The Early Six: a half-dozen titles that will definitely be on our Heavy Medal Book List
We’ll announce our full Heavy Medal Book List (HMBL) in early-mid December. That list of 12-15 (last year there were 16) books will be discussed on the blog, in-depth, by the members of the Heavy Medal Award Committee (HMAC), culminating in our Mock Newbery selection. We’ll form that volunteer committee in December as well. More details are in this earlier post.
In advance of that, though, we select “Early Six” titles. These titles will definitely be on the HMBL for sure, so if you’re thinking of volunteering, or just getting ready to read and comment, it gives everyone a chance to read ahead. Emily and I picked those six together, writing back and forth on a shared document:
EMILY: OK Steven, EARLY SIX TIME! Are you ready? I’m not so sure.. All I remember is being mad at myself for putting on ATTACK OF THE BLACK RECTANGLES last year… so let’s not do that again. Before I start overthinking everything, can you remind me what the purpose of THE EARLY SIX IS?
STEVEN: We started doing an Early Six a few years ago to give folks who are thinking about joining the HMAC a bit of a head start. So when we announce the full HBML list, there will be a handful you can cross off right away. It’s not a “top six” list, but more of a “six-of-the-top-fifteen” list.
EMILY: Oh yeah… good points! And didn’t we leave off the most popular Heavy Medal books, THE OGRESS AND THE ORPHANS and THE LAST MAPMAKER last year, because we knew everyone was reading those?
STEVEN: We did. And we have a similar situation this year. HERCULES BEALE and SIMON SORT OF SAYS have a big lead on our nomination list, which means many have already read them. They seem sure to land on the HBML in December, but should we leave them off of the Early Six?
EMILY: Done! I also think we left off the shorter titles to decide later?
STEVEN: Right. If you’re going to be on the HMAC and haven’t read a lot of early readers, graphic novels, or picture books, we figure you can catch up on those pretty quickly.
EMILY: True, but there’s THE SKULL and MEXIKID, and actually there’s so many good graphic novels….We’ll need another poll to choose between all those.
STEVEN: Oh yeah, that’s what we did last year. Before we finalize the 15 or so books on the HBML, we’ll poll Heavy Medal readers to help us identify the favorites in different categories. That will help us decide which graphic novels should go on, for example. What else do we need to remember or think about?
EMILY: I also remember us trying to pick at least a couple longer books… I don’t know if there are any sure picks in that almost-YA group. Is Leonard the only STATELESS fan? I thought STAR SPLITTER had really complex and well-done characterization, but don’t think it’s a *sure thing.* And what about GATHER? I am struggling to get my hands on that book, but you’re making it sound like an IT book… Also there’s BUFFALO FLATS, but does that have any nominations yet?
STEVEN: I fear that GATHER and BUFFALO FLATS may just be “Steven books.” But even if they’re not, we haven’t seen enough support (or nominations) to put them on the Early Six I think. Maybe they’ll get more nominations in December (hint, hint).
EMILY: Ugh, I’m struggling now. I feel like this list has nothing on it! Are there just too many “good books” this year and no “sure-thing” books?
STEVEN: Maybe we should just take another look at our nominations so far, book by book. We won’t go by nominations only, but…
EMILY: OK, OK- so we skip the top two, but going downwards… #3 is THE LOST YEAR, solid, well-written, positive comments… let’s put it on?
STEVEN: Yes to THE LOST YEAR. Very discussable too.
EMILY: A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING we’ll skip for now because it’s a graphic novel. EB AND FLOW? That was strong, there’s a lot to unpack there. Though I’m not sure if I actually liked that book. I probably should reread it. Which also means it should probably go on the list.
STEVEN: I think EB AND FLOW is solid. One of many excellent Novels in Verse this year (see the Novels in Verse Roundup from a couple days ago) and it definitely hits several Newbery criteria strongly. I think we’re both MEXIKID supporters, and not the only ones (though some are lukewarm about it too), but no for the Early Six, because it’s a GN. Then there’s THE MANY ASSASSINATIONS OF SAMIR…I liked this one a lot, but it took me a while to get immersed in the world and characters. It stands out for the setting and style and I think it’s worth considering…
EMILY: Yep, SAMIR is a winner. Though I didn’t love it. Time for rereading!
Moving on, I feel like THE MONA LISA VANISHES is a similar format to IMPOSSIBLE ESCAPE and would pick MONA LISA because it fits the age group better. Then I think BELLYACHE and RED EAR are very similar.. I think we need to dissect those two more before actually picking one.
STEVEN: I’m with you on MONA LISA over IMPOSSIBLE ESCAPE. Loved them both, but I’m especially curious to see how the humor/mystery/history combination in MONA LISA will do in a Newbery discussion. The SKULL is be is next on the list, but short enough to save for later (and I doubt we’ll leave that one off). Now we’re up to THE EYES AND THE IMPOSSIBLE. Emily……..did you finally read this book?
EMILY: Uhh no, I am still avoiding it. I don’t even know why. I guess if it’s on the Early Six I have to read it? It’s received consistent support. And clearly there are people who have not read it yet (not naming any names). I have to resort to your judgment on this Steven…
STEVEN: I thought EYES was excellent and the writing style, which might not be to everyone’s taste, was pretty unique and original for an animal story. I’d like to add it to the Early Six for that reason. And also so you’ll have to read it.
EMILY: And now we have five! LOST, EB, SAMIR, MONA LISA, EYES. Look at us go! But what should number six be? None of these three noms are jumping out at me… GOOD DIFFERENT was an interesting look at disabilities, I’m still working (slowly) through DREAMATICS!
STEVEN: What if we jump down to a newer book with just two nominations? ALEBRIJES is a pretty impressive science fiction book. Kind of complex in some ways, but definitely within the Newbery age range. And it’s new, so I’d guess not too many have read it yet.
EMILY: Yeah and how long is that one! Like almost 400 pages I think. That is diverse, a good author, seemingly fits many of the criteria. I say it deserves consideration. And now there are SIX!
- ALEBRIJES by Donna Barba Higuera
- EB AND FLOW by Kelly J. Baptist
- THE EYES AND THE IMPOSSIBLE by Dave Eggers
- THE LOST YEAR by Katherine Marsh
- THE MANY ASSASSINATIONS OF SAMIR, THE SELLER OF DREAMS by Daniel Nayeri
- THE MONA LISA VANISHES by Nicholas Day
STEVEN: We did it! And this is a nice list. Varied in form and content, and although they’re not necessarily my top six at this point, I wouldn’t hate it if any one of these ended up with a gold or silver seal.
EMILY: I thought we were going to have an EARLY ZERO at first, but I think this was much more clear-cut from past years. And I’m looking forward to reading upcoming discussions and of course our “help-us-decide” poll and figuring out the last 7 (or 8 or 9 or 10 hahahaha).
STEVEN: And don’t forget, there’s still time to vote in our second “Debating the Decades” poll, which looks at books published from 2000-2009. The poll is open for one more week, through November 17th.
Filed under: Heavy Medal Mock
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired in 2022 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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