January 19, 2017

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Online Mock Newbery

We’re doing things a bit differently this year then we have in years past.  Rather than having people post their votes in the comments, we are using an online ballot and you can vote here.  We dithered between two rounds, but opted for a decisive single one.  Voting will close on Friday night, so get […]

Gallery: One More Batch

Here’s one final group of books with multiple starred reviews.  It just goes to show that we can really only scratch the surface here on this blog in terms of covering the breadth of books that the committee is likely to read.                           […]

Elephant & Piggie Like Reading

Leveraging the Elephant & Piggie brand, Mo Willems has extended the reach of the magical spell that he has cast over emergent readers with Elephant & Piggie Like Reading.  The first two entries–WE ARE GROWING by Laurie Keller and THE COOKIE FIASCO by Dan Santat–were published this past year, and while I think very highly of […]

Easy Reader Roundup

To date, only one easy reader–FROG AND TOAD TOGETHER–has been recognized by the Newbery committee, so the chances of one breaking through seem improbable, if not downright impossible.  But if last year taught us anything it’s that miracles can and do happen, occasionally. One of the problems is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Easy readers […]

Gallery: More Underdogs?

The following books–another baker’s dozen–have received starred reviews, but have not received any discussion, let alone mention, on the blog this year.  Are any of these strong Newbery contenders?                                                     […]

Best Books: The Final Edition


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 LIE TREE MARCH, BOOK THREE SCHOOL’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL SOME WRITER   Four lists– AS BRAVE AS YOU BEFORE MORNING BURN […]

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 some 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 […]

2017 Heavy Medal Shortlist!

We have settled on the shortlist for our mock Newberys (and we will release specific details and dates and times once we have arranged them).  We typically chose 8 titles, but have occasionally stretched to 9 titles (as we have done this year).  When we do 9 titles then length is always a consideration, and it makes it […]

Black Power!

“In the midst of the human ugliness of racism, there is the human beauty in the resistance to racism.” Ibram X. Kendi The National Book Awards had a bit of a 2015 ALA Midwinter moment with African Americans winning three of the four categories, and for decidedly political works, no less.  Joining John Lewis and […]

Top Five

We used to check in with our readership several times a year about their top choices, mimicking the nomination process that the real committee experiences wherein they nominate three books in October, two in November, and a final two in December.  Since we don’t post quite as frequently now as we used to, we are […]

Chapter Book Roundup

Now it’s time to discuss an underappreciated body of literature for children, what are often called chapter books.  Since I think that term is still fairly vague, I’d call them transitional chapter books.  That is, books that bridge the gap from the more challenging easy readers to the easiest novels.  On the younger side, these […]