The Tough Goodbyes: Books Left off the Heavy Medal Book List
85 titles were suggested on Heavy Medal this year, then 68 titles were nominated. We narrowed it down to 6 for an “Early 6 Booklist” and then 16 for our final Heavy Booklist. Getting it down to 16 was not easy and we wanted to share some of the titles that sadly “didn’t make the cut.”
EMILY: It was so hard getting down to 15 this year, that we compromised at 16. I always think it’s a good problem to have though right? It reminds me that the Newbery committee could have as many or as few honor titles as they want, which is an interesting “power privilege.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the Heavy Medal Book List ever had the minimum of 12 titles, right Steven?
STEVEN: If I remember right, we would talk about keeping it to 12 at the beginning, but it just never seemed to happen. We don’t want to make the volume of reading too overwhelming, but there are just so many good books! Several of those are shorter books that can be read in a sitting, though, so hopefully it’s a good balance.
EMILY: For me the hardest title to let go of was AFRICAN TOWN. I realize it’s not a title for everyone and have had a LOT of trouble selling it to middle schoolers. But it’s such an excellent portrayal of an underrepresented time in history. I sure hope it gets love for the Newbery, or maybe CSK. What was the hardest title to let go of for you?
STEVEN: I can’t even talk about it. But I guess I’d better: BUZZKILL is not just my top book of the year, it’s also unlike anything we’ve seen in terms of style, format, and sheer audacity (so many pages, so much information, so few pictures…). I don’t know if it will win the Newbery, but it has to be in the discussion. With Mock Newberys, though, you have to consider how the process will play out. Our HMAC members are volunteers with limited time, so adding a book that takes so long to read isn’t really practical. It can still come up in discussion as a book to compare to others though.
EMILY: Are there any titles that are (or aren’t) on our final 15 that you think are going to win it all? Are there any titles that you just didn’t get to this year, that you wish you did?
STEVEN: I’m really struggling to predict a winner this year. I’m wondering if we’ll have another winner outside of the middle grade fiction comfort zone. Maybe a borderline teen title like IF I BETRAY YOU? Or something completely different, like AIN’T BURNED ALL THE BRIGHT? Or maybe even a 378 page book about bugs (I know, you asked about books that are on the final 15, but I will continue to plug BUZZKILL at every opportunity…).
EMILY: umm is this where I admit I haven’t finished Buzzkill? I’M SORRY STEVEN. I’m just really not sure what’s going to win this year. I think MAIZY CHEN’S LAST CHANCE is severely underrated so I’m glad it’s our practice title. I’m just saying MERCI SUAREZ was the 2019 practice title and then it won Newbery gold….
STEVEN: I always worry about the books I missed. In nonfiction, I still haven’t gotten to Sally Walker’s UNDERGROUND FIRE or CLOSE-UP ON WAR by Mary Cronk Farrel which sounds really interesting. And I missed LOLO’S LIGHT, which just got a couple of strong recommendations in our comments section. I’m still on the waiting list for Jason Chin’s THE UNIVERSE IN YOU.
EMILY: But Steven, you always make me feel better and remind me that we can’t read them all and it’s ok! So everybody can remember that too! In the meantime, let us know any of your thoughts in the comments!
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Emily Mroczek-Bayci
Emily Mroczek (Bayci) is a freelance children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs. She served on the 2019 Newbery committee. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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