Mar 2, 2014

Half a Dozen Newberys in the Post

Pile of Newbery Medal winners listed below

The other day I went on a book buying spree with a very specific focus: I ordered myself half a dozen Newbery winners, which you can see in the photo above (along with one I already had on my TBR pile and another two I have on loan):
  • Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field
  • Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes
  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
  • The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
A further two are currently on their way to me: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.
I’ve been doing some thinking lately about children’s and YA literary awards and the purposes they serve. As you can gather from my book pile, I want to familiarise myself with them, and I’m especially interested in the ones chosen by my profession. I’ve been reading Printz and Carnegie Medal winners with some consistency for quite a few years now, and the other day it dawned on me that there was really no reason why I shouldn’t also focus on the Newbery Medal. So I cleared the dust and cobwebs off my woefully neglected “Reading Projects” page and created a Newbery section. It turns out I’ve read 13 winners so far (as opposed to 28 Carnegies), which is actually quite a bit more than I thought. With my recent book order, bumping up that number will be both easy and fun.
Front facing photo of the Newbery Winners listed above

One of the reasons why awards interest me so much is that they’re conversation starters that come with a lot of cultural currency and prestige attached. Additionally, they tell us a lot about the narratives we privilege and raise questions about possible reasons why (which is why I’m so interested in numbers such as these). Award committees are made out of very knowledgeable people and I have all the respect in the world for them, but of course no award can encompass everything or be the be-all and end-all of literary quality. Lists of winners tell us what we value and often introduce us to wonderful books along the way; but as I become better acquainted with them, I hope to both develop my expertise and keep thinking about the books we aren’t seeing on these lists. I want to know what so many people with an interest in children’s literature are reading and recommending and talking about (a lot of excellent books, I expect, judging by my experience with these awards so far), but also, like any good professional, what else we could be including in these conversations. In short, award winners are an excellent tool, but fortunately not the only one at our disposal, and I want to keep this in mind even as I get excited about these books.
Newbery Medal logo

I’ll keep you updated on my progress, of course. And in the meantime, tell me: do you have a favourite Newbery winner?


  1. Ginger Pye! I'd forgotten I loved that book until I just saw your post. As I said on Twitter, The Westing Game is on my list. :)

    As for the wider Newbery list, oh man, I have ADORED some of these books, although I remember so little. Here are the ones you haven't already read or bought above:

    - Island of the Blue Dolphins (I do remember other kids hating this book but I really loved it)
    - M.C. Higgins, the Great
    - The Hero and the Crown (I read this as an adult and loved it)
    - Sarah, Plain and Tall (I read this twice as a child and hated it the first time, loved it the second time when I'd grown a little older)
    - And to mention the Honor Books, I *loved* A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer and Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman. I can totally understand why reading the Honor books would make this an impossible project, but I'd recommend those two.

    Sorry for the novel length comment, I got excited - I always knew a Newbery Medal book was going to be something I loved when I was a kid, and we often had to read them for school; as one of the kids who loved assigned reading, you've sparked lots of pleasant memories. :)

  2. *does a Hitty dance*
    Hitty, Hitty... Hitty, Hitty... *dance-dance-dance*


    Wait, I should... leave... an intelligent and helpful comment... somehow...

    *twitches, strains*

    Hitty... Hitty, Hitty...

  3. When I was in elementary school, I made a point of reading Newberry winners. I never felt like I got great guidance from my school librarian (probably because I didn't seek it out and didn't seem like I needed it). Those medals on the cover were like a seal of approval telling me that someone knowledgeable thought they were good.

    Some of my favorites were Dicey's Song, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Bridge to Terabithia, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Jacob Have I Loved. That last book was also one that I taught when I was student teaching. It was set in the same area as the school where I taught so the kids were really into it. It's focused on two sisters, but even the boys seemed to love it (which shows yet again that boys will enjoy books about girls when they're told it's OK--these particular boys were thrilled to see their culture in a book).

  4. As a kid, the Newbery was a guide. It didn't guarantee that I'd love the book (Out of the Dust, for example, always struck me as the sort of book adults love for kids, rather than a book kids themselves can appreciate - I absolutely hated it), but it gave me a general list to go by when I ran out of ideas. And THAT was amazing.

    My favorites? A Wrinkle in Time, Bridge to Terabithia , A Single Shard , Holes... and many, many others. True, there are books I've hated, but overall (especially once the Honors are thrown in), there are some amazing books.

    Do you also keep track of the National Book Awards (the YA portion)? There are some excellent books honored there as well...

  5. To me, the Newbery is the one award that you can almost ALWAYS count on to indicate a great book. I don't feel that way about ANY other award, including (or especially) the Pulitzer!

  6. Yay, Bud Not Buddy! (That's the only one from your stack I've read so far.)

    I need to get back to reading the Newberys (Newberies? Newbery winners). (She said, as she reads Flora and Ulysses.)

  7. I read From the Mixed-up Files.... when I was a kid and immediately began my plan to run away from home and hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    That is still a fantasy of mine whenever I visit a really good museum.

  8. I was talking about this with some of my friends recently! I said that the Newbery books are very, very, very hit-or-miss for me. Occasionally the Newbery gets given to a book I truly love, but more often I feel like it goes to the book that's the statistical average of all the books for kids that got written that year. And it's just not that interesting to me.

    But The Westing Game? That is some crazy awesome stuff right there. You cannot go wrong with The Westing Game.

  9. Of the ones in your pile there, my favorites are Kira-Kira and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Out of the Dust. Of course, I haven't read a lot of those yet. I saw that someone else commented that Out of the Dust wasn't a book kids actually liked, but both Annie and Gray really liked it. Holes is one of my favorites, and I really need to reread it one of these days. And From the Mixed-Up Files is a sentimental favorite of mine because I loved it so. dang. much. as a kid. One I didn't like--Island of the Blue Dolphins. I feel like a cretin when I admit that because so many people love it so much. But I just read O'Dell's Sing Down the Moon, which was an honor book, and I loved that one. Okay Debi, shut up already, huh? Hope you enjoy every single one of them, Ana!!!

  10. And what jamesbchester said: Yep, me too. Totally!

  11. My daughter really enjoyed Moon Over Manifest, The Westing Game, and Roll of Thunder. I've not read any of the books you listed, but I've heard good things about all of them.

  12. I just love reading projects like this. It's been awhile since I've done something similar; although I am currently pretty determined to read the classics I have sitting on my shelves. Now if only I could get started... :)

  13. Kira-Kira and Shiloh are both very good, but the Newbery you have to read is this year's winner: Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. I can't express how much I love that book.

  14. What a fun project! I have to admit I have no idea how many Newbury award winners I have read... When I was in the 'age group' I didn't really read many books for my age. I read more now that I am older, but I don't really pay attention to the awards. Have fun!

  15. I've had a few Newberys in my queue for the project I'm doing on Estella Society and it's been a good experience. Some, like The Westing Game, I hadn't even heard of before the project.

    My favorite Newbery is The Graveyard Book, or maybe Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I love those two books!

  16. I'll mention two that I didn't expect to like which I ended up liking a great deal: Louis Sachar's Holes and Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee. I thought I'd crawl through them, but I sprinted. Do you know the book 100 Books for Girls to Grow On? It recommends some of the Newbery winners but some other good ones too. You know...if you like reading projects and stuff.

  17. What a lovely challenge! I'm really looking forward to reading about it. I've never read any of your choices, although I have read another of Eleanor Estes' books, 'The Witch Family', which is one of my favourite childhood books (all right, I do have a lot of favourite childhood books).

  18. This is a good challenge to have. One of my favorite Newbery winners is Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis.I'm hoping to read Cynthia Rylant's Missing May this month. Happy reading.

  19. Impossible to pick a favorite, there are so many great ones! But I love the story behind A Wrinkle in Time--how it was rejected by so many publishers and then ended up winning the Newbery. I always found that inspiring.


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