Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

What are we missing 2.0 Heavy Medal sleepers?

I’m back again with my foreseen paranoia that I am going to miss important titles that I need to read. (This never goes away, even years when I’m unaffiliated with any committees, blogs, etc.) #childrenslibrarianproblems

Last “What Are We Missing Post” I did a broad focus on genres, etc, etc. I will make a shout out to say I’m still hunting for the strong nonfiction, picture books, and graphic novels. That being said, this post I did a scour of other Mock Newbery’s (any whose list I could find online, to see what titles we were missing).

There were 42 titles on other Mock Lists not nominated by Heavy Medal readers (you can see my not-well-formatted spreadsheet here). However for the below list, I highlighted only titles on more than one Mock Newbery list (and an additional criteria was if a title received at least two suggestions on Heavy Medal).

Mock Newbery Sites Consulted

Possible 2022 Contenders

BORN BEHIND BARS by Padma Venkatraman. Published 9/7/2021, Juvenile fiction, varying thoughts on audience age.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE by Christina Li. Published 1/12/2021. Historical fiction.

CUBA IN MY POCKET by Adrianna Cuevas. Published 9/21/2021. Historical Fiction.

DEAD WEDNESDAY by Jerry Spinelli. Published 8/3/2021. Magical Realism.

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Published 3/2/2021. Realistic Fiction.

THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF AIDAN S by David Levithan. Published 2/2/2021. Magical Realism.

THE ONE THING YOU’D SAVE by Linda Sue Park. Published 3/16/2021. Juvenile Fiction, Verse, past Newbery Medal author.

THE YEAR I FLEW AWAY by Marie Arnold. Published 2/2/2021. Magical Realism.

Of these eight titles, the four I finished were Aidan, Elephant, Dead Wednesday, and Year I Flew. The only title I seriously considered nominating was ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, but some of the details seemed too inconsistent for me. The other three did not hold up against the high quality of books published this year. And the four I didn’t read? I should probably get to reading those.

Have you read any of the above eight books? What are your thoughts? Are they worth your final two nominations?

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. I have read 4 of the titles on this list.
    THE ONE THING YOU’D SAVE has no plot and very little character development. It seems more like a preamble to classroom activities than a novel.
    THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM begins with excellent descriptions of the thoughts of both people and animals. But it concludes with legal analyses that are very complex for the target audience.
    I have previously posted about THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF AIDAN S. I said: “The beginning chapters were full of suspense but the story bogs down at the end. Many loose ends remain unresolved.”
    THE YEAR I FLEW AWAY is an important addition to present diversity, especially for Haitian representation. The theme of balancing heritage with assimilation is not unique within the books published this year. Perhaps they should be discussed together.

    • It’s interesting to me that what kept me from nominating AIDAN was the opposite of yours: I thought *too many* of the loose ends were resolved. I was ready to put it on my list of frontrunners right up until the end, which ruined it for me. I think the book would have been much stronger leaving some things unknown. I thought Lucas’s actions in the last few pages would ultimately destroy the relationship between the brothers (even if Aidan never found out), and that build up of trust and siblings-against-the-world was one of the things I liked about it.

      As a strength, I liked that I could easily see how reading this as a child I’d be most struck by the sheer injustice of no one believing Aidan, but also as an adult I was able to empathize with the adults who are so terrified of what might have “actually” happened. It’s not often that I can recognize so clearly how my adult reading would differ so much from how I’d have reacted as a child, and yet be able to see both sides are to some extent justified.

      • Dawn Dvorak says

        I agree, I think everything was wrapped up a bit too neatly in The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. The paper airplane went too far IMO. As a kid though, I remember being troubled by ambiguous endings, so I think I would have liked this ending. My bigger problem with Aidan S., is that both kids seemed much older than their ages. I didn’t believe that Lucas was only 11. I do love the premise and I really enjoyed reading the book. I wouldn’t be disappointed if it was an honor book, though it’s not my first or second choice.

  2. Windy Hunter says

    I loved THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM! It is in my top 5 and I plan on nominating it in December if I don’t miss the nomination window again. Out of the other ones, I have read One Thing, Clues, Aiden, and Year I Flew. I liked Clues, but the others I wouldn’t consider. I have Dead Wednesday on my stack next to my bed and am hoping to read it this week.

  3. Courtney Hague says

    I have read two of these book. “The One Thing You’d Save” and “Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S.” I liked both of them. I think I may need to reread Aidan because I read it really soon after reading “Every Heart a Doorway” which has a similar premise but for adults. So that may have colored my reading of this one. I agree that the loose ends felt a little too neatly tied up at the end (especially with Lucas actually seeing the other world through the cupboard).

    As for “The One Thing You’d Save”, I thought it was really well done. It is not a book about character development, I would say it’s more a book of poetry with a single theme. I would probably need to revisit this one too if I were to think about nominating it for consideration here, but I thought it was thought-provoking.

  4. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

    I’ve read five of the eight, and those all seem just about right for the list Emily put together: Not automatic for every Mock Newbery list, but there’s enough there to make for some engaging discussion. I’m with Kate on THE ONE THING YOU’D SAVE: great potential for classroom discussion, and maybe consideration for style, but more a useful book than a distinguished one. THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM is the one that I’ve considered posting about a few times, and have that nagging feeling that I should re-read…but I would still have to hear more about its excellence. I’m not ready to nominate it, but am glad to hear that it might make the list next month….

Speak Your Mind