Pick Your Long Shot: Which book that missed our final list might win the Newbery?
We’ve announced the 15 titles that comprise the Heavy Medal Book List (HMBL), and I’m really looking forward to the online discussions of these, which start in a couple weeks. After we’ve examined all of these thoroughly in daily online posts and then in a live Zoom conversation (register here to watch the SLJ webcast), we’ll choose winners in two ways: The Heavy Medal Award Committee (HMAC) will do one ballot; and all Heavy Medal readers will cast votes in a separate tally.
Picking the actual Newbery winner isn’t really our main goal of most elections. There’s all kinds of reasons to do this, including:
- An opportunity to engage in some serious, insightful, and high-level book discussion
- An attempt to replicate, to the degree that we can, the Newbery Committee process
- A chance to share appreciation for the artistic excellence in the best of children’s literature
At the same time, it’s pretty cool when the winner of a mock awards election does match the eventual real winner. When that doesn’t happen, it can still be fascinating when the real winner is on the list, but is not chosen. That demonstrates how the unique discussions that emerge from different groups of readers can lead to different results.
I never mind if the Heavy Medal winner isn’t the real Newbery winner. In the past four years, we hit the winner just once: NEW KID was the choice of the HMAC for 2020. But I do hope that it the Medal books at least turns out to be on our list of finalists. That has been the case for three of the past four years. We missed on MERCI SUÁREZ CHANGES GEARS (sorry Emily, I know that was your Committee).
Is the eventual winner on this year’s Heavy Medal Book List? We won’t know for sure until the Youth Media Awards event on January 24th. But it’s fun to speculate. After we finalized this list, I decided to go down the list of titles that we did not choose, and pick one single book that I think might still have the strongest chances of actually winning the Medal.
My pick: THE RACONTEUR’S COMMONPLACE BOOK. I know I wasn’t the only one impressed by this book, but it never really got enough support on Heavy Medal for me to push for it to appear in the top 15 (though I was tempted). And HM readers expressed some legitimate concerns:
- “jumped around too much”
- “it sagged for me in the middle”
- “the weakest section was the very end”
- “it may be difficult for children to engage with this book”
I can see some merit in some of those comments, but was just so impressed by the combination of sentence level writing and intricately plot development. Also world-building and characterizations. And I believe that 15 people who have read this carefully, at least twice, just might have to give this one a Medal, because it’s that well-written. Well, I’m trying to convince myself to believe that, anyway….
So what do you think? What’s the one book that didn’t make the HMBL that you think has the best chance to emerge as the Newbery Winner on January 24th?
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired after 35 years as a full-time librarian. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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