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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

How are we doing? What are we missing?

It’s mid-September and Heavy Medal suggestions are officially closed. But don’t worry we still have nominations and unlike my tenure on the committee, we are allowed to nominate un-suggested (not a word, I know) books. Especially because this is the time of year that I like to freak out about missing something.

59 books have been suggested so far and it’s no surprise that most titles are middle grade. Here’s a look at Heavy Medal suggestions by the numbers and my Heavy Medal bookshelf at the moment.

If my counting is off (which it probably is), I apologize- but I am not editing these pi graphs in Microsoft Word ever again.

A pi chart of our suggestions list divided by book type: Middle grade (38), Nonfiction (6), Picture Books (5), Upper Middle Grade (4), Chapter Books (4), Graphic Novels (3)
A list of our suggestions list divided by book type: Middle grade (38), Nonfiction (6), Picture Books (5), Upper Middle Grade (4), Chapter Books (4), Graphic Novels (3)
A bar graph breakdown of the fiction book genres. Realistic fiction (20), fantasy (12), thriller (5), science fiction (1), adventure (1), humor (2), verse (4), magical realism (3), mystery (1).
A bar graph breakdown of the fiction book genres. Realistic fiction (20), fantasy (12), thriller (5), science fiction (1), adventure (1), humor (2), verse (4), magical realism (3), mystery (1).

My observations are:

  • Surprise, surprise a ton of middle grade realistic, historical fiction and fantasy. Same story (but actual really well-done stories), different year.
  • Where’s my sports books at? Seriously. Do any exist this year?
  • Is historical fiction/ magical realism a new sub genre? I guess I’m here for it.
  • Where are the easy readers??!

What did we miss?

I did a very casual look at other Mock Newbery sites, AKA Goodreads, Northport-East Northport PL, Osaga Beach Library, and Rhode Island OLIS and there’s actually many many titles not on our suggestion list but I will highlight only a few:

I will finish with the classification break down because I know someone (cough Steven cough) will ask for it. Think something is actually a different category? Put it in the comments. I am definitely not the queen of the Mock Newberies (though that does sound like a fun title). And just saying, I’m really not sure how to categorize the thriller/ ghost story/ horror genre. So thriller it is! Also what is the line between fantasy and magical realism? Great question.

STARFISH (Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Verse)Fipps
RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE (Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction)LaRocca
AMBER AND CLAY (Upper Middle Grade, Fantasy, Verse, Historical Fiction)Schlitz
TOO BRIGHT TO SEE (Middle Grade, Thriller, Realistic Fiction)Lukoff
OPHIE’S GHOSTS (Middle Grade, Thriller, Historical Fiction)Ireland
LION OF MARS (Middle grade, Science Fiction)Holm
SHAPE OF THUNDER (Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction)Warga
DA VINCI’S CAT (Middle Grade, Fantasy, Historical Fiction)Murdock
MAYBE MARISOL RAINEY (Chapter Book, Realistic Fiction)Kelly
DEAD WEDNESDAY (Middle Grade, Thriller)Spinelli
GONE TO THE WOODS (Middle Grade, Nonfiction, Memoir)Paulsen
JUST LIKE THAT (Middle Grade, Historical Fiction)Schmidt
SEA IN WINTER (Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction)Day
UNSPEAKABLE (Non fiction, picture book)Weatherford
CHANCE TO FLY (Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction)Stroker
ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM (Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction)Sloan
MILO IMAGINES THE WORLD (Picture Book)de la Pena
ONE JAR OF MAGIC (Middle grade, Fantasy)Haydu
PITY PARTY (Middle Grade, realistic fiction)Lane
PLACE TO HANG THE MOON (Middle Grade, Historical Fiction)Albus
RACONTEUR’S COMMONPLACE BOOK (Middle grade, fantasy)Milford
ROOT MAGIC (Middle grade, Fantasy)Royce
SISTERS OF THE NEVERSEA (Middle Grade, Fantasy)Smith
SUNSHINE (Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction)Bauer
ALONE (Middle Grade, Adventure)Freeman
AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS (Middle Grade, Fantasy)Alston
ANCESTOR APPROVED (Middle Grade, Short Stories, Realistic Fiction)Smith
BILLY MILLER MAKES A WISH (Middle grade, realistic fiction, humor)Henkes
FINDING JUNIE KIM (Middle grade, realistic fiction, historical fiction)Oh
GROUND ZERO (Middle Grade, Historical Fiction)Gratz
365 TO ALASKA (Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction)Carr
ALMOST THERE AND ALMOST NOT (Middle Grade, Fantasy)Urban
BEING CLEM (Middle Grade, Historical Fiction)Cline-Ransome
BOY WHO FAILED SHOW AND TELL (Middle Grade, Nonfiction, Biography)Sonnenblick
CECE RIOS AND THE DESERT OF SOULS (Middle Grade, Fantasy)Rivera
DELICATES (Graphic Novel, Thriller)Thumler
FABULOUS ZEB WATSON! (Middle grade, realistic fiction)Sylvester
HARRY VS. THE FIRST 100 DAYS OF SCHOOL (Middle Grade, Historical Fiction)Jenkins
HOLLOW CHEST (Middle Grade, Historical Fiction)Sandstrom
IT DOESN’T TAKE A GENIUS (Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction)Rhuday-Perkovich
LEGEND OF AUNTIE PO (Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism)Khor
MR. SUMMERLING’S SECRET CODE (Chapter book, mystery)Butler
PEACEMAKER (Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Magical Realism)Bruchac
PIECE BY PIECE (Nonfiction)Huq
ROCK FROM THE SKY (Picture Book)Klassen
SEVENTH RAVEN (YA, verse, fantasy)Elliott
SITTING AT ST. JAMES (YA/ Historical Fiction)Williams-Garcia
TOOTH FAIRY DAY CELEBRATION (Chapter book, Fantasy)Ditto
TWENTY-ONE STEPS (Nonfiction)Gottesfeld
UNPLUGGED (Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Humor)Korman
UNSETTLED (Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction)Faruqi
WATERCRESS (Picture Book)Wang
WE BECAME JAGUARS (Picture Book)Eggers
YEAR I FLEW AWAY (Historical Fiction, Magical Realism)Arnold

When it’s all said and done- Here are some fun statistics. What gaps are in our list and how can we rectify that? Let us know!

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. The book I champion most for a Newbery is HARRY VS. THE FIRST 100 DAYS OF SCHOOL, and I think it should be classified as a Chapter Book and realistic not historical. Main character is a first grader. I was going to say HARRY was like BILLY MILLER, which I haven’t read, but apparently Billy is 8 in the new book, so does that make him MG? But I think MARISOL is also 8, so probably all three books should be classified the same way (old chapter book or young MG) and might make a good discussion trio.

    It’s worth noting RED WHITE AND WHOLE is verse. I think Steven has commented before about verse novels occupying all the top slots.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

      I’m with you, Leonard. We have HARRY/MARISOL/BILLY as a planned post. Maybe DOGGO AND PUPPER too? HARRY is the one that stood out for me too, but the BILLY MILLER is also awfully well done…

  2. I do want to make a comment about the book at the top of the Mock Newbery List 2022 for Goodreads. (While I Was Away by Waka T. Brown) I check the list to see if there is anything I am missing to read as well and I find the top book suspicious. This book has 19 votes out of 22 where this is the only book that these people bothered to vote. At least one of the people has no books marked as have been read, but they voted for this book. I am not saying it might not be a good book, but I don’t think this book has been read by a bunch of people who expect it to win the Newbery who read those things. It feels like maybe this is a bunch of friends who all voted to get it to the top of the list. The other two from other sources are at least worth seriously checking out.

  3. Oh, and since I Suggested and want people to read ALMOST THERE AND ALMOST NOT, I’d like to note that it too could belong to the new “it” sub-genre of historical fiction/magic realism. Though technically it may be realistic fiction the ghost is definitely historical.

  4. Genre is so hard! I have to think about where I’d put TOO BRIGHT TO SEE, but at the same time, I definitely had a strong reaction in which I did not think “thriller” was the right category. Similarly, I think MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF AIDAN S, while technically a fantasy, didn’t “feel” like one.

    I don’t think ghost stories are necessarily thrillers – you can have a ghost story that isn’t suspensful or “edge of the seat”, it’s just a story with ghosts in it. So maybe a sub-type of fantasy?

    We teach genre in elementary school as if it’s clear cut distinctions, but there are so many books that defy categorization, or straddle the line between multiple genres – quick, what genre is AMBER & CLAY: historical fiction or fantasy? Is something “allowed” to be historical fiction if some of the events are not based in real history (like gods and ghosts and magic or steampunk technology)? Or what about things like verse novels – verse is a format, not a genre, but at the same time there are essentially genre conventions, such as a focus on emotions and characters and relationships over intricate plotting or external conflicts

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

      I agree with ALYS that AIDAN S “didn’t ‘feel’ like” a fantasy. It kind of played against the conventions of the fantasy genre by focusing on how a fantasy adventure plays out once it’s over, rather than the adventure itself. For me, AMBER AND CLAY is a great example of a book that draws the best elements from multiple genres and forms. The historical content is strong; the personas of the gods and the way they impact mortals works well; the varied narrative styles help with character development and plot pacing.

      The first line in the excellent CCBC Book Discussion Guidelines (which many award committees follow) is: “Look at each book for what it is, rather than what it is not.” Sometimes genre placement can lead us to rate a book based on how it fits into what we’ve read before; or (in the examples above) how it breaks away from conventional forms. Those are worth considering as we evaluate, but in the end we have to focus on the specific choices the author makes and how they contribute to the book’s individual elements of distinction.

  5. Hmm, I wonder how big a slice of pie are ghost books? (Pretty darn big it seems to me.) DELICATES is another ghost book on this list.

  6. Jennifer Friedman says

    Flight of the Puffin- Spectacular.

  7. Kirsten Nilsson says

    Is it too late to suggest Scary Stories for Young Foxes: The City? This is just as good as the first one, if not better.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

      It’s really never to late to suggest titles for our Mock Newbery discussion. We compile monthly suggestions from March – September which gives us a good starter list for the first 2/3 of the year. We’ll ask for “nominations” in October/November/December, where readers put forward their top 7 (total) books of the year. At the same time, Emily and I pay close attention to any books recommended in the comments as we decide which titles to feature in future posts.

  8. Carol Edwards says

    I’ve been quiet so far but want to echo Jennifer Friedman on The Flight of the Puffin. It remains a solid favorite for its characters, structure and theme.
    I’m a big advocate for Pity Party too. If you’re looking for individually distinct there’s no comparison with anything else on the list. I shared with an 11 year old and she immediately began creating her own quizzes. There’s no doubting the appeal.

  9. Emily Mroczek-Bayci says

    Another Mock Newbery list that just came out is the Anderson’s Bookshop 2022 list!

    Titles not on our list are: Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, Beatryce Prophecy (which I am looking forward to), Born Behind Bars, Chunky, Cuba in my Pocket, Healer of the Water Monster, The Insiders, The Last Cuentista, Linked, Loteria, Maya and the Robot, Once Upon a Camel, Playing the Cards You’re Dealt, Yusuf Azeem is not a Hero… ohmygoodness… TOO MANY BOOKS, TOO LITTLE TIME!

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

      I thought YUSUF AZEEM IS NOT A HERO was very strong. I’ll likely include a bit about LINKED on a post in the next couple weeks. But I’ve missed most of those books on the Anderson Bookshop list that Emily lists above. Anyone else have feedback on those?

  10. Emily Mroczek-Bayci says

    The lists never end! The National Book Award Longlists
    came out today and I think many of the Young People’s Literature ones are too old for Newbery… BUT not on our list is HOME IS NOT A COUNTRY, A SNAKE FALLS TO EARTH, LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB, REVOLUTION IN OUR TIME, Me (MOTH), THE MIRROR SEASON, FROM A WHISPER TO A RALLYING CRY…. Yep every one of these is on the old end and I think a good argument would have to be made for 14 years old…

  11. I really wanted to like Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young, with its Navaho characters, a unique cast of Holy Beings and confrontation of alcoholism. But it is now in my DNF pile. The New Mexico settings are authentic but travel to the Third World did not engage me.

  12. Allison Petruzzellis says

    I think The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead is a strong contender!

  13. Emily Smith says

    Something I’m struggling with as I prep a reading list for 4ht & 5th grade Mock Newbery book club students: Why so few male protagonists this year? So far I’m including Lion of Mars and Chunky but everything else I’m weighing has a female protag. (I’m perfectly happy to have my students read about girls, but some balance would be good.)

    • Emily Mroczek-Bayci says

      So true Emily! Watch next year there will be 10 bazillion male protagonists. Ones that come to mind (but have male AND female protagonists) are JUST LIKE THAT, AMBER AND CLAY, and DAVINCI’S CODE. Also I guess male protaganists in early chapter books is a thing this year with HARRY and Billy Miller? Then there’s the memoir GONE TO THE WOODS,

    • Leonard Kim says

      I just started BEING CLEM but given how great the first two books were, I would be foolish to bet against its excellence, and it got an October nomination here. John David Anderson consistently writes boys well, but I confess STOWAWAY wasn’t my favorite of his. MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF AIDAN S has been mentioned a few times here. Not a frontrunner for me but might be a good 4th/5th grade Mock List selection.

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