Early Newbery Medal Predictions

It’s only October, but Susan over at Wizards Wireless inspired me with her own predictions.  The season isn’t over yet and I haven’t read all of the 2008 books on my TBR pile,but the following books are my personal picks for a Newbery this year.

  • The Underneath by Kathi Appelt-  If this book doesn’t begin 2009 with a shiny sticker on its cover, I will be shocked.  The Underneath is poetic, haunting, complicated, realistic, fantastic, simple, and some much more.  Appelt has woven a deep tale that isn’t afraid to let children know that there is evil in the world.  But she also reminds us of the love and beauty in the world.  While not a story for the younger spectrum of the award (despite the cute and cuddly cover), this is a phenomenal story for 5th graders and up.  I am reading it aloud to my 6th graders and they love it.
  • Tennyson by Lesley M.M. Blume-  I haven’t heard much about Tennyson since the beginning of the year.  But without a doubt, this is in my top five books of 2008.  As I said in my review, I am reminded of Natalie Babbitt’s amazing Tuck Everlasting, a classic in children’s literature.  I was drawn into the story just like the main characters are drawn to the Mississippi River, and Blume has an amazing poetic and lyrical storytelling style.  A few of my students read the book last year and proclaimed it “amazing!”, so it certainly has kid appeal.  It’s a dark horse, but I will be pulling for it come January!
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins-  See, this is a tough one.  I am not sure if it should be eligible for the Printz or the Newbery.  It certainly covers from about 5th grade up.  What I am certain of is that I could not put this book down.  Neither could my students.  It’s action-packed and still thought-provoking.  Certain aspects of it reminded me of The Giver, which is a Newbery winner.  Printz or Newbery, I would love to see this one take home a medal.
  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson-  I might be cheating with this one, because I am still in the middle of it.  But so far, it’s an amazing book.  The quintessential middle-grade historical fiction novel, you don’t even realize it’s historical fiction.  While that may sound strange, I have learned that is the most important trait a historical fiction novel can have for my 6th graders.  They don’t want to read about “old stuff”, in their words.  But they will read a well-crafted story with realistic characters that just happens to take place in the past.  Chains drags you into the story and holds you hostage as you frantically turn the pages.  And Anderson’s painstaking attention to detail and historical accuracy only makes a great book even stronger.
  • Princess Ben by Catherine Murdock- I can foresee this one sweeping in and grabbing an Honor medal. It reminded me a bit of Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy. It’s a fun medieval fantasy with a spunky female main character. Don’t count this one out!


As of now, these are my picks.  Keep in mind I do have a lot of books still on my TBR pile, so this is subject to change as January approaches!  Oddly enough, I realize now that all of my picks have female protagonists, yet I would not classify any of them as “girl books”.  I know I read a lot of books with male protagonists….interesting that none of them seem to make it onto my list of distinguished books.  Anyone else notice a similar trend?



This year I am extremely excited to be a member of the middle grades panel for the Cybil Awards.  Are you ready for the awards?!


Cybils Nominations Open October 1st: How Can You Participate?

Nominations for the third annual Children’ s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards (the Cybils) will be open Wednesday, October 1st through Wednesday, October 15th. The goal of the Cybils team (some 100 bloggers) is to highlight books that are high in both literary quality and kid appeal . The Cybils were founded by
Anne BolesLevy and KellyHerold.

This year, awards will be given in nine categories (Easy Readers, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Novels, Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books, Poetry, Young Adult Novels). Anyone can nominate books in these categories (one nomination per person per category). Nominated titles must be published between January 1st and October 15th of this year, and the books must be in English (or bilingual, where one of the languages is English). To nominate titles, visit the Cybils blog between October 1st and 15th . A separate post will be available for each category – simply nominate by commenting on those individual posts. If you are not sure which category to choose for a particular book, a questions thread will also be available.

Between October 16th and January 1st, Cybils panelists (children’s and young adult bloggers) will winnow the nominations down to a 5-7 book short list for each category. A second set of panelists will then select the  winning titles for the different categories. The winners will be announced on February 14th, 2009.

The Cybils lists, from long lists to short lists to the lists of winners, offer a wonderful resource to anyone looking for high-quality, kid-friendly books. The Cybils team has worked hard to balance democracy (anyone can nominate titles) with quality control (two rounds of panel judging by people who focus on children’s books every day). We do this work because we consider it vital to get great books into the hands of children and young adults.

How Can You Participate?

We think that the Cybils nominations will be of interest to parents, teachers, librarians, writers, and teens. If you have a blog or an email list or belong to a newsgroup that serves one of these populations, and you
feel that your readers would be interested, please consider distributing this announcement (you are welcome to copy it). The Cybils team would very much appreciate your help in spreading the word. And if you, or the children that you know, have any titles to suggest, we would love to see your
nominations at the Cybils blog, starting on Wednesday. Thanks for your help, and stay tuned for further

Jen Robinson
Evangelist for the 2008 Cybils


I am beyond thrilled to be a panelist for the 2008 Cybils Middle Grade Fiction panel! Check out the announcement on the Cybils blog.

Not familiar with the Cybils? For newcomers, Cybils stands for The Children’s and YA Bloggers’ Literary Awards, and they are the only book awards of any sort from the blogging community.

Still curious?

1. Nominations open to the public on Oct. 1 at cybils.com. Anyone 13 or older – authors and publishers included – may nominate a book!

2. In order to be eligible, books must be published in English between Jan. 1 and Oct. 15.

3. The books will go through two rounds of judging. Finalists are announced Jan. 1. Winners are announced Feb. 14.

The Cybils are a fantastic award and I am honored to be a part of the middle grade panel. Get ready to start nominating!


I am so excited about the Cybil announcements!  Check them out here. I am happy with the awards and you can expect more in-depth analysis when I get back. Congratulations to all the winners! 

Classroom Awards

My class this year helped me with my goal of reading the Newbery before it was announced at the ALA Midwinter meeting. They cheered me on, snagged my ARCs after I read them, and helped keep me motivated when my to-be-read pile became overwhelming. On Monday morning they came into the room asking, “Did Emma-Jean win?? Did they announce it? Was it a book you read??” (We read Emma-Jean aloud, and they loved her!). After I shared the winners with them, I also told them I had good news for all of them- one of their favorites had won the Caldecott Medal! Needless to say, everyone who had read “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” was thrilled beyond words. It was a great day!

On Monday, I also had the pleasure of introducing our latest project to them- our very own classroom awards! The students spent our reading workshop time reviewing the list of previous Newbery winners to see which ones they had previously read and enjoyed. As a class, we discussed the books to see if they had any special qualities in common. They had read and average of 6-8 books from the list. Needless to say, they were a bit impressed that I have read 86 of the winning titles/honor books!

We then reviewed the criteria and terms for the Newbery Medal. We read each rule carefully, noting the definitions of the phrases that we were not familiar with. The students were shocked that the rules were so open. They thought that it was much stricter and seemed to think only certain books could even be eligible for the award. It was certainly an eye-opening experience for them.

After reviewing the past winners and learning about the terms for the Newbery Medal, we began to brainstorm criteria for our own classroom award- the Mulbery! The students conferred with one another, sharing criteria as they brainstormed. Other students would then respond to the suggestions. Once we came to a consensus, the rule was added to the chart. After about 15 minutes of debate, we came up with the following criteria:

  • books may be published in any year
  • ARCs are eligible to win
  • books must be published for ages 10-16 (they decided that they tend to read YA novels with a few MG thrown in)
  • authors do not have to be American or maintain American residency
  • fiction books must be at least 100 pgs. to be eligible
  • both fiction and non-fiction books are eligible
  • if necessary, the committee may designate categories, such as “Best Series”, “Best New Author”, etc.
  • each student may nominate up to 3 titles
  • nominations will close at the end of March
  • in order to vote for the awards, you must have read a percentage of the books (TBD) or your vote will be discarded
  • only my students are eligible to cast votes

Criteria may be added at a later date, should the class deem it necessary. However, they seem fairly content with the rules as they stand. We are all very excited about making our own little mark on the world of children’s literature. My students have very strong opinions about what makes a great kid’s book. Who am I to argue with them- they are the experts! They were shocked that some of their favorites, including Darren Shan’s “Cirque du Freak” series, Andrew Clements’ books, and “Tuck Everlasting” are not award-winners. It should be interesting to see what they choose at the end of the year. I will be sure to keep you all updated!

I Did It!

WOW!  I did it!  I read the Newbery this year before it was announced!!  Not only that, but I read the Caldecott, too!  This will probably never happen again!!!  I was in complete shock this morning when I realized this.  How amazing is that? 

My Newbery Predictions

Tomorrow morning will be very exciting, for reasons besides the (hopefully) impending snow…….it’s Newbery Day! The 2008 Newbery Award will be announced at 7:45am from ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia. I know that thousands of books are published each year and the odds that I will have already read the Newbery are slim to none, but I can hope. I can’t begin to decide which should win the gold and which should be Honor books (or how many honor books there may be this year). Here are my predictions for this year’s awards.

  • Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis (I really, really want this book to win the gold!)
  • Home of the Brave by K.A. Applegate
  • Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
  • Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Schlitz
  • A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

I will be waiting with baited breath tomorrow morning, hoping one of “my” books wins. Of course, the odds are that another book will sweep in, under the cover of night, and take the big prize. (If that is the worst case scenario, it just means I will have another book to add to my pile of must-reads.)   My students are also very excited about tomorrow’s awards. They get to school at 8:10am and I have already promised to let them know the winners as quickly as I can. I signed up to receive the winners via text message from ALA, so I should know very soon after the awards are announced and before the students get to school. We will be spending our reading workshop tomorrow reviewing the terms and criteria for the Newbery along with perusing the list of past winners. We will then use this information to develop criteria for our own class award (to be awarded later in the school year). This way, the award will be a “real” part of their life even if we have not yet read the winner. Should the winner be a short(er) novel, it may just become our next read-aloud!