Will a fantasy book win the Newbery? A look at the stars (literally)

The winner of the Newbery Award will be announced Monday--and I have been spending much thought on the chances of a fantasy book winning.

Obvious contenders that have been mentioned many times in many places are Splendors and Glooms, by Laura Amy Schlitz,  Starry River of the Sky, by Grace Lin, and The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate.   Of these, Starry River is my favorite, and I'd be happy to see it win.

But what of the other fine fantasy books published this past year?

Elizabeth at Shelftalker posted her masterful list of all the books that got stars from the professional reviewers last year.   And I, in turn, have gone through and extracted the sci fi/fantasy titles.   Here they are, with my commentary in italics:


SIX STARS-- none.
The Spindlers, by Lauren Oliver (Harper)

Splendors and Glooms, by Laura Amy Schlitz. (Candlewick)

Starry River of the Sky. Grace Lin. (Little, Brown)

There's two of the three mentioned above; I'm surprised that The Spindlers got so many--I found it a perfectly fine book, but not at all outstanding.

Who Could That Be at This Hour? Lemony Snicket, illus. by Seth. (Little, Brown)

It would be fun to see this with a shiny sticker on it, but unless this year's committee was very quirky, I can't see it happening.


The Fire Chronicle (Books of Beginning #2). John Stephens. Knopf,

Greyhound of a Girl, A. Roddy Doyle. Abrams/Amulet

In a Glass Grimmly. Adam Gidwitz. Dutton

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—Detectives Extraordinaire! Polly Horvath, illus. by
Sophie Blackall. Random/Schwartz & Wade

The One and Only Ivan,  Katherine Applegate, illus. by Patricia
Castelao. HarperCollins

The Seven Tales of Trinket, Shelley Moore Thomas, illus. by Dan
Craig. Farrar, Straus and Giroux

My own favorite of these is Greyhound of a Girl, but it's not eligible.   The Seven Tales of Trinket might be a dark horse in the race--I can imagine people agreeing to agree on it.  And there Ivan...which I didn't care for much myself, but those who love it seem to do so with a passion.   The people handing out stars this year seem to have appreciated humorous books--lots show up in the two star list too.


The Brixen Witch,  Stacy DeKeyser, illus. by John Nickle. S & S, McElderry

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again. Frank Cottrell Boyce, illus. by
Joe Berger. Candlewick

Cold Cereal. Adam Rex. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There,
Catherynne M. Valente, illus. by Ana Juan. Feiwel and Friends

Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, The. Christopher Healy, illus. by
Todd Harris. HarperCollins/Walden Pond

Last Dragonslayer, The. Jasper Fforde. Harcourt

Nanny Piggins and the Wicked Plan. R.A. Spratt, illus. by Dan Santat.
Little, Brown

Oh No! Not Again! (Or How I Built a Time Machine to Save History) (Or
At Least My History Grade). Mac Barnett, illus. by Dan Santat.

On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave. Candace Fleming.
Random/Schwartz & Wade

Remarkable. Lizzie K. Foley. Dial

Summer and Bird. Katherine Catmull. Dutton

What Came from the Stars. Gary D. Schmidt. Clarion

Lots more humor--and The Last Dragonslayer, which I love but which isn't eligible.   I could easily see The Girl Who....coming home with something.   


Adventures of Sir Balin the Ill-Fated. Gerald Morris, illus. by Aaron
Renier. Houghton Mifflin

Arthur Quinn and the World Serpent (The Father of Lies Chronicles).
Alan Early. Mercier Press

Bartholomew Biddle and the Very Big Wind. Gary Ross; illus. by Matthew
Myers. Candlewick

Castle of Shadows. Ellen Renner, illus. by Wilson Swain. Houghton
Mifflin Harcourt

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. Claire LeGrand, illus. by
Sarah Watts. Simon & Schuster

Deadly Pink. Vivian Vande Velde. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Deadweather and Sunrise. Geoff Rodkey. Putnam

Dragonborn. Toby Forward. Bloomsbury

Earwig and the Witch. Diana Wynne Jones, illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky.

The Empty City,  Erin Hunter. HarperCollins

The False Prince, Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic Press

Five Nights to the Crimson Moon. Walter Renfrey. Walter Renfrey

Goblin Secrets. William Alexander. Margaret McElderry/S&S

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange
Adventure. Lissa Evans. Sterling

Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book III: The Unseen Guest. Maryrose Wood. HarperCollins/Balzer and Bray

The Lost King, by Ursula Jones. Inside Pocket Publishing

Palace of Stone (Princess Academy). Shannon Hale. Bloomsbury

The Peculiar, Stefan Bachmann. Greenwillow

The Secret Prophecy, Herbie Brennan. Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins,

Ship of Souls. Zetta Elliott. AmazonEncore

Time Snatchers. Richard Ungar. Putnam.

The Traveling Restaurant: Jasper’s Voyage in Three Parts. Barbara
Else. Gecko Press

The Vengekeep Prophecies, Brian Farrey, illus. by Brett Helquist.

There are quite a few here I haven't read, mostly the ones that came out after October and so weren't part of my Cybils reading.   Of those I read, the two I like best that are eligible (Earwig and Horten aren't) are The Peculiar and The False Prince.  But I can't quite see them winning anything.   Betsy Bird really liked The Vengekeep Prophecies--"this is a standalone first novel that fulfills its promises and yet leaves you wanting more. In other words, the best kind of fantasy there is."  I will try to read it by Monday, so I can, if moved to do so, predict that it will win...

All of the 2012 books that I helped shortlist for the Cybils are on here--Ivan, The Peculiar, The False Prince, The Last Dragonslayer (Beswitched is 2011)-except for two.  Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities, by Mike Jung, didn't get a star, which I think is too bad.  I'm not saying I think it should get anything on Monday, but it should have gotten a star, so I'm glad we shortlisted it and showed it some love.  Likewise, The Cabinet of Earths is a really rich and tasty fantasy that should have been starred.  Much more interesting and better written (in my opinion) than some that did get stars....I could see this one with an honor, perhaps, maybe....

Conclusion:  My money is currently on Starry River to represent for mg sff.  What do you think?


  1. I love The Fire Chronicle - except for the fact that prizes so rarely go to the second in a series.

    1. I thought this was a stronger book than the first one, but you're probably right about its sequel-ness working against it...

  2. I'll be really surprised if Splendors and Glooms doesn't get something. It is the one of these consistently showing up in all the mocks I've seen. Then again the Newbery committee is so hard to predict. Like impossible actually.

    It is interesting that I haven't seen The Girl Who...mentioned anywhere as a contender. There is no buzz about it. No real discussion. Interesting because of how many people wanted to discuss the first book last year and lamented its apparent ineligibility. This could be a surprise win.

    I'm always surprised at some of the books that get starred over others so I try not to pay too much attention to that. :)

    1. I really do think The Girl Who...stands a chance. It is much tighter plotwise than the first book, and the qualities of the writing that people praised in the first are still there.

      And indeed, the one star books in particular are a tad random!

  3. I am hoping Starry River as well. It is just a really nice MG book.

  4. Totally agree about CABINET OF EARTHS. The writing is so lovely. I had an ARC and kept emailing my friends with snippets.

  5. I could see Starry River or Splendors and Glooms getting something. I've even heard Seraphina bandied about, but I think it skews too old. However, if you consider that The Hero and the Crown once won the Newbery . . . that was before the Printz existed, but I believe the committee is not supposed to consider what other awards a book might be eligible for.

  6. Thank you for putting this list together, Charlotte! I was thinking the exact same thing as Misti was about Seraphina (cf. Hero and the Crown), too. Am I the only one who prefers Dumpling Days to Starry River of the Sky, though?

  7. I'm surprised The False Prince only got one star!

    Anamaria - I've heard lots of people say they prefer Dumpling Days, but that doesn't mean Starry River isn't wonderful.

    As for The Spindlers, Lauren Oliver is very trendy, which may play into the hype.

    1. I would have given The False Prince a star!

  8. I haven't read Dumpling Days, so can't comment....But the thought of Seraphina getting something is quite appealling!

  9. I'm hoping for Starry River.

  10. My money's on Splendors and Glooms (my favorite fantasy that didn't make the Cybils shortlist, but which admittedly is better suited to the Newbery anyway). I would also be happy to see a sticker on Starry River, and I'm not favoring it for the Newbery, but I agree that Cabinet of Earths deserved at least one star!

  11. I would LOVE to see a fantasy book win the Newberry this year. Unfortunately, I haven't read as many of the candidates as you, but I adored Splendors and Glooms. I suppose I could see people agreeing on Trinket as well, but I also felt it was just lacking that extra something. Very excited to see how it turns out! I already had Starry River on my tbr, but obviously I need to get that done already.

  12. Splendors and Glooms is my top choice!

  13. I was thinking The One and Only Ivan might be the most likely, but I haven't read that many of these. I liked Starry River, but I found it harder to get into than the first book.


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