The Newbery Award is given annually to a work of juvenile fiction. I’ve read a lot of the winners. Some have been more memorable than others. I’ll begin with the ones that meant the most to me and add others as I can get to them.
1922 (the first winner) The Story of Mankind. Hendrik Willem van Loon. A fun look at human history. Probably politically incorrect by now, but I remember loving it. A great book for building general knowledge. It doesn’t have to be read all at one time.
1927 Smoky, the Cow Horse. Will James. A kind of American Black Beauty.
1928 Gay-Neck. Dhan Gopa Mukerji. It’s written from the viewpoint of a pigeon. At times the reader feels she’s flying.
1929 The Trumpeter of Krakow. Eric P. Kelly. Set in 1462, it has a lot about alchemy and crystal gazing.
1931 The Cat Who Went to Heaven. Elizabeth Coatsworth. A cat lover as long as I can remember, I especially loved this book as a child. The story is about a Chinese artist and his very good cat.
1933 Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze. Elizabeth Foreman Lewis. Politically-incorrect nowadays, but I remember being fascinated by the glimpse of Chinese culture. It doesn’t deserve to be blacklisted just because of its colonial overtones. Children aren’t stupid. Talking about books with them is better than censoring the books altogether.
1943 Adam of the Road. Elizabeth Janet Gray. Set in 13th century England, it follows a boy who wants to be a minstrel. It gives a realistic picture of the Middle Ages.
1944 Johnny Tremain. Esher Forbes. Great re-enforcement for a student’s American history lessons. Johnny Tremain is an apprentice silversmith who works for Paul Revere.
1949 King of the Wind. Marguerite Henry. This fascinating story-within-a-story tells about the most famous thoroughbred of all time.
1951 Amos Fortune, Free Man. Elizabeth Yates. Another good novel that deals with American history, specifically slavery.
1959 The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Elizabeth George Speare. Another novel for bringing American history to life. I think this must be my all time Newbery favorite. It tells the story of Kit, a girl born to a life of luxury in sunny Barbadoes. At 16, in the year 1687, Kit must begin a new life in gloomy Connecticut among people intolerant of her “strange ways.” I still remember how humiliated she was made to feel for she letting lumps form in the porridge.
1962 The Bronze Bow. Elizabeth George Speare. Set in first century Judea, this is the story of Daniel Bar Jamin, a boy who has good reason to hate the Roman occupiers of his country. The climax is the boy’s meeting with Jesus of Nazareth.
1963 A Wrinkle in Time. Madeleine L’Engle. I won’t attempt to list all the reasons I loved this book. Five-year-old genius Charles is one of them.
1970 Sounder. William H. Armstrong. Another glimpse of American history, this time from a viewpoint not too frequent in schoolbooks–an African-American family with both racism and the Great Depression to contend with. Strong stuff, but unforgettable.
1972 Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nihm. Robert C. O’BrienScience fiction at its best.
1973 Julie of the Wolves. Jean Craighead George. Read this and you’ll know what it’s like to be a wolf.
1976 The Grey King. Susan Cooper. This is one book in a series about King Arthur. It sent me to read the rest of them.
1978 Bridge to Terabithia. Katherine Paterson. This book has been the object of censorship, possibly because it’s thought to be too sad for young readers. It is sad, but it is also a wonderful depiction of friendship and courage. Children get it. I just re-read it and gained an even deeper appreciation of it. This is a fine book.
1981 Jacob Have I Loved. Katherie Paterson. The title comes from the rivalry between the Biblical brothers Jacob and Esau. The protagonist of the novel, however, is a girl whose pampered sister gets more attention from the family than she does. It’s a good book for children who feel eclipsed by a sibling.