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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Introducing the 2019 Heavy Medal Award Committee (HMAC)

We are so happy that 19 Heavy Medal readers have volunteered their time and energy to discuss the finalists.  News Flash: after a round of email “voting” Just Like Jackie and Snow Lane are both on the discussion table and we are going to have 18, instead of 16, titles to ballot for in late January.

The official book discussion will start on January 2nd.

We are going on a Holiday Break until next Friday when we will post about the Newbery procedures.

We asked the HMAC members to share, as much as they feel comfortable, photos of themselves and some visible identifiers, such as age, gender, race and some less visible identifiers, such as professional experiences, sexual orientations and political leanings.

Here it is — our 2019 HMAC members as they introduce themselves to the world:


Alys (Ann Carpenter)

Ann (Alys) Carpenter is a 39-year-old white woman who lives on Cape Cod in Massachusetts with her husband and seven-year-old son. She has worked as a Youth Services Librarian for over ten years. She would describe herself as liberal. When not reading, she can be found playing board games or role-playing with her son. She is excited to participate this year after lurking on Heavy Medal for quite some time.


Amanda Snow

Amanda Snow is a 35-year-old white female, living in Manassas, Virginia with her 7-year-old son. She’s been a Youth Services librarian for 11 years, currently serving in a large public library system. When not reading obsessively, she loves being outside, has a plan to visit every National Park before she dies, and aspires to someday make the perfect pie crust.

Cheryl Lynn Mann

My name is Cheryl Lynn Mann. I am a 53 year old straight white woman who lives in the town of Elkhart in Indiana. I have worked at the main public library in my hometown for over 20 years, eighteen of those years with children. I order picture books and read a lot of children’s and young adult literature. I am a conservative and believe strongly in the importance of diversity.


Courtney Hague

Courtney Hague is a 33-year-old liberal white woman. She has worked with youth in public libraries for 7 years in 3 different library systems. Once she was a Youth Collection Development Librarian for two years where she got to really dig into her passion for all things related to children’s literature. She is currently a Youth Librarian in St. Louis, Missouri, where she lives with her husband, who is also a librarian, and their 18-month-old son.


Deborah B. Ford

Deborah B. Ford lives in Columbus, Ohio with her new-ish husband, Roger. After almost 30 years in education as a teacher and librarian, Deborah now travels 40 weeks a year doing professional development for on Best Books for Children and as Training Specialist for in California. Her mom says she does book reports for a living–there are worse jobs. She says, “My opinions are my own and I’m happy to put in my two cents about the contenders.” Follow her on Twitter @libdeborahford


DaNae Leu

I’m DaNae Leu, (no reason for the upper-case letter in the middle of my name, except Utah names insist on their own brand of flair). I’m a white woman in her fifties. I come from a long line of religious zealots who, back in the day, toiled across the plains, searching for space to build homes for their excess of wives. I work as an elementary school librarian in a public school, serving a mostly white, privileged and conservative student-body. There are an abundance of mirror books to meet my students needs, I aspire to provide more windows, for which they seem more than receptive. I’m here because I struggle to maintain any conversation that does not center around the most recent books I’ve read, and why not indulge your baser instincts rather than overcome them?

Erin Moehring

Hi. My name is Erin, and I am a Children’s Services Librarian in the Seattle area. I’ve been in my position for just over 5 years. I live with my husband and 16 year-old son, and when I’m not working, reading book, or parenting, I enjoy catching up on sleep, hiking, and reading about books.


Jenn Potter

Jenn Potter is known as the coolest librarian to the almost 500 students she sees each week in a school library in a Boston suburb. Her two kids think she is too so it must be true. Jenn has been a librarian for the last 5 years. Reading and research have always been a passion so librarianship is the perfect fit. Jenn focuses on including diverse texts from all over the world and from many points of view to make sure that windows and mirrors are available in her library for all of her students.


Jessica Lee

Hello! I am Jessica Lee, a teacher librarian from Berkeley, CA. I have spent most of my professional life (18 years) in middle school libraries with a part-time dabbling in public libraries. This year I have a new role as a Teacher on Special Assignment supporting the elementary schools in my district. We run Mock Newbery clubs with our 4th and 5th graders in elementary schools throughout the district. It will be fun to hear how adult critics’ opinions compare with those of child critics. On Twitter @MsLeebrarian


Joe Prince

Joe Prince, 41, lives in Bowling Green, OH with his husband and their massive record collection. He taught middle schoolers (as both an English teacher and school librarian) for 17 years before transitioning to being an education librarian at Bowling Green State University, where, among other things, he runs Mock Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz groups. He’s taught undergraduate and graduate courses in children’s literature, young adult literature, multicultural literature, and storytelling. He is quite fond of marzipan and wishes the dog in the photo was his.


Kari Baumann

Kari Baumann is a 39-year-old straight white woman who lives in Greensboro, NC. She has been a librarian for 15 years, first in a public library and now in school libraries. She also teaches a children’s literature course for a nearby university. She has a son named Atticus and a cat named Neville, and her favorite book of all time is Pride and Prejudice.

Katrina Tangen

Katrina Tangen is a 39-year-old straight, white (according to, basically 100% Viking!) woman from Orange County, CA. She’s a writer whose day job is being disabled by ME/CFS. She loves Doctor Who, Jane Austen, and mysteries.


Mary Zdrojewski

Mary Zdrojewski is a 35-year-old straight white female. She is a middle school librarian in Southwestern NY. She previously was the librarian for a PK-12 rural school district. She is politically liberal in a not particularly liberal area.


Maura Stutzman

Maura Stutzman is a 28 year old, straight, white, liberal woman from central Illinois. She has worked in a public library in youth services for the past 3 years and is really looking forward to reading and discussing these books with everyone! She is eager to hear everyone’s perspectives.
Maura Stutzman photo


Mr. H. (Jordan Henrichs)

Jordan Henrichs, age 37, lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa with his wife (who happens to be his childhood sweetheart) and their three children (ages 8, 6, and 3) and cat. He has taught 5th grade for 14 years. Inside the classroom he’s passionate about literacy and children’s literature, technology integration, and special education. He loves spending time with his family and enjoys reading and writing, and coaching his children’s sports teams.

Nicola Burke

I am a 44 year old caucasian woman. I have been a k-8th librarian for 4 years at a Catholic school in Chicago. I am a conservative.

Samuel Leopold

Samuel F Leopold, is a married male whose family came from Italy and Germany. Samual has been a language arts teacher for 30 years. He started doing mock Newbery elections with his students in 1989. He has certification in Children’s literature and gifted education and tries to read about 200 novels a year. He loves books!!!One fun fact: “I am a complete Batman geek.”


Sarah Bean Thompson

Sarah Bean Thompson is a 36-year-old straight white female living in Springfield, Missouri with her husband, four-year-old son, and two dogs. She’s been a Youth Services librarian for 12 years and is an avid reader. She’s been a follower of Heavy Medal since starting in the library world and is excited to delve into deep discussions of kidlit-her favorite thing! When not reading, she’s playing board games or building legos with her son.


Susan Nilsson

Susan Nilsson aka Dewey Decibel (roller derby retiree), is a white children’s librarian who serves a predominantly Latinx community in the California Central Coast agricultural town that inspired the book Carmela Full of Wishes. In her 13 years at her public library she has selected for all areas of the children’s collection in English and Spanish. She has found Heavy Medal an invaluable tool for collection development… and the pun ain’t bad either!

Roxanne Hsu Feldman About Roxanne Hsu Feldman

Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School (4th to 8th grade) Librarian at the Dalton School in New York City. She served on the 2002 and 2013 Newbery Committees. Roxanne was also a member of 2008-2009 Notable Books for Children, 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and the 2017 Odyssey Award Committees. In 2016 Roxanne was one of the three judges for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. You can reach her at at


  1. I’m so happy to see so many faces and I can’t wait to get started! You guys are the only ones who could get me to read The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge. (My husband is a 4th grade teacher and he started reading it first and he is enjoying it!)

  2. Mary Clare O'Grady says:

    What a great group! Very fun to see everyone’s background.

  3. Angie Costello says:

    So excited to see all of the book discussion over the next several weeks!

  4. Curious Librarian says:

    Nineteen white people. Something is wrong here. (Not with any of the members in particular, but yeesh — isn’t this glaring?)

    • Hi, Curious Librarian,

      1. This mock committee was open to everyone who volunteered. The call went out on social media. No one who volunteered was turned away. If you wanted to jump in, you were welcome to! We would have loved to have more voices. I hope you’ll join us next year!
      2. A few bios don’t mention race. I think it’s presumptuous to assume.
      3. One of the hosts, Roxanne, is Chinese-American.

      • Joe wrote, “A few bios don’t mention race. I think it’s presumptuous to assume.” – thank you for pointing that out — and sometimes photos also don’t always tell the whole story, either.

        It’s also not clear that Curious Librarian is a reader of color — noticing the whiteness of the Committee does not make this Heavy Medal readers non-White, merely observant and moved to voicing that observation. Many Heavy Medal readers have not read and will not read all long listed titles and that makes it hard for them to participate. This reader could also have just started reading the blog recently and couldn’t have answered to the Committee call — it does not take away their right to react and post based on their observation. Hope you agree.

      • Fair point.

        I don’t think there was any implication in my response that Curious Librarian could
        Don’t react and participate in the discussion. So if that was somehow implied, I didn’t mean for it at all. Tone is difficult to interpret on the internet.

    • The predominately white Committee (with Steven, white, and myself, Asian/non-white, serving both as manager of the blog and occasional commenters starting January) simply reflects the librarian profession as a whole.

      Here’s the finding from ALSC itself in 2016 via an Environmental Scan study of librarianship in the U.S. (Note, the Librarianship counts are almost 10 years old by now so hopefully the number has increased.)

      “The overwhelming majority of librarians, including children’s librarians, are white women. Librarians are disproportionately white compared to the population of the United States as a
      whole, as demonstrated by the “Librarians and US Population” graph that follows (Librarian data from Diversity Counts 2009-2010 Update; US population data from “Outreach Resources for Services to People of Color”). It is clear from this graph that people of color and Native/First Nations people are grossly underrepresented in the field of librarianship.” — The graph shows the following:

      88% of Librarians are white and 12% are non-White: 1.8% are Latino, 6% are African American, 3.8% are API, and 0.4% are multi-racial or Native American.

      So, out of 21 people (including Steven, white, and Roxanne, Chinese,) we should have 2.5 persons who are “non-white” – we have 1, making it 4.7% diversity: if we only look at race. If we look at other factors, gender (5% of the profession is male, and we have 4 members identify as male, making 20% of the membership.) We also have some diversity in political views, abilities, ages, sexual orientation (openly identified or not,) professional focus, etc.

      This brings me to explain an important process during the Committee formation to balance representation so Committee members look MORE like the nation and the children our professional serves than the profession itself. ALSC, through members and the Board, intentionally balances the representation of each Committee (Newbery, Caldecott, Bepre, Sibert, Notables, and many more,) through both the voting and appointment processes.

      We here at Heavy Medal do not use any balancing mechanism. If no Heavy Medal Readers of Color volunteer to serve, then we have no HMAC Members of Color to participate. Do you think we should have pushed during the call for participation to encourage more readers of color to sign up for this process? I am curious to what outcome would have been then.

      Last year’s Newbery Fifteen included three (counting me) Asian participants — we did not have any African, Latino, or Native American participants, either. Or could it just be very possible that we do not have many/any Readers of Color — and this is merely a parlor game for white (and Asian) children’s literature enthusiasts?

      Much to think about.

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Another thing one could look at is geography. I am struck that almost 1/2 the committee (9) are from Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, and Illinois. Midwest represent! On the flip side, with the exception of DaNae, neither year has had any Mock participants hailing from anywhere between the West Coast and the aforementioned Midwest states. Nor have there been any participants south of North Carolina – thus no one (other than DaNae) from the Plains, Rockies, Deep South, Texas or Florida (2 of the country’s most populous states.) For now, it’s hard to say what is statistical quirk (e.g., last year there were 3 people from North Carolina) and what is demographics.

      • Thanks, Leonard. ALSC President usually takes into consideration of all of the above and tries to diversify as much as they could — geographically, as well. Large Cities and Rural Areas and Small Towns. The organization as a whole definitely tries very hard to reflect the population that we serve as a profession and not just the membership make-up.

        This is not just to pay lip-service, but to ensure that many different lived experiences are in the room and when we discuss authenticity of character and plot progression, it’s not educated guesses and imagination.

        Heavy Medal has the advantage of having the discussion public and we will hear from those who could offer their authentic experiences – both on and off the Committee, and both through their personal lives and through the children they serve — in Schools or in Communities. We also have to remember that in order to serve on any of the Award committees, an ALSC member would have to be able to afford (personally or institutionally) thousands of dollars in their two-year term to attend at least three Conferences. So, in a way, Heavy Medal should be easier for all kinds of librarians, teachers, non-children’s lit professionals, to participate — It is my responsibility (and SLJ’s, too) to promote and encourage diversity in our readership. I’m sure we’ll brainstorm after this year’s run and consider all of the raised queries.

        For reference, this is the roster of the current Newbery Committee:

        A more diverse slate of participants, for sure. Is it optimal? Hard to tell just from looking at the names/locations.

  5. I welcome diverse viewpoints in this blog. I was pleased to see that some committee members self- identified as conservative, which is atypical for the library profession. I hope that individuals whose background or point of view is not represented by the committee volunteers will be adding their reflections.

  6. Laurel Rebecca Snyder says:

    It seems to me that if we accept the premise that our world is built on systemic racism (and other kinds of marginalization), and if we seek to be agents of change, then the only way forward is to make a concerted effort to be active agents of change. To be more radically inclusive. To increase representation, even if requires more innovation, more effort.

    If people are unaccustomed to seeing themselves welcomed and safe in a certain type of space, why would they go out of their way to join? As a Jewish woman in a largely Christian world, if I enter a space, and see no other non-Christian people, I’m unlikely to return. It feels unnerving. I feel unwelcome, whether or not that’s the case. Especially in this increasingly divided world. I’d imagine the same is true for other minority experiences.

    If I understand correctly, this group is simply a matter of who happens to show up and commit to the model. If there’s a lack of representation, I might expect the group to be asking itself how to cast a wider net and alter the model to be more appealing to a more diverse population.How to spread the word to new readers, and to communicate that the group seeks new participants. I’ll be honest. When I saw these pictures displayed a number of days ago, my response was, “Wow, I had no idea Heavy Medal was so white!” It felt less welcoming than ever before to me. (and I’m a white lady)

    I find that in online communities, over time there’s a sort of homogenization. that occurs. People form relationships, and it starts to feel like there’s an ingroup. The space takes on an identity of its own. People refer to past conversations, make it clear they know each other already. And outsiders perceive that identity, even if the group never intended the perception. The door becomes smaller and more intimidating to people looking in for the first time.

    But if Heavy Medal is to truly replicate the Newbery experience, and if the Newbery is attempting to engage is the questions of the day, and the Newbery is seeking better representation itself, shouldn’t Heavy Medal do the same? It feels inadequate to me, to have a lack of representation in a community that seeks to effectively approach the literature, in any meaningful way.

    I feel nervous posting this, as an author and a lurker. For years I’ve read every post, and commented very little, because this space *is* intimidating. But I’ve been popping back in daily since this comment thread began, to see what’s going on, and have been surprised to see it stall out. I wonder how many people, like me, are lurking and waiting to see what happens. I wonder how the lack of conversation makes them feel.

    • Dear Laurel,

      Thank you for your observation, thoughts, and suggestions. We will take all of these into consideration for future Heavy Medal processes. I also wish to point out that, yes, if one glances at the photos or scans the bio’s, we are (except for me) a homogenously white group of children’s book lovers. However, reading the original bios (some are not publicly posted by request), I found out that we are diverse in abilities, ages, genders, sexual orientations, political affiliations, and more. Do we wish that Heavy Medal readers of color have come forth and volunteered to participate? Sure we do. Will we make an overt call for more inclusion of identities for future Heavy Medal exercises like this? We will! Could we force the issue and exclude white readers from participating? I hope not. Since there is no maximum number of participants in this process, we would be able to accommodate all who wish to take part. *Note: with the limitation that they all have to have read the selected titles by the time the discussion starts. (This could be a question of access and equity, too. More behind the scenes discussion is needed, for sure.)

      Once again, we appreciate your comments.

      And wish to remind all HM readers of these words from the Discussion Guidelines: “Listen openly to what is said, rather than who says it.” I hope we can go into the process without making presumptions or assumptions.

  7. Leslie Shupe says:

    I would love to participate in this process next go around! I have been an elementary librarian for 8 years. Is there a list I could be put on to be contacted for next year?

  8. Here’s the trouble with volunteer workers. You get whoever decides to show up. Whoever is available to do the work. Naturally those folk will be those with the privilege to make themselves available. So even when we to get a more racially diverse group, they would still be more privileged than many. The only way around it is quotas of some kind or payment of some kind. I’d be pretty surprised if either of those options are feasible.

    What ever SLJ decides to do, here are some things that the rest of us can do starting right now.

    Those of us who are white could take the time to reach out to the librarians and teachers of color in our school district or library system. Invite them to visit the site. Discuss what you find here in the workplace in a way that is warm and supportive and encourages them to share their thoughts to a wider audience. Encourage them to comment in the fall. Encourage them to nominate titles that have been overlooked. And then let them decide to participate, or not participate, as their own needs dictate. Do this over and over again. Do this for the next three to five decades. Change takes time. Dig in and do the work of cultivating new voices in the process. Try not to take credit for mentoring folks on social media. When those who feel outside the process clamor loudly for change, don’t lose heart. Keep digging in and nudging your sphere of influence in the direction of change. Be patient and courageous in this effort

    If you are the diverse voice we are looking for, think long and hard about whether you want to participate because no matter how welcoming folks try to be in this space, it will be uncomfortable. You will have to spend some time educating people on your lived experience. That will probably not be much fun for you. People will probably say things that hurt your feelings. You will probably say things that hurt the feelings of others. It will feel lonely. But it will get better.

    But if you look into this space and see nobody who fits your particular category and conclude that you are not welcome and withdraw, then it will never get better because the next person like you who looks into this space will not see you here. But take that leap and it will be easier for every person of your category who follows after you. You will have the immense personal satisfaction that comes with being a pioneer, and you will be a vital advocate for the young readers who need you the most.

    • Thank you so much, Rosanne: all great advice and suggestions. And yes, it will take time — but it is important for us to recognize that work has to be done. (Us = the bloggers and SLJ and ALSC and the entire field.)

  9. Deborah Ford-Salyer says:

    Happy to be part of the group.

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