Prognosticating the Newberys, 2019 Edition

updated 1/28 with actual results/how we did.

It’s the time of year when librarians and other kidlit nerds like ourselves get antsy. The ALA will announce this year’s Youth Media Awards live on Monday from its Mid-Winter Conference (held this year in Seattle). The awards include more than the Newbery Award although it is the oldest and most well known (and announced at the very end!).

The awards committees have been reading and having secret discussions all year. None of us on the outside even knows what books have risen to the top, but we love to prognosticate anyway! We’ve been discussing various books we think have possibilities already. Here are our team’s final predictions:


I always try to distinguish the hot topics and trends that might influence the Newbery Committee.  “Diversity” is still up there, and “Refugees” has exploded this year.  With those in mind, here are my picks for the Newbery.  Can’t say which gets the gold, but I’m cautiously betting that three of these will be on the honors list: 

  • Front Desk (update for actual award: Asian/Pacific children’s literature winner)
  • Looking for Langston (really, Finding Langston; update for actual award: Coretta Scot King author honor)
  • Harbor Me OR Nowhere Boy 
  • The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle (update for actual award: Schneider Middle School winner)
  • The Season of Styx Malone (update for actual award: Coretta Scot King author honor)
  • Sweep (actual award: Sidney-Taylor Award)

I would say Inkling, but I think Kenneth Oppel is Canadian, which would disqualify him.  

There’s a chance Cardboard Kingdom will get a Caldecott mention—that happened a few years ago with another graphic novel that was NOT for little kids.  Cardboard stands a good chance for the Stonewall award, too. 

I’m pretty sure The Faithful Spy will get on the Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults or the Sibert Award (nonfiction for middle grades)—or both.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it won if one of those categories. (update: Faithful Spy was a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction title!)

I haven’t read enough YA to have any idea of the Prinz award this year.


“Hopefuls” for me are books that are well written and have worldview/themes/issues/characters I embrace. “Probablys” are books I think stand a strong chance of award-attention, even though I have worldview issues with them.


  • Sweep by Jonathan Auxier (Newbery love perhaps and possibly some Schneider love) (update: Sidney-Taylor award)
  • The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix (Newbery love would be awesome, but I’m also hoping for some Sibert attention and/or some Excellence in Nonfiction) (update: YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction title)
  • The Girl Who Drew Butterflies by Joyce Sidman (unlikely that two nonfiction titles will land in the Newbery spotlight, but I think this one has enough contemporary issues that it’s got potential. Perhaps for a Sibert if not a Newbery? Or an Excellence in Nonfiction?) (update: Sibert Medal winner!)
  • Inkling by Kenneth Oppel (perhaps some Schneider love for this one; I don’t see it as strong enough for a Newbery—is Oppel even American? If he’s Canadian, then he’s not a contender)
  • The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon (if this one wins, I’ll cheer heartily—a book with plenty of relevant “issues” but light-hearted and cheerful at the same time. We’ve had enough depressing Newbery winners over the years!) (actual: Coretta Scot King author honor)


  • Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis (heavy and harsh at times, but this author is so gifted, and the issues are certainly relevant enough; some Newbery committees really like to push the envelope)
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (if this one gets some love, it will be entirely issue-related; the writing isn’t quite strong enough to earn it a spot alone, but the committee considers lots of aspects, not just writing style) (update: Odyssey award (audio book))
  • Cardboard Kingdom : if this doesn’t get Stonewall love, I’ll be surprised. It screams inclusivity and acceptance.


I’m not very good at predictions.  Not good at all!

But if I can join in on the wishing….

I just finished The Season of Styx Malone, and I would really like to see it get some Newbery love. (update: Coretta Scot King author honor) 

The same goes for Sweep and Inkling.  (But I think Styx is in its own class, and it feels like such an American book.) (update: Sweep for Sidney-Taylor award)

 And I don’t know where it would fit, but it would be nice to see Nowhere Boy get some recognition. 

And yes, it’ll probably go to one of other books. But I can hope and wish that one of these books that combines excellent storytelling with actual issues gets recognition and wins out over a lesser story that involves hot-button topics.

Yes, that above sentiment is blunt!  But really, it’s frustrating when you see how many good books are around!

Readers: do YOU have any predictions?

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Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Northwest.

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