All About The Newbery!
On January 11, 2016, the American Library Services for Children will announce the Youth Media Awards — 19 different awards — the Newbery being one of the most well-known among them. Often referred to as the Oscar of Children’s Literature, the John Newbery Medal is the most prestigious children’s book award that an author can receive. The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children (part of the American Library Association).
While it is clearly designed to reward the best of children’s literature in a given year, here are 10 things you may not have known about the award:
1. It has been awarded annually for 94 years, having begun in 1922.
2. It is named for John Newbery, an eighteenth-century British bookseller. Slightly ironic since only citizens or residents of the United States are eligible.
3. Fiction, non-fiction, and poetry are all eligible, but reprints and compilations are not.
4. The book must be written for children, with children defined as “persons of ages up to and including fourteen.”
5. The book must be an original work.
6. A book that was originally published in another country is not eligible.
7. The Newbery Award was designed in 1921 by René Paul Chambellan.
8. It is given for “making the biggest contribution to American literature for children.”
9. The award was the brainchild of bookseller Frederic G. Melcher who would go on to become editor of Publishers’ Weekly and co-found Children’s Book Week.
10. Artwork is not considered criteria for judging the Newbery.
(The Newbery Medal is frequently confused with the Caldecott Medal. The clear distinction is that the Caldecott Medal is awarded to the best-illustrated book for children. Thus, artwork is not a contributing factor of the Newbery.)
If you are looking for good books in the 9 to 14-year-old range, be sure and take a look at the following features about children’s books that have received Newbery Medals or honors:
The Newbery Award Through the Years
Hendrik Willem van Loon was the winner of the first Newbery Award 94 years ago in 1922:
Like a beauty pageant, the Newbery Medal has runners-up called Newbery Honors. Laura Ingalls Wilder was never awarded a Newbery Medal, but she has the highest number of honors — five. (1938, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1944)
Almost 75 years after being published, Mr. Popper’s Penguins was adapted into a 2011 film starring Jim Carrey as Mr. Popper. (1939)
The all-time bestselling Newbery Honor book is Charlotte’s Web. It’s speculated that the beloved Charlotte’s Web didn’t win a medal because (spoiler alert) Charlotte dies — a topic that was not being discussed in children’s books at the time. (1953)
Joseph Krumgold was the first author to win the award twice. (1954, 1960)
E.L. Konigsburg was the only author to win the Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor in the same year. (1968)
Virginia Hamilton was the first African-American to be awarded the Newbery (1975). She also went on to receive Newbery Honors for Sweet Whispers Brother Rush, The Planet of Junior Brown, and In The Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World.
Inspired by her readers and the recipient of many awards, Bette Greene developed this standalone book into a trilogy. (1975)
Newbery Medal winner Robin McKinley helped to shift the gender bias toward strong progressive female protagonists. (1985)
Now that you’re a Newbery expert, take this fun Buzzfeed quiz available to see how you rank in “How Many Newbery Medal-Winning Children’s Books Have You Read?”