Mock Newberry club awards Poet X as winner

Dallas Dent, Contributing Writer

The Middle Division (MD) Mock Newbery Committee spent D and E periods last Tuesday reviewing several books that qualified as finalists for the Newberry Award, with the 36 students from grades six to eight engaged in spirited discussion over which finalist they thought should win the award.

“Each eager committee member has the opportunity to debate which book should be the winner,” faculty advisor Rachael Ricker said.

Maeve Goldman, a member of the club, was hooked onto the discussion and loved to engage in the debates to convince others which books were best, and equally enjoyed hearing others voice their opinions about their favorite finalists, she said.

“There were definitely many tough moments during the event because unlike last year where one book clearly stood out above others, so many good arguments were made for each book, and in the end any book could have won,” Larry Tao (8), another member of the club, said. 

Students loved the book options so much that through a series of five rounds of elimination, there was a tie that narrowed down the finalist to six books rather than the usual five, Ricker said.

The committee ended up choosing the book Poet X written by Elizabeth Acevedo as their unofficial winner of the award. The book is about Xiomara, a teenager growing up in a strict Catholic household in Harlem who finds her voice in slam poetry. The novel was also recently awarded the Michael Printz Award that exemplifies Young Adult Literary excellence. Poet X was chosen because the group felt that it encompassed the pains of growing up and using your voice through adversity to do what you love, Ricker said.

The other finalists included Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed, Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty, The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang, and The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani.

Club member Camila Florencia (7) chose Poet X because she felt a personal connection to the it, she said. “My mother grew up in a strict Catholic household and attended Catholic schools throughout all her life,” she said. Florencia also felt that Poet X was beautifully written and that the main character’s rebellion felt organic rather than forced, she said.

Unlike previous years, each novel was told through the eyes of diverse characters with different backgrounds, Ricker said. “This change undoubtedly gave way to different expressions, experiences and an ultimately difficult final choice for the committee,” she said.

Ricker created the club to address the needs of students that wanted a more formal alternative to the Reader’s Forum, another MD book club, she said. The need for such a club is apparent as it grows larger every year, she said.

“What makes this committee unique, aside from their ability to award a Mock Newbery medal, is their general love for shared reading coupled with active discussion and discovery into the author’s intent,” Ricker said.