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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Jason Reynolds Revisited

Jason Reynolds has published five books in three years, bursting onto the scene in a big way.  It’s no overstatement to say that he may be the most significant new voice to debut during that time span.  His first book, WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST, won the CSK John Steptoe Award for New Talent.  Both […]

Gallery: Curse of the Three Star Book

Last year, I noted here and here that it’s very easy for books with three starred reviews to slip under our radar and earn Newbery recognition.  We can’t read everything, and what we do read, we can’t always read as carefully as the Newbery committee.  Here are thirteen books–a baker’s dozen–which earned three starred reviews. […]

Some Writer!

  In October 1949, he wrote his publisher, Cass Canfield: “My next book is in sight.  I look at it every day.  I keep it in a carton, as you would a kitten.”  Andy spent the year studying spiders.  “In this,” he wrote, “I found the key to the story.”  Andy would not make his heroine, […]

Best Books

Five of the six review journals have spoken: Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.  I will add Bulletin in after the turn of the new year. Five lists– THE BEST MAN THE INQUISITOR’S TALE THE LIE TREE MARCH, BOOK THREE SCHOOL’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL SOME WRITER!   Four lists– AS […]

Full of Beans

Look here, Mac.  I’m gonna give it to you straight: grown-ups lie. Sure, they like to say that kids make things up and that we don’t tell the truth.  But they’re the lying liars. Take President Roosevelt.  He’s been saying on the radio that the economy was improving, when anyone with two eyes could see […]


We’ve often worried that we create a bit of an echo chamber effect here, picking a shortlist to focus on at the expense of many other wonderful titles.  Previously recognized authors along with highly praised books tend to dominate our shortlist, exacerbating the effect.  Sometimes, I wonder if we should do something radical like exclude […]

When Green Becomes Tomatoes

I was pleasantly surprised to see WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES tied with WOLF HOLLOW atop our recent Top Five tally.  We liked Fogliano’s previous books, AND THEN IT’S SPRING and IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE, but being picture books, they were somewhat of a hard sell. This longer work, a poetry collection, should […]

Russell Freedman

Russell Freedman–like Jason Reynolds–actually has two strong Newbery contenders: WE WILL NOT BE SILENT (five starred reviews plus Kirkus Prize shortlist) and VIETNAM (four starred reviews).  Both of them are quintessential Freedman: crystal clear prose, elegant book design, carefully selected primary sources, and thoughtful, intelligent analysis. I first became familiar with the story of Hans […]


MAKOONS by Louise Erdrich is the fifth book in this cycle, but only the second one about this new generation in the family.  I have to admit that I am not a natural reader for this series, that the slow episodic plots do not speak to my needs as a reader, and I believe I […]

Samurai Rising

Having reread SAMURAI RISING, I can say that it has unequivocally secured a place on my ballot, and depending on the will and disposition of my hypothetical committee, I could even spend my first place vote on it! First of all, I want to say that whatever you think of this book (and we were strongly divided on […]