Five Newbery Predictions

In my post-holiday fog, I forgot to write an introduction to yesterday’s post.  I’m sure most readers figured out that I’m doing my annual end-of-they year wrap-up, and will spend the next several days posting lists of my favorite 2019 books.

In case anyone is keeping track, the last time I predicted anything correctly for the Newbery was 2016.  That year and in 2015, I predicted two books that won honors, so I’ve never hit it right for the actual medal.  So proceed with caution as you peruse this year’s list below.  This year, I’m predicting choices if Newbery committees reflect the tastes of various groups from the past.


The Line Tender by Kate Allen

Dutton Books for Young Readers

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Amazing characters, evocative writing, emotionally heart-wrenching–if the Newbery committee is anything like the one that picked Bridge to Terabithia (full disclosure: neither book is a personal favorite), this is a shoo-in for the gold.


New Kid by Jerry Craft

Published by HarperCollins

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I know that graphic novels don’t often get Newbery recognition, but I’ve seen this on enough lists to indulge myself on this one.  (If I were really following my heart and not my head, Queen of the Sea would be on this list as well).  Jerry Craft definitely has a message to deliver, but his touch is so light that he makes it  fun from start to finish.  We’ll need a committee like the one that made Roller Girl a Newbery honor book.


A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata

Published by Atheneum

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Whoever came up with this title and cover design, in my opinion, did this book a serious disservice.  While the cover didn’t draw me in, this book grabbed me right from the beginning, and taught me about an aspect of World War II and its aftermath that I wasn’t familiar with.  Looking for a committee like the one that picked Number the Stars or The War That Saved My Life.


Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

Published by Greenwillow Books

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Okay, I didn’t say these were my favorite books.  But I do admire the storytelling and writing of this fantasy woven from Filipino folklore.  A committee thinking along the lines of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon or The Girl Who Drank the Moon may pick this one.


Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Published by Atheneum

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Honestly, I was (again) pretty lukewarm about this book, but with six starred reviews and a National Book Award finalist designation, I feel I’d be remiss not to include it.  Not sure what kind of committee we’d be looking for here: Maniac Magee? or Jason Reynolds’s Newbery honor book A Long Way Down?

The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

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Summary:  Fionn and his older sister Tara have been sent to the island of Arranmore to spend time with their grandfather while their mother is dealing with some mental health issues.  Tara has been to the island before and likes to lord her knowledge over Fionn; she often leaves him behind to spend time with her crush Bartley Beasley, who is searching for a secret cave.  As Fionn gets to know his grandfather, he discovers that he is the Storm Keeper, the overseer of the magic on the island. Granddad knows that his time in this role is coming to an end, and that the island is looking to find a new Storm Keeper.  As Fionn learns more about the magic, he starts to use it himself to travel through time and learn more about Arranmore’s secrets. The ending brings about the revelation of the new Storm Keeper and some healing in Fionn’s family, but there are plenty of unanswered questions to explore in book 2.  308 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  A promising start to a fantasy series that ably combines magic and everyday life.  Lots of interesting characters and history have been introduced that will provide a good foundation for a sequel.

Cons:  As I was reviewing this book, I realized it was published in 2018.  Since I had to force myself to read it (generally the case with me and fantasy), this was something of a blow.  It looks like it was published in Great Britain in 2018 and in the U.S. in 2019, so that is something of a comfort to me.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.



Broken Strings by Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer

Published by Puffin Canada

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Summary:  A few months after 9/11, Shirli’s drama teacher decides to stage a production of Fiddler on the Roof.  Shirli is hoping to land the role of daughter Hodel, but instead is cast as Golde, the mother.  Disappointed, she throws herself into preparations for the show, turning to her grandfather, Zayde, to help her with props and costumes.  In his attic, she finds an old violin and a poster showing him performing with his family. Shirli knows Zayde lost his family during the Holocaust, but he has never shared the details with anyone, and has always seemed to dislike any kind of music.  When she asks him about the violin, he’s angry at first, but over the next several weeks, he slowly reveals the heartbreaking story he’s never told. When a catastrophic accident threatens to shut down the play, Zayde and Shirli are able to save it, and Zayde’s story ends up adding new layers of depth to the production.  Includes an author’s note with additional information about Auschwitz. 288 pages; grades 5-8.  

Pros:  Readers will be fascinated and horrified by this moving story.  Zayde’s story is revealed slowly, and interspersed with lighter chapters about the play and the budding romance between Shirli and her co-star Ben.  

Cons:  Shirli seemed at times a little too good to be true, and Zayde’s contribution to the play felt a little unrealistic.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Published by Aladdin

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Summary:  Moth has always felt like she doesn’t belong in the small town of Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts.  Her mother grew up in the same town–only it turns out it was 300 years before Moth did. Moth learns near the beginning of the story that her mom was part of a group of witches that was driven out of town by God-fearing Puritans.  The witches escaped to a paradise called Hecate, but Moth’s mother was so unhappy there that she eventually returned to her hometown. Moth discovers her own magical powers over the course of the story, eventually meeting her grandmother and getting the chance to visit Hecate.  Although she learns to love being a witch, she and her mother both ultimately decide that they belong in Founder’s Bluff. As history begins to repeat itself, they find that their witchcraft comes in handy in making sure evil doesn’t return to their town. 272 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Fans of graphic novels with spunky girl main characters (think Telgemeier, Jamieson, Holm, and Hale) will enjoy this story which has a little magic and witchcraft thrown in.  

Cons:  Guess I like my graphic novels to stay in the realm of realistic fiction; I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the aforementioned authors. 

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  “He’s gone.  They’ve killed him,” announces Ileana’s father on page one.  Slowly, we find out that “he” is Ileana’s uncle, a poet who has written protests against the Romanian government.  It’s 1989, and the secret police are everywhere. When Ileana allows an “electrician” into their home, and later discovers a bug in her bedroom, her parents decide she must leave the city for her own safety.  Ileana is a storyteller, and her move to a remote village to live with the grandparents she’s never met, fires up her imagination. As she tells the facts of her stay there–making a new friend, learning how to do farm chores, observing the Securitate slowly close in on the community–she weaves in a story about Brave Ileana, a princess who must find the courage to save her family.  As the villagers begin to hear of the revolution taking place in the city, they must all band together to save themselves–and Ileana is at the very center of their plan. 384 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  This debut novel grabs readers from page one and pulls them right into the drab world of Communist Romania–but also shows the beauty and imagination of the country through the stories Ileana hears and tells.  

Cons:  It’s taken me awhile to get to this book.  The cover didn’t appeal to me, nor did the idea of having fairy tales mixed in with historical fiction.  I’m glad I made time for it before the end of the year.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Remarkables by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Published by Katherine Tegen Books

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Summary:  Marin’s family is dealing with a move from Illinois to Pennsylvania and a new baby in the family; Marin’s also grieving over the loss of her two best friends after a fight right before the move.  Exploring the woods behind her new house one day, Marin sees a group of teenagers and watches them have fun together until they abruptly disappear. A few days later she meets Charley, an unfriendly neighborhood boy who reluctantly admits that he has seen the same group of teens.  He calls them the Remarkables, and he eventually reveals his connection to them. He believes they’re time travelers from the past; he’s pretty sure one of the boys is his father, whose drug addiction was fueled by guilt over having inadvertently caused the death of one of the girls. The transitions in Marin’s life becoming interwoven with the events of two decades ago as she and Charley try to figure out if they can change the past without upsetting the present and the future. 304 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  While there’s a touch of the supernatural here, Margaret Peterson Haddix moves away from her usual science fiction to focus more on family relationships and friendships.  The different strands of the story hum along at a pace that will keep readers turning the pages to find out how everything is resolved.  The happy ending celebrates friends and family with all their imperfections.

Cons:  Haddix fans may miss her usual cliffhanger chapter endings.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

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Summary:  A brave group of seven kits ventures into a nearby den to hear what their mother has warned them will be the scariest story ever.  A mysterious storyteller begins with a story about a kit named Mia whose brothers and sisters contract a disease that turns them mad.  It’s pretty scary, and at the end of it, one of the kits decides to leave. The next story is about a kit named Uly who only has three paws, and who is terrorized by a fox named Mr. Scratch–who turns out to be his father.  That drives another kit from the den. And so it goes, with the stories of Mia and Uly eventually intersecting as they manage to escape from one harrowing situation after another. By the end, only the littlest kit is left. When she and the storyteller start talking, their identities are revealed, which neatly ties up the book with an unexpectedly happy ending.  320 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  The scare level is just right for elementary kids, and animal lovers will enjoy it as well.  It’s a pretty long shot, but this book is so unique and so well-written, it would be fun to see it get some Newbery recognition.

Cons:  Beatrix Potter fans might want to skip the story entitled “House of Trix”. 

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.