19 Apr

My Favorite Newbery Winners

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/19/04

Patricia Owen, a guest on Volume 73 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, offers a list of her top ten favorite Newbery Medal winners.

List courtesy of Patricia Owen.

1928—The Trumpeter of Krakow: A Tale of the Fifteenth Century, Eric P. Kelly

In 1461 the 15 year-old Joseph and his family make their way to the Polish city of Krakow after their farm is burned by bandits. Inspired by a 200 year old legend, he and his father take on the job of playing the trumpet every hour from the tower of the Church of Our Lady Mary. Alchemists, Tartar bandits, a lovely orphan and a beautiful musical piece, the Heynal, all come together to make this a riveting story full of courage and loyalty. Avid readers 9+

Illustrations by Janina Domanska

1932—Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, Elizabeth Foreman Lewis

Set in pre-revolutionary China of the 1920's, this is an absorbing tale of a boy who moves with his mother to the big city of Chungking and is apprenticed to Tang the coppersmith. Young Fu's vitality and humor shine out as he encounters all kinds of characters and undergoes all kinds of experiences in the process of coming of age and learning what really counts in life. Avid readers 9+

Introduction by Pearl S. Buck. Excellent glossary and historical notes.

1935—Caddie Woodlawn, Carol Ryrie Brink

This author writes the stories her grandmother recounted of her own pioneer childhood running wild with two brothers on the Wisconsin frontier of the 1860's. Full of fun and excitement for both boys and girls, with an interesting twist at the end. Great read-aloud, ages 6+

1973 edition with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman

1946—Adam of the Road, Elizabeth Jane Gray

Adam, an 11 year-old boy walks the roads of England in 1294, in search of his cocker spaniel and his minstrel father. Adventurous and historically invigorating, with a timeless and universally interesting plot. A road's a kind of holy thing, said Roger the minstrel to his son, Adam. That's why it's a good work to keep a road in repair, like giving alms to the poor or tending the sick. It brings all kinds of people and all parts of England together. And it's home to a minstrel, even though he may happen to be sleeping in a castle. Ages 10 - Young adult

Illustrations by Robert Lawson

1949—The Door in the Wall, Marguerite D'Angeli

Set in medieval England, this story chronicles the development of character in Robin, a young nobleman's son who falls ill and loses the use of his legs. Beautifully told, the story weaves its way through frustration and pain to encouragement, resourcefulness and heroism as Robin follows Brother Luke's advice: Thou hast only to follow the wall long enough and there will be a door in it. Ages 9+

Beautiful illustrations by the author

1954—The Wheel on the School, Meindert DeJong

The little seaside village of Shora, in Holland, has no storks. Lina, and the five boys in her little schoolhouse wonder why and then put their heads together to remedy the situation. Humor, mischief, and a lovely intergenerational sympathy knit together an engrossing story of youthful resourcefulness. Great read-aloud. Ages 6+

1989—Number the Stars, Lois Lowry

When the Nazis occupy Denmark in 1943 and begin to round up the Jews, 10 year-old Annemarie's family takes in her best friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretends she is part of the family. Both girls have to learn new courage and resourcefulness as they live out this deception in a fear-filled society. The truths of the brutal regime are not spared, but they are dealt with in a way that is appropriate for thoughtful children and young adults. 12+

1993—The Giver, Lois Lowry

In a futuristic dystopic community where pain and sadness have been eliminated but also music and books and history, 12 year-old Jonas is picked to be the next Receiver of Memory; in daily visits with the Giver, the oral history of life and experience is transferred to him, enabling the community to remain ignorant, happy and productive. What happens when Jonas begins to think for himself for the first time makes for intriguing, thought-provoking twists of plot and growth in his character. A clear statement against both abortion and euthanasia, and one which raises a wide variety of moral and spiritual questions, this book is definitely for older readers and should be read by parents, grandparents, etc. as well as children. Ages 14+

2001—A Single Shard, Linda Sue Park

A spare but beautifully crafted story about a young orphan who has been nurtured and reared by a homeless cripple living under a bridge in 12th century Korea. The boy, Tree-Ear, longs to become an apprentice to a famous potter and in a long and difficult journey to deliver wares to the royal court, he learns much about courage, persistence, patience, and real love. One of the most subtle and deeply moving descriptions of mutual caring and sensitivity in all of children's literature. A must read for boys and girls 12+

2003—The Tale of Despereaux; Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread, Kate di Camillo

A fun, meta-fairytale in which Despereaux the mouse reads instead of chewing the book of chivalric tales in the palace and is then thrown into a series of adventures in the course of which he is challenged, disappointed, and then enabled by the very stories he has read. In spite of the rollicking, jocular tone, themes of forgiveness, true courage, and self-sacrifice emerge in the course of his quest which lend themselves to thoughtful discussion. Ages 10+ [Posted April 2005, ALG]