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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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Heavy Medal 2022 – A Look Ahead to the Mock Newbery season

It’s finally time to start our Mock Newbery discussion on Heavy Medal! We’ve been compiling suggestions through August, but September’s our month to jump in and start evaluating potential Newbery contenders. Here’s a rough schedule of what’s in store on this blog for the next five months:

About Heavy Medal
This is the 14th year of Heavy Medal. The blog was started by Nina Lindsay and Sharon McKellar in 2008. Every year since then, various bloggers and countless readers have engaged in in-depth discussions of the current year’s Newbery contenders. As much as possible, the process follows the process of the real Newbery Committee, though that can never be exactly replicated.

About the Bloggers
This is my fifth year of blogging with Heavy Medal, and I’m very pleased to be joined this year by Emily Mroczek. Emily served on the 2019 Newbery Committee and has participated in the Mock Committee here on Heavy Medal. She’ll introduce herself in a separate post later this week.

Book Discussions
We’ll discuss dozens of books on this blog in the next few months. Many will be from our current list of suggestions, but we’ll also be sure to add new titles as we get into the fall. Emily and I will introduce titles in posts (usually three posts per week) and also invite readers to share their favorites. For the most part, we’ll build discussions around the same Newbery Terms and Criteria that the real Committee uses.

Suggestions and Nominations
The real Newbery Committee typically collects “suggestions” from Committee members through the end of the year, and we mirrored that practice on Heavy Medal. Instead of continuing with monthly suggestions, though, we will move on to “nominations,” which also follows real Committee practice. In October, November, and December, we’ll ask readers to put forward their top seven titles of the year. This will help us build our Heavy Medal Mock Newbery list, which will be finalized in December.

Heavy Medal Award Committee & Choosing the Mock Newbery Winner
We’ll form the Heavy Medal Award Committee in December. This consists of volunteers who commit to reading and discussing all of the books on our Mock Newbery List. Members will lead online discussions of the titles, then participate in a live Zoom event in which the HMAC will take one more close look at the finalists and vote for a winner, following the Newbery procedures.

Looking Back at 100 Years
Since this year is the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Newbery Medal, we’ll mix in a few retrospective discussions here on Heavy Medal. Towards the end of each month, we’ll ask for reader responses to a question about Newbery winners (or maybe non-winners) from any years between 1922 and the present.

But for now, we’re looking at this year only. Emily and I will share our early favorites next Monday and look forward to hearing what books are near the top of everyone else’s list so far…

Steven Engelfried About Steven Engelfried

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


  1. Emily Mroczek says

    I’m so excited to get started! This time of year is usually when I’m worried I missed some important books! I have been struggling thru Amber and Clay but I am going to finish it this week!

    • Hi, Emily! So glad you’re getting to participate in this way! I’m going to try to jump in to the comments discussion when I can. FWIW: I really liked AMBER & CLAY, but it did move surprisingly slowly for me.

      • Emily Mroczek-Bayci says

        Thanks Sarah! Glad to hear your thoughts again too! I have made it more than 70% thru AMBER & CLAY, so progress is happening!

    • Lynne Johnson says

      Miss Emily! This is the perfect blog for you and I can’t wait to read your thoughts on this years choices. I miss talking books with you!

      • emilyrmroczek says

        Thanks Miss Lynne! I’m so excited to be doing this and miss you too! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

  2. Welcome, Ms. Emily! This blog is always such fun, and I’m so eager to read and participate in discussions. You always do such a wonderful job, Mr. Stephen. I enjoyed AMber and Clay on my first reading but not as much on a second reread. Might have been just me, though. I’m rather surprised how very little recognition Just Like THat, by Gary D. Schmidt seems to be receiving. I’m thinking it has to do with a certain decision Schmidt made at the very beginning of the book, but I respect him for his courage. It’s been my favorite read thus far this year, although Starfish has been unforgettable. I am excited to hear everyone’s thoughts about the books this year.

  3. I was distressed by the vivid descriptions of violence and graphic details of dissection in JUST LIKE THAT. For that reason I consider it more YA.

    • emilyrmroczek says

      Good point Kate, I did a lot of skimming/ struggling thru JUST LIKE THAT. But I do think it maybe resonates with that 13 or 14 age, the top of the Newbery demographic.

    • Julie Ann Corsaro says

      The objections I have heard to JUST LIKE THAT also have to do with the nature of the violence, which is not for the faint of heart. I think the same could apply to last year’s Newbery Honor book, FiGHTING WORDS; I was fairly certain that due to the sister’s graphic suicide attempt, it would not land as the medal winner, but as an honor book. I think there is much to recommend about JUST LIKE THAT, which I like for middle school as opposed to middle grade, including Schmidt’s luscious literary writing coupled with plenty of action and appealing, well-realized characters. It’s my number three (my numbers 1 and 2 have yet to be published and, thus, shall not be named here). Full disclosure: I hang my head in shame because cause I have never read The Wednesday Wars, yet Just Like That stood fully on its own for me.

      • Emily Mroczek-Bayci says

        I think I get what you’re saying Julie, however I feel like if something was to graphic (for the 13/14 year old age group) then it shouldn’t even land as an honor book. I like to think of Honors as (if we had more medals, you would get one too).

      • Julie Ann Corsaro says

        As I said, Emily, and piggybacking off Kate’s clarifying comment, it’s about the objections to the violence in Just Like That, which I have heard (they are not mine), as well as those I imagined might have taken place regarding Fighting Words last year. This brief discussion does raise questions, however, of how censorship could play into a committee’s decisions. Based on my varied experience with the book award committees, sticking to the criteria can help avert it. As for me, I couldn’t be happier that Fighting Words landed as an honor book (I think ideally that any of the Honor Books could have been the winner, but something has to win). It has a wonderful ten-year- old voice that leavens difficult subjects with humor and a sweet spot (I think) of fifth and sixth grade. I look forward to the discussion of Just Like That!, which I think trends older. Best wishes and have fun!

  4. Aliya Schwerner says

    Starfish for the win- mark my words!

  5. Meredith Burton says

    I always love how Schmidt straddles the line between MG and YA. It will make for interesting discussions. Starfish will generate some great discussions, too, as one could argue that the mistreatment of Ellie is very dark and verges on YA. The mother’s treatment of Ellie made me sick to my stomach. It will be such fun hearing everyone’s thoughts about the different titles.

    • Emily Mroczek-Bayci says

      You’re right Meredith, these will be good discussions. And a lot of intensity. Maybe I should start searching for some lighter reads….

  6. Keeping fingers crossed that Alan Gratz gets an honor for Ground Zero I love the fact he included all his research The plot twist was amazing

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