February is all about awards. The teenager in me cheered when Richard Linklater won Best Director at the Golden Globes and again when Beck won Album of the Year at last night’s Grammys. But even though I’m gearing up to watch the Oscar red carpet, my favorite February awards were announced last Friday at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference – the Newbery Medal and Honor books. It probably isn’t a surprise that a youth services librarian has always loved to read and I’m one of many librarians I know who has always held those gold sealed Newberys in the highest esteem. And since this year’s winners already have wait lists, I thought I’d look back at my favorite Newbery winters from the past that you can check out while waiting to read this year’s winner, Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover.
1968 – From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Newbery Medal) & Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, and Me, Elizabeth (Newbery Honor) – E.L. Konigsburg is only author to ever win a Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor in the same year. She is also the first author I fell in love with. To this day, I read Mixed-Up Files at least once a year because no other book I’ve ever read has captured the frustration and confusion of growing up as an older sibling the way Konigsburg did. She understood what it was like to want an independent identity so badly that running away seems like the only answer. (As an adult, I also appreciate the consequences the characters face because they ran away!)
1981 – Jacob Have I Loved – Katherine Paterson (Newbery Medal) This book was published and awarded a Newbery the year I was born. While I didn’t read it at the time, it ended up being an important part of my childhood. In fifth grade my mother took me to an author lecture at Kutztown University where I was lucky enough to meet Katherine Paterson and have her sign my copy of Jacob Have I Loved. She was exceedingly kind and told my mother that she was a wonderful parent for taking me out of school in order to encourage my love of reading. Even my teacher, Mrs. Gilbert, couldn’t be upset when I showed up in school the next day, proudly carrying my first autographed book.
1989 – Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices – Paul Fleischman (Newbery Medal) My first experience reading in front of an audience came in fourth grade when I was chosen to be one of the voices to perform the poem “Book Lice” from Joyful Noise at my elementary school’s arts festival. After getting over the shock of having a read a poem about lice (!), I was incredibly excited for my first public appearance. Mrs. Polcrack, the reading specialist, lovingly coached me through many rehearsals even though I routinely stumbled over the correct pronunciation of “Roget’s Thesaurus.” I still have much of the poem memorized!
2005 – Al Capone Does My Shirts – Gennifer Choldenko (Newbery Honor) By this point, I was a college graduate, a first-year English teacher, and a new wife. It made total sense to take a copy of all of 2005’s Newbery winners with me on our wedding trip to Aruba. I didn’t have an eReader yet so I packed an entire carryon of books to read on the beach. Al Capone Does My Shirts was my favorite and I still adore it for depicting the intense love a family feels for their children.
2009 – The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman (Newbery Medal) This is, hands down, my absolute favorite book from all 400 Newbery winners going back to 1922. I honestly don’t have a single critical thing to say about this beautiful book that uses the structure of Kipling’s The Jungle Book to support the engaging story of Nobody Owens and his childhood with ghostly foster parents in a British graveyard. I highly recommend listening to the audiobook version because no one could do better justice to the story than the author himself.
CLICK HERE to see a list all of the 2015 ALA Youth Media Awards which includes many different honors including the Newbery Medal & Honor, the Caldecott Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, and other prestigious awards in youth literature.
And CLICK HERE for a list of all 400 Newbery winners going back to 1922!