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Beanbag Amerika
February 7, 2019

2019 Mock Newbery & Caldecott

Every year, at the American Library Association's annual Midwinter Meeting, a slate of awards are handed out to the best and most notable books for children and young adults that were published the preceding year. In anticipation of this announcement, libraries across the country hold their own "mock" awards for some of the major categories. At Brooklyn Public Library we hold three of these mock events: for the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz. (While I have participated in previous years in the Mock Printz discussion—for Young Adult literature—I sat out this year's and will only be focussing on the first two here.)

The Randolph Caldecott Medal is awarded to the year's "most distinguished American picture book for children," and the John Newbery Medal is awarded to the year's "most outstanding contribution to children's literature." For our mock awards, members of our Children's New Book Showcase Committee and staff from the Youth and Family Services Department met in November to narrow down the best of the year's books to a shortlist for each award. The lists were announced to youth specialists system-wide and dates were set in January for all interested librarians to come together for rousing discussion, lobbying, and perhaps some good-natured argument, ultimately resulting in a vote for the Library's winning books.


Mock Caldecott Shortlist
  • A Big Mooncake for Little Star written and illustrated by Grace Lin
  • The Day You Begin illustrated Rafael López, text by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Drawn Together illustrated by Dan Santat, text by Minh Lê
  • Dreamers written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales
  • Hello Lighthouse written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall
  • A House that Once Was illustrated by Lane Smith, text by Julie Fogliano
  • Julián is a Mermaid written and illustrated by Jessica Love


Mock Newbery Shortlist
  • The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch
  • Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender
  • The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
  • The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson


Presenters of the Mock Caldecott shortlist titles.

On the morning of January 9th, over 30 librarians from across the Brooklyn Public Library system met to discuss our Caldecott picks. Each book was given a short pitch by a member of the New Books Showcase Committee, and then we split into small groups of five or six for a lively, deeper dive into each title. After about an hour and half of discussion, final arguments were made, ballots were cast, and the votes were tallied. Our Mock Caldecott Medalist was…

Book Cover: Julián is a Mermaid
Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Set right here in the Coney Island neighborhood of our own borough, young Julián, while returning home from the public pool, sees the most magical thing he's ever seen, three "mermaids," and wants nothing more than to be like them. This is a sweet book about feeling free to express your inner self, and finding the beauty and magic in the world around you. Love's watercolor, gouache, and ink art on earth- and brick-toned paper transform the city into an undersea wonderland in a wonderful daydream sequence, and portray the wonderland that city itself can be during the annual Mermaid Day Parade at the book's climax.

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We also chose two runner-up Honor books:

Book Cover: A Big Mooncake for Little Star
A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

Little Star and her mom bake a giant mooncake, which over the course of the next two weeks, Little Star sneaks out of bed each night to nibble on. This book is both a fable about the phases of the moon (and trail of stardust across the night sky) and a sweet, domestic tale of a family passing on culinary traditions. Lin's art is striking and unique, in night sky yellow on full black backgrounds.

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Book Cover: Dreamers
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Described as a "love letter to the public library," Morales's Dreamers is an autobiographical telling of her own immigrant experience. In her lush and colorful artwork, she weaves motifs of Mexican folk tradition throughout, so that these threads of heritage accompany her and her young son on their journey.

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Presenters of the Mock Newbery shortlist titles.

A week later, on the evening of January 17th, we met over pizza for our Mock Newbery discussion. In years past, the Newbery meeting has brought in a smaller group and we've discussed the books in one large roundtable, before holding the vote, but this year nearly as many librarians gathered as for the previous week's Caldecott discussions, and so the meeting was run in a similar fashion. Each book was given a five minute pitch by a member of the Children's New Book Showcase Committee, before splitting apart into groups of about five for in-depth discussions. After hashing it all out, our Newbery Medal Book was…

Book Cover: The Night Diary
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

Set in formerly British India at the time of the partition into primarily-Muslim Pakistan and primarily-Hindu India and the ensuing mass-displacement and violence, twelve-year-old Nisha starts a diary addressed to her dead mother as a means of making sense of her new senseless world.

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Our two Newbery Honor choices were:

Book Cover: Hurricane Child
Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender

Twelve-year-old Caroline was born during a hurricane, an unlucky start to a difficult life. In lush prose, befitting its island setting, Callender tells a coming of age story that weaves together the threads of a missing mother, a spectral apparition, and a new friendship that is blossoming into an unrequited crush.

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Book Cover: The Parker Inheritance
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

At the heart of The Parker Inheritance is a puzzle. A puzzle that twelve-year-old Candice tries to solve, a puzzle that ruined the promising political career of her grandmother, one of the first black city-managers in the Jim Crow south. Shifting in time between the present and the past, we solve the puzzle along with Candice and her new friend, bookish neighbor Brandon, as they discover family history and confront the systemic racism that still permeates our culture. Johnson handles all this with a light and non-didactic touch, in a story that pulls you along.

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The official award results were announced on January 28th. While our picks were not the top winners in either case, both the Newbery Medalist, Merci Suárez Changes Gears, and the Caldecott Medalist, Hello Lighthouse did appear on our shortlists.

Tags: Book Talk

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