What is the Newbery Award? Favorite Newbery Award Winners

The 2016 Newbery Medal book was just recently announced….And the winner is:

Last Stop On Market Street written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson.

Well known for his realistic YA novels that explore class and racial identity, de la Peña became the first Hispanic author to receive the John Newbery Medal. Though it’s not unheard of for the Newbery to go to a picture book, this is only the second time it has happened (A Visit to William Blake’s Inn won the 1982 Newbery Medal). Last Stop on Market Street follows CJ, an African American boy and his grandmother, as they take a city bus through their neighborhood after church. It is a tender story, with a focus on relationships, gratefulness, contentment, being kind and giving to others. I love the series of questions raised by the child and the Nana’s responses – her gentle way of steering the child to see the world through the eyes of others and seeing the good around you instead of the negative.

In one of the book clubs I’m in, we just read the 2012 Newbery Medal book Deadend in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, which we all enjoyed and highly recommend. The story chronicles the summer of 1962 in the life of an eleven year old boy growing up in a small town in Norvelt, Pennsylvania. Jackie is grounded the entire summer for cutting down his mom’s corn. His only reprieve is the trips he makes to his elderly neighbor’s house, where he helps her with chores and writing obituaries for the local paper. It’s a humorous story, part memoir, part tall tales, interspersed with local and national history. A fun read!

My friend, Martha, and fellow book lover asked me to recommend my favorite Newbery Award winners. So, this blog is for you, Martha!

(Martha just recently made a trip to Malaysia and hand delivered a bag of children’s books for me to a family there. Thank you, Martha!)

What is the Newbery Medal?

The John Newbery Medal is a literary award given by the American Library Association (ALA). The award is given to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” Named for John Newbery, an 18th-century English publisher of juvenile books, this award became the first children’s book award in the world. Every book considered must be written by a US citizen or resident, and must be published in the US. For the complete list of Newbery Medal and honors, go to ala.org.

In 1937, the American Library Association added the Caldecott Medal, an award for the artist with the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the United States.
There are 95 Newbery Medal books. I have read 90 of them (still working on it!)

I have many of them on my list for Kids Books Without Borders available to you if you and your family are living overseas. I just wanted to highlight 12 of my favorites, both older and newer – it was very difficult to narrow it down to 12!

The Wheels on the School
by Meindert DeJong – 1955 Medal winnerI can’t recommend this book enough. The setting is a small village in Holland. A group of elementary school children are puzzled as to why the storks do not nest in their village. Their teacher encourages them to investigate and they set out on a project to find a solution to this problem. Meindert De Jong was a Dutch-born American writer of children’s books. In addition to winning the Newbery Medal, he also won the international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1962. A beautifully written book, with great character development, a suspenseful plot and a climatic ending. A book that will linger with you and your child for a long time. I recommend it as a read-aloud. (For ages 8-10)

The Bronze Bow
by Elizabeth George Speare – 1962 medal winner

Set in the time of Christ, this riveting novel tells the story of eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin. Filled with hatred, Daniel is intent on one purpose and one purpose alone – to avenge the death of his father at the hands of the Romans, joining with the rebels to fight the Romans. Then, he encounter’s Jesus who gently and lovingly shows him another way. Jesus says to him: “Can’t you see, Daniel, it is hate that is the enemy? Not men. Hate does not die with killing. It only springs up a hundredfold. The only thing stronger than hate is love.” A powerful story, still relevant today. (Ages 10 and up)

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nim
by Robert C. O’Brien – 1972 Medal Winner

If you love animal fantasies (Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Redwall series by Brian Jacques etc.), this book will have you hooked from the first page on. A young mouse is desperate. Her house is about to be plowed and her youngest of 4 is too sick to escape. She recruits the help of a colony of mysterious, but highly intelligent mice who live under the rose bush. They come up with a great solution to her problem. So begins an wild adventure that will carry you along till the very last page. Don’t miss this one! (For ages 8-12 – another great read-aloud)

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley -1985

If you are looking for a fantasy and adventure with a strong female character, look no further. This is a great book to introduce your child to the world of high fantasy. Aerin, the daughter of Damar’s King, has never been accepted as the true heir. She sets out to find out the truth about her mother. With the help of Wizard Luthe and the power of the Blue Sword, she not only unravels a mystery and becomes a Damarian hero.

Splendid high fantasy… Filled with tender moments, good characters, satisfying action and sparkling dialogue.” School Library Journal

If you love this book, be sure to read the prequel  The Blue Sword, a Newbery Honor book. (For ages 10 and up)

Whipping Boy
by Sid Fleishman – 1987 Medal Winner

This is a short and easy read, with black and while illustrations by award winning illustrator, Peter Sis. This is an action-packed, humorous, suspenseful story, filled with lively characters. When a prince and his whipping boy trade places, they are caught up in a world of high adventure and mistaken identities. (Perfect for boys ages 8-12)

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor – 1997 Medal Winner

In this historical fiction novel, set in rural Mississippi during the Great Depression, Mildred Taylor chronicles the struggles of the Logan family, an African-American family of land owners. In the midst of a climate steeped in racism, intolerance, and social injustice, this close-knit and loving family must fight to maintain their values and their independence. This rich and moving story is a must read. The Logan family saga continues in the two award winning sequels Let the circle be unbroken and The Road to Memphis. (For ages 9 and up)

The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman – 1996 Medal Winner

Set in Medieval England, this is a beautifully woven story of an orphan girl, who has no family, no home. She apprentices herself to a midwife. As she learns midwifery, she not only gains self-confidence, she finds a world where she belongs and is needed. A poignant story of self-discovery and courage. (For ages 10-12)

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse – 1998 Medal Winner

Written in free verse, this is a quick read, but also a gripping story of hardship and loss during the Great Depression. As the words flow from the pages, you will feel yourself drawn into the life and heart of Billie Jo and rooting for her as she struggles for survival, love and hope. (For ages 11-13)


 Holes by Louis Sachar – 1999 Medal winner

This quirky novel, written for older children, will have you laughing one minute and in tears the next. Stanley Yelnats is a 14 year boy whose family is cursed by the actions of Stanley’s “no-good-dirty-rotten pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.” Stanley is wrongly accused of theft and sentenced to a juvenile detention facility known as Camp Green Lake. There, in the middle of the desert (no lake, no water even and definitely not a camp), Stanley and the other “campers” spend their days digging holes in the hot sun to “build their character.” Holes is an action-packed story, with colorful characters and strong voices and a complex plot that with keep you and your child reading way past bedtime. This book is a masterpiece and a wonderful book to read aloud. (For ages 10 and up)


A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park – 2002 Medal winner

If I could only pick one Newbery winner, this would probably be the one I would choose. This story takes place in 12th century Korea. It is a deeply moving tale of perseverance, courage and devotion. A young orphaned boy, Tree Ear, sets out on a long journey to deliver his master’s pottery to the royal court. Disaster strikes and robbers shatter the pottery. Tree-Ear, although devastated, decides to present his master art, even if it is only a single shard. (For ages 10 and up)

Crispin – The Cross of Leads by Avi – 2003 Award Winner

This is a suspenseful historical narrative that follows a 13-year-old peasant boy in 14th century England as he flees for his life after being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. It’s a page-turner, and it’s hard to put down, with lots of twists and turns in the plot. It’s also a moving tale about an orphan and his relationship with Bear, a traveling juggler, who offers him shelter, companionship and help along the way as he faces this treacherous journey (For ages 10 and
  Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata – 2005 Medal Winner

Written for older children (grade 6 and up), I’ll admit, this is a real tear-jerker. Sad and tragic, yes, but there is hope and redemption in the midst of the tragedy, so don’t pass this one over. It is the story of a Japanese family who move to a small town in rural Georgia, where they face prejudice and poverty. The parents must work long days at a chicken-processing plant to make ends meet. Katie is left with the care of her younger siblings. When her sister becomes ill, Katie finds a way to lovingly care for her and keep the family together, against all odds. A deeply moving story that will carve it’s way into your heart. (For ages 10 and up)

Many of the Newbery Award winners are geared to older children and teens – a topic of discussion and criticism of the Newbery Awards. Here is a list of Newbery Awards for younger children that I highly recommend:

Easy chapter

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleishman (1987)

The Matchlock Gun by Walter Edmonds (1942)

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (1950)

Other books for younger children – many of these are great for reading aloud:

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (2013) – reviewed on a previous blog post

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo (2004)

*The Wheel on the School by Elizabeth George Speare (1959)

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois (1948)

Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes (1952)

Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson (1945)

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski (1946)

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright (1939)

Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer (1937)

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (1936)

The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle by Hugh Lofting (1923)

List of multicultural Newbery Award winners that I recommend:

*Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (2005) – Japanese immigrants

*A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (2002) – Korea

Bud, not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (2000) – African Americans, Michigan

*Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (1977) – African Americans, Mississippi

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox (1974) Africa, African Americans

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (1973) – Native Americans, Alaska

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1973) – Denmark during WWII

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino (1966) – 17th century Spain

The Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska (1965) – Spain

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (1961) Native Americans, Pacific island

And now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold (1954) Hispanic-Americans, New Mexico

Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark (1953) – Peru

*The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong (1952) – The Netherlands

Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (1951) – African Americans, Africa, Massachussetts

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray (1943) – Medieval England

Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry (1941) – Polynesian Islands

The White Stag by Kate Seredy (1938) – Hungary

Dobry by Monica Shannon (1935) – Bulgaria

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze By Elizabeth Lewis (1933) – China

The Cat Who Went To Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth (1931) -Japan

The Trumpeter of Kraków by Eric P. Kelly (1929) – Poland

Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger (1925) – 19 ancient folktales from Central and South America

*summarized and reviewed above

List of fantasy Newbery Award winners that I recommend:

The Grey King by Susan Cooper (1976) – I highly recommend the entire Dark is Rising series, which includes Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree. (For ages 9 and older) This series is one of the most celebrated fantasy sequences of all time. The Dark Is Rising, based on Celtic and Welsh legends, has won numerous awards.(For ages 9 and up)


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1963) This is also a part of a series – if you are thirsty for more, when you finish A Winkle in Time, look for the other books in The Wrinkle in Time Quintet: A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, An Acceptable Time. (For ages 10 and up)

The High King by Lloyd Alexander (1969). Ok, so again this is also part of a series called The Prydian Chronicles, which is one of the most widely read series in the history of fantasy. Based on Welsh mythology and brimming with suspense, humor and adventure, The Prydian Chronicles includes  The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron (winner of the Newbery Honor), The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer and The High King. (For ages 8 and up)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s