November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Glorious Ineligibles

Being on the Newbery Committee means devoting almost all your reading time (and time to do other things in the past) to the year’s output of American Children’s Books. I know that my husband definitely felt the impact of being a Newbery Committee Spouse. Evenings that were family times — watching TV together or playing […]

Music to the Mind and Salve to the Soul

Grief and complicated family relationships are treated with impeccable prose construction, musical sentences, and deep compassion by Rita Williams-Garcia. It is a love song to the Blues and a tribute to life’s “blues” as experienced by a young child so’s to become a wiser, deeper soul.  Williams-Garcia also offers a forensic examination of the failed relationship between a child and her father and its lingering effects. Yes, this story […]

Give Riordan a Chance? Popularity IS “Quality Presentation”

At the end of the Newbery Criteria document, there is a Note: “The committee should keep in mind that the award is for literary quality and quality presentation for children. The award is not for didactic content or popularity.” (I have always wondered what propelled the addition of this particular statement to the Manual.) We […]

A Newbery Dream… in the Sky

This week, all three of us will be posting about titles that are probably considered “too old” to even dream about being nominated for, let alone winning, the Newbery. And yet, when a book features a godly dreamer, a citadel floating in the sky, and characters accomplishing the impossible, its contribution to the young reader’s […]

For All That’s Real and Fair(e): Two Outstanding MG GNs

As  the Newbery Committee manual dictates, the “committee is to make its decision primarily on the text” and “[o]ther components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.” In other words, good designs and fabulous illustrations that enhance the overall reading experience, theoretically, should not […]

Two Orphans, Two Islands: Which Is More Distinguished?

Certain recurring narrative devices have long been universally employed by authors of children’s books: a boarding school setting, moving (away) as the main conflict, meeting a wise mentor, etc.  One often-seen element is an orphan protagonist: From Huck Finn and Mary Lennox to Harry Potter and the Beaudelaires, children’s books do seem to feature parentless protagonists disproportionally.  Perhaps it allows the author to easily externalize […]

Informational Book With Made-Up Bits

Some followers of Heavy Medal asked about Subject Headings and their potential influences over the Sibert or Newbery Committee members’ decisions. I went ahead and queried one of the 2017 Sibert Committee members, Gail Nordstrom, a public library consultant at the Viking Library System, Minnesota.  She also served on Newbery and Caldecott committees. My email […]

Look Who’s Talking: First Person/Present Tense Narrative Voice

By the third page of See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng, I am absolutely hooked: not because it has an unusual narrative device and not because of the almost stream-of-consciousness, intimate, conversational tone, although both are immediately noteworthy.  I am hooked by the book’s unique and affable protagonist Alex, a first person/present/immediate past tense young narrator.  When Alex brings […]

Newbery Social Media “Guidelines” — How Strict Is It?

Roxanne: A recent Newbery committee member’s experience reported by the member herself, on social media, and by industry outlets such as School Library Journal,  reminds me of a line from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: ‘the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.’  What is the difference between Guidelines and Rules?  When a […]

Hello, Heavy Medal – Hello, Universe

Hello, Heavy Medal readers. I was born and raised in Taiwan. After college, I taught 7th and 8th grade English in a Taipei public school before pursuing a Master’s degree in Children’s Literature from The Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. Those two brief but glorious years saw me reading 15-30 […]