Sixth Grade Students Participate in Inaugural Mock Newbery Club

The first Newbery Medal was handed out in 1922.  Ninety five years later the first Mock Newbery Award Election took place at Lowell Middle School.  

Newbery History

The seal is easy to spot on the cover of books.  But the process of earning it comes with numerous terms and criteria.  The medal is handed out by the Association for Library Services to Children annually. The Newbery Medal was the first in the world to be awarded for children’s literature.  In order to be considered for the award authors must be citizens or residents of the United States with their book published the year prior to when the award is handed out.  “The committee should keep in mind that the award is for literary quality and quality presentation for children. The award is not for didactic content or popularity.” is stated in the terms and criteria.  Also included are definitions for various aspects such as ‘author’, ‘distinguished’, and ‘original work’.  

Each year a new 15 member voting committee is formed with libraries, teachers, and book reviewers being represented.  They read books and convene two times within a year in a closed session to discuss books which should be nominated, aspects of each book,  and eventually select a winner.  The John Newbery Award Committee Manual also guides those determining a winner.  This year’s Newbery winner is The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, which was announced January 23, 2017.

Students discuss books they’ve read during their December meeting.

LMS Sixth Grade Committee

This is the first, but certainly not the last, installation of the Mock Newbery Club.  Nearly 100 sixth grade students participated lead by Margaret Tuori, Jennifer Hall, and Lucinda Ambs, all sixth grade teachers.  After attending September’s meeting of the Kent County Reading Council Tuori was inspired by Kurt Stoh, a teacher librarian in Northview, and the things he does in his library.  One of those things he spoke of was a mock Newbery club.  

Much like the actual books selected by the Newbery committee, sixth grade students read books geared toward kids age 8-14 written in 2016 by American authors.  They were chosen based on what other groups were including, talking with KDL librarians including Englehardt’s Heather Wood-Gramza and Lynda Austin, contacting Kurt Stoh.  The following 10 books were selected as contenders:

Wish by Barbara O’Connor Booked by Kwame Alexander
Moo by Sharon Creech Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Pax by Sarah Pennybacker Nine, Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Raymie Nightingale by Katie DiCamillo Maxi’s Secret by Lynn Plourde

Tuori is proud of the students who were part of the club.  She fondly says, “I think students learned that books were written to be read and TALKED ABOUT.  So many times in school, we tell them to read a book, and do something like questions, or a project with it.”  Students were serious about their commitment and participation with the group.  “Our 6th graders have become readers, who not only read their books, but also discuss them, make connections, and can have real conversation about plot, characterization, and language.”

Karina Peplinski and Lili Baker enjoyed being part of the Mock Newbery Club.

Committee Member Thoughts

Enthusiastic students were eager to be part of the club.  “It sounded fun and I like books.” says Lili Baker who read six of the books.  Maxi’s Secret was her choice for the winning book.  Another fan of this selection is Sophia Campos who shares, “It had so much emotion and feeling.”  Sophia was one of 15 students who read all 10 nominated books.  

Wish was Delaney Viewig’s choice to receive the award of the seven books she read.  “The family had struggles going on and she [the main character] handled it very well.” Delaney says when asked why she enjoyed the book.   Aubriegh Oswald’s favorite of the five books she completed was Wolf Hollow.  She says of the main character, “Her problems were interesting and she powered through it.”  Caitlyn Ayers also liked Wolf Hollow because she liked the main character. Caitlyn also read all 10 of the nominated books.

Aubriegh Oswald, Delaney Viewig, Grace VanTimmeren, and Caitlyn Ayers shared thoughts on their favorite book.

The Wild Robot was a committee favorite.  Ryleigh Wilder, who read five of the books, said, “When you thought it was going somewhere it went a different direction.” referring to the plot.  Karina Peplinski commented on the funny emotions in addition to an interesting plot.  She read six of the nominated books.  Isabel Saffell read all 10 books. “I thought the plot was interesting.  What happened during the book was intriguing.” she comments.  Grace VanTimmeren also read all of the selected books.  “I love reading books and would do it [Mock Newbery Club] again.” she says.  

Students were required to read at least five of the books from the list in order to participate.  The club met once in November and once in December to discuss books they had read, concentrating on character, setting, plot, themes, and language.  

Jonah Phillips and Tyler Weller pose with one of the nominated books.

And the Winner Is

On January 20 the LMS Newbery Committee met in the library, sitting at 10 tables, each representing one of the books nominated.  Students spent time rotating between all of the tables as they rated the five areas they discussed at prior meetings and thought about as they read on their own.  Then each student wrote his or her choice on an index card and placed it in a ballot box.  

A celebration including pizza, soda, and cookies was had as votes were tallied.  At last the moment the group worked to reach had come.  Which book would be the winner?  Cheers were heard as the Lowell Middle School Mock Newbery Club’s first winner The Wild Robot by Peter Brown was announced.

A majority of participants read more than the required number to participate.  Students learned how to share their opinions about books and hear those of others, furthering their own experience with the book.  Clearly the entire Mock Newbery Club is a winner.  

The LMS library has a section of books reserved just for sixth graders.  The school continues to look for donations to use for purchasing books.  If you would like to help support these students please contact the LMS office.  While the nominated books are geared toward ages 8-14 older students and adults should check them out.  If you know a sixth grade student who was part of this first election committee congratulate him or her on a job well done.


  1. My daughter really enjoyed this activity. It was great to see her so excited to read the books. I would continue doing this with the students. Way to go teachers and students!

  2. Awesome! Way to go 6th graders! Total respect and admiration for teachers Margaret Touri, Jennifer Hall and Cinda Ambs for all they do for kids.
    ….. Tom Burradell (Mr. B.)

    • I enjoyed learning and writing about this group! I’m looking forward to writing about their selections for next year.

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