One of the quirks of this publishing year is the prevalence of so many sequels (and companion novels) to previous Newbery books. In addition to THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE, I count five more: APPLEWHITES AT WIT’S END by Stephanie Tolan, PALACE OF STONE by Shannon Hale, ONE YEAR IN COAL HARBOR by Polly Horvath, STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY by Grace Lin, and SON by Lois Lowry. Will any of them be able to strike Newbery gold (or silver) a second time around?
Well, the odds are not in their favor, certainly. In the past five years, for example, only 6 of 22 recognized books have been authored by Newbery veterans (Jack Gantos, Jennifer Holm, Christopher Paul Curtis, Gary Schmidt, and Jacqueline Woodson–twice). Going back an additional five years doesn’t drastically alter that ratio (13 of 43). So it’s hard to get recognized a second time, let alone for a sequel. But it can be done–and nobody did it more impressively than Laura Ingalls Wilder who won Newbery Honors for five consecutive volumes: ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK, BY THE SHORES OF SILVER LAKE, THE LONG WINTER, LITTLE TOWN ON THE PRAIRIE, and THESE HAPPY GOLDEN YEARS.
But there are also precedents in the modern era. Cynthia Voigt won the Medal for DICEY’S SONG and then an Honor for SOLITARY BLUE the very next year. BUD, NOT BUDDY won the Medal: an Honor for THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE would match that feat.
Robin McKinley won an Honor for THE BLUE SWORD; the Medal for THE HERO AND THE CROWN. Similarly, Richard Peck won an Honor for A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO; the Medal for A YEAR DOWN YONDER. Can APPLEWHITES AT WIT’S END, PALACE OF STONE, ONE YEAR IN COAL HARBOR, or STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY buck the odds, surpass their predecessors, and capture Newbery gold?
And, finally, when it comes to later books in the series–not the immediate sequel–you have Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper, scoring first an Honor and eventually the Medal. Lois Lowry is already in elite company (being a two-time Medalist), but an Honor for SON would be duplicate this feat in reverse (i.e. first the Medal, then an Honor).
Now the Newbery committee is only concerned with the criteria–not the odds. THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE just took her turn in the spotlight. Which of the remaining titles deserve an in-depth examination? And will any of them be able to repeat the Newbery magic?
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About Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at email@example.com
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