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Last Chance for Mock Newbery Nominations: Select two final books for December

With December just a few days away, it’s time to submit the final two nominations for the Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Award. This is the last of three rounds for nominations. Like the real Committee, Heavy Medal readers were asked to select three titles in October and two in November. Those results are listed here. Now it’s time to choose the last two.

Making these final picks usually requires some thought. It’s tempting to focus only on books that are not on the nomination list so far. Another option could be to nominate something with multiple nominations, strengthening the support. You can also just forget strategies and only consider the seven titles that are most deserving in your opinion, whatever the rest of the list looks like.

On Heavy Medal, we’ll consider the nominations totals as we select the titles for the Heavy Medal Book List, which will be announced soon. We already know six books that will be on that list, but it’s fine to use your last nominations for any of those six as well.

I’m still thinking about my final two. I’m leaning (again) towards OVERGROUND RAILROAD, partly because I don’t see any picture books on the list so far. I’m considering RETURN OF THE THIEF and THE ENIGMA GAME: both are books from highly praised series for readers on the older edge of the age range. Then there’s BADGER AND SKUNK, which does have a nomination already, but may actually be the strongest contender of the four in my opinion.

I’ll add my final two titles the comments below. Please do the same: you can just name the titles, but you’re also welcome to include a bit about why you chose them. If you missed either of the previous nomination periods you can catch up now, as long as you don’t exceed seven total. December Nominations will close on Thursday, December 3rd.

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. Julie Corsaro says:


  2. It’s hard to pick from among the different strategies; several of the books on the original list are very strong contenders. But I will go with two that I don’t want overlooked: CHANCE:ESCAPE FROM THE HOLOCAUST and THE SUMMER WE FOUND THE BABY. Thank you.

  3. It is so difficult to narrow down nominations, but I am going to take a plunge and give you my final ones:

    1. Chance: Escape from the Holocaust, by Uri Shulevits. This is a solid and profound memoir with accessible language.
    2. The Blackbird Girls, by Anne Blankman. I was going to nominate Everything Sad is Untrue, by Daniel Nayeri, but it is already on the final list. I am nominating The Blackbird Girls because of the skill which Blankman employs in relating the differing perspectives. Also, I am going to be frank here and say I was very sad that this book did not make a “Best Books” list, and I think it deserved to do so.
    I also was angry that A Game of Fox & Squirrels did not make one of the “Best Books” lists, but I have already nominated that one and cannot do so again. I would if I could, however, as I simply cannot understand why it received so little support. (I do not mean from this blog).

  4. Meredith, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I have to join your brief digression about the “Best of” lists. I am not completely surprised but still deeply disappointed at some of the omissions, and the extent to which some imply a pattern. But I digress! And as you say, this criticism does not apply to the enthusiastic and informed discussion on this blog.

  5. Leonard Kim says:

    Neither of these would be my pick for the Newbery, but I am in favor of building the best discussion list possible. So I’ll join the push for CHANCE by nominating it. As I mentioned before, it belongs in a discussion that includes EVERYTHING SAD. I didn’t think A GAME OF FOX AND SQUIRRELS would need my support, but looking at the nominations list, there’s a chance it doesn’t make it, so I will use my second nomination on that.

  6. Ms. Emily: I like your digression. I did, indeed, see a pattern with the lists this year that was a bit surprising. Not that the books chosen were not great books, (and, no, I haven’t read each and every one), but they all seem to be related to relevant issues. That’s fine. I just wonder if there is pressure to select certain books that address hot button issues at the moment. I apologize if I offend anyone with this rambling. Offense is not my intention. I just needed to vent a bit, and I was certain people here would understand what I was trying to say.

    And, thank you, Mr. Kim!

  7. MAÑANALAND by Pam Muñoz Ryan
    Scenes from this book keep coming back to me even months after I read it. Distinguished writing.

    FIGHTING WORDS by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
    A story that “people don’t want to hear” is
    made readable by a strong and realistic narrator.

  8. ESE Librarian Bob says:

    Thanks for all your excellent work on this year’s Heavy Medal, Steven–and all the participants!

    My (and my students’) heart is still with Show Me a Sign. I’m not sure Deaf history or sign language are “relevant issue[s].” Not as much as I’d like them to be!

    I understand why nonfiction was taken off the list, but I believe Steven made a strong argument for Soontornvat’s All Thirteen, which I just finished and it’s superb.

    There hasn’t been any love here for two immigration stories which have received excellent reviews, reader support elsewhere and made the “Best of” lists, which I don’t have an argument about.

    Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros and Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar.

    Callender’s King of the Dragonflies is conspicuously missing here. Steven revealed most interesting information: committees may discuss possible backlash against winning titles and also the public’s expectations about possible winners. I wonder, are they allowed to discuss if a book has already received copious recognition and will likely pick up further accolades. And could the very likable A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner slip in as an LGBT Newbery breakthrough?

    Just some thoughts. Good holiday weekend, y’all!

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      ESE Librarian Bob mentioned that “committees may discuss possible backlash…” I just wanted to clarify what I meant when I referred to that. The discussion of backlash, “buzz,” and public’s expectations would be something that might take place in the Committee’s first meeting at the beginning of the year. That’s the only meeting that is also open to the public. So the point of that discussion would be to acknowledge the “noise” that’s out there, or could be out there after the award is announced. The message to the Committee, though, would be to put all of that aside and instead focus ONLY on the eligible books from this year and the Newbery Terms and Criteria. So when it comes to Committee member’s nominations, and especially to the in-person discussion and balloting, buzz, expectations, and possible backlash would NOT be considerations.

      And that includes any other recognition a book might have received. Committee members won’t know what books will be getting the Printz, Caldecott, etc., because those are announced at the same time as the Newbery. But KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES is a good example. It already won the National Book Award, but this year’s Committee cannot take that into account in any way: Not: it won the NBA so doesn’t need a Newbery; and Not: It won the NBA so it should also get the Newbery.

      • ESE Librarian Bob says:

        Thanks for the clarifications. I appreciate your expertise and I didn’t mean to cause confusion. I’m fascinated by the process.

  9. Julie Corsaro says:

    There are still several best books lists to go, among them Horn Book, the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books and Booklist. The Blackbird Girls is on New York Public Library’s best books list, which I imagine translates into beaucoup sales. I suppose the more interesting question is WHY some favorites mentioned here haven’t translated into nominations on this cite. Steven, I’m also wondering if what you might have said is that the committee discusses possible backlash and the public’s expectations AFTER the winners are selected, not before. Is that accurate?

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      They might discuss it AFTER, but I was really referring to very early in the process, before any real discussion happens, to kind of set the stage for Committee members and direct focus AWAY from public expectations and TOWARDS the Newbery Criteria. Sorry for any confusion…

      • Julie Corsaro says:

        Thanks for clarifying Steven. I didn’t want anyone to think that public expectations and/or any concerns about backlash, which could look like censorship, influence how the committee does its job or what books it honors. I can understand having the conversation early on in the process given the prevalence of social media.

    • Skunk and Badger
      Dancing at the Pity Party

  10. Julie Corsaro says:

    And that would be “site!”

  11. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    I finally have my final two nominations.
    OVERGROUND RAILROAD by Lisa Ransome-Cline. Still the most Newbery-worthy picture book I’ve read this year.
    WHO GIVES A POOP? by Heather Montgomery. Great information and a distinctive style that seems just right for the topic and the audience. (I don’t feel great that two of my seven nominated books have so much about poop. I don’t normally lean towards scatalogical humor in children’s literature, it’s just that they both did it so purposefully and so well)

  12. Samuel leopold says:

    Ways to make sunshine is beautiful in character development

    Chance is my second nomination. Written in simple, powerful language that absorbs the reader into the story of the escape of the author’s family.

  13. When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller
    The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman

  14. A GAME OF FOX AND SQUIRRELS and I was going to nominate FIGHTING WORDS, but since that is already on the list, my second nomination will be OVERGROUND RAILROAD.

  15. Somehow I missed all the nominations (such a strange year!). So, here are all 7 of my picks:
    1. Stamped
    2. When You Trap a Tiger
    3. Twins
    4. I Am Every Good Thing
    5. Clean Getaway
    6. King and the Dragonflies
    7. The Return of the Thief

  16. Courtney Hague says:

    I can’t even remember if I’ve nominated up until now. This has been such a slow and also whirlwind of a year.

    So here are my two current nominations:
    MANANALAND by Pam Munoz Ryan

    (But if I’ve already nominated those SNAPDRAGON by Kat Leyh would be my alternate nomination)

  17. Kathleen Hartzler says:

    The Blackbird Girls
    Wish in the Dark

  18. Cherylynn says:

    Skunk and Badger for Character Development and Setting
    Echo Mountain for Sentence Level writing

  19. When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller
    Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake

  20. Emily Hollingshead says:

    A Game of Fox and Squirrels
    Skunk & Badger

  21. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    Just realized I made a date error on my original post, listing the deadline as Thursday, Dec 4th. It should have been Thursday, December 3rd (which is today). I will go with the December 3rd deadline and post totals tomorrow, but if anyone was waiting till Friday based on my error, I’ll adjust for Friday votes as needed….