Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Happy 90th Birthday, Newbery Medal!

Ninety years ago this month, a hallmark in children’s literature was born: the first Newbery Medal was awarded on June 27th, 1922.

The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the American Library Association to the year’s most distinguished American children’s book. Its namesake is John Newbery, an Englishman born in 1713 who is credited as the first publisher and seller of children’s books. Mr. Newbery published many books from his London bookshop, The Bible and Sun, including A Little Pretty Pocket-Book in 1744 and the bestselling The History of Little Goody-Two Shoes in 1765.

Title page of A Little Pretty Pocket-Book

If a book you authored were awarded the Newbery Medal, you would receive the distinct honor of having a Newbery Medal engraved with your name. The medal of bronze was designed in 1921 by American sculptor René Paul Chambellan and depicts a man presenting a book to a boy and a girl.
The Newbery Medal

A complete list of Newbery Medal winners can be found here. My personal favorites are the 1979 winner The Westing Game, a mystery starring a comical and colorful cast of characters, and the 1986 winner Sarah, Plain and Tall, an idyllic novelette that is startlingly moving for its simplicity in exploring weighty themes of love, loss, and longing.

Children’s books are not only for children! Whether you are 8 or 80, you will do yourself a favor by opening these Newbery Medal winners and allowing them to captivate you with their wonderful captivating powers. You can find the library’s Newbery Medal collection at the entrance to the children’s room.

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