Should-a-Could-a-Won-an-Award Awards

I don’t know about you but I’ve participated in a few Mock Newbery Discussion Programs and each time, I’m just sure I know who will win the real one. But then, January rolls around and I hear the announcements and I am almost always surprised. Not so much by which books won but more so by which wonderful books didn’t win. I want to tell people about these books – these wonderful gems that somehow escaped the fame and fortune I feel they deserve!!! And lucky me, it’s my turn to blog. So, here you go – past books that, IMHO, deserve(d) something gold and shiny on their covers:

Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O’Connor

“When she reluctantly places a For Sale ad in the newspaper, Aggie doesn’t know that Kirby and his mom will need a room when their car breaks down on the way to Kirby’s new reform school. Or that Loretta and her parents will arrive in her dad’s plumbing company van on a trip meant to honor the memory of Loretta’s birth mother. Or that Clyde Dover will answer the For Sale ad in such a hurry and move in with his daughter, Willow, looking for a brand-new life to replace the one that was fractured when Willow’s mom left. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that Aggie and her guests find just the friends they need at the shabby motel in the middle of nowhere…”

I am still scratching my head over how Ms. O’Connor, using such clean and simple prose, was able to make me feel and care so deeply about these characters. I don’t usually find myself in tears while reading a MG book, but this was an exception. Touching and true without being maudlin or dramatic.

Shackleton’s Stowaway by Victoria McKernan

This fictionalized account of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-16 Antarctic expedition follows steward Perce Blackborow from the time he stows away on the Endurance through his harrowing experiences in the Antarctic (including the amputation of his toes). Sprinkled throughout the narrative are selections from Blackborow’s pseudo-journal record that chronicles ongoing shipboard routines and the camaraderie among crew, in spite of fractious personalities and grim conditions…”  Booklist

People, people! Where were your heads when you were handing out awards in 2006?I have never read a more gripping, unbelievable tale and it is based on a true story! This book should be a requirement in every Social Studies Explorer unit as well as on every Free reading list (especially for boys) in the U.S. I am not kidding. Masterfully written and incredibly researched. This coming from a person who HATED history class, so you know it’s gotta be good.

Wolf Story by William McCleery

“A young father tells his five-year-old son humorous variations on the theme of a hen escaping the clutches of a wily wolf.”


That’s all I’m gonna say.

Oh, except that, DARN, it’s out of print. But available online, used, or in fabulous, hilarious audio format.

Elephant Run by Roland Smith

“…as soon as Nick arrives, trouble erupts in this remote Burmese elephant village. Japanese soldiers invade, and Nick’s father is taken prisoner. Nick is stranded on the plantation, forced to work as a servant to the new rulers. As life in the village grows more dangerous for Nick and his young friend, Mya, they plan their daring escape. Setting off on elephant back, they will risk their lives to save Nick’s father and Mya’s brother from a Japanese POW camp…”

Okay, another historical fiction book, I know – and I don’t even consider myself a HF fan (except for the crazy fact that I’ve written two, but, whatever) – this book had it all. Cool setting, gripping tale, great kid-animal relationship, a missing father, war and hostages and characters that leap off the page. Again, where are the award-givers when you need ‘em?

One book that writer friend, Esther Hershenhorn felt was worthy of something shiny:


“Based on incidents from her own life and told in the voice of her older sister, Audrey, White offers a heartfelt story of what it’s like to be poor, hungry, and sometimes happy. It’s 1948, and Audrey lives in a Virginia coal-mining camp with her father, who drinks; her mother, who drifts away, if not physically, emotionally; and her sisters, “the three little pigs…” Booklist, starred review

Esther calls it simply “a gem.”

And believe me, Esther knows children’s books.

Finally, a super MG recommended by agent Michael Stearns in this post:


Michael Stearns says, “Though it brims over with heart and serious concerns, Jennifer Murdley’s Toad is a comedy—the kind of book that actually could be described as “madcap,” if that word hadn’t been hollowed out and made hokey through overuse by bad Hollywood copywriters.”

Mr. Stearns, being hilarious himself, can spot good comedy faster than you can kiss a frog and turn into a frog…which is just one of the funny twists that occur in JENNIFER MURDLEY’S TOAD. If I were you, I’d take his word for it.

So there you are – a start to what I’m hoping will be a long list of Should-a-Could-a-Won-an-Award books.

Nominate your own! Vote early and vote often! (Hey, I’m from Chicago, whaddya expect?)

Beverly Patt’s recent MG release, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER: A WWII SCRAPBOOK is actually on this year’s Allen County Mock Newbery AND Mock Sibert Awards lists. She is hoping that her 2009 novel, HAVEN, will one day be considered for a Should-a-Could-a Award. Learn more about Bev and her books at

Beverly Patt
  1. woot woot

  2. Thanks to all of YOU for adding to this list! And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a few new books to buy…

  3. What a great list, Bev! There are so many books that deserve to win awards. I’m a huge Bruce Coville fan and can’t wait to read the rest of the books on your list.

  4. I read LITTLE AUDREY and thought it was beautifully written. I’ll have to check out these other recommendations. Thanks for the heads-up!

  5. I’ll second Mike’s nod to NEIL ARMSTRONG IS MY UNCLE. And on a longer horizon, can we talk a minute about Judy Blume who, incredibly, has never won a Newbery? Sure, she has the humor thing working against her (unfairly), but Blubber, Are You There God, and Deenie (to name a few) tackled serious subjects that mattered to kids.

  6. The Newbery committee got it right last year, IMHO, but I did want to see some love for Nan Marino’s NEIL ARMSTRONG IS MY UNCLE & OTHER LIES MUSCLE MAN McGINTY TOLD ME (which admittedly did get a Golden Kite Honor nod) and Nova Ren Suma’s DANI NOIR. Both of those are serious contenders for my favorite book of 2009.

  7. What a great idea. I loved Greetings from Nowhere.

    Never understood why Deborah Wiles’ Each Little Bird That Sings didn’t get some Newbery love (though it was a finalist for the National Book Award). I could see a sticker on Jordan Sonnenblick’s Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, too.

  8. Thanks so much for these suggestions. I’ll be putting together a book order for my elementary school library and really want to find books that the kids will love . . . and am always looking for good historical fiction to supplement curriculum.

  9. These sound terrific! Thanks for the suggestions. 🙂

  10. I think often comedic books are overlooked for awards, but I thought Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis had it all: comedy and heart. I laughed, I cried, I read it again.

  11. Great book suggestions. I am SO excited to get a few of them for my son (a reluctant reader). Thanks.