I have been a long-term reader of Heavy Medal, and I am obsessed with the Newbery Award in general. Like many of you, I highly anticipated the announcement on January 28, and dream of the day where I can attend the ALA Winter Meeting and watch it announced live (hello, come to Charlotte already!). This fall, I began following Colby Sharp and Mr. Schu’s blogs. One of the features I have enjoyed most is their Newbery videos every Saturday, which focuses on their challenge to read all the Newbery Award winners from 1992-present. This challenge has inspired me to start a Newbery Challenge of my own. Starting with the present, I want to go back and read each Newbery medal and honor books that I have not yet read. I am a big reader, but not so big on writing about what I read. So in addition, I would like to create a blog reflecting on the books for each year.
When I reflect back on my childhood, my knowledge of the Newbery was nonexistent. I read and loved Charlotte’s Web, Island of the Blue Dolphins and A Wrinkle in Time, but was not influenced by the award emblem on the front of the book. I loved the stories simply because they were good stories, not because they were “distinguished.” My formal introduction to the Newbery began in library school and the obsession began. I fondly remember purchasing the 2002 winner, A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, and reading it aloud to my newborn daughter. Fast forward past 10 years as a school librarian, and there are numerous books that I am almost ashamed to admit that I haven’t read. While my ultimate goal is to read all of the Newbery books, I’ve chosen ten that I feel most compelled to read.
1. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (medal, 2000) – This is the one that inspires my whole challenge. I can’t think for the life of me why I’ve never picked it up. I adored The Watson Go to Birmingham – 1963 (which received an honor in 1996) and very much enjoyed this year’s The Mighty Miss Malone. There are numerous copies of this book sitting on the shelves of my school library so access isn’t an issue. I hope to read it before 2013 is over.
2. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson (medal, 1978) – Unbeknownst to me before the Mr. Sharp and Mr. Schu’s Newbery videos, this won the Newbery the year that I was born. I’ve heard much about the plot already, and I know there was a Disney movie, but I’ve never read it. My 4th grade daughter abandoned this book this summer; maybe I can convince her to give it another try and we can read it together?
3. Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins (medal, 2006) – I actually tried to read this after it won and didn’t get through it. I want to give it a second try because of Jonathan Hunt, coauthor of Heavy Medal, who was on the committee the year this book was chosen. I hope I can persevere this time!
4. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (medal, 1991) – I was 12 years old when this was published, the same age as Jeffery Lionel Magee, and reading mostly things like Sweet Valley High. I was also suffering, hating middle school and dying inside as my parents fights intensified toward their eventual divorce. I wish I had someone in my life that would have led me to this book. Based on the description, it sounds like something I would have enjoyed.
5. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (medal, 1979) – Mr. Sharp and Mr. Schu weren’t fans of this one. However, one of the best classroom teachers I know, loved this book and taught a unit on it to her fifth graders. Based on the demand for it the title in the school library, she certainly got them excited about it.
6. Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin (honor, 2011) – So I purchased this and Dead End in Norvelt on the day the Newbery Award was announced last year (I had already read Inside Out and Back Again). I read Dead End in Norvelt, but never went back and read this one. After I read the 2013 medal and honors, I will finally read this book. I enjoy historical fiction so I think I’ll enjoy it.
7. The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (honor, 2009) – I can’t describe how much I loved Keeper, and how incensed I was that it was robbed of Newbery love. I hope I enjoy The Underneath just as much.
8. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (honor, 2005) – Gary D. Schmidt is a master at historical fiction, and I feel this book calling to me from its shelf in my school library; this year, I will answer.
9. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman (honor, 2011) and 10. An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy (honor, 2004) – I flock to middle grade fiction book and always root for those to win the Newbery. My favorites from 2012 were The One and Only Ivan, Crow and Starry River of the Sky. What I appreciate most about Heavy Medal is that it helps bring other books that I would never consider as potential Newbery books onto my radar. I enjoyed this year’s discussion of Bomb by Steve Sheinkin and last year’s discussion of I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems. I look forward to reading Newbery medal/honors outside of middle grade fiction.
Sara Ralph has been a member of the Nerdy Book Club for as long as she can remember. She has been an elementary school librarian in Asheboro, NC for the past ten years. Her lifelong mission is to inspire her students and children (aged 10, 7 and 5) to become Nerdy Book Club members. Since her last NBC post, she has finally figured out how to use Twitter and you can follow her @sralph31. You can follow the progress of her Newbery Challenge at http://ralphreadsnewbery.blogspot.com/