A Newbery Story by Karen Cushman

Okay, my fellow nerds, here’s my Newbery story. My husband says it is mightily enhanced and exaggerated but I swear it’s all true.

In early February, 1994, I knew the Newbery announcement was to come the next morning but I didn’t pay too much attention. Catherine Called Birdy was my first book and I knew, just knew, I would never get an award for my first book. Thus, when the telephone rang at 5 AM (we were in California, the Newbery Committee in, I think, Philadelphia), I was startled but not excited. My husband answered and I heard him say, with an edge to his voice, “Do you know what time it is?”

“Who is it,” I asked, half asleep.

“It’s some librarian for you.”He handed me the phone and my life changed: Catherine Called Birdy had been named a Newbery Honor Book.

Phil and I were over-the-moon happy, but he was also embarrassed that he had given the Newbery committee a hard time. He was certain of two things: The Midwife’s Apprentice would win the Newbery Medal the next year and he would handle the phone call in a much more mannerly and gracious way.

One year later, the night before the Newbery announcement, he lined the cordless phone up next to his side of the bed and practiced answering it most politely and efficiently. When the phone rang this time, he would be prepared.

The next morning, the phone did indeed ring. However, when he reached out for it, he knocked it on the floor, and it bounced under the bed. He dove after it while I squealed, “Get the phone! Get the phone!” as if the committee would say, “Well, she didn’t answer so too bad for her. We’ll give the medal to someone else.”

Finally a hand with a telephone came from under the bed, and it was the Newbery committee announcing The Midwife’s Apprentice as the Newbery Medal winner for 1996.

Phil and I laughed and cried and jumped around. Then he went and got a bottle of champagne from where he had hidden it in the refrigerator behind the brown lettuce and mystery meat. That’s how certain he was of the medal. And that was the first and last time I had champagne at 6 AM. So far.



Karen Cushman is the author of The Midwife’s Apprentice (winner of the 1996 Newbery Medal), Catherine, Called Birdy (a Newbery Honor book), The Ballad of Lucy Whipple (winner of the John and Patricia Beatty Award), and several other prize-winning novels published by Clarion Books. Her newest book, Will Sparrow’s Road, is due out in November 2012. Karen lives and writes on Vashon Island in Washington state.