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Books I Actually Finished: the Best of October Nominations?

Just in time to turn in my November nominations (due by the end of the day tomorrow if you haven’t submitted two yet) I finished all the titles I haven’t read from October nominations. Some I had not gotten to yet (THE BEATRYCE PROPHECY, HARRY AND THE FIRST 100 DAYS OF SCHOOL), others I didn’t finish the first time around (JUST LIKE THAT, AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS, RACONTEUR’S COMMONPLACE BOOK) and others I wasn’t going to read, but nominations convinced/ forced me otherwise (HEALER OF THE WATER MONSTER, THE TROUBLED GIRLS OF DRAGOMIR ACADEMY).

The pile of books from October nominations.

Here’s the list of books I had not read before nomination (in a loosely ranked order, because why not) and some of my observations.

HARRY VS. THE FIRST 100 DAYS OF SCHOOL Emily Jenkins Yes this deserved all the hype. The setting, the tone, the characters., so well done!


I want to read this three more times and recommend it to everyone.

THE BEATRYCE PROPHECY Kate Dicamillo. DiCamillo does it again? But can it stand against everything else?


Fine Steven that presentation and setting were pretty amazing, I still think it’s a little to dependent on others in Milford’s world.

PONY R.J. Palacio

Maybe I should rank this higher, I’m still thinking about it. The setting, the characters, the theme, and the plot… The balance of everything was extremely well done.


The plot and characters stood out of everything I’ve read before.


The themes and friendship were very compelling.

FALLOUT Steve Sheinkin Solid all around.

A PLACE TO HANG THE MOON by Kate Albus I’m still deciding if I liked how Albus addressed the readers or if it distracted from the overall book. Thoughts?

WHILE I WAS AWAY by Waka T. Brown

Well done, but I keep comparing to FINDING JUNIE KIM, which I loved.

365 DAYS TO ALASKA Cathy Carr The characters and setting appealed to me, but I wasn’t finding the distinguished aspect.


Like Steven said, ANOTHEr ordinary kid powers book? Also compared closely to DRAGOMIR and it didn’t hold up for me.


I even reread this a second time and just was not feeling connected at all.

FLIGHT OF THE PUFFIN Ann Braden I think we have better bully based books this year (cough PITY PARTY, cough).

BEING CLEM Lesa Cline- Ransome Loving the overall writing and development, but think it’s way too dependent on the first books.


OK this one I couldn’t get through, though I know I promised. I did not feel the quality stood against everything else. Convince me otherwise?

What surprised you about October nominations? Any book that seemed better (or worse) the second time around.

Also be sure to read and comment on Steven’s nomination catch up post if you haven’t yet! AND if you haven’t responded to our SLJ mini-poll do so NOW! They’re giving us the mic, let’s make the most of it!

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. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

    FRANKIE AND BUG has been sitting on my shelf for weeks…I’d better move it up on my list.
    Emily’s “I’m still thinking about it” matches my own reaction to PONY. There was a lot of excellent parts to that book, but also some that I thought didn’t work as well.
    I need to try TROUBLED GIRLS OF DRAGOMIR ACADEMY for sure. One of my many bad-Newbery-habits: I tend to need an extra push to jump into the 400+ pagers. (I probably still wouldn’t have read THE RACONTEUR’S COMMONPLACE BOOK if it hadn’t clocked in at 391 pp).

  2. Emily,
    Twice you mention “plot”. Do you mean you like how the plot is developed or the plot itself?
    The way I read the newbery criteria, the noun “plot” is not at all relevant to the discussion of which titles are distinguished contributions to literature for children. How a plot is developed is however quite an important part of any newbery discussion. So the verb plot, as in “the story was ingeniously plotted so that the reader…” is germane to the discussion. But “it had a great plot” is irrelevant.
    Far to often we see these discussions devolve into discussions of the story and the plot instead of how the narrative is plotted.

    This is similar to how discussions of how much we appreciate the themes of a book have no place in at the table but how those themes are interpreted is perfectly suited to a discussion.
    For example I love the themes of the impact of toxic masculinity running throughout Troubled Girls of…. but at a newbery table I would only discuss how well that theme is developed and interpreted in the novel and I would never talk about the value or importance of this theme.

  3. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

    Great points, Eric. When I talk about the “literary qualities” mentioned in the criteria I sometimes use the shorthand of “theme, information, plot, characters, setting, and style.” But really, it’s the words before those words that are crucial: “presentation of information,” delineation of characters”…and as Eric points out, “development of a plot” and “interpretation of the theme.” Those remind us to examine not just if the book works or not, but what the author specifically does to make the book work (or not).
    The Newbery Terms and Criteria can be challenging and sometimes even frustrating, but they really were developed with a lot of thought and care, all towards the purpose of identifying truly distinguished children’s literature.

  4. One of my questions is does a book have to stand on it’s own. I know it helps a reader who has not read the other parts, but Emily you keep saying books are too dependent on other books in the series. I would ask you to consider that the books don’t have to stand on their own. LLoyd Alexander won for a book later in a series and so did Susan Cooper. I can’t remember one in recent years, but it has happened before.

  5. Emily Mroczek-Bayci says

    Oops I was late on all my responses here apologies Cherylynn and Eric!
    Good question and clarification about the plot Eric and important points. I do think that the creativity and noun usage of plot does measure with the ideas of a book “excellent in quality,” or “individually distinct”
    for PONY I think the development of plot with his knowledge of ghosts, especially who the sheriff (may have gotten his name wrong) turns out to be and his main ghost friend (who’s name I also forgot, I’m having a bad name day) was well done with subtle foreshadowing
    for THE TROUBLED GIRLS when I wrote this post I appreciated the development and clues behind sorcerers and women, but now that I’m further removed from the book- it does not resonate with me as much.

    And Cherylynn: for standing on it’s own, the criteria I use is: “The book must be a self-contained entity, not dependent on other media (i.e., sound or film equipment) for its enjoyment.” For me, I like to think if I would understand the book more if I had read the previous title. However that criteria is very open to interpretation.. and if Raconteur’s or Finding Clem makes our list.. I can definitely get convinced otherwise…

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