Newbery Contender Update graphic

2020 Newbery Possibilities through January Stars

The dust may have barely settled from this year’s American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards, but I’m already looking towards next year. With January reviews in the books, we have several contenders so let’s review the criteria. The Newbery Award is given by the Association for Library Service to Children to

“the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year.” – Newbery Medal Terms and Criteria

That’s a pretty broad charge for the committee, so here’s a few more details:

  • Children are defined as being up to and including the age of 14.
  • Books must be published in the U.S. first; titles originally published elsewhere are not eligible.
  • The author must be a U.S. citizen or resident.

The 2019 Newbery committee named three middle grade novels – a much more traditional slate than has appeared in awhile. It will be interesting to see what the 2020 committee feels is distinguished. I liked breaking the contenders down by format, so I’m keeping that this year. However, I’m adding the publication date to entries this year to make it easy to see what’s accessible to the general public when. The lists will be pretty much the same as last year: Middle Grade Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Comics, Non-Fiction, Picture Books (Fiction and Non-Fiction), and Easy Readers/Early Chapter Books.

The final list is books that I think are ineligible – usually it’s because the author isn’t a U.S. citizen or resident, but wordless picture books and titles with previously published content could appear here as well. Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the Newbery committee and I have no knowledge of their official rulings on eligibility – I’m making my best guesses based on the terms and criteria and internet searches regarding citizenship/residency.

The 2019 winner and honors did all have three or more stars (you can see more about that on my YMA Results post). For those who follow the Newbery Award and enjoy trying to guess contenders, starred reviews are just one way to identify possible contenders. Each journal has a different criteria for what becomes a starred review and none of those criteria match the criteria for the Newbery Award. Heavy Medal’s feature where readers can nominate titles will be returning in March. Their blog is a great place to see more in depth discussion of how titles meet or don’t meet the Newbery criteria. As always remember that however many books we on the sidelines read, it’s a rare mock participant who will have read as widely as the actual committee members.

As of the end of January there were 22 titles with three or more starred reviews. Lists are after the jump.

Middle Grade Fiction:  3 books

Dragon Pearl book coverEventown book coverPay Attention, Carter Jones book cover

Dragon Pearl. Yoon Ha Lee. Hachette/DIsney-Hyperion/Rick Riordan. 9781368013352. 1/15/19. (3 stars)
Eventown. Corey Ann Haydu. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. 9780062689801. 2/12/19. (3 stars)
Pay Attention, Carter Jones. 
Gary D. Schmidt. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Clarion. 9780544790858. 2/19/19. (5 stars)

Young Adult Fiction:  8 books

Black Enough book coverCourting Darkness book coverThe Gilded Wolves book coverSpin book coverVoices book coverWe Set the Dark on Fire book coverThe Weight of Our Sky book coverThe Wicked King book cover

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. 9780062698728. 1/8/19 (4 stars)
Courting Darkness. Robin LaFevers. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 9780544991194. 2/5/19. (4 stars)
The Gilded Wolves. Roshani Chokshi. Macmillan/St. Martin’s/Wednesday Books. 9781250144546. 1/15/19. (4 stars)
Spin. Lamar Giles. Scholastic. 9781338219210. 1/29/19. (3 stars)
Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc. David Elliott. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 9781328987594. 3/26/19. (3 stars)
We Set the Dark on Fire. Tehlor Kay Mejia. HaperCollins/Katherine Tegen. 9780062691316. 2/26/19. (4 stars)
The Weight of Our Sky. Hanna Alkaf. Simon & Schuster/Salaam Reads. 9781534426085. 2/5/19. (3 stars)
The Wicked King. Holly Black. Hachette/Little, Brown. 9780316310352. 1/8/19. (3 stars)

Graphic Novels/Comics:  1 book

New Kid book cover

New Kid. Jerry Craft. HarperCollins/Harper. 9780062691194. 2/5/19. (4 stars)

Non-Fiction:  2 books

Shout book coverThis Promise of Change book cover

Shout. Laurie Halse Anderson. Penguin Random House/Viking. 9780670012107. 3/12/19. (3 stars)
This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality. Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy. Bloomsbury. 9781681198521. 1/8/19. (3 stars)

Picture Books: 7 books

Another book coverThe Bell Rang book coverBloom Boom book coverGittel's Journey book coverGood Boy book coverLet 'Er Buck! book coverThe Roots of Rap book cover

Another. Christian Robinson. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum. 9781534421677. 3/5/19. (3 stars)
The Bell Rang. 
James E. Ransome. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy. 9781442421134. 1/15/19. (4 stars)
Bloom Boom! April Pulley Sayre. Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane. 9781481494724. 2/5/19. (3 stars)
Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story. Lesléa Newman, illus. by Amy June Bates. Abrams. 9781419727474. 2/5/19. (3 stars)
Good Boy. Sergio Ruzzier. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum. 9781481499064. 2/12/19. (4 stars)
Let ‘Er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion. Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illus. by Gordon C. James. Lerner/Carolrhoda. 9781512498080. 2/5/19. (4 stars)
The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop. Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Frank Morrison. Bonnier/Little Bee. 9781499804119. 1/15/19. (3 stars)

Easy Readers/Early Chapter Books:  0 books

Question mark drawn in chalk on a blackboard

None yet – easy readers and early chapter books still aren’t reviewed at the same rate as some other formats. Hopefully something will show up later this year.

Ineligible:  1 book
Never Caught, The Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away; Young Reader’s Edition. Erica Armstrong Dunbar, illus. by Kathleen Van Cleve. Simon & Schuster/Aladdin. 9781534416178. – per the Newbery Definitions #5 regarding original work, I think

Happy reading!


3 thoughts on “2020 Newbery Possibilities through January Stars

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