The Newbery Award & Honors

Ok. This is a biggie. I GUARANTEE you’ve read some of these books, either by choice or by the dreaded “required reading” list somewhere along the line.

Administered by the ALA, the Newbery Award is the oldest and most prestigious award for Children’s Literature in the US. (NOTE: I feel like sometimes they cross into YA, but when it was created, YA wasn’t a category). It is named for the first publisher to make Children’s works profitable with editions of Mother Goose & Newtonian Science texts for children.

HERE is the official site for the award. Per this site, the criteria for the award are:

  • The book must be published in English in the United States the previous year.
  • The author must be a citizen or resident of the United States.
  • The book must be considered for its theme, presentation (clarity, accuracy and organization), plot, characters, setting, and style.
  • The book must relate to a child audience.
  • The book must contribute to literature.
  • The book must stand alone and not as a part of a multimedia presentation

Either link will lead you to a list of past winners/honorees. As with all ALA awards, there is a committee of librarians and professionals who do the judging, and publishers submit the work.

SOAPBOX: Some of these books are all-time favorites. Some of them I thought were not so great. Recently it has been pointed out (and I agree) that the more recent selections had a tendency to be VERY complex and almost adult in their themes. NOT something to recommend to a struggling or indifferent reader. (IMHO the older books are great for that). The reply from the committee was that these books were picked for their LITERARY merit, a la the Pulitzer, and that you wouldn’t expect every adult to read and enjoy the Pulitzer books. ok. I get it. BUT- the way this is marketed is that if a book has this gold or silver seal, it is a golden choice for ANY child to read.  Winning a spot on this list guarantees the author’s reputation, spots on school reading lists, HUGE sales, addition to curricula everywhere, special shelving in libraries & stores, etc. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re using this list as a recommendation list, be aware of the complexity and “literary” nature of SOME of the more recent winners. Know the child you’re recommending to. These ARE great books. These are NOT necessarily books to hand a child who doesn’t like reading. Some are. Holes by Sachar is one of the more accessible newer choices (1999). So, as with all lists that someone else makes, use your brain, make choices, and realize that’s all they did too. 🙂

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2 Comments on “The Newbery Award & Honors”

  1. Miss Anderson says:

    I find the Newberry books are excellent to read with my advanced sixth and seventh graders. They aren’t quite ready for the super-edgy YA fiction, but they need something more complex than many of the books marketed to their age group (like Wimpy Kid). Our book club reads them almost exclusively and the kids love them!

    But, for the most part, they are not the books I recommend to kids on a regular basis.

    • That’s an EXCELLENT use for this list. They are wonderful books, I just cringe when I see a reluctant reder being pushed toward them. I don’t think that’s the intent of the list, but all too often that’s how it is perceived/used.


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