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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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Flashback Friday: Never Won a Newbery


In Honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Newbery Medal, we’re taking a look back at the award’s history on every fourth Friday. Today we’ll look at some of the books and authors that might have won a medal, but for one reason or another, did not. We’ve got three polls for you to weigh in on and we’d love to hear the reasons behind your choices, which you can add in the Comments below.

Newbery-less Authors: The first poll lists 20 authors who have never been awarded a Newbery Medal or an Honor. Choose the 3 that you think might have been the most deserving, and you can also let us know why in the comments. If an author is not on the list who should be, you can add that name in the comments.

Honors, Yes; Medals, No: Poll number two features 20 authors who have won at least one Newbery Honor, but never a Medal. Again, pick your top 3 and share your thinking.

No Newbery for These Books: The third poll lists 20 fiction titles that were not named as Honor or Medal books. To come up with this list I used Betsy Bird’s fascinating Top 100 Chapter Books Poll on Fuse #8 from 2012, starting from the top and pulling out the top 20 eligible Newbery-less titles. (I did get distracted along the way, though, by Betsy’s deep dive into each title, as well as the comments by readers…this is a really fun poll). Pick your top 3, or if you think of titles not listed, add them in the comments.

Vote on the polls by the end of the day on Tuesday, October 26th. We’ll share the results here on October 27th. But for now: think about those Newbery-less books, cast your votes, and comment…:


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. Masterpiece by Elise Broach

  2. Tally Klinefelter says

    Interesting that EB White isn’t on the never won the Medal, only Honors list. I know a lot of people who are still bitter about Secret of the Andes beating Charlotte’s Web.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

      Good call on E.B. White, Tally. I guess I didn’t go far back enough when picking the writers with 1 honor and no medal. And STUART LITTLE could also be one to consider. It would have been eligible for the 1946 Medal, which went to STRAWBERRY GIRL (though I do think STRAWBERRY GIRL was a solid choice).

  3. I would have voted for E. B. White if he had been on the list.
    I think the most overlooked Judy Blume book is the groundbreaking Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

      I agree with Kate on ARE YOU THERE GOD? Using the Top 100 Chapter Book Poll on Fuse #8, that was #22 of the non-Newberys, so it just missed the top 20. And #21 was THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER, which is pretty much a perfect book in my opinion.

  4. Emily Lammy says

    It’s funny. I’ve always thought Tuck Everlasting and Harriet the Spy were Newbery winners! And I’ve read almost all of the Newbery winners! I should know better! haha I was really shocked that they weren’t.

  5. Margaret and Harriet. Absolutely. And Jason Reynolds for As Brave As You.

  6. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

    One of my book votes was for HALF MAGIC by Edward Eager. It would have been way out of place among those 1950s winners. It was magic and it was funny and from the Newbery titles I know from that era, there wasn’t much of that. It may be that there was more value placed on more traditional, serious literature. But I think about “individually distinct” and “respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations” and this book stands out. And it’s not even my favorite Edward Eager…

  7. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

    WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS is another of my book votes. But that 1962 list is very strong: THE BRONZE BOW won the Medal, and Honors included THE GOLDEN GOBLET (great book!) and FRONTIER LIVING by Edward Tunis (excellent non-fiction in that Honor position, even then). A reminder to me that every Committee has a lot of very good books to choose from and will necessarily leave off some true contenders…

  8. This was such an interesting idea and so fun to see what authors and books made the polls.
    I struggled between THe Phantom Tollbooth and TUck Everlasting, which I think are both stellar titles. Ultimately, I chose Babbit’s book as it’s so beautiful.
    I also chose Gary D. Schmidt, becuase I think he definitely deserves a Newbery. Pam Munoz Ryan’s Echo was an amazing book, so I had to choose her as well. And, WHere the Red Fern Grows is such a memorable story.
    I learned that Paulsen has never received a Newbery from your polls, too. I always thought that Hatchet was a Newbery winner. THanks also for including SIdney Taylor. ALl-of-a-Kind Family is an incredible book.
    Louise Erdrich was overlooked as welll. I think BIrchbark House was such a memorable read, and it was one of my favorites.
    THank you for this fun exercise.

  9. Rox Anne Close says

    I am sorry that Louise Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa (Ojibwe) has been overlooked for the five books in THE BIRCHBARK HOUSE series, which tells of the migration by Native Americans across Minnesota into the Dakotas This series is well researched, full of adventures engaging the reader, strong well developed Native American characters, strong theme of community and resiliency, and truthfully address the injustices and racism toward indigenous people that is part of our countries past. The Native experience of early western settlement is often missing in middle grade readers. I wish this series would have gotten as much attention as THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE series, especially since the history is better researched in THE BIRCHBARK HOUSE series.

  10. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

    My third book pick was THE PENDERWICKS. That was one year where I felt pretty confident that that book would be recognized, but no. When I look at the list from that year, though, there’s nothing I would take off: GOOD MASTERS, SWEET LADIES; ELIJAH OF BUXTON; WEDNESDAY WARS, and FEATHERS. Hard to argue with those.
    And one of the tantalizing things about the Newbery confidentiality rules is that nobody except those 15 Committee members will ever know how close it was. It’s possible that THE PENDERWICKS was the #5 book…or maybe it was never even under consideration by that year’s Committee.

    • Leonard Kim says

      I didn’t pick the The Penderwicks, but in retrospect I guess I do feel that Birdsall (who is among the Newbery-less company) deserves Newbery-level recognition, so I I would’ve liked at least one of those books to have gotten something. I went back and looked and it turns out both Steven and Emily were on a committee when a Penderwicks book was eligible…. I wouldn’t presume to argue with them, so maybe the 2nd book is the one I think I’d most happily swap for one of the actual winners. Alas, I don’t think TEAFLET AND ROOG, which is eligible this year, is going to get much of a look, though it is, in its way, very good.

      Even though I generally agreed with the 2017 choices (a year that also had a Penderwicks book), that was the year of When Green Becomes Tomatoes which I really really thought should win something. I just hope Julie Fogliano comes out with another collection, because I think the picture books aren’t going to cut it (and I don’t think are actually the best medium for her.)

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

        Actually I’m pretty sure I just missed Penderwicks in my Newbery terms. I was looking at books from 2009 and 2012. There was a 2008 (GARDAM STREET) and a 2011 (POINT MOUETTE).
        I also would love to see another Fogliano collection. Here’s an excellent discussion on Heavy Medal about WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES from 2017. I’m still looking for a standout collection from this year. I read HELLO EARTH by Sidman and have LEGACY by Grimes and MY MAGIC WAND by Mora on my going-to-read-soon pile, but nothing else on the horizon yet…

      • Leonard Kim says

        It looks like I was off by 1 year on most of the Penderwicks publication years (I was off on the 4th book too, it was not the same year as When Green Becomes Tomatoes), and I was probably confused by the Newbery years too. (It seems like the “year” of the Newbery Award refers to the year it was awarded, not the year in which the winner was published?) Well then I guess I can more freely opine they wuz robbed!

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

        Yes, the year attached to Newbery Medal is the year it was awarded, which is the year after it was published. So while we’re talking about 2021 books this fall, it’s the 2022 Newbery Medal that they’re eligible for…

  11. Leonard Kim says

    I did pick Deborah Wiles in the first poll though I didn’t pick Each Little Bird That Sings in the third. Not only is she a great great writer, but I think unlike some of the other authors, she’s written both a large number and a large variety of worthy books such that you’d think she’d have won for something at some point. Whereas someone like say Riordan is prolific but the books are arguably similar to each other such that if you don’t think one book is Newbery-caliber, it’s unlikely you think any are. And authors like Selznick (or Birdsall) may have written strong books but comparatively few (I count 7 for Selznick, not including KALEIDOSCOPE).

  12. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

    I gave Mo Willems one of my Newbery-less Authors votes. I think that writing for early readers must be one of the most challenging things to do at a distinguished level. I believe Arnold Lobel is the only one to receive a Newbery Honor in that category (FROG AND TOAD TOGETHER), but even that book at least has chapters and lots of words that aren’t all for the earliest readers. Mo W. does so much with so few words in books like I BROKE MY TRUNK (here’s Jonathan Hunt’s excellent Newbery-based analysis of this book) and I AM GOING. Hard to weight the impact of words/pictures for sure, though. Also perfect word choices in CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG, though again, the illustrations play such a large part.

  13. I didn’t see Grace Lin on the poll, but she is an author who should have a medal IMO. She has a Caldecott Honor, a Newbery Honor, a Geisel Honor, and an APALA Literature Award honorable mention (each for a different book!).

    Since this poll is just for fun, I picked the authors whose Newbery acceptance speeches I would want to hear. I’ve been present for a few YMA acceptance speeches and all of them have been great (you can watch a lot of them on the ALSC YouTube channel). Jack Gantos had the audience laughing so hard I could see people wiping away tears. I imagine Mo Willems, Jason Reynolds, and Shannon Hale would absolutely kill it with their speeches.

  14. Wanted to vote for E.B. White, but he wasn’t listed!

  15. Sally Engelfried says

    I picked Mo Willems too. I never cease to be amazed at how well his E&P books read aloud. You don’t have to point to the characters, you don’t even have to do voices (but it’s so much fun), it’s always clear who’s speaking. Such deep character development, humor, and wonderful themes that are never didactic, all in so few words–he definitely deserves a medal! Also, Nanette’s Baguette was pretty amazing. I also chose Half Magic. I think Steven makes a good point. In that era it seems one of the few books that was written from a kid’s viewpoint (even though it was technically third person omniscent), rather than a grownup talking to kids.

  16. Reynold’s Ghost isn’t on the list but absolutely deserved Newbery recognition.

    Steig’s Dominic similarly deserved to awarded. Steig would also be my top choice for authors who never won the medal (2 honors). It’s shocking that he doesn’t have a legacy award considering his multiple caldecotts and the aforementioned 2 newbery honors. As well as how many authors and illustrators point to his books as favorites/influences.

    (Also I am here for all the Penderecki/Birdsall love)

  17. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

    111 votes cast so far in the 3 polls! They’ll stay open through the end of the day Tuesday and we’ll add the results to the original post above on Wednesday.

  18. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

    Our “Never-Won-A-Newbery” polls are now closed. Thanks to all 121 people who voted. The complete results are above, at the bottom of the main post above, just before comments start. The top three in each poll (percentages don’t add up to 100% because everyone got three votes):
    • Judy Blume 52%
    • Sharon Draper 45%
    • Laurie Halse Anderson 33%
    • Jacqueline Woodson 58%
    • Jason Reynolds 40%
    • Kimberly Brubaker Bradley 33%
    • Tuck Everlasting 31%
    • The Penderwicks 29%
    • Ramona the Pest 27%
    It’s all been for fun, of course, and results were limited by the 20 titles we chose to include. Who knows how well E. B. White would have done in the second poll if he had been a choice (my bad), and ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME MARGARET might have been among the leaders in the book section. Though the polls are closed, feel free to continue to share opinions and/or reactions to the results here in the comments…

  19. I am surprised to see Laurie Halse Anderson in the top 3 authors who should have received a Newbery. I think of her as a YA author. She received the Margaret Edwards Award given by YALSA and Speak was a Printz Honor book.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

      I think the Laurie Halse Anderson votes might have been based more on her “Seeds of America” historical fiction novels: “Chains,” “Forge,” and “Ashes.” But I agree that it’s her YA books like “Speak” and “Wintergirls” that stand out even more.

  20. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

    I was surprised Gary Paulsen didn’t do a bit better, partly because of how his passing brought back memories of his work (I had totally forgotten about THE SCHERNOFF DISCOVERIES!). But also he just wrote a lot of excellent books.
    Interesting, but not surprising, to see the poor showing of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
    Disappointed that HALF MAGIC didn’t do better. And 28% of the votes it did get were from Engelfrieds…I should have asked the rest of my siblings to vote!

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