My Newbery Picks

Book of a Thousand Days Shannon Hale

The Wednesday Wars Gary D. Schmidt

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree Lauren Tarshis

A Crooked Kind of Perfect Linda Urban

The Mysterious Benedict Society Trenton Lee Stewart

The time has come! Part of me is very nervous, but I am also excited. I have dwindled down my list and only hope that at least one of them is accurate (watch- none of them will be).

I’m betting that The Wednesday Wars will take the gold. I hope that Book of a Thousand Days and Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree win the Honors. Sometimes there are two honors, and sometimes there are five. I have no idea how they choose Newbery Awards. It must be so difficult, with so many choices. A Crooked Kind of Perfect seems like the kind of surprise book that they might pull out of a hat. It’s a good book, really great, but I don’t know if it is “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in English in the United States during the preceding year”. Ahh! This is so hard. Even for me, just thinking about how they decide is a huge puzzle.

I remember how much I worshiped books when I was young. In third grade, my wonderful, wonderful teacher (one of the best!) urged me to read all the Newbery books among others. I thought an alien or someone unreal wrote the books, and therefore they got the award. Because I loved nearly all Newberys but Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, I assumed the judges of the award either were geniuses or had very few choices of books to award the medal. I can’t really remember what my teacher told me, but I do recall thinking, “People award the Newbery? Out of gajillions of books published each year?”.

After thinking this, I decided that I must tell my peers about the Newbery. They made faces when I talked about The Watsons Go To Birmingham or Getting Near to Baby. The only Newbery books they read were the Ramona books and Ella Enchanted. I still am confused to why they now think any silver stamp on a book means it’s bad.

That’s the problem with the teaching of Newbery books. Kids think of them as “teacher books”. The girl I babysit said that to me when she was in fourth grade. I can’t quote her exactly, but she said something like, “There’s a problem, we talk about it, and sometimes they don’t solve it. That’s a Newbery book. Usually it’s the same as the beginning.” I talked with her some more, and she didn’t find any of the Newbery books interesting. Right now, she’s reading something called The Secrets of my Hollywood Life. Interesting.

I know Newbery Books aren’t about popularity, they’re about quality children’s literature. I’m not complaining about the books awarded. I just don’t see why some teachers find the need to assign Newbery reading lists. I find that this girl,not too into school, would be better off reading a Newbery book as a class. With a mental block for a book, kids often can’t read them on their own. They pick up the book to read it, and see that silver or gold shiny medal with a man and two children.

Not all children act this way toward Newbery books. I’m just saying a sad percentage of them do block them. I don’t know what teachers should do, or parents. I just know that something should change, and that it probably won’t change.

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