Monday, November 3, 2014

A Mock Newbery Newbie Shares Her Tales from the Frontlines

There’s an epidemic – no, not ebola – spreading through our fair city and it’s the Mock Newbery Club movement.   As Malcolm Gladwell might point out, I was not one of its “early adopters.”   I only began this past September, following an invitation from fellow HVLA-ers to stop by Packer for a Mock Newbery party held to celebrate (or was it to rue?) the announcement of Flora & Ulysses.

I had such fun being a fly on the wall of this party.  I took in the kids’ impassioned defenses of Counting by 7s and Better Nate Than Ever, watched some boy’s book trailer for Doll Bones, all the while thinking – I have to bring this magic to Chapin.  

Fast forward to a feverish volley of emails between me, Kristyn Dorfman (Packer) & Hannah Mermelstein (Saint Ann’s), guiding me through the Mock Newbery basics (of which, Hannah rightly pointed out, many online guides already exist).   

Unfortunately for Kristyn and Hannah, I’m a sucker for getting my story firsthand (especially from talented librarians I’ve determined, at some HVLA meeting or other, are exciting role models!)

So here’s what I learned.   The first step is coming up with a list of 2014 titles you think stand a shot at the Newbery.  I did this over the summer, adding my personal touch – a brochure to distribute to the kids.  The SLJ blog, Heavy Medal, can be useful for compiling the initial list of candidates but also give you some bum steers depending on your students’ tastes.   My advice?  Choose what you think your community will gravitate to first.

Next, order the books.  I ordered 2-3 copies of each title in the  brochure, plus digital copies to read on my iPhone en route to work.  (Thank you, oh gracious Head Librarian, Barbara Lutz!) Then, I designated a cart in the library where the books could be easily found.   In September, I made a goofy (but well-received) i-movie Trailer announcement that I played to the entire Middle School community (classes 4-7) and created an online voting form in Google docs that put the Newbery criteria into kidspeak. 

Inspired by the HVLA partnerships I saw happening in Brooklyn, I also reached out to Chapin’s traditional rival across the street, Brearley.   The fabulous Head Librarian there, Amy Chow, was eager to partner and begin planning afterschool Mock-Newbery events that I pray will not result in an East Side Story rumble.

I’ll be updating you about what books are trending best in my upcoming blog post, but feel free to reach me at with any questions in the meantime.  As I’ve learned through my ten years as a member, sometimes an email from an HVLA pal makes all the difference.

- Natasha Goldberg, Middle School Librarian, Chapin School

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