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

Underrepresented Genres: Nonfiction worth nominating?

When looking at our nomination list so far, five of the 53 nominated titles are nonfiction. (FALLOUT, GENIUS UNDER THE TABLE, GONE TO THE WOODS, UNSPEAKABLE, AND RUNAWAY).

Steven already highlighted potential contenders NICKY AND VERA and 13 WAYS to EAT A FLY. Here are a few more that are definitely on my “maybe nominate list.”

(Steven are we allowed to nominate more titles because we’re in charge? Sadly that is NOT how it works on the actual committee).

A LIFE ELECTRIC: THE STORY OF NIKOLA TESLA by Azadeh Westergaard. A picture book biography that details Tesla’s brilliant, yet rocky life in poetic tone and detail. I especially appreciated the dialogue and thought processes:

His mother said, “Stop playing with the cat, he might start a fire.”

His mother said, “This is nothing but electricity, the same thing you would see on the trees in a storm.”

He wondered, “Is Nature a gigantic cat? If so, who strokes its back?”


OK this is a tough one, a historical poetry book by Nikki Grimes featuring women poets of the Harlem Renaissance. She uses “Golden Shovel” poetry form, where you take a short poem, or a line from a poem and create a new poem using lines from the original. I admire the unique format, creative words, and  a thought-provoking reflection on gender, race, politics, and everyday life.

Does Grimes use enough original content for this to qualify as a Newbery eligible “original work.” I vote yes! What about you?

A SHOT IN THE ARM by Don Brown

I mean really in a pandemic year it seems only natural to have a book win that discusses vaccines. The readable and approachable language and format appeals to young readers. The overall presentation of the history of vaccines and how we made it to where we are today is what truly makes this title stand out.

Also two side titles to mention are THE PEOPLE REMEMBER by Ibi Zoboi which is a look at Kwanzaa that has stayed on my mind months after reading and ACROSS THE TRACKS: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street and, the Tulsa Race Massacre by Alverne Ball (art by Stacey Robinson)  which Eric brought up in a comment as a counter book to UNSPEAKABLE. I just read ACROSS THE TRACKS over the weekend and thought the clear, strong writing style in graphic novel format really made it shine.

Are there any other nonfiction titles you’ve been thinking about nominating? Let us know in the comments.

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

    I’m running behind on my nonfiction reading, but here’s one I’ve read, one I’ve started, and one I will read soon?
    I just started DOVEY UNDAUNTED by Tonya Bolden and am impressed so far. The style is engaging and personal in way you don’t always see in juvenile biographies. But I’m not too far so can’t say more for now.
    ABUSHED!: THE ASSASSINATION PLOT AGAINST PRESIDENT GARFIELD by Gail Jarrow was interesting: It’s the story of Garfield and the man who shot him, but then goes into the medical details of how doctors tried (and failed) to keep him alive. Also a good overview of the politics of the time.
    I’m looking forward to REVOLUTION IN OUR TIME: THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY’S PROMISE TO THE PEOPLE by Kekla Magoon. Sounds like it could be on the upper end of the Newbery range, but still within the 0-14.

    • Emily Mroczek-Bayci says

      I started DOVEY over the weekend but didn’t make it quite to the end…
      AMBUSHED, was the runner-up title for this post actually. I think Jarrow did an excellent job at conveying all the details in a conversational, and informative matter.

  2. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

    I’m with Emily on the eligibility of LEGACY: WOMEN POETS OF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE by Niki Grimes, though we can’t say for sure. Her ONE LAST WORD from 2017 had a similar format. I’ll do a poetry post soon and will write more about LEGACY…

  3. I am still waiting for my local library to put it into circulation, but I am looking forward to SHE PERSISTED: CLARA LEMLICH solely on account of its author, Deborah Heiligman, who at this point has attained will-read-anything-she-writes status with me.

  4. Here’s the Mock Sibert list from Anderson’s Bookshop, which is worth a look:

    One title I especially enjoyed (and haven’t seen discussed much) is While I Was Away by Waka T. Brown.

    • Leonard Kim says

      There was a missing character in the original link.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says

      I agree with Melissa about WHILE I WAS AWAY (included in this previous post). This is truly an amazing year for memoirs and lightly fictionalized memoirs, with a great variety of styles and approaches the authors used to capture pieces of their earlier lives. Memoirs for kids have the potential to have more appeal for adults, rather than children, but books like WHILE I WAS AWAY, GENIUS UNDER THE TABLE, and BAD SISTER (and others) do a great job of capturing time, place, and characters in a way that I think will connect with young readers.

Speak Your Mind