30 January 2009

The 2009 Newbery medal winner is Neil Gaiman for The Graveyard Book, illustrated by Dave McKean.

This medal is awarded to children's books by the Library Services to Children section of the Amercan Library Association. Each year, a new committee is formed, and it is these librarians who get to decide who the winner is. The winning author has to be a resident or citizen of the U.S., and the book itself must be written specifically for children, and contribute to literature. That means the winner has to be pretty good.

There has been, as there often is when awards are given to published books, some debate about whether a popular work should receive a prize. Perhaps some people feel that popularity and prizes as well is too much for any one person to deserve. Maybe they think that people who read books are stupid and only like trash, and that, therefore, anything popular must be bad. It's a wearisome debate. I'm going to ignore it.

Instead, take a look at some past winners of the Newberry. The American Library Association , has a list of previous winners and honourable mentions in which old friends may be found. Here are some that I came across:

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting in 1923

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater in got an honourable mention 1939

King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry in 1949

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White in 1953

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle 1963

An honourable mention for The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander in 1966, his The High King concluding that series, winning in 1969

Mrs Frisbee and the rats of NIMH by Robert C O'Brien in 1972, which I know I've read and enjoyed but can't remember much about anymore.

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper got an honourable mention in 1974, The Grey King winning in 1976

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson in 1978 (I liked the book and refused to see the film. From what I hear from those who did see it, I was right.)

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine got an honourable mention in 1998, and we've all heard of the movie by now.

The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo in 2004, the movie of which is now out.

If you want to know more about these books, try Powell Books which has a list of previous winners, including a synopsis of the plots and links to reviews.

Morva Shepley

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