March 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

“Heavy Medal” Blog Launches with New Hosts

School Library Journal (SLJ) welcomes two new bloggers to the fold. Roxanne Hsu Feldman and Steven Engelfried join the lineup of “Heavy Medal,” sharing blogging duties with Sharon McKellar in the always lively online discussion surrounding the top contenders for the Newbery Medal, among the most prestigious honors in children’s literature.

Part of SLJ’s blog network, “Heavy Medal” has been an active forum for all aspects of the Newbery, which is awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association.

“I am so happy to be working with Steven and Sharon,” says Feldman, the middle school librarian at the Dalton School in New York City, who has served on the 2002 and 2013 Newbery committees. “Steven was my Newbery Chair in 2013, and I respect his intellect and dedication. Sharon has been a colleague whom I only got to see at conferences, so it’s great to be finally working with her and to experience her legendary organizational skills and literary expertise.”

Steven Engelfried

Engelfried, library services manager at the Wilsonville (OR) Public Library, looks forward to the challenge. “In the past few years, the Newbery Medal and Honor lists have been about as diverse in form and format as you can get,” he says.

In a preview of what the trio are reading, see the “welcome post” by McKellar. The formal discussion kicks off in September.

“Is this the year a nonfiction book gets the medal? And if so, will it be something besides history/biography?” asks Engelfried. “First chapter books are one of the fastest-growing and most popular collections in my library…. But what does a ‘distinguished’ one of those even look like? I look forward to seeing what stands out this year and how to apply those ever-challenging Newbery criteria to all of them,” says Engelfried. He has served on the 2010 Newbery committee, has chaired the 2013 committee, and was also a member of the 2002 Caldecott committee.

“Child Appeal”

Roxanne Feldman

“I would love for ‘Heavy Medal’ and its readers to consider how ‘child appeal’ fits within the criteria when considering books for the Newbery,” says Feldman, who has also served on committees for the 2008–09 Notable Books for Children, 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and the 2017 Odyssey Award.

The community relations librarian for Oakland (CA) Public Library, McKellar helped launch “Heavy Medal” in 2008 with Nina Lindsay, children’s services coordinator at Oakland. McKellar says she blogged for a year before Jonathan Hunt joined Lindsay to form the blog’s team until 2016, when Lindsay stepped down. McKellar rejoined the blog in 2016 to post alongside Hunt. The county schools librarian at the San Diego County Office of Education, Hunt left the blog in January after the completion of the award season.

“I’m really excited to be joined by Roxanne and Steven on ‘Heavy Medal,’” says McKellar. “I look forward to some really exciting book discussions, to tackling the criteria together, to learning what people around the country are doing in their own mock Newberys, and to hosting, again, a mock Newbery here in Oakland.”

Sharon McKellar

Shelley M. Diaz, SLJ’s reviews manager, says, “While we’re all sad to bid Jonathan Hunt adieu, School Library Journal is excited to see where the new ‘Heavy Medal’ team will take the blog this year. The baton has been passed, and it’s in the capable hands of Steven, Roxanne, and Sharon. I know our audience is ready as ever to continue the conversation about what makes a title a contender.”

To contact the bloggers:

Steven Engelfried:
Roxanne Feldman:
Sharon McKellar:

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Kathy Ishizuka About Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka ( on Twitter) is the Executive Editor of  School Library Journal.

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