The Highest Honor in Children's Literature
The John Newbery Medal is awarded annually to the author of the best book in children's literature published the previous year. The Medal is presented by the Association for Library Service to Children, and it is one of the oldest literary awards in the world. At the request of Frederic G. Melcher, the Newbery Medal was designed by René Paul Chambellan in 1921, and the inscription on the Medal still says, "Children's Librarians Section".
Only books published by American publishing houses written by authors who claim residence in the United States are eligible for nomination, and there have been several authors who have won multiple Newbery Medals. Author John Krumgold won his first Medal in 1954 for ?And Now Miguel, and he won his second Medal in 1959 for Onion John. Lois Lowry has also won two Newbery Medals for Number the Stars (1989) and The Giver (1993).
The History of the Newbery Medal
John Newbery (1717-1767) was the first publisher dedicated to the publication and encouragement of literature written expressly for children. He was such a profound presence and architect of the burgeoning market that the Newbery Medal was named in his honor.
The idea for the Medal was introduced to the American Library Association by Melcher and received enthusiastic support. Melcher strongly believed in the tradition and importance of children?s literature, and exclaimed that the purpose of the award would be: "To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children's reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field." The first Medal was presented in 1922 to author Hendrik Willem van Loon for his work, The Story of Mankind.
Although originally the winner of the Medal was decided by popular vote, the procedure has changed multiple times since then and now the winner is chosen by a special committee.
Debate over Newbery Medal Winners
There have been many instances of controversy over the winners selected for the Newbery Medal Award. Beyond typical arguments of the subjective matter over who was the most deserving any given year, many literary scholars have remarked that the winning book of the Medal is often too complex and mature for most children to understand or appreciate. Some have even argued that to distinguish a book with the Newbery Medal serves to only alienate potential young readers.
Regardless of the controversy, the Newbery Medal has remained the gold standard for children?s literature, and winners are often featured on school reading lists for years to come.
Moon Over Manifest, Clare Vanderpool’s first novel, is set in the fictional small town of Manifest, Kansas, which is based on the real southeastern Kansas town of Frontenac, home of both of her maternal grandparents. Drawing on stories she ... read more
The Graveyard Book is a children's fantasy novel by British-born author Neil Gaiman. The story is about a boy named Nobody Owens who, after his family is killed by a mysterious man, is subsequently adopted and raised by the occupants of an old gr... read more
Lucky, age ten, can't wait another day. The meanness gland in her heart and the crevices full of questions in her brain make running away from Hard Pan, California (population 43), the rock-bottom only choice she has. It's all Brigitte's fault --... read more
For the visual novel, see Kirakira (visual novel). Kira-Kira is a young adult novel by Cynthia Kadohata. It won the Newbery Medal for children's literature in 2005. The book's plot is about a Japanese-American family living in Georgia. The ma... read more
The Tale of Despereaux, also known as The Tale of Desperaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread is a 2003 Newbery Medal winning children's fantasy book written by Kate DiCamillo. It tells the story of a mouse... read more
A Year Down Yonder is a novel by Richard Peck that won the Newbery Medal in 2001. It is a sequel to A Long Way from Chicago, which itself received a Newbery Honor. "The year is 1937, and the Great Depression has hit the Dowdel family hard. 15-ye... read more
Bud, Not Buddy is a 1999 children's novel by Christopher Paul Curtis. The book is the winner of the 2000 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature, as well as the Coretta Scott King Award that is given in recognition of o... read more
Out of the Dust is a verse novel written by Karen Hesse. It was winner of the Newbery Medal in 1998, Scott O'Dell Award, an ALA Notable Children's Book, an ALA "Best book" a School Library Journal "best book of the year", ... read more
Walk Two Moons is a novel written by Sharon Creech and published in 1994. It won the 1995 Newbery Medal. At the beginning of the story, Salamanca Tree Hiddle is taking a road trip with her grandparents to visit her mother in Lewiston, Idaho. To pass ... read more
The Giver is a 1993 novel by Lois Lowry. It is set in a future society which is at first presented as a utopian society and gradually appears more and more dystopian; therefore, it could be considered anti-utopian. The novel follows a boy named Jonas... read more
Missing May is a children's book, the recipient of the 1993 Newbery Medal. It was written by Cynthia Rylant, who has written over 60 children's books such as The Islander. The novel is set in present-day West Virginia. The protagonist is Summ... read more
Maniac Magee is a young adult fiction novel written by American author Jerry Spinelli and published in 1990. Exploring themes of racism and homelessness, it follows the story of an orphaned boy looking for a home in the fictional Pennsylvania town of... read more
Number the Stars is a work of historical fiction about the Holocaust during World War II by Newbery Award-winning author Lois Lowry. Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen is the central character, who lived in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1943 and was cau... read more
A description of the boyhood, marriage, and young professional life of Abraham Lincoln includes his presidential years and also reflects on the latest scholarly thoughts about our Civil War president. A Newbery Medal Book. This title has be... read more
The Newbery-winning novel in Cynthia VoigtâÈçs timeless series is repackaged with a modern look. When Momma abandoned Dicey Tillerman and her three siblings in a mall parking lot and was later traced to an asylum where she lay unrecognizing, unk... read more
Jacob Have I Loved is a novel by Katherine Paterson that won the 1981 Newbery Medal. The title refers to the sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau in the Jewish and Christian Bible, and comes directly from Romans 9:13: As it is written, "Jacob ... read more
The Westing Game is a novel by Ellen Raskin that was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1979. It has been adapted into a movie, released under both the names The Westing Game and Get a Clue. The sixteen heirs of magnate Sam Westing are called upon at the r... read more
Bridge to Terabithia is a work of children's literature about two lonely children who create a magical forest kingdom. The author is Katherine Paterson, and the book was published in 1977 by HarperCollins. In 1978, it won the Newbery Medal. Pater... read more
The Grey King is a children's fantasy novel by Susan Cooper which was awarded the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1976. It is the fourth of five stories in her young adult Arthurian fantasy cycle, The Dark Is... read more
The Slave Dancer is a children's book written by Paula Fox and published in 1973. It tells the story of a boy who witnessed first-hand the savagery of the African slave trade. The book not only includes a historical account, but it also touches u... read more
Summer of the Swans is a novel by Betsy Byars that won the Newbery Medal in 1971 about fourteen-year-old Sara Godfrey's search for her missing, mentally retarded brother Charlie. Summer of the Swans was filmed as Sara's Summer of the Swans fo... read more
Sounder is a young adult novel by William H. Armstrong. It is the story of an African-American boy living with his sharecropper family in Depression-era Louisiana. Although the family's difficulties increase when the father is imprisoned for stea... read more
When Claudia decided to run away, she planned very carefully. She would be gone just long enough to teach her parents a lesson in Claudia appreciation. And she would go in comfort-she would live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She saved her money,... read more
A Wrinkle in Time is a science fantasy novel by Madeleine L'Engle, first published in 1962. The book won a Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and was runner-up for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. It is the first... read more
Onion John is a novel written by Joseph Krumgold and published in 1959. It was the winner of the 1960 Newbery Medal. The story is set in 1950s New Jersey, and tells the story of 12-year-old Andy Rusch and his friendship with an eccentric hermit who l... read more
The Wheel on the School is a novel by Meindert DeJong that won the 1955 Newbery Medal for children's literature and the 1957 Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis. The book was illustrated by noted author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. Fred Inglis, in ... read more
... And Now Miguel is a novel by Joseph Krumgold that won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1954. It deals with the life of Miguel Chavez, a 12-year-old Hispanic-American shepherd from New Mexico. It is also th... read more
Winner of the Newbery Medal! When Amos Fortune was only fifteen years old, he was captured by slave traders and brought to Massachusetts, where he was sold at auction. Although his freedom had been taken, Amos never lost his dinity and courage. ... read more
The Twenty-One Balloons is a novel by William Pène du Bois, published in 1947 and awarded the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1948. The story is about a retired schoolteacher whose ill-fated balloon trip leads h... read more
Strawberry Girl is a Newbery medal winning novel written and illustrated by Lois Lenski. It was first published in 1945. Set in the U.S. state of Florida in the early 20th century, the story deals with two families, the Boyers and the Slaters. The Bo... read more
Johnny Tremain, a 1943 children's novel by Esther Forbes, retells in narrative form the final years in Boston prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution. The novel's themes include the apprenticeship system, the conflicts in Boston betw... read more
Adam of the Road is a novel by Elizabeth Janet Gray that won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1943. Set in thirteenth-century England, the book follows the adventures of a young boy, Adam. After losing his spa... read more
The White Stag (Narnia), object of the final quest of the Kings and Queens of Narnia in the C.S. Lewis book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The White Stag, a children's short novel, recipient of the 1938 Newbery Medal. The White Stag or Cs... read more
Caddie Woodlawn is a popular children's novel by Carol Ryrie Brink, and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman which won the John Newbery Medal in 1936. Set in the 1860s, it is about a lively eleven-year-old tomboy named Caroline, nicknamed "Cadd... read more
Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze is a book by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis that won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1933. The story revolves around Fu Yuin-fah, the son of a widow from the countryside of western Chin... read more
Waterless Mountain is a novel by Laura Adams Armer that was awarded the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1932. It is the story of Younger Brother, a Navajo Indian in the 1920s whose wish is to follow in the footst... read more
The Cat Who Went to Heaven is a 1930 novel by Elizabeth Coatsworth that won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1931. It was based on an old Buddhist folk tale, and is a highly symbolic work dealing with the conc... read more
Hitty Her First Hundred Years is a memoir written in the voice of a doll, Mehitabel, or Hitty for short, constructed in 1822 from the wood of a Mountain Ash tree from Ireland by a peddler stranded during a winter storm at a house in Maine. After ... read more
The Trumpeter of Krakow is a young adult historical novel by Eric P Kelly, first published in 1928 by Macmillan. It won the Newbery Medal for Excellence in 1929. The story takes place in historic Poland in the Middle Ages and centers around a secret ... read more
Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon is a 1928 children's novel by Dhan Gopal Mukerji that won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1928. It deals with the life of Gay Neck, a prized Indian pigeon. Mukerji wrote th... read more
Smoky the Cowhorse is a novel by Will James that was the winner of the 1927 Newbery Medal. The story details the life of a horse in the western United States from his birth to his eventual decline. Smoky is born in the wild, but is captured and train... read more
Shen of the Sea is a collection of short stories by Arthur Bowie Chrisman that won the Newbery Medal in 1926. Chrisman's original stories are written in the style of humorous Chinese folk tales. The title story tells of a king who tries to match ... read more
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle was the second of Hugh Lofting's Doctor Dolittle books to be published, coming out in 1922. It is nearly four times longer than its predecessor and the writing style is pitched at a more mature audience. The scope o... read more
The Story of Mankind was written and illustrated by American journalist, professor, and author Hendrik Willem van Loon and published in 1921. In 1922, it was the first book to be awarded the Newbery Medal for an outstanding contribution to children... read more