February 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Last Stop for Nina

Jonathan will be closing out our season shortly with a preview for 2016; but first I’d like to say goodbye.  As I warned at the beginning of the season, this is my last hurrah with Heavy Medal. In that post in September, I’d mentioned I’d been doing this “long enough.”  Although the books change each year, […]

When it Rains

It’s drizzling in Boston, and various award committee members are peppering social media with “we’re done!”  They’re turning in their draft press releases, and the ALA Press office takes over until the unveling tomorrow morning. So we wait.  This afternoon I’ll be sitting in again on the Notable Children’s Book Discussions, where I hear they […]

Oakland Mock Results!

We had a wonderful Mock Newbery discussion Sunday afternoon, with 20 in attendance, and 15 voting (who had read all nine titles).  Yet…we ran short of time to come to a conclusive consensus.  We took 3 ballots over the course of 45 minutes, and then just called time.  Here’s how it went. Ballot 1 All […]


As I get ready for the Oakland Mock Newbery this coming Sunday, I’m thinking of the members of the many actual award committees, also doing some final re-reading and considering before they head to Boston to huddle in.  They meet for two full days, as many hours as they can squeeze in, and deliver their […]


I’m still desperately plowing through other Newbery contenders before we reach ALA Midwinter and the Youth Media Awards announcement. I just finished THE JUMBIES by Tracey Baptiste…cannot remember who mentioned this to me but it was on my hold list.  While I don’t know this would make it into my top 10, I would have certainly […]

Consider the margins

As some of you get ready, with Jonathan, for the San Diego mock Newbery tomorrow, the actual Newbery committee members are in the midst of their own re-reading, and many of all of us are approaching the “apples to oranges” dilemma.   How, considering the Newbery criteria, and the nominated books (for the committee, a […]

The Hired Girl, Nina’s Take

Well I can’t say I’ve been looking forward to this post, but I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out whether to do it at all, and what it’s about.   Jonathan and I decided we wanted this book on our shortlist, despite my own reservations about it, because it is such a […]

Echo, Nina’s Take

After our earlier discussion of ECHO, I’m sure there were some audible groans when Jonathan and I revealed our shortlist.  Much of the previous discussion was around the story structure and manipulation of the reader.  I think we all recognize “manipulation” as something inherent to novel writing, it’s just that many readers prefer not to clearly […]

Roller Girl

ROLLER GIRL is not a flashy book in Newbery terms, and that is part of its charm. Stripped down just to its bare text, sentence by sentence, it wouldn’t wow me.  But ROLLER GIRL is a great example of a story presented in exactly the right format.   From the pre-title/title page/post-title page drama in […]

Most Dangerous and Drowned City

Because of the shortened season and early mock discussions, Jonathan and I may not have a chance to do our usual redux of every title on our shortlist, but we’ll attempt to make space for each one that hasn’t got as much discussion as others.  While people are still reading and commenting on RHYTHM RIDE, I […]

Rhythm Ride

No one’s commented in surprise to the presence of RHYTHM RIDE on our shortlist, but it is rare that we include a title that we haven’t posted on yet. This year’s early schedule and the intensity of recent discussion threw some things a little out of whack, so let’s get back on track. It’s hard […]

What We Talk About When We Talk About Children’s Books

Well I can’t say that this hasn’t been an interesting season on Heavy Medal.  Jonathan and I will be announcing our shortlist shortly, but I’m due a reflection on the last few weeks. Rather than loop back into the specifics of the HIRED GIRL discussion, or the similar one that is going on regarding A FINE […]

Keeping it Real

I’ve been looking for contemporary middle grade stories to compliment our shortlist-in-progress (soon to be announced), and having a hard time find ones that easily rise to the top for me.  What am I missing? Here are some that I’ve liked. MOONPENNY ISLAND. I’m a sucker for Tricia Springstubb, whose writing is detailed, emotionally precise and seamless. […]

The Privilege of Serving

In this blog we try to look at books specifically through the eyes of the Newbery Committee.  Following my article  The 2015 Youth Media Awards: A Crossover Year for Diversity, Amy and I talked about our own experiences reading critically for the committee, and Jonathan and I invited her to share her thoughts here.  Amy Koester […]

Goodbye Stranger

Rebecca Stead’s GOODBYE STRANGER is unnerving–unnervingly realistic, that is, of the minds of thirteen-year-olds.  That the book disturbed me is a testament to its strength…since that age is not one I really wanted to experience again, but did through Stead’s writing. Here, the alternating viewpoints that very slowly unpack the experience of seventh grade are far more […]

The Marvels, or What is Text?

Brian Selznick’s latest gives his visual/textual literary form yet another twist, as he tells one story first completely through image, then another completely in text, accomplishing a seemingly binary but actually complex interweaving of stories within stories. Though the package presents itself as simple and straightforward, the effect is multi-layered and powerful, and unlike any reading […]

What Are We Looking for in the Newbery?

Now is the time of year I have to triage my reading: I accept I won’t be able to do it all.  I use your comments, the Goodreads Mock Newbery list, and Jen J’s starred review spreadsheet, as a first place to try to figure out what is getting “buzz.” But once I’ve narrowed down that […]

The Thing About Debuts

It’s easy to keep track of authors from whom we expect excellence; harder to stay on top of debut authors.  A pitfall of debut writing can be when it serves as a “warm-up”: a good writer, with a good idea, works that idea into a novel that…works, though sometimes the idea can feel more present than the […]

Gone Crazy in Alabama

I used to open every box of children’s books for review that arrived at my library…but it’s not my direct job anymore, and I had to let go of the micro-managerial (and selfish!) urge to be the first to get my hands on everything.   So it was that I only got to read GONE […]

Why We Do What We Do

Now that we are rolling, I want to take a moment to say that this will be my last season on Heavy Medal. I started it in 2008 with my colleague Sharon McKellar (Jonathan joined in 2009), but we’d been blogging about our Mock Newbery discussions a couple years before that, and I’ve been holding Mock […]