The Ghost of Newbery Past
As we approach the holidays and time off work for many of us, I thought I’d make a less controversial post and stick with something fun! When Nina and I first started working on the concept of this blog we had some conversation about our personal favorite Newbery winners of the past. So, I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you and hopefully you can share some of your favorites with me. I’m thinking about these in terms of all-times and in particular the ones that resonated with me when I was young, not the ones that I discovered as an adult.
I will start with saying that I really love all the recent winners. The Higher Power of Lucky shocked me, because like most of us, I’d never even heard of it. But I was totally charmed when I got my copy and read it. Such a fun, funny, lovely story with so much hope, fear and wonder. Good Masters Sweet Ladies was a title that I put off reading for months, because it seemed so far out of the realm of reading material I enjoy. But it was, of course, amazingly written, with such a unique and special way of bringing history alive for young people. I’ve spent so much of my career working with young people trying to find this exact style of interactive reading.
But back to my childhood favorites. Well here are a few:
1979 Medal Winner: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
I remember reading this book with my teacher, Mrs. Tesar, in the fifth grade and just being blown away. I loved the combination of mystery and silliness. It was one of the few books that I tolerated being read to me as opposed to just reading it more quickly myself.
1978 Medal Winner: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
I’ve been a sucker for a sad book my whole life. As a child you could have sold me, as opposed to turn me off of a book by saying "the dog dies". I think maybe I was looking for an expression of the normal childhood sadnesses I had by "feeling" the greater tragedies of these stories. Bridge to Terabithia haunted me (in a good way). I still re-read it every couple of years.
1971 Medal Winner: Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars
As you can probably tell, I was a bit of a serious child, and this is a book that I was completely enamoured of. I still love reading books about people with various physical and developmental disabilities and I studied psyhology in part due to my desire to understand these things better.
1968 Medal Winner: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
I really really wanted to be Claudia. I think this is the book that begun my obsession with New York City. I finally lived there during graduate school and being poor and struggling in New York City did not live up to the dreams I had built. But the Met – oh how I still love the Met.
1963 Medal Winner: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
My introduction to the world of science fiction. Also read by Mrs. Tesar in fifth grade. I went on to read the rest of the books in the series and to try to write my own time travel science fiction novel. This is another that I’ve continue to re-read into adulthood. I’m picky about my science fiction. It’s not my favorite genre. But good science fiction always makes my list of favorites.
I’ll stick with those – the true standouts for me, although there are many more that I enjoyed a lot. What are some of your favorites? I stuck with winners, but feel free to delve into Honor recipients as well.
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About Sharon McKellar
Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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