Newbery Winning Books for Teens and Pre-teens

 

The following books are Newbery Winners.  Note that many of these books are required reading in classes or were.  Parents may recall some of the older ones.  Here are two excellent comments on reading such books:

As an elementary school librarian, I think it’s informative to read all the reviews found here. It can be summed up that readers either like or dislike … Newbery Award winning book[s]. There is no middle ground.

However, one should pay attention to the many negative reviews by “bored” students. It’s my opinion that these students were probably not sufficiently prepared to read th[ese … somewhat challenging–stor[ies]. If a teacher just passes this book out, or says, “Go read a Newbery book,” then I don’t blame them for yawning.”

“As for complaints about this book: Note that virtually all of them say that it was a schoolwork book; once again, we have disgruntled students seeking “revenge” on a non-fluff book that they had to read. This is not a book that should be assigned, but a book that should be selected individually. Don’t read it just because it’s a Newbery, read it if you can handle it!”

As for my take, check the story line, the date of publication, and for earlier books, check some reviews – some of the book reflect the times and have racial stereotypes or other offensive things to today’s readers.  For those books, give them to mature readers, who can handle the challenge and explain and discuss some of the book’s shortcomings in these areas and why – the books are still deserving and should not be discarded because of attitudes that existed during that time – it is the same as discarding huckleberry Finn – a form of book censorship, in my opinion.  But the first one has nothing to complain about – it is a family favorite.

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo

Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread (Tale of Despereaux)

Ages 6 and up.  “Kate DiCamillo, author of the Newbery Honor book Because of Winn-Dixie, spins a tidy tale of mice and men where she explores the “powerful, wonderful, and ridiculous” nature of love, hope, and forgiveness. Her old-fashioned, somewhat dark story, narrated “Dear Reader”-style, begins “within the walls of a castle, with the birth of a mouse.” Despereaux Tilling, the new baby mouse, is different from all other mice. Sadly, the romantic, unmouselike spirit that leads the unusually tiny, large-eared mouse to the foot of the human king and the beautiful Princess Pea ultimately causes him to be banished by his own father to the foul, rat-filled dungeon.

The first book of four tells Despereaux’s sad story, where he falls deeply in love with Princess Pea and meets his cruel fate. The second book introduces another creature who differs from his peers–Chiaroscuro, a rat who instead of loving the darkness of his home in the dungeon, loves the light so much he ends up in the castle& in the queen’s soup. The third book describes young Miggery Sow, a girl who has been “clouted” so many times that she has cauliflower ears. Still, all the slow-witted, hard-of-hearing Mig dreams of is wearing the crown of Princess Pea. The fourth book returns to the dungeon-bound Despereaux and connects the lives of mouse, rat, girl, and princess in a dramatic denouement.

Children whose hopes and dreams burn secretly within their hearts will relate to this cast of outsiders who desire what is said to be out of their reach and dare to break “never-to-be-broken rules of conduct.” Timothy Basil Ering’s pencil illustrations are stunning, reflecting DiCamillo’s extensive light and darkness imagery as well as the sweet, fragile nature of the tiny mouse hero who lives happily ever after. (Ages 9 and older).”  Amazon [Newbery Winner 2004]

Out Of The Dust by by Karen Hesse

 Out Of The Dust (Apple Signature Edition)

Ages 12 and up.  “Like the Oklahoma dust bowl from which she came, 14-year-old narrator Billie Jo writes in sparse, free-floating verse. In this compelling, immediate journal, Billie Jo reveals the grim domestic realities of living during the years of constant dust storms: That hopes–like the crops–blow away in the night like skittering tumbleweeds. That trucks, tractors, even Billie Jo’s beloved piano, can suddenly be buried beneath drifts of dust. Perhaps swallowing all that grit is what gives Billie Jo–our strong, endearing, rough-cut heroine–the stoic courage to face the death of her mother after a hideous accident that also leaves her piano-playing hands in pain and permanently scarred.

Meanwhile, Billie Jo’s silent, windblown father is literally decaying with grief and skin cancer before her very eyes. When she decides to flee the lingering ghosts and dust of her homestead and jump a train west, she discovers a simple but profound truth about herself and her plight. There are no tight, sentimental endings here–just a steady ember of hope that brightens Karen Hesse’s exquisitely written and mournful tale. Hesse won the 1998 Newbery Award for this elegantly crafted, gut-wrenching novel, and her fans won’t want to miss The Music of Dolphins or Letters from Rifka. (Ages 9 and older),”  Amazon

The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman

Ages 12 and up.  “Karen Cushman likes to write with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek, and her feisty female characters firmly planted in history. In The Midwife’s Apprentice, which earned the 1996 Newbery Medal, this makes a winning combination for children and adult readers alike. Like her award-winning book Catherine, Called Birdy, the story takes place in medieval England. This time our protagonist is Alyce, who rises from the dung heap (literally) of homelessness and namelessness to find a station in life–apprentice to the crotchety, snaggletoothed midwife Jane Sharp. On Alyce’s first solo outing as a midwife, she fails to deliver. Instead of facing her ignorance, Alyce chooses to run from failure–never a good choice. Disappointingly, Cushman does not offer any hardships or internal wrestling to warrant Alyce’s final epiphanies, and one of the book’s climactic insights is when Alyce discovers that lo and behold she is actually pretty! Still, Cushman redeems her writing, as always, with historical accuracy, saucy dialogue, fast-paced action, and plucky, original characters that older readers will eagerly devour. (Ages 12 and older).”  Amazon

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Ages 12 and up.  “Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle’s mother has disappeared. While tracing her steps on a car trip from Ohio to Idaho with her grandparents, Salamanca tells a story to pass the time about a friend named Phoebe Winterbottom whose mother vanished and who received secret messages after her disappearance. One of them read, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” Despite her father’s warning that she is “fishing in the air,” Salamanca hopes to bring her home. By drawing strength from her Native American ancestry, she is able to face the truth about her mother. Walk Two Moons won the 1995 Newbery Medal.”  Amazon

The Giver

by Lois Lowry

The Giver

Ages 12 and up.  “In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price.”  Amazon

Missing May by Cynthia Rylant

Missing May

Ages 9 and up.  “This wonderful book revolves around a few delightfully named characters: Summer, Uncle Ob, Aunt May and Cletus Underwood. After being passed among relatives, Summer joins her aunt and uncle and marvels at the couple’s deep love for one another. But after Aunt May dies, Summer and Uncle Ob are brought together in their struggles to come to terms with the death. Cletus, a neighbor boy, comes along to help provide an answer. This simple and sweet story, which won the Newbery Medal in 1993, is injected with just the right touches of humor and mysticism.”  Amazon

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman and Peter Sis

Ages 9-12.  “With his flair for persuading readers to believe in the ridiculous, Fleischman scores a hit with his new creation. Sis’s skillful pictures emphasize events in the adventures of the orphan Jemmy, kept in his king’s palace to be thrashed for the offenses committed by the royal heir, known as Prince Brat. It is forbidden to punish Brat, whose tricks multiply until Jemmy is tempted to escape the daily round of flogging. But the prince himself takes off and forces the whipping boy to go with him. As they get into and out of trouble on the outside, Jemmy hears that he has been accused of abducting Brat. When the prince arranges for their return to the palace, poor Jemmy fears the worst, but things turn out for the best at the story’s satisfying close. Colorful types like a thief called Hold-Your-Nose Billy, Betsy and her dancing bear Petunia, et al., increase the fun.”  Publishers Weekly  [Newbery Winner 1987]

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

Dear Mr. Henshaw (rpkg) (HarperClassics)

Ages 9-12.  “When, in second grade, Leigh writes to an author to tell him how much he “licked” his book, he never suspects that he’ll still be writing to him four years later. And he never imagines the kinds of things he’ll be writing about:

Dear Mr. Henshaw, I am sorry I was rude in my last letter… Maybe I was mad about other things, like Dad forgetting to send this month’s support payment. Mom tried to phone him at the trailer park where, as Mom says, he hangs his hat.

It’s not easy being the new kid in town, with recently divorced parents, no dog anymore, and a lunch that gets stolen every day (all the “good stuff,” anyway). Writing letters, first to the real Mr. Henshaw, and then in a diary to a pretend Mr. Henshaw, may be just what he needs.

This Newbery Medal-winning book [1984], by the terrifically popular and prolific Beverly Cleary (Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and Runaway Ralph), exhibits a subtlety and sensitivity that will be appreciated by any youngster who feels lonely and troubled during the transition into adolescence. Winner of numerous other awards, including two Newbery Honors, Cleary teams up with Caldecott winner Paul O. Zelinsky, who creates a quiet backdrop for the realistic characters. (Ages 8 to 12)

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

Ages 9 and up.  “I highly recommend this novel. It deals with difficult, but very real and raw emotions between siblings. The author Katherine Paterson is one of the best story tellers that young people of this generation can read and understand. The story has everything! A tale of family relationships, and rivalry between twins, set in the 1940’s era in the Chesapeake Bay. I enjoyed this book for it’s dramatic intensity, fullness of the characterizations, believability, and honest dealing with many teen issues. Also, it took place in a locale that we don’t usually read about. I will never forget these characters. Paterson is a wonderful writer. I read this book to catch up on children’s lit for the age group I will be teaching this coming school year. Fifth graders on up should really read this book. They will certainly come away enriched. I discovered Paterson after reading her riveting “Bridge to Terabithia”, another must read.”  Amazon Customer Review  [Newbery Winner  1981]

The Grey King (The Dark Is Rising Sequence) by Susan Cooper

The Grey King (The Dark Is Rising Sequence)

Ages 9-12.  “”The Dark Is Rising” is a hard book to top, but Susan Cooper nearly matches it in “Grey King,” the fourth book of her Dark is Rising Sequence, A stunning, atmospheric Welsh fantasy tinged with Arthurian legend, it also introduces one of the most important and unusual characters in this classic series.

In the aftermath of a nasty case of hepatitis, Will Stanton has temporarily forgotten his mission from the Light: to recover a golden harp, with the help of the “raven boy” and “silver eyes that see the wind.” When his family sends him to Wales to recover from the illness, he regains his memory when he meets an albino boy his own age named Bran — which means “raven.” Bran’s mother “Gwenny” vanished many years before, and his stepfather has devoted himself to religion and penitance. Bran’s only friend is the silver-eyed dog Cafall.
Will acquaints his new friend with more information about the battle with the Dark, while Bran acquaints him with information about Wales that can help Will find the golden harp, and wake the Sleepers under the hill. But the malevolent Grey King is spying on them with magical warestones and trying to wrest the harp from Will. To stop the Grey King, Will must learn the secret of Bran’s past and evade the dangerous farmer Caradog Pritchard…

Atmosphere is thick and enticing in “Grey King” — Cooper has clearly come a long way from the fluffier “Over Sea Under Stone.” This book, unlike “Greenwitch,” does not handle the Drew family, or even much about Merriman: it’s all about Bran and Will, who are given equal parts of the plotline. Though there are many other characters, these two are the core of the story.

Here the Arthurian theme, which has been present in a smaller way throughout the series, becomes more pronounced and integral. Cooper continues interweaving mythic elements into it, such as the Sleepers, Cafall the dog, and the Brenin Llwyd. Fans of mythology and other mythic-themed stories such as the Prydain Chronicles will have a heyday.

Will is very much like he is in “Greenwitch” — sometimes he’s an ordinary preteen boy who starts yelling “Achtung!” at the top of his lungs, and sometimes he is the wise and ancient Old One, with knowledge he learned from the book of Gramarye. Bran is an instantly sympathetic character, a very ordinary boy with an extraordinay past; he, like Will in the second book, gradually grows into a unique and more powerful person. Caradog Pritchard will inspire disgust from his first appearance onward, while the tragic Owen Davies will gain the sympathy of the readers despite his insulated life.

Perhaps the worst thing about reading “Grey King” is the knowledge that there is only one more book in this series. But if that book is half as good as “Grey King,” then it will be quite a ride before the end.”  Amazon Customer Review [Newbery Winner 1976]

Others in the Dark is Rising series:

Over Sea, Under Stone

The Dark Is Rising

Greenwitch

The Grey King

Silver on the Tree

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dark_Is_Rising_Sequence for more information on this marvelous series

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien and Zena Bernstein

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (Aladdin Fantasy)

Ages 9-12.  “There’s something very strange about the rats living under the rosebush at the Fitzgibbon farm. But Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with a sick child, is in dire straits and must turn to these exceptional creatures for assistance. Soon she finds herself flying on the back of a crow, slipping sleeping powder into a ferocious cat’s dinner dish, and helping 108 brilliant, laboratory-enhanced rats escape to a utopian civilization of their own design, no longer to live “on the edge of somebody else’s, like fleas on a dog’s back.”

This unusual novel, winner of the Newbery Medal (among a host of other accolades) snags the reader on page one and reels in steadily all the way through to the exhilarating conclusion. Robert O’Brien has created a small but complete world in which a mother’s concern for her son overpowers her fear of all her natural enemies and allows her to make some extraordinary discoveries along the way. O’Brien’s incredible tale, along with Zena Bernstein’s appealing ink drawings, ensures that readers will never again look at alley rats and field mice in the same way. (Ages 9 to 12).  Amazon [Newbery Winner 1972]

Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars

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Ages 12 and up.  “Sara is a teenage girl with lots of reasons to be angry. Her mother is dead, her father has left her to be raised by her aunt, her older sister seems prettier and more mature, and her younger brother Charlie is mentally retarded. She often feels put upon to look after Charlie when nobody else wants to. On top of all this, she is having the worst summer vacation ever. She learns to see her world with new eyes, though, when Charlie disappears one day.
Author Betsy Byars presents an effective and believable character in Sara and writes convincingly from Charlie’s point of view. Her fine short novel makes the point that the most precious things in our lives are the people we see every day, even though we might believe that they make our lives miserable.”  Amazon Customer Review  [Newbery Medal 1971]

The High King (The Chronicles of Prydain) by Lloyd Alexander

The High King (The Chronicles of Prydain)

Ages 8 and up.  “Since The Book of Three was first published in 1964, young readers have been enthralled by the adventures of Taran the Assistant Pig-keeper and his quest to become a hero. Taran is joined by an engaging cast of characters that includes Eilonwy, the strong-willed and sharp-tongued princess; Fflewddur Fflam, the hyperbole-prone bard; the ever-faithful Gurgi; and the curmudgeonly Doli–all of whom become involved in an epic struggle between good and evil that shapes the fate of the legendary land of Prydain.Released over a period of five years, Lloyd Alexander’s beautifully written tales not only captured children’s imaginations but also garnered the highest critical praise.

The Black Cauldron was a Newbery Honor Book, and the final volume in the chronicles, The High King, crowned the series by winning the Newbery Medal for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. “Henry Holt is proud to present this classic series to a new generation of young readers. Jackets have been handsomely redesigned while retaining the original art of Caldecott Medal-winning artist Evaline Ness. Each retypeset volume now includes a pronunciation guide prepared by Lloyd Alexander.  A companion book of short stories, The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain, is also available in hardcover for the first time in twenty years. In their more than thirty years in print, the Chronicles of Prydain have become the standard of excellence in fantasy literature for children.”  Book Description [Newbery Winner 1969]

Other in the Chronicles of Prydain series are:

The Book of Three

The Black Cauldron

The Castle of Llyr  

The Castle of Llyr (The Chronicles of Prydain) (Hardcover)

Taran Wanderer

The High King

The High King (The Chronicles of Prydain) (Hardcover)

The Foundling: And Other Tales of Prydain

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronicles_of_Prydain

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton De Trevino

I, Juan de Pareja (Sunburst Book)

Ages 12 and up.  “Based on “thin threads” of truth, “I, Juan de Pareja” explores the relationship between famous 17th-century Spanish painter Diego Velazquez and his black slave, Juan de Pareja. Written in first person as if Juan is really telling his story, it is the chronicle of much of Juan’s life and and his colorful experiences as apprentice to a master painter.

There are many excellent aspects of this book, yet I think that the “strength” of the character of Juan is the book’s biggest asset. Many books that are simply first person narratives are dry and boring, yet one could never complain of boredom while reading “I, Juan de Pareja.” Juan’s intelligence shines through in every page and his intuitiveness fills the book with detail. Also, his struggle to paint (because Spanish slaves at the time were forbidden to practice the arts) is fascinating, suspenseful, and ultimately inspiring. This book would not be a 5-star read without a strong character like Juan.

Historical detail also adds great richness to the book. Author de Trevino has captured the mood of 17th century Spain perfectly, and her accounts of Juan’s Italian travels fascinate the reader as well. Art facts and descriptions are well-placed, and the reader will find themselves interested in the rich history presented in the book, rather than bored by it.

Furthermore, supporting characters are excellent! The portrayal of Diego Velazquez was well-imagined by the author, and the master painter’s comments ring with insight and truth. The nobles, the painter’s family, the Spanish king, Dutch painter Ruebens…they all come to life in “I, Juan de Pareja.”

Finally, the end of the book is triumphant and fitting. I can’t say much more without spoiling the book, but trust me, it’s one of the most well-done endings you could find. It is hard to find a single flaw in this book. Vibrant history, excellent characters…why aren’t more people reading this book?”  Amazon Customer Review  [Newbery Winner 1966] 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time

Ages 9-12.  “I’ve had a beautiful edition of this book sitting on my book shelf for the longest time, continuing to call out to read me, and I finally pulled it down and did, to find a sweet magical tale cloaked around religious allegory. It wasn’t until I was three quarters of the way through that I remembered first seeing it as a child in our church’s library, nestled next to the C.S. Lewis Narnia books, and now I know why. That’s not to say it pounds you over the head with anything. Quite the contrary, aside form a few vague references to God it plays as a simple magic story of a young girl who’s Father has disappeared, and she and her brother and friend go to rescue him after being visited by three spectral old ladies. The book has a dated quality to it, feeling very representative of the psychadelic 60s especially in it’s vivid descriptions of the other worlds they travel to, however that only adds to it’s charms as a classic of children’s literature. And whatever you glean form the story, religious or otherwise, its a sweet tale for children and adults alike.”  Amazon Customer Review  [Newbery Winner 1963]

Note:  Although this book dates back to 1963, and has some religious allegory, it, like Chronicles of Narnia, has been a perennial favorite of kids for generations.  I know my kids loved the series, and they are not religious in the least.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

The Bronze Bow

Ages 14 and up.  “I was first introduced to this book in my 8th grade English class. I enjoyed it so much then, I went out and read the author’s other books. I recently picked this one up again and was amazed at how powerful it still was to me.

The story concerns Daniel, a young Jew at the time of Christ. He has an intense hatred of the Romans and lives with in an outlaw band in the hills. When his grandmother dies, he must move to the village to take care of his sister while trying to continue his life’s mission of driving the Romans back to Rome. He is drawn to the miracle worker, but just doesn’t know what he truly thinks about him. Is he the Messiah sent to free them from the Romans? And will his sister ever recover?

Ms. Speare was able to create a complex plot that is simple enough for her target age to understand, but still captivating to adults. I got so caught up in the events when I was rereading that I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend this children’s novel to readers of all ages.  Amazon Customer Review  [Newbery Winner 1962] 

Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark

Ages 9-12.  “Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark is a marvelous children’s novel which can be very important reading for children. The beautiful novel certainly earned its Newbery Medal.

The novel is the story of Cusi. He is an Inca boy who has been raised in a remote valley of the Andes mountain range by an old man, Chuto. Cusi is of royal Inca blood, but this is four hundred years after the Spanish conquest. Cusi has been raised in the traditional Inca manner. The plot of the novel concerns Cusi’s search for himself. He has been raised without a “family” (at least in the traditional sense), and he is sent from the valley, with the companionship of his pet llama, to find his path in the world, a task that he sees as finding himself a family. The world Cusi goes into is one which is very different from the one he has been raised in because the Spanish culture has become predominant. Then, Cusi is forced to come to terms with his own way of life and with what his concept of “family” should be.

Secret of the Andes is an amazing book. I think that it can be extremely important in helping children to understand the view-point of Native Americans and helping them to understand Native American literature later in life. I also found that this novel was, in ways, similar to adult novels like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. It aids in this understanding through a fairly simple story of a young, regular boy who can be related to. Ann Nolan Clark really created a masterpiece with Secret of the Andes.”  Amazon Customer Review  [Newbery Winner 1953] 

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli

The Door in the Wall (Books for Young Readers)

Ages 9-15.  “A Newbery Award Medal Winner and winner of the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, The Door in the Wall is an excellent book about finding your own way.

Robin’s father is off fighting for the king, his mother is lady-in-waiting to the queen and the plague is sweeping through London. Robin finds himself alone and unable to use his legs; he tries to be brave as a knight should be, but he’s scared and feeling bad for himself. When Brother Luke finds him and brings him to the hospice, he tells Robin that if he comes to a wall, and follows the wall far enough, he will find a door. Robin doesn’t understand what this means, but he trusts the friar and learns from him.

Robin’s wall is that he’s unable to walk alone and his worries that he’ll let his father down because he cannot become a knight. With the help of the friars, he finds his door in that wall and becomes stronger, just in time. The castle of Lindsay is under seige and Robin is the only one who can save them all.
The language is old-fashioned and there’s a sentence or two that were difficult for me to make sense of, so that might be a barrier for the young reader. Still, more than worth the time it took to read, even for adults!”  Amazon Customer Review  [Newbery Winner 1950]

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski

Ages (listed) 9-12.  “I hereby nominate Lois Lenski’s 1946 Newbery Award winning book, “Strawberry Girl” for the Most-Misleading-Cover-Art-And-Title Award of the 20th century. Picking up this story, I was fairly certain that this tale would be a cutesy little number about a girl who picks strawberries for fun. On the cover, after all, you see a little blond barefooted child clutching a cache of yummy red fruit as she walks along in her sunbonnet. I was anticipating Strawberry Shortcake. What I got was “Tobacco Road” for kids. An oddly shocking delight.

Lenski prefaces this book with an explanation of Florida “Crackers”. Personally, I’ve never heard this term used as anything but a base insult. Lenski, however, seems to think that the phrase is deserving of pride. Concentrating on the hardworking rural natives of Florida, she gives a little background on the history of these people in an effort to, “present vivid, sympathetic pictures of the real life of different Americans, against authentic backgrounds of diverse localities”. In this case, Lenski interviewed “Crackers” on her own time and used their stories (watered down, as was appropriate) to write this book. The result is a seething concoction of barely contained violence and danger, centered on the lives of two very different Florida Cracker families.

The Boyers have just moved into the old Roddenberry house, and they’ve got big plans. Originally from Marion County, Carolina, the family attempts to settle into their new life and make friends with their neighbors. Unfortunately, those neighbors include Sam Slater. A nasty man with a penchant for drunkenness, Sam’s just the kind of guy who doesn’t mind causing his fellow man a bit of trouble once in a while. When the wild hogs and cows of the Slaters start eating the Boyer family’s crops, tensions begin to rise between the two households. The Boyers are good hardworking people with pride and bright ideas. The Slaters could be categorized as white trash, never lifting a finger to feed their own animals and jealously coveting those nice things their neighbors have. Our hero of the story, Birdie Boyer, has her own problems dealing with Shoestring Slater, a boy roughly her age who’s just as likely to brag or throw a snake on a girl’s hat as he is help keep his father’s pigs out of trouble or lament his own lack of education.

Lenski does an interesting thing with the beginning of this book. She begins it through the point of view of seven-year-old Essie Slater, leading you to believe that she herself will be the heroine of this tale. As you slowly come to the realization that her father is not the usual wise/good/loving pop found in most 1945 children’s books, the text suddenly switches to the point of view of Birdie Boyer and Essie is never heard from again. Lenski’s characters aren’t as cardboard cut-outish as they first appear either. At the start, the Boyers seem good and the Slaters bad. Then odd occurrences make you begin to doubt this assumption. Mr. Boyer, in an attempt to teach Shoestring Slater a lesson, whips the boy harshly in front of his mother and sisters (who, understandably, are frightened and furious by this violence). Mr. Boyer is also prone to killing his neighbor’s pigs if they get in his way, even sometimes cutting off their ears as a sign. He won’t even create a path for Slater’s cattle herd to reach the nearest water source, instead fencing up the area and getting mad when it’s cut down. The Slaters also win your affection at odd moments. Birdie is quick to blame Shoestring for anything he does wrong, but the boy is a good egg in a bad situation. He has to juggle his family’s expectations while figuring out for himself what the right and wrong actions he should take really are.

A lot of this book is enjoyable partly because it goes the “Little House On the Prairie” route and explains the day-to-day goings on of the Boyers’ lives in interesting ways. In what other children’s book will you learn exactly how to grind sugar cane and pull it for fun afterwards? Or the ins and outs of raising strawberries in naturally sandy soil? What other book explains the intricacies of Florida weather in the spring and summer? Or tells you how to create roses out of paraffin? Part of the charm of “Strawberry Girl” is in describing how the old Florida pioneers did it. Less impressive are Lenski’s pictures. It was with a heavy heart that I discovered that Lenski considered herself an artist first and a novelist second. That’s too bad because the illustrations in this tale are particularly poor. I just couldn’t like ‘em and I suspect they’ll easily deter many a prospective boy reader with their girlyness.

For a surprisingly dour and sharpely written novel about roughing it, definitely try “Strawberry Girl”. You might find that the ending suffers from being a little too pat (there’s a happy finish there that jars with the realism of the rest of the text) but all in all it’s still a very interesting read. For a good Florida based kid’s book, both this and Carl Hiaasen’s, “Hoot” are excellent choices. A sobering but enjoyable tale.”  Amazon Customer Review  [Newbery Winner 1946]

The White Stag by Kate Seredy

Ages 9 and up.  “This book is a classic in my family, who are of mixed Hungarian and Scotch-Irish descent. While it is far from accurate history, it is a beautiful legend of the origins of that curious non-Slavic race called the Magyars. Seredy’s grasp of myth is readily apparent; her prose is simple enough for an eight- or nine-year-old to understand but she never talks down to the reader, since she uses the universal, spare language of the epic poet. This book was richly deserving of the Newbery Medal and remains a must-read for young adults (and old adults) today.”  Amazon Customer Review  [Newbery Winner 1938]

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis and William Low

Ages 12 and up.  “A classic Newbery Award winner, with an introduction by Katherine Paterson and new illustrations. When Young Fu arrives with his mother in bustling 1920s Chungking, all he has seen of the world is the rural farming village where he has grown up. He knows nothing of city life. But the city, with its wonders and dangers, fascinates the thirteen-year-old boy, and he sets out to make the best of what it has to offer him. First published in 1932, Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze was one of the earliest Newbery Medal winners. Although China has changed since that time, Young Fu’s experiences, like making friends, are timeless.”  Book Description  [Newbery winner 1933]

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

Ages 9 and up.  “It’s hard to beat this book for all-out imaginative craziness. Oddly enough, other than talking animals, there is very little fantasy in this book, rather, Lofting chose to make Dr. Dolittle and his surroundings a calm place, a place where the animals talk to him, a place where adventures happen, but where there is never any brutal violence, unlike the adventures of Alice in Wonderland or Dorothy in OZ (both of which I like, BTW). What is really nice is that Lofting was able to make this formula WORK!

This edition, pink covers with a credit to Christopher Lofting, has been edited from it’s original issue to remove some now offensive racial stereotypes and illustrations. I’m glad to say that, while I generally do not support this type of editing, in this case it was well done and did not subtract from the entertainment value of the book.

Note: The original Dr. Doolittle books have almost nothing in common with the Eddie Murphy movies, other than talking animals. Don’t get them confused!

Enjoy!”  Amazon Customer Review [Newbery Winner 1923] 

Some of the other Newbery winners have been covered in other posts, so see the posts “From My Daughter’s Bookshelf…,” etc.

Here is the complete list:

2008
Laura Amy Schlitz
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village

2007
Susan Patron
The Higher Power of Lucky

2006
Lynne Rae Perkins
Criss Cross

2005
Cynthia Kadohata
Kira-Kira

2004
Kate DiCamillo
The Tale of Despereaux

2003
Avi
Crispin: The Cross of Lead

2002
Linda Sue Park
A Single Shard

2001
Richard Peck
A Year Down Yonder

2000
Christopher Paul Curtis
Bud, Not Buddy

1999
Louis Sachar
Holes

1998
Karen Hesse
Out of the Dust

1997
E. L. Konigsburg
The View from Saturday

1996
Karen Cushman
The Midwife’s Apprentice

1995
Sharon Creech
Walk Two Moons

1994
Lois Lowry
The Giver

1993
Cynthia Rylant
Missing May

1992
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Shiloh

1991
Jerry Spinelli
Maniac Magee

1990
Lois Lowry
Number the Stars

1989
Paul Fleischman
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices

1988
Russell Freedman
Lincoln: A Photobiography

1987
Sid Fleischman
The Whipping Boy

1986
Patricia MacLachlan
Sarah, Plain and Tall

1985
Robin McKinley
The Hero and the Crown

1984
Beverly Cleary
Dear Mr. Henshaw

1983
Cynthia Voigt
Dicey’s Song

1982
Nancy Willard
A Visit to William Blake’s Inn

1981
Katherine Paterson
Jacob Have I Loved

1980
Joan Blos
A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal

1979
Ellen Raskin
The Westing Game

1978
Katherine Paterson
Bridge to Terabithia

1977
Mildred Taylor
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

1976
Susan Cooper
The Grey King

1975
Virginia Hamilton
M. C. Higgins, the Great

1974
Paula Fox
The Slave Dancer

1973
Jean Craighead George
Julie of the Wolves

1972
Robert C. O’Brien
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

1971
Betsy Byars
Summer of the Swans

1970
William H. Armstrong
Sounder

1969
Lloyd Alexander
The High King

1968
E. L. Konigsburg
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

1967
Irene Hunt
Up a Road Slowly

1966
Elizabeth Borton de Treviño
I, Juan de Pareja

1965
Maia Wojciechowska
Shadow of a Bull

1964
Emily Cheney Neville
It’s Like This, Cat

1963
Madeleine L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time

1962
Elizabeth George Speare
The Bronze Bow

1961
Scott O’Dell
Island of the Blue Dolphins

1960
Joseph Krumgold
Onion John

1959
Elizabeth George Speare
The Witch of Blackbird Pond

1958
Harold Keith
Rifles for Watie

1957
Virginia Sorenson
Miracles on Maple Hill

1956
Jean Lee Latham
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

1955
Meindert DeJong
The Wheel on the School

1954
Joseph Krumgold
…And Now Miguel

1953
Ann Nolan Clark
Secret of the Andes

1952
Eleanor Estes
Ginger Pye

1951
Elizabeth Yates
Amos Fortune, Free Man

1950
Marguerite de Angeli
The Door in the Wall

1949
Marguerite Henry
King of the Wind

1948
William Pène du Bois
The Twenty-One Balloons

1947
Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
Miss Hickory

1946
Lois Lenski
Strawberry Girl

1945
Robert Lawson
Rabbit Hill

1944
Esther Forbes
Johnny Tremain

1943
Elizabeth Gray Vining
Adam of the Road

1942
Walter D. Edmonds
The Matchlock Gun

1941
Armstrong Sperry
Call It Courage

1940
James Daugherty
Daniel Boone

1939
Elizabeth Enright
Thimble Summer

1938
Kate Seredy
The White Stag

1937
Ruth Sawyer
Roller Skates

1936
Carol Ryrie Brink
Caddie Woodlawn

1935
Monica Shannon
Dobry

1934
Cornelia Meigs
Invincible Louisa

1933
Elizabeth Foreman Lewis
Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

1932
Laura Adams Armer
Waterless Mountain

1931
Elizabeth Coatsworth
The Cat Who Went to Heaven

1930
Rachel Field
Hitty, Her First Hundred Years

1929
Eric P. Kelly
The Trumpeter of Krakow

1928
Dhan Gopal Mukerji
Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon

1927
Will James
Smoky the Cow Horse

1926
Arthur Bowie Chrisman
Shen of the Sea

1925
Charles Finger
Tales from Silver Lands

1924
Charles Hawes
The Dark Frigate

1923
Hugh Lofting
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

1922
Hendrik Willem van Loon
The Story of Mankind

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