Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mock Newbery Award - 2015 Wright State University

I attended a 1st Annual Mock Newbery Awards hosted at Wright State University. We met Saturday, January 17th from 9am-2pm at the Charles & Renate Frydman Educational Resource Center in Allyn Hall.  Prior to meeting we had all read 10 fiction titles with the potential to be considered at the real Newbery Award. I read most of my books as e-ink but I learned that people on the Newbery committee are required to read all potential titles in print, so no audiobooks, e-ink, manuscripts, galleys are ARCs are allowed. 
The announcement of the 2015 Youth Media Awards will take place at 8:00 a.m. Central time on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibition in Chicago. (YMA)
 We debated the pros and cons of each of the ten titles.  Below are main ideas to take away and the results of our vote. 


  • Alexander, Kwame The Crossover Houghton Mifflin Harcourt                           (ISBN13: 9780544289598) 

Pro - verse format, sports, strong parents, rhythm and flow, parents took turns taking care of each other, family dynamic, solid involved married, responsible adults, relevancy, realistic, figurative language, chapter titles structure the novel as though it were a game, sibling rivalry, advice that we hear but don't accept, look like you aren't paying attention but you consider it later

Con - hard to visualize things, couldn't always tell brothers apart, seemed more teen than juvenile, moves on the court are too advanced for junior high kids, newspapers don't often cover the junior high games even an all star team for junior high, foreshadowing with father was a missed chance to do something

  • Auxier, Jonathan The Night Gardener Amulet Books/Abrams                           (ISBN13: 9781419711442) 
Pros - amazing art work, embedded storytelling, fun characters, kids as the smart ones, sister as strong protector, reference to other stories , good emotional content, loss of parents put in historical context, advanced vocabulary, mystery, stories to deal with conflict, concept of the ghost in the tree, crutch called courage, movie potential, what are you willing to put up with even if it’s hurting you or killing you

Cons - not enough art work, slow plot, not scary enough, the ending as sort of a let down it felt like the easy way out, too dark? absent parents, predictable, elements of background knowledge the children may not have a reference to or familiarity with

  • Engle, Margarita Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal, HMH Books for Young Readers (ISBN13: 9780544109414) 
pro - novel in verse, good way to learn about a new topic, school use with history lesson, emotions, frame for talking about current events, different styles of poetry like those for the animals, concrete poems, human impact on the environment , complete picture, language was beautiful, believable characters, learned the most, comparison to South African Apartheid

con - most readers won't be familiar with any of the history, teen,  need to convince a teacher to use this as a class novel, don't see teens picking this up off the shelf

  • Lloyd, Natalie A Snicker of Magic Scholastic (ISBN13: 9780545552707) 
pro - fun quirky family, magic, vocabulary, Jonah is a strong character who follows his beliefs, refreshing, fun, wove in real experiences, hopeful and uplifting, words matter more than you know, symbolism, creates a connection to other characters with the words, emotional language, wins you over, debut novel, kids crave a bit of the expected, family setting is realistic, attractive cover but not childish, old souls

con - too familiar, too predictable, easy to compare to many other novels

  • Martin, Ann M. Rain Reign Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan (ISBN13: 9780312643003) 
pro - dog story, character with unique challenges, Aspergers, single parent, strong uncle, unexpected ending, based on truth story, teaches empathy, quick accessible read for a wide audience, understand Rose’s worries and those of her classmates, contrast of father's voice with uncle's voice, uncle saw the good in her, fun with homonyms, very clear in her descriptions, see her improvement with support of the uncle, feel her frustrations, no one was trying to change her, learning coping skills, think about the things that we say

con - characters were caricatures, only main character and family seemed real, does not seem realistic that if her schedule was changed so often that she got upset but at home lots of things went wrong that she handled better, character being left home alone

  • Preus, Margi West of the Moon Amulet Books/Abrams (ISBN13: 9781419708961) 
pro - cultural details, folklore, vocabulary, story of the crossing was instructive, can understand how much people what they were willing to go through to get to America, unique, fresh, mystery of the sister, master storyteller, makes you want to hear the tale, seamless, journey, suspending disbelief, distinguished 

con - few adult characters are redeemable, helpful notes are at the end to explain every thing but you really need the notes during the story to understand the plot as it is happening,  fairy tales are over done, beginning was contrived, disconnected with reality, abrupt ending, dark and unresolved elements

  • Sheinkin, Steve The Port Chicago 50 Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan             (ISBN13: 9780804167444) 
pro - compelling history, first hand accounts, great  for classroom use, unique content and presentation, positive contribution to Civil Rights knowledge, power of redemption, takes away from the shining glory of war stories, hard realities, strong details, parallel to Tuskegee Airmen, narrative nonfiction, made it personal, well researched

con -  bland writing, not descriptive , needed notes on the pages to explain where the information came from, court room drama was sort of glossed over, needs to work with a great storyteller, reader is left with a lot of questions, help reader put information in context 

  • Starmer, Aaron The Riverman Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan                         (ISBN13: 9780374363093) 
pro - strangely compelling characters, story draws you in, dark, unpredictable,  two sides to everything, all the characters were duplicitous, science fiction elements 

con - maybe too dark, references to sex and kissing, for older readers, part of a trilogy , kids do a lot of mischief with pee in balloons, and someone is shot but they never call the police, sexual abuse, confounding, hard to explain or pitch to readers 

  • Wilson, N.D. Boys of Blur Random House (ISBN13: 9780449816738) 

pro -  boys are amazing like superheroes, magic, great imagery, strong themes about family, brotherhood and loss , relationships, adventure, appealing, strong mystery, dominant setting, Beowulf references, coach as leader, not horror but scary, visceral and tactile

con - dark magic , father is married to a swamp witch, geography unclear, doesn't deal with race, white woman is married to a black man but it’s not an issue, would it work better in a fictional town?, transition from realistic to magic is abrupt, doesn't deal with poverty

  • Woodson, Jacqueline Brown Girl Dreaming Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin     (ISBN13: 9780399252518)
pro - historical fiction, autobiography in verse, family, emotions, strength, lovely and touching, each poem can stand alone, flows beautifully, style was a good choice for the story, strong visuals, see change in history,coming of age,not the change agents just trying to survive, scared to have a voice, stand the test of time, relevance, tired of traveling, inner conflict, loved her mom but didn't like who mom was

con - slow pace, pictures at the end and not interspersed, how did she decide what to put in and what to leave out, no reconnecting with father, leaves out author's homosexuality, doesn't touch on her difficulty reading, how did she overcome her issues in school to be a writer



  • Woodson, Jacqueline Brown Girl Dreaming Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin (ISBN13: 9780399252518)

  • Alexander, Kwame The Crossover Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (ISBN13: 9780544289598)
  • Martin, Ann M. Rain Reign Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan (ISBN13: 9780312643003)



  1. Interesting.I hope you enjoyed your first Mock Newbery experience. 2013 was my best Mock Award year ever. I actually voted for the real winners for Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz. First and only time my picks have aligned with the actual award committees.

    Do you mind sharing which contender earned your vote? My Mock Newbery isn't until Thursday and I am still torn between The Crossover, Absolutely Almost, and Snicker of Magic. In the interest of fairness I posted Mock CSK results below :) I LOVE Little Melba so hard.

    Mock Coretta Scott King results:
    Author award voting resulted in a tie between The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis and Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America by Tonya Bolden.

    Our illustrator winner was Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison and we gave an illustrator honor to Friends for Freedom: The

    Story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell.

    1. My favorite books were Riverman by Starmer, Boys of Blur by Wilson and Silver People by Engle. I found all three to be the most unique in terms of content and presentation. I think most people found them to be insurmountably weird or too mature for a juvenile audience.

      I liked Crossover a lot and I think it is a good choice. I still feel Brown Girl Dreaming lacks impact but I was clearly in the minority on this.

      Thank you for the suggestions. I have added those Coretta Scott King titles to my GoodReads list. I really enjoyed Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
      by Patricia Hruby Powell.

    2. I haven't read Boys of Blur or Silver People, but I'm adding them to my tbr pile. Riverman was very good, but I found it too dark for the intended audience and personally, I am just exasperated by trilogies.

      Josephine was my personal honor award winner, but it didn't make the cut. Bummer.

  2. I read Boys of Blur first. I was fascinated. I read the whole thing in two days and I thought it was a strong contender until I spoke other people who wanted to address the lack of a racial divide in Florida. I saw the book as magical realism so I wasn't concerned with things that looked like inaccuracies. The whole book is a tad strange, it was ok for me not everything matched our modern world.

    Silver People was also fantastic. I learned the most. I felt really in touch with the story. I think the cover is weak and overall I think the story is for teens.