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Newbery Predictions: What will win? What do you wish will win?

The announcement of the Newbery Medal and other ALA awards is one week away, so it’s a good time to share our predictions about what the winners might be. This process is always a good reminder of how the confidentiality nature of ALSC awards committees works. We truly have no idea what the actual 15 Newbery Committee members are thinking. They could be looking long and hard at books that might be barely touched on (or completely neglected) in a Mock Newbery setting like this one. Or maybe they’re wrestling with some of the same titles and issues we’ve discussed most on Heavy Medal.

For example: the 2020 winner was Jerry Craft’s NEW KID, a front-runner most of the year on this blog. On the other hand MERCI SUAREZ CHANGES GEARS, the 2019 Medal book, received one write-in vote (of 287 votes cast) in our Reader’s Poll. So no, we really don’t have a clue. Still, it’s fun to take a guess:

I’m going with a long-shot Medal pick this year: SKUNK AND BADGER by Amy Timberlake. Maybe this will be the year that a book for younger readers breaks through. This one is very strong in the literary elements and so different from most everything else this year.

FIGHTING WORDS by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley might be a safer bet, and I’m guessing it will earn on Honor at least. I’ll add Kacen Callender’s KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES (already the National Book Award winner) as another Honor pick. And finally, though this may be more my regular wishful thinking for nonfiction, ALL THIRTEEN by Christina Soontornvat.

As usual, I expect to be all or mostly wrong with all of these. I’ll pass on sharing what I hope will win for now. I want to hear how our Live Zoom Discussion on January 22nd goes first. I’d love to hear what others are thinking. Please share your own predictions below, and you can include the books you hope will win as well (even if you think they’re chances aren’t great).

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. Rhoades Kimberley says:

    Steven, I’m glad to hear your long shot medal pick is SKUNK AND BADGER! It is my hope for this year’s Medal! I didn’t write in when it was featured in the blog, but iris the book that has stayed with me the most this year. There are so many connection with what is happening in our world today and what happens with the characters. For me, it was multi layered and deep, plus it was clever and distinctive. My fingers are crossed!

  2. Emily Mroczek says:

    Fighting Words I definitely think is up there, also Blackbird Girls… but really I have no idea. Even when I was on the committee I had no idea until we fleshed all the books out (that’s what’s so awesome about having 15 unique individuals hash out books for hours– days on end!)

  3. Hmm! I’m thinking Fighting Words will win, but who knows? And I think King will honor. Those are the only ones I’m fairly certain will be honor or medal books. For me, it’d be a dream come true if Land of the Cranes won anything — I haven’t read such a powerful, or beautiful, verse novel in months and I wish it had been one of the fifteen finalists. I’m curious about Echo Mountain; there is so much I love about it, but also found it to be clunky. I’d also love it if Show Me a Sign won an honor (I’m so happy there’s going to be a sequel!) I imagine there will be more honor books this year than usual!

  4. says:

    I’m retiring from my school this month. This will probably be my last HM, mostly as a lurker–sometimes “Anonymous.” Thanks to everyone involved over the years, Steven, you’ve expertly steered the ship, single handedly, through the murky waters of 2020- 21. Thank you. This is maybe the happiest single blog to date! I hope more can participate, but I understand all we’re facing now.

    The introduction was perfect. I love everybody’s choices from the heart. They’re all wonderful books!

    A year ago, my principal handed me Show Me a Sign (knowing it would have personal importance to me) saying: “This book has it all, even STEM hooks!” Mary has stayed with me more than any character. I think the humor is underrated from the “poopie” sign to inside Deaf jokes. In the current environment, LeZotte was daring as heck to take on early 19th century Wampanoag/freedman concerns. Why can’t books include adventure elements, when they fit in with place or setting lore? The near Jane Elliott “Blue eyes/Brown eyes”- like turn the book takes in the middle engenders shock and compassion. I still feel guilt that I was ashamed of my parents. This one’s for them. Give it an honor.

    Fighting Words and King and the Dragonflies keep showing up. I admire both of them. Something in me just can’t see the Bradley book as the Medal, but I’ll be happy if it is. Great stuff.

    I agree with Anon that Land of the Cranes is wonderful. I’ll also throw Efrén Divided into the mix. It hasn’t gotten a lot of play here, but it’s well-done and especially relevant. I’m also dismayed by the lack of nonfiction, so I’ll jump on board with All Thirteen. And I haven’t abandoned Zoe Washington. Please, more honor books than usual!

    Question: Is the Committee really doing a Zoom thing this year?

  5. Rachel Jamieson says:

    I was disappointed that Show Me a Sign didn’t make it into the top five for the Mock Newbery. I think it has everything a Newbery book needs, and it would be popular with kids. I also enjoyed When Stars Are Scattered, so I will be rooting for that one in our discussion. I think we’ll have a lot of good options. I just hope the committee doesn’t pick a book that I am going to have to consider weeding in about five years because no one reads it.

  6. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    Every year the ALSC Blog shares Mock-Award results from all over, including Newbery and many other awards, on the 2021 Mock YMA Election Results page. The six Mock-Newbery results that are in so far feature several titles that will be familiar to Heavy Medal Readers.

  7. Meredith Burton says:

    I have loved discussing all the books and hearing everyone’s opinions.
    Everyone probably knows what book I hope wins the Newbery by now, (although I know I’m in the minority with this one). Anyhow, I will put the title here in the hopes that, like Applegate’s The Wishtree, it will reach someone who needs it. The book has much to offer, and I truly think it has potential:

    A Game of Fox & Squirrels, by Jenn Reese.

    I am also rooting for Everything Sad is Untrue. I also agree about Skunk and Badger and thought it was wonderfully written and very relevant.
    I know people love FIghting Words, and I enjoyed it very much. It just simply didn’t resonate as much as THe War that Saved My Life did. I know it’s a major no-no to compare an author’s work with previous years. I am just stating my opinion here, and I apologize if it causes any offense. I love hearing everyone else’s opinions.

  8. Anonymous says:

    In response to Meredith, I loved all the finalists that I read so I only mentioned a few of my very favorites, but there are others I’m rooting for, and A Game of Fox and Squirrels is one of them. I’ll be very happy if it wins. Also, I read The War that Saved My Life a few days ago for the first time — I loved it, of course. What you wrote isn’t offensive; it’s not as if you’re saying Fighting Words shouldn’t win because it didn’t resonate with you the same way The War that Saved my Life did.

    The more I think about When You Trap a Tiger, the more I like it, and I hope it wins something. I feel the same way now about Skunk and Badger, which I can see winning. I’ve also been thinking about Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It, which was not a favorite but one that I hope didn’t pass by unnoticed by the Newbery committee.

  9. Courtney Hague says:

    I’d love to see Skunk and Badger get some Newbery love. It is so fun and early chapter books don’t seem to ever get the attention they deserve.

    But I really think we’ll see SHOW ME A SIGN or EVERYTHING SAD IS UNTRUE or FIGHTING WORDS on that final list of winners and honor books come Monday.

    Or maybe the committee will surprise us! That is always fun.

  10. Meredith Burton says:

    Thank you for your kind comments. One of the Newbery criteria is that you cannot critique an author’s work for a certain year by referencing his/her previous works. That makes sense, I think, but it’s super hard to do! I’ll check out the book you mentioned. I haven’t heard of it. Thanks. I’m always on the lookout for new books.
    And, I love surprises, too, so it will be fun to see if the committee has a surprise or two to present.

  11. Aud Hogan says:

    It will surprise no one that I really want Snapdragon to win something: Newbery, Stonewall, anything! I would just love for it to be recognized. Likewise for Show Me a Sign.

    Another book I read earlier in the year that sucked me in was Black Brother Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes. It was really well done. I wouldn’t be surprised if it walked away with something.

    There were so many excellent books this year, I’m sure I’ll be pleased by whatever the committees pick. We’re spoiled with great choices!

  12. I really have no idea how to predict this award, but I can say I personally want Fighting Words to win. I’d love to see honors for The List of Things…, Echo Mountain, and (my long shot) Chirp.
    If I were a predicting person, I might predict some sort of recognition for Skunk and Badger, and I’d say Show Me a Sign is a shoe-in for the Schneider.