The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
The Newbery Medal has been given out annually since 1922, and many of the recipients have been favorites ever since!
Here are the first winners, from 1922-1939. Have you read any of them?
1922 — "The Story of Mankind" by Hendrik Willem van Loon
First published in 1921 and awarded the first Newbery Medal of 1922, The Story of Mankind follows the history of western civilization from prehistoric times to the early 20th century. Van Loon both wrote and illustrated this book, which he wrote for his grandchildren, in such a way that children would be learning in an entertaining way. From the development of writing and art to the formation of religion and politics, Van Loon emphasizes the people and events central to the changes and achievements of human history. A remarkable, accurate, and enduring work of children's literature, The Story of Mankind is an engaging narration of the procession of events in world history.
1923 — "The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle" by Hugh Lofting
Doctor Dolittle is a very special vet — because he knows how to talk to the animals! So when he hears that there’s a terrible sickness hurting all the monkeys in Africa, the good doctor knows he must go and help them. Soon he’s off on an exciting adventure across the seas!
1924 — "The Dark Frigate" by Charles Hawes
In seventeenth century England, a terrible accident forces orphaned Philip Marsham to flee London in fear for his life. Bred to the sea, he signs on with the "Rose of Devon," a dark frigate bound for the quiet shores of Newfoundland. Philip's bold spirit and knowledge of the sea soon win him his captain's regard. But when the "Rose of Devon" is seized midocean by a devious group of men plucked from a floating wreck, Philip is forced to accompany these "gentlemen of fortune" on their murderous expeditions. Like it or not, Philip Marsham is now a pirate — with only the hangman awaiting his return to England. With its bloody battles, brutal buccaneers, and bold, spirited hero, this rousing tale will enthrall young readers in search of seafaring adventure.
1925 — "Tales from Silver Lands" by Charles Finger
Tales from Silver Lands is a collection of nineteen folktales, which Finger collected during his travels in South America. In them an assortment of animals, magical creatures, witches, giants, and children struggle for a life in which good overcomes evil. These fast-moving and adventuresome fantasies provide insight into the values and culture of native South American peoples. They stress the importance of close relationships, hard work, bravery, gentleness, and beauty, and contain colorful explanations of natural phenomena.
1926 — "Shen of the Sea" by Arthur Bowie Chrisman
A series of fascinating Chinese stories, strong in humor and rich in Chinese wisdom, in which the author has caught admirably the spirit of Chinese life and thought.
1927 — "Smoky, the Cowhorse" by Will James
Smoky knows only one way of life: freedom. Living on the open range, he is free to go where he wants and to do what he wants. And he knows what he has to do to survive. He can beat any enemy, whether it be a rattlesnake or a hungry wolf. He is as much a part of the Wild West as it is of him, and Smoky can't imagine anything else. But then he comes across a new enemy, one that walks on two legs and makes funny sounds. Smoky can't beat this enemy the way he has all the others. But does he really want to? Or could giving up some of his freedom mean getting something in return that's even more valuable?
1928 — "Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon" by Dhan Gopal Mukerji
Writing out of his own experience as a boy in India, Dhan Gopal Mukerji tells how Gay-Neck's master sent his prized pigeon to serve in World War I, and of how, because of his exceptional training and his brave heart, Gay-Neck served his new masters heroically.
1929 — "The Trumpeter of Krakow" by Eric P. Kelly
There is something about the Great Tarnov Crystal.... Wise men speak of it in hushed tones. Others are ready to kill for it. And now a murderous Tartar chief is bent on possessing it. But despite this, Joseph Charnetski is bound by an ancient oath to protect the jewel at all costs. When Joseph and his family seek refuge in medieval Krakow, they are caught up in the plots and intrigues of alchemists, hypnotists, and a dark messenger of evil. Will Joseph be able to protect the crystal — and the city — from the plundering Tartars?
1930 — "Hitty, Her First Hundred Years" by Rachel Field
Hitty is a doll of great charm and character. It is indeed a privilege to publish her memoirs, which, besides being full of the most thrilling adventures on land and sea, also reveal her delightful personality. One glance at her portrait will show that she is no ordinary doll. Hitty, or Mehitable as she was really named, was made in the early 1800s for Phoebe Preble, a little girl from Maine. Young Phoebe was very proud of her beautiful doll and took her everywhere, even on a long sailing trip in a whaler. This is the story of Hitty's years with Phoebe, and the many that follow in the life of a well-loved doll.
1931 — "The Cat Who Went to Heaven" by Elizabeth Coatsworth
In ancient Japan, a struggling artist is angered when his housekeeper brings home a tiny white cat he can barely afford to feed. But when the village’s head priest commissions a painting of the Buddha for a healthy sum, the artist softens toward the animal he believes has brought him luck. According to legend, the proud and haughty cat was denied the Buddha’s blessing for refusing to accept his teachings and pay him homage. So when the artist, moved by compassion for his pet, includes the cat in his painting, the priest rejects the work and decrees that it must be destroyed. It seems the artist’s life is ruined as well — until he is rewarded for his act of love by a Buddhist miracle.
1932 — "Waterless Mountain" by Laura Adams Armer
Winner of the 1931 Newbery Medal, this is an authentic novel about an eight-year-old Navajo boy's training as a medicine man. This deeply moving and accurate account of one young Navajo's childhood and spiritual journey is filled with wonder and respect for the natural world — a living record of the Navajo way of life before the influence of the white man.
1933 — "Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze" by Elizabeth Lewis
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.
1934 — "Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women" by Cornelia Meigs
Most people know that Louisa May Alcott based the characters in Little Women on her own parents, her sisters, and herself. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, the four famous March sisters in Little Women, were more than just storybook characters. The author, Louisa May Alcott, based that book on her own loving family — her parents and her sisters, Anna, Elizabeth, and May. In this book, Cornelia Meigs tells us the full story of the Alcott (March) family. An unbelievable story of a brave, loving family, even more wonderful than Little Women.
1935 — "Dobry" by Monica Shannon
A Bulgarian peasant boy must convince his mother that he is destined to be a sculptor, not a farmer.
1936 — "Caddie Woodlawn" by Carol Ryrie Brink
Caddie Woodlawn is a real adventurer. She'd rather hunt than sew and plow than bake, and tries to beat her brother's dares every chance she gets. Caddie is friends with Indians, who scare most of the neighbors — neighbors who, like her mother and sisters, don't understand her at all. Caddie is brave, and her story is special because it's based on the life and memories of Carol Ryrie Brink's grandmother, the real Caddie Woodlawn. Her spirit and sense of fun have made this book a classic.
1937 — "Roller Skates" by Ruth Sawyer
Growing up in a well-to-do family with strict rules and routines can be tough for a ten-year-old girl who only wants to roller skate. But when Lucinda Wyman's parents go overseas on a trip to Italy and leave her behind in the care of Miss Peters and Miss Nettie in New York City, she suddenly gets all the freedom she wants! Lucinda zips around New York on her roller skates, meeting tons of new friends and having new adventures every day. But Lucinda has no idea what new experiences the city will show her.... some of which will change her life forever.
1938 — "The White Stag" by Kate Seredy
For generations the tribes of Huns and Magyars had moved relentlessly westward, obeying the voices of their pagan gods, which compelled them to follow the elusive white stag to their promised homeland. They swept Europe, all the while pursuing their vision of the stag. Their leader was called Attila, and the land Hungary. Here is the epic story of their tribal migration and their fierce leader — known to us even today
1939 — "Thimble Summer" by Elizabeth Enright
A few hours after nine-year-old Garnet Linden finds a silver thimble in the dried-up riverbed, the rains come and end the long drought on the farm. The rains bring safety for the crops and the livestock, and money for Garnet's father. Garnet can't help feeling that the thimble is a magic talisman, for the summer proves to be interesting and exciting in so many different ways: There is the arrival of Eric, an orphan who becomes a member of the Linden family; the building of a new barn; and the county fair at which Garnet's carefully tended pig, Timmy, wins a blue ribbon. Every day brings adventure of some kind to Garnet and her best friend, Citronella. As far as Garnet is concerned, the thimble is responsible for each good thing that happens during this magic summer ― her thimble summer.
Some of these books are available at the Swanton Public Library. If you are interested in reading one that we don't have, we can definitely order a copy!
We'll continue rounding up the Newbery Medal winners by decade until we reach today. Stay tuned!
Descriptions adapted from GoodReads and Amazon.