liberty, Uncategorized

What is the Newbery Medal?

Recently I read a book that I didn’t think was that great.  I trudged through every page because the book is a Newbery Medal winner with a shiny silver stamp on the front of the book.  I thought maybe the next page would have a novel inspiring idea, but I just kept turning the pages and coming up empty.

It made me wonder, what is the criteria for the Newbery Medal?  Are they all this bad, or did I just happen to pick one up that was an off year for the award?  Or maybe it awards books in genres I’m not a fan of?  Maybe I’m just too dumb to get the genius medal worthy parallels?

I did some research, and this is what I came up with: (all courtesy of

The book I was not a big fan of was given the award the year after Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and the year before The Giver by Lois Lowry (a phenomenal read, btw), so maybe the book in question is better than I give it credit for if it ranks up there with the big dogs.

The Newbery Medal award began in 1922, with one book being awarded the medal and a few books honored by the award annually.  It is given by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, and decided by a Selection Committee consisting members from libraries across the country.  It is named in honor of an 18th century bookseller, John Newbery, and given to the author with the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

The award is given for the most distinguished book published in the previous year (2018 is already named for a book published last year).  I tried to look up major events the year my book fail was published, wondering if that may have contributed to the choosing of this book.  However, I just don’t see how the invention of the nicotine patch or DNA finger printing really played into the storyline.

The book needs to have had its first publication in the United States in the year prior to the award and be printed in English.  Check.  It needs to be a book where the potential audience is children. Check.  It needs to be distinguished, as defined by:

• Marked by eminence and distinction; noted for significant achievement.
• Marked by excellence in quality.
• Marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence.
• Individually distinct.

Probably check since I didn’t google define all those words (makes me lean towards the I just am not smart enough to gets its conspicuous excellence side of my earlier contemplation).

The book does not have to have been the most popular, just the most significant.  As I look through the list of all books published that year,  I laugh that two are on my Book Pile (When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin Yalom and Boundaries by Henry Cloud) and one is still on our bookshelf (The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister), but none of those fit the children’s book arena.  Maybe it was just a tough year for kids books?

I am not sure.  It reminds me to never judge a book by its cover, or more specifically by the shiny medal on its cover.  I hope to re-read some of the other Newbery Medal winners in hopes of re-respecting this award.  Hopefully I’ll be able to edit this post in the future with something optimistic and hopeful for you all.

Have any of you read a knock out Newbery winner, whether as a child or as an adult?




2 thoughts on “What is the Newbery Medal?”

  1. Sometimes I think that “award winners” only spoke to a few of the people who read the book and happened to be on the committee to choose the winner. This is certainly how I feel about the Man Booker Prize. I tried reading a few of the recent winners and I found the style (if difficult and vague is a style) to be all the same.
    Or, maybe it is like those awards for Truck of the Year. It seems like every truck has one. Perhaps the award givers collude (how I hate to use that word these days) and try to spread the awards around.

    Liked by 1 person

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