Saturday, June 4, 2016

Last Stop on Market Street: Has the Newbery Medal Forgotten What It Represents?

image from

The Newbery Medal, awarded each year to a children's book for distinguished writing, has been in place since 1922. It is usually awarded a children's novel and has occasionally been given to poetry. This year, however, it goes to...a picture book.

Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson, is the story of a boy and his grandmother riding across town on a bus. CJ wonders why they have to ride the bus. When they exit, he asks, "How come it's always so dirty over here?" and Nana replies, "Sometimes when you're surrounded by dirty, CJ, you're a better witness for what's beautiful."

It's a good message about appreciating the heart of a city and its people which is driven home by vivid drawings. As a good picture book does, it unfurls its tale through strong images that convey a message even to young non-readers. It understandably was a 2016 Honor Book for the Caldecott Award, given to a children's book for excellence in ILLUSTRATION.

This, however, is the first Newberry winner I've read which left me feeling like I could have cranked this out in an afternoon. No disrespect is intended to De la Peña, who offers beautiful words to accompany those pictures ("The outside air smelled like freedom, but it also smelled like rain, which freckled CJ's shirt and dripped down his nose"). This book accomplishes what it should and does it well, but let's reserve the Newbery Medal for more involved literary works that take more than ten minutes to read.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Newbery-Winning Books

The Newbery Medal is an annual award given to a single book deemed representative of excellence in children's literature for that year. Because I have written middle-grade fiction, I delved into the Newbery list a few years ago and started reading them. For an assessment of what I've learned, check out my blog post from October 2014.

Here is a full list of the Newbery winners. Note: the year is when the book won the award, not necessarily its year of publication. Links go to my personal reviews of the books - and what I learned from them as a writer. I've read books marked with an asterisk, but have not reviewed them.

  • 2016: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
  • 2015: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  • 2014: Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
  • 2013: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  • 2012: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
  • 2011: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
  • 2010: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

    This was the first one I read, the one which started me on this journey.

  • 2009: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, illus. by Dave McKean
  • 2008: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz
  • 2007: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
  • 2006: Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins
  • 2005: Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
  • 2004: The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
  • 2003: Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
  • 2002: A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
  • 2001:A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
  • 2000: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

    Possibly my favorite yet.

  • 1999: Holes by Louis Sachar
  • 1998: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
  • 1997: The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
  • 1996: The Midwife's Appprentice by Karen Cushman
  • 1995: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
  • 1994: The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • 1993: Missing May by Cynthia Rylant
  • 1992: Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • 1991: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  • 1990: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry *

    The most thought-provoking. Sort of a George Orwell '1984' for kids.

  • 1989: Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman
  • 1988: Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman
  • 1987: The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman *
  • 1986: Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan *
  • 1985: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley *
  • 1984: Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
  • 1983: Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt *
  • 1982: A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard
  • 1981: Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson *
  • 1980: A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-1832 by Joan W. Blos
  • 1979: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  • 1978: The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • 1977: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  • 1976: The Grey King by Susan Cooper
  • 1975: M. C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton
  • 1974: The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
  • 1973: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  • 1972: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
  • 1971: Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars
  • 1970: Sounder by William H. Armstrong
  • 1969: The High King by Lloyd Alexander (Holt)
  • 1968: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (Atheneum)
  • 1967: Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt (Follett)
  • 1966: I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino (Farrar)
  • 1965: Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska (Atheneum)
  • 1964: It's Like This, Cat by Emily Neville (Harper)
  • 1963: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Farrar)
  • 1962: The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton)
  • 1961: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (Houghton)
  • 1960: Onion John by Joseph Krumgold (Crowell)
  • 1959: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton)
  • 1958: Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith (Crowell)
  • 1957: Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen (Harcourt)
  • 1956: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham (Houghton)
  • 1955: The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong (Harper)
  • 1954: ...And Now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold (Crowell)
  • 1953: Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark (Viking)
  • 1952: Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes (Harcourt)
  • 1951: Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (Dutton)
  • 1950: The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (Doubleday)
  • 1949: King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry (Rand McNally)
  • 1948: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois (Viking)
  • 1947: Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (Viking)
  • 1946: Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski (Lippincott)
  • 1945: Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson (Viking)
  • 1944: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (Houghton)
  • 1943: Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray (Viking)
  • 1942: The Matchlock Gun by Walter Edmonds (Dodd)
  • 1941: Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry (Macmillan)
  • 1940: Daniel Boone by James Daugherty (Viking)
  • 1939: Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright (Rinehart)
  • 1938: The White Stag by Kate Seredy (Viking)
  • 1937: Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer (Viking)
  • 1936: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (Macmillan)
  • 1935: Dobry by Monica Shannon (Viking)
  • 1934: Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs (Little, Brown)
  • 1933: Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Lewis (Winston)
  • 1932: Waterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer (Longmans)
  • 1931: The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth (Macmillan)
  • 1930: Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field (Macmillan)
  • 1929: The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly (Macmillan)
  • 1928: Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji (Dutton)
  • 1927: Smoky, the Cowhorse by Will James (Scribner)
  • 1926: Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman (Dutton)
  • 1925: Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger (Doubleday)
  • 1924: The Dark Frigate by Charles Hawes (Little, Brown)
  • 1923: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (Stokes)
  • 1922: The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon (Liveright)