on 18 fourth grade Cinderella stories this weekend so….)

      • That was me. I’ll repost what I said on the other thread for convenience:

        Malu’s general knowledge level seems to vary drastically. There were several times she didn’t know something she would definitely know (she’s never heard the word tempo even though she’s obsessed with music?). And then often those scenes would be directly followed by a zine on that exact topic with tons of detail! Now, maybe she got interested and googled it, but it never says anything like that. So when she doesn’t know what a Day of the Dead altar is (really? SuperMexican mom doesn’t do those at home?), how is she then on the next page giving us a zine with tons of detail on the Day of the Dead?

  16. Although, I’m not sure if malu’s voice can really compare to that of Ada’s in TWIFW – but then again, I can’t really separate TWIFW from its predecessor either…

    • Malu voice was one of my favorites as well, However, I made the error of listening to its audio the same weekend I read ALL’S FAIRE, right after finishing PATINA. Those book have so many similar elements jumbled up in my brain. I would champion FROP over the other two, but it is still not in my top three.

      As someone who liked, but didn’t love THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, I for one found the second book much stronger. I don’t think it stands on its own, but it has all its own merits.

  17. I cannot completely agree with the idea that children in the age range cannot understand the issue of mental illness. I have, in my 30 years of serving students, had dozens of stories I could tell you of students who have had to deal with the trauma and battles of mental health issues within their families and within themselves. Mental health awareness is something that our youth deal with all way too much and for too many years we have been silent because we are afraid that talking about it is too much for them to handle. “Talking about it” is what is needed and the first step to helping them deal with it in more positive ways. I appreciate Vincent and Theo for providing an avenue for this discussion.

    • Sam, you couldn’t be more correct that many children in this age range bump right up against or a actually suffer from mental illness. VINCENT AND THEO, really showed the despair of those who live with or love the clinically depressed. But I walked away with so much despair. I’d hate to hand off a book that showed no hope to a young reader. I should have a maturity to know that there is more help today than in Vincent’s time, I keep telling myself that anyway. I don’t know when to expect that maturity developmentally.

  18. Adrian…. I love your detailed examination of The First Rule of Punk. I am in the midst of my second reading of this novel and have to say that your remarks are all spot on. The Zines are an important part of the plot and theme development and are more than just illustrations. A wonderful, distiguished book.

  19. Are there any of the low point getters than anyone wants to campaign for? I still really like Real Friends. I didn’t vote for it, but it’s one of my fourth place ones, so I’d love for it to still be around for Honors (although I know we’re not talking about that yet). So it’s one I could be convinced on if others felt strongly for it. (Although that doesn’t seem to be the case!)

  20. I also enjoyed Real Friends. I thought that the character Shannon is one of the most well-developed characters in any novels from 2017. And one of these years I believe we will see a graphic novel take home gold. Character development and theme are the two areas where this book shows the most distinguished characteristics. And students in grades 3 through 8 can definitely identify with the whole issue of the changes of friendships. A distinguished book….. but in the end there are four titles I still see as moreso.

  21. I started reading the comments at work and wanted to jump up and rush home to reread some of the books. In the end I just had to reread TWIFW to see if my mind was changed. And I was swayed back to loving it. I didn’t vote for it in the last round because I couldn’t separate it from TWTSML but upon rereading it the development of not only Ada but of many other characters as well along with the historical context just captures me and feels distinguished in my mind.

    I do want to put in a pitch for Princess Cora. I read it to my 2nd grade daughter, who loved it, and had one of my 5th grade students offer an opinion she also thought it was “a lovely story”. I think the widespread appeal of the humor and naughtiness of the croc along with word choice and a deliberately perfect length make it a good choice to be in the running.

  22. Ok, Katrina, since you asked, I am going to go out on a limb for HER RIGHT FOOT, which was my most favorite book this year. I have read it several times to myself and to my son (I haven’t read it to any classes yet because I still can’t read it without crying) and I know the text that I found playful and hilarious was considered way too over the top by some but to me it really shines. I particularly enjoy how it sets up everything important about Lady Liberty and then offers a new perspective. And I find this perspective to be timely. I wouldn’t say I am a huge Eggers fan, but this playfulness and insightfulness is what I like about his work. I often find picture book text to be too slight for the Newbery but this is a real example to me of how that format can have exemplary text that is worthy of awards.

    When the book switches from straight facts to more interpretation and opinion, it switches from “you may know” to “we” and “there are certain things we know.” I think that is a subtle and yet powerful way of conveying the message of the book, and I find it effective with kids like my son, who love to be in on the first half, “Oh, yes, I know that,” and who then are open to hearing the narrator say, “How can we all have missed this?” The book brings the reader along, welcoming them just as the Statue of Liberty is moving to welcome those who arrive at her shores.

    • I read this to my 5th graders and was a little concerned about the tone of the narrator in the beginning of the story. As Joe (another HM reader and commenter) pointed out, the snarky tone doesn’t exactly fit the importance of the central point he tries to make at the buildup. Kids were interrupting me and laughing and were really engaged in the facts and the way the narrator was delivering them but it made me fear that the important point coming up was going to be lost on them.

      However, as soon as the narrative switched, as soon as he started hinted to there being more to his point, and the focus came to “her right foot,” my entire class was speechless, and literally on the edge of their seats. I think overall, the tone worked and was effective.

      My reservations about a picture book text, is that there is so little of it. Kind of like the poetry collection discussion up above, does EVERY line of text in a picture book need to be effectively distinguished? When a few lines aren’t, they stand out so much more than a few lines within a novel, or a weak poem in a collection. There were a few pages of text that read very clunky (I know one of them is early in the book, when the statue is being built, can’t think of the other one off the top of my head) and the confusion of which direction was she headed (New Jersey?) was odd and unneeded in my opinion.

      For the most part, I agree, I loved this book. But when evaluating it for the Medal, a few things are keeping it from my Top 3. I do appreciate you Kari, for pointing out the switch from “you” to “we.” That is a keen observation!

    • Katrina, HER RIGHT FOOT, is hovering just outside my top three along with WISHTREE. Two titles along with CORA, that I feel do what they do with distinction and add tremendously to the cannon,

  23. Hi. I’m here not as a committee member, but just a time-keeper and logistics minder. All discussion on books will cease in about one hour: noon, EST, Feb. 3rd, 2018. A second ballot will happen this afternoon and a new post will be up, sharing the results to Heavy Medal Readers. TImeline for next round of discussion will be posted as well. If there is a need.

  24. I have also taken a second look at Princess Cora and the word choice is excellent and the plot is very distiguished in my opinion. I may have to reconsider my ballot.

  25. To the other 14….. All your comments are fantastic and thought provoking…… and combining the comments with my re-readings, Two of my three choices will be different on ballot two. This is fun! Thanks for allowing me to be a part of this.


  1. […] enjoyed this, but it took my fellow Heavy Medal  Mock Newbery Committee members (especially here) to convince me that this an elegant and beautifully constructed work worthy of the […]

Speak Your Mind