On Monday, we found out that The Girl Who Drank the Moon won the 2017 Newbery Medal and The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz, Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk, and Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan earned Newbery Honors. Watching the Youth Media Awards live is always one of my favorite days of the year because it they always make me so happy for the books I’ve read and so excited for the ones I haven’t read yet (as well as a bit sad for the wonderful books that weren’t honored). This year, the ALA awards were even more fun to watch because I was able to enjoy it with my Mock Newbery Book Club. Although none of our Mock Newbery predictions were honored by that committee, we were so excited to see so many books we read this year honored.
Starting a Mock Newbery Book Club this year came about because of a few reasons. First, I’ve been fascinated by the Newbery Award since I was a kid. I remember having to read Newbery winners/honors when I was in school, and I was always enthralled with the list. Being on the Walden Book Award Committee also helped me understand how book awards worked and made me want to share it with my students. Third, Michele Knott was willing to share what she has learned from her own Mock Newbery experiences to help me get started on the right foot. And finally, I had a group of kids that wanted to do it with me and were passionate. That is what really made all the difference.
To Get Started
Before officially starting the club in September, I scoured Newbery prediction blog posts, the Mock Newbery Goodreads group, the Mock Newbery prediction list, and starred reviews to come up with a list of books that I would share with the club. In the end, I chose 26 titles to split between the 3 months we’d be reading. Each month had a list of 7-9 titles for students to choose from, and they were asked to read 2 a month to equal 6 or more titles read before voting day.
T0 help my students have access to the novels, I began a Donors Choose project which was fully funded (THANK YOU!). I ended up with 3 copies of each book to share with my club. (I’ve also since received a grant to continue the book club during the spring though we haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet.)
My group of 7th graders (ranging from 10 to 20 students) met twice a week during their lunch time. Some students came every day instead of just twice, others only came once a week which was the minimum to be part of the voting. For the first 3 weeks of the month, we spent book club time reading or recommending books to each other. Book talk was all throughout the room–so much book love! The last week of the month, I set up discussions around each book for the students to look critically at each book while looking at the Newbery criteria. Students also had the opportunity to discuss the books they were reading at any time electronically through small groups that I set up on Edmodo. This was the process throughout October, November, and December/January. Then the last week before we voted, we sat in a circle and shared the book we were going to vote for as the winner and shared why.
By the end of our process, 12 7th graders and 2 6th graders who chose to read the books on their own were able to vote. To determine our winner and honors, I used a process similar to the Newbery committee. Students were allowed to vote (through a Google Form) for their top 4 books (the committee does 3). Their top vote received 4 points, second vote 3 points, etc.
Ghost by Jason Reynolds (16 points) *Odyssey Honor
Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee (15 points)
Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (12 points)
Save Me a Seat by Gina Varadarajan and Sarah Weeks (12 points)
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (12 points)
Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager (10 points)
Booked by Kwame Alexander (8 points)
Pax by Sara Pennypacker (7 points)
Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier (7 points)
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (6 points) *Newbery Honor
Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd (6 points)
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor (6 points)
Received votes totaling 5 or less points (in alphabetical order):
As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds *Schneider Award, Coretta Scott King Honor
Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm *Scott O’Dell (Announced 1/11)
Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill *Newbery Medal
Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz *Newbery Honor
Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
Samurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner *YALSA Honor for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
I cannot wait to go through this process again next year, but I hope to make it even a better experience. Here are some takeaways I have:
- I need to spend more time looking at the criteria and what it means with the students as well as possibly looking at past winners. It is really hard to get them past “I like it.”
- I need to decide if I want to give less options next year to allow for more people to read each book. They had A LOT of options each month, so some books only had 1 student read them thus couldn’t win even if that one person gave it their #1 spot. (Perry T. Cook, Girl Who Drank the Moon, and Wolf Hollow suffered from this.)
- I need to figure out how to ensure that all members come to the discussion days because it is really hard to discuss books if not everyone is there. How can I keep kids coming without making it feel like another class?
- I need to figure out how to structure the discussions better. With each person reading two, I can’t have all books’ discussions going on at once because a person cannot be in two places at once. That is why I like electronic or written discussion, but I have to work on getting more use out of these mediums.
Our Viewing Party
Then, on Monday, January 23rd, at 8am ET, we all gathered in my classroom to view the ALA Youth Media Awards live. This was all of my students’ first time watching the awards, and I loved going through the experience with them. Although they were so sad that their favorites weren’t honored, they were so ecstatic when a book they did know won something.
I cannot wait to do this again next year!
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