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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Emily is READY to Heavy Medal!

Hello Heavy Medal friends! My name is Emily Mroczek (Bayci) and I am Steven’s new partner in blogging this season of Heavy Medal. I am a freelance children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs (still figuring out what that means) and a mother of two book loving (and eating) babies!

In 2019, I served on the Newbery Committee (shout out to MERCI SUAREZ), but really have an obsession with Mock Newbery. During my first librarian job at The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County I was involved in an awesome Mock Newbery program. I haven’t stopped mocking since (except for 2019 because it’s Newbery illegal).

Emily M posing with deliberations giraffe after the 2019 Newbery decision was made.

My biggest takeaways from my Newbery experience were:

  • to actually READ the manual and criteria, they really do help explain everything
  • to trust the committee and trust the process
  • and to be open to changing your mind and accepting faults in books you love, or  finding the good in books you didn’t love.

I am excited to meet all of you and to discuss and debate books. It is everyone’s unique perspectives that really determine the most distinguished contribution to American literature.

On that note, it’s not going to happen every year but I would love a Newbery winner that tries something new and paves the way for children’s literature. So far I appreciate the perspectives in AMBER AND CLAY and the therapy normalization in STARFISH.

If you’d like to introduce yourself in the comments and say what you want from a Newbery winner, I’d love to hear from you!

Let’s get reading and talking. (Two of my favorite things).


About Emily Mroczek-Bayci

Emily Mroczek (Bayci) is a freelance children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs. She served on the 2019 Newbery committee. You can reach her at


  1. Hi Emily! So nice to hear from you–I attended an ALSC webinar you did previously!

    This year, I’m looking for a Newbery winner that challenges me as a reader of children’s literature–whether that’s fighting through my tears to read STARFISH, or stretching my imagination with LION OF MARS.

  2. Emily-
    Welcome! So happy to have your expertise to inform our mock Newbery discussions.
    Although I am a retired children’s librarian, family and friends still ask me for recommendations of books for their kids to read. So it is important for me to be able to keep up with the newest titles.
    Kate Todd
    New York

    • Emily Mroczek-Bayci says

      HI Kate! Glad to be here. It’s hard to escape being a children’s librarian, it’s a part of us! One of my friend makes a Facebook post every year offering up her expertise for Christmas children’s books recommendations.

  3. I’m so excited for you Emily! I love Mock Awards and could talk about books all the time. And you’re getting to live out one of my book dreams now by being a co-host of Heavy Medal. I’ll be along for the ride and looking forward to all the book discussions!

  4. I am so looking forward to hearing about your perspectives on the different children’s books this year, Mrs. Emily. It seems a strange year to me regarding books, but I am enjoying the courage of authors who are tackling difficult subjects and exploring themes in unusual ways.
    I am an English teacher certified in Grades 7-12 and primarily teach the middle school age group.
    In a Newbery book, I look for strong writing and for characters who must face obstacles or experience significant changes in their lives. Characters who find their voices and the courage to take a stand against oppressors or hardships. My favorite genre is fantasy, and I hope that a fantasy title is one day chosen as a Newbery again. THe GIrl that Drank the Moon was the last fantasy title I remember receiving the award. I enjoy well done realistic fiction and historical as well.
    THis year, So far, Starfish has truly resonated with me, although Ellie’s predicament hits a bit too close to home. I do love that Fipps is exploring such a relevant issue and that Ellie’s self-confidence is not gained through weight loss or some magical self-esteem fix. Like you, I enjoy the way mber and Clay is told through the multiple perspectives.
    I am excited to read The Beatryce Prophecy, by Kate DiCamillo and Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales, by SOman Chainani. SO far, it’s been a rather lackluster year for science fiction and fantasy in my opinion, but others might disagree.
    I look forward to the different discussions and the fun insights. This blog always forces me to think about the titles and gain a deeper appreciation for children’s literature every year.

  5. Welcome, Emily! Here’s to a great HM season.

  6. Meredith BUrton says

    And, do you have a favorite Newbery title from any year? WHen you served on the committee, did you have a particular title for which you felt very strongly? I’m sure it’s difficult to set feelings aside. FOr instance, Sweep, by Jonathan AAuxier was my favorite book of 2019, and it would have been hard for me not to fight for it. How do you judge subjectively?

    • Emily Mroczek-Bayci says

      The Westing Game is my favorite book by far. I’ve read it so many times throughout my life and loved it EVERY TIME. Though now that i think about it, I’m not even sure if I own a copy? I guess that’s what libraries are for!

      One of the jokes when I was on the committee was that I didn’t even know what book I was rooting for. I liked to say I was on the team of THE MOST DISTINGUISHED BOOK HAHA! I would be very passionate about one book one second and then pointing out it’s flaws the next. The committee analyzes these books SO DEEPLY that it can be “easy” for books to rise to the top. I had favorites that I nominated and then after learning about the other books, I realized they just didn’t hold up.

      My chair, Ellen Riordian was amazing. She would know when we needed a break because we were getting “punchy” and would have us leave to reset. Also you can see “deliberations giraffe” that I’m holding in the picture. If we were getting stressed out during discussions, we would hug the giraffe. This actually motivated me to buy a “stress pineapple” that I use now!

  7. Julie Ann Corsaro says

    Hi, I’m Julie Corsaro. I was on the 1994 Newbery Award Committee that selected Lois Lowry’s The Giver. As a dystopian novel for young people, it was a milestone Newbery winner. The Giver combines literary merit and popular appeal, which, I suppose, is my ideal Newbery — but I think it’s hard to find. What I’m looking for in a Newbery is a book that adheres to a reasoned interpretation of the criteria and represents the multiple dimensions of “distinguished.”

    I was also the Priority Group Consultant for all the ALSC book award committees (and Odyssey) when the expanded definitions were added to the award manuals. Shout out to the related task force that did the hard work of writing these, the ALSC board for approving them, and all of us who did the work of inserting them into the manuals. I’ve also participated in ALSC’s Bill Morris Book Evaluation Training Seminar as a panel discussant, a book discussion co-leader, and a panel moderator, respectively.

    For the past fifteen years, I have worked as a collection development librarian and editor for the reader’s advisory database, Novelist, and its related product line, Core Collections. During the previous 25 years or so, I was mostly a school librarian, although I had a stint as a youth services and collection development public librarian, as well as a kindergarten teacher.

    I’m happy to learn a little more about the frequent contributors here, and look forward to this year’s discussions.

  8. Emily Mroczek-Bayci says

    So great to hear from everybody and hear more about everybody’s background! Thanks for all your hard work Julie and thanks to your committee (and Lois Lowry) for The Giver! My mom had my whole family read that book when we were growing up and I associate that book with family reading and happiness! Thanks to everyone for your hard work for children’s literature!

  9. Hi Emily,
    Good to see you here on Heavy Medal with Steven (a fellow Oregonian). I am on the 2022 Walter right now, so I can’t make any comments about specific books.
    Happy Reading and Happy Fall!

  10. Lorie Bonapfel says

    HI Emily,

    I am so excited that you are Heavy Medaling this year! We miss you in Cincy and so glad that our Mocks were the starting point for your love of the game. I follow this thread, so I will look forward to your posts!


  11. Ellen Conlin says

    Emily! I’m so excited you’re going to be blogging here! I am a loyal follower (but not a great participator) but I am looking forward to seeing your insights.

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