Newbery Update

Since around 2005, we decided that, between the two of us, we wanted to read all the books that have won the Newbery Medal, which is given to one book every year that is deemed to be the greatest contribution to American children's literature.  We've enjoyed them and steadily made progress, though it's become harder in recent years, as the remaining books have become harder and harder to find.

But now we have read 92 or 94 of them.  The last two are "Daniel Boone", a 1940 win which is hard to find, probably because it's not great, and "The High King", which is easy to find, but hard to read in isolation, because it is part of a series.  Then we'll be done, and our ranking list will be complete (see below).

Here's a few pearls from our recent exploits:

New books.  Since the 2009-2011 run of 3 fantastic books, the new winners have been a bit underwhelming (especially 2012's "Dead End in Norvelt").  However, this year's winner, "The Crossover" by Kwame Alexander, really was great.  Surprisingly so, since it is written in freeform hip-hop rap, which isn't really our thing.  But it works great for the basketball story it tells.

New worst Newbery of all time.  The first Newbery ever was awarded to Hendrik Willem van Loon in 1922 for a book called "The History of Mankind".  It is a long history of the world (mostly western civ).  It reads mostly like a textbook.  I'm way more prone to enjoy something like this than mostly people, and definitely more than 99.99% of young adolescent readers, but it got quite tiresome.  In addition to its content, the author pontificates on his personal ideas way too much.  It's a good lesson for history writers since, from the vantage point of almost 100 years later, his personal ideas seem ridiculous.  May we all hold our current ideas more loosely than he held his.

Surprisingly good non-novels.  In general, we're a fan of the novels, but the poetic Newberys really have been enjoyable.  One recent read, "Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices" by Paul Fleishman (1989) was particularly fun.  Each poem, with alternating or concurrent sections for 2 people, are written from the point of view of a certain type of bug.  It's fun, different, and surprisingly good.  Great illustrations, to boot.

Most awkwardly named Newbery.  We have long noted the curiously named "Gay Neck: Story of a Pigeon" (1928).  Before moving to Burundi, I found a free used copy in Baltimore, packed it on the container, and read it about a year ago.  It's pretty enjoyable, in the typical way of Newberys prior to about 1950, which is to pick a far-off culture of the world (in this case, India), provide an admirable young protagonist and have him (or less frequently, her) go through minor conflict (in this case, surrounding his beloved pigeon).  Not bad, but I'm glad children's stories have developed as they have.

Here's our almost-complete rank list.  We realize it's pretty arbitrary, but it sure is fun.

From Most Favorite to Least Favorite:
  1. "The Giver" by Lois Lowry - 1994*
  2. "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle - 1963
  3. "Holes" by Louis Sachar - 1999*
  4. "Maniac Magee" by Jerry Spinelli - 1991
  5. "From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" by E.L. Konigsburg - 1968*
  6. "Jacob Have I Loved" by Katherine Patterson - 1981
  7. "A Single Shard" by Linda Sue Park - 2002*
  8. "The Wheel on the School" by Meindert DeJong - 1955
  9. "The Bronze Bow" by Elizabeth George Speare - 1962*
  10. "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman - 2009
  11. "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" by Robert C. O'Brien - 1972
  12. "When You Reach Me" by Rebecca Stead - 2010
  13. "Moon Over Manifest" by Clare Vanderpool - 2011
  14. "Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech - 1995
  15. "Secret of the Andes" by Ann Nolan Clark - 1953
  16. "Crispin: Cross of Lead" by Avi - 2003*
  17. "The Westing Game" by Ellen Raskin - 1979*
  18. "The View From Saturday" by E.L. Konigsburg - 1997
  19. "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" by Mildred D. Taylor - 1977
  20. "Kira-Kira" by Cynthia Kadohata - 2005 (E)
  21. "The Whipping Boy" by Sid Fleischman - 1987
  22. "The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle" by Hugh Lofting - 1923*
  23. "Number the Stars" by Lois Lowry - 1990*
  24. "Crossover" by Kwame Alexander - 2015
  25. "Sarah, Plain and Tall" by Patricia MacLachlan - 1986
  26. "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" by Elizabeth George Speare - 1959
  27. "A Year Down Yonder" by Richard Peck - 2001
  28. "Caddie Woodlawn" by Carol Ryrie Brink - 1936 (R)
  29. "Carry On, Mr. Bowditch" by Jean Lee Latham - 1956*
  30. "Up a Road Slowly" by Irene Hunt - 1967 (R)
  31. "I, Juan de Pareja" by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino - 1966 (E)
  32. "The Hero and the Crown" by Robin McKinley - 1985 (R)
  33. "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo - 2004*
  34. "Missing May" by Cynthia Rylant - 1993*
  35. "Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voice From a Medieval Village" by Laura Amy Schlitz - 2008
  36. "Shiloh" by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor - 1992 (R)
  37. "Rifles for Watie" by Harold Keith - 1958
  38. "Flora and Ulysses" by Kate DiCamillo - 2014
  39. "The One and Only Ivan" by Katherine Applegate - 2013
  40. "Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze" by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis - 1933*
  41. "Call It Courage" by Armstrong Sperry - 1941*
  42. "Dicey's Song" by Cynthia Voight - 1983 (R)
  43. "Bridge to Terebithia" by Katherine Paterson - 1978*
  44. "Dobry" by Monica Shannon - 1935 (E)
  45. "The Midwife's Apprentice" by Karen Cushman - 1996 (R)
  46. "The Grey King" by Susan Cooper - 1976 (E)
  47. "Adam of the Road" by Elizabeth Gray Vining - 1943
  48. "Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon" by Dhan Gopal Mukerji - 1928 (E)
  49. "Waterless Mountain" by Laura Adams Armer - 1932 (E)
  50. "Shadow of a Bull" by Maia Wojciechowska - 1965
  51. "Bud, Not Buddy" by Christopher Paul Curtis - 2000 (R)
  52. "The Door in the Wall" by Marguerite de Angeli - 1950
  53. "Dear Mr. Henshaw" by Beverly Cleary - 1984*
  54. "Johnny Tremain" by Esther Forbes - 1944 (E)
  55. "The Twenty-One Balloons" by William Pene du Bois - 1948*
  56. "Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices" by Paul Fleischman - 1989 (E)
  57. "Onion John" by Joseph Krumgold - 1960 (R)
  58. "The Trumpeter of Krakow" by Eric P. Kelly - 1929*
  59. "It's Like This, Cat" by Emily Cheney Neville - 1964 (E)
  60. "Ginger Pye" by Eleanor Estes - 1952*
  61. "A Visit to William Blakes's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers" by Nancy Willard - 1982 (E)
  62. "Shen of the Sea" by Arthur Bowie Chrisman - 1926 (E)
  63. "The White Stag" by Kate Seredy - 1938
  64. "Tales From Silver Lands" by Charles Finger - 1925 (E)
  65. "...And Now Miguel" by Joseph Krumgold - 1954 (E)
  66. "Thimble Summer" by Elizabeth Enright - 1939
  67. "Rabbit Hill" by Robert Lawson - 1945 (E)
  68. "Julie of the Wolves" by Jean Craighead George -1973 (R)
  69. "Island of the Blue Dolphins" by Scott O'Dell - 1961*
  70. "Hitty, Her First Hundred Years" by Rachel Field - 1930 (R)
  71. "Out of the Dust" by Karen Hesse - 1998 (E)
  72. "The Cat Who Went To Heaven" by Elizabeth Coatsworth - 1931 (E)
  73. "Dead End in Norvelt" by Jack Gantos - 2012 (E)
  74. "Criss Cross" by Lynn Rae Perkins - 2006 (R)
  75. "The Higher Power of Lucky" by Susan Patron - 2007 (E)
  76. "King of the Wind" by Marguerite Henry - 1949 (R)
  77. "Miss Hickory" by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey - 1947 (E)
  78. "A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal" by Joan Blos - 1979 (R)
  79. "Lincoln: A Photobiography" by Russell Freedman - 1988 (R)
  80. "Roller Skates" by Ruth Sawyer - 1937 (R)
  81. "Miracles on Maple Hill" by Virginia Sorenson - 1957 (R)
  82. "Summer of the Swans" by Betsy Byars - 1971 (R)
  83. "M.C. Higgins, the Great" by Virginia Hamilton - 1975 (R)
  84. "Strawberry Girl" by Lois Lenski - 1946 (R)
  85. "Amos Fortune, Free Man" by Elizabeth Yates - 1951
  86. "Sounder" by William H. Armstrong - 1970 (R)
  87. "Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women" by Cornelia Meigs - 1934 (R)
  88. "The Slave Dancer" by Paula Fox - 1974*
  89. "The Dark Frigate" by Charles Hawes - 1924 (R)
  90. "The Matchlock Gun" by Walter D Edmonds - 1942
  91. "Smoky the Cowhorse" by Will James - 1927 (E)
  92. "The Story of Mankind" by Hendrik Willem van Loon - 1922 (E)