I am a firm believer in giving books to kids. I have been an avid reader since I was young, and I love the heritage that all of the books I read gave me. Each year since 1922 the American Library Association has helped ones to locate excellent children’s books by awarding the Newbery Award Medal. I agree with the original purpose of the medal, that children’s books should be recognized as just as worthy of praise as any poem or novel. The Newbery Award Medal has been given to many a worthy recipient over the years. Here I present to you my top ten picks from the award list. Perhaps they will give you an idea for a book to give to a child close to you.
1. 1998:Out of the Dustby Karen Hesse, 1997
This tragic book is a great introduction for young kids to the Great Depression. Especially during the current economic climate, it may be a good read for kids to learn that this is not the first time that children have had to deal with hard times. I remember picking up this book because I knew that my great-granparents had left Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. The story is about a young girl named Billie Jo and her parents, who are struggling to survive. When a fatal accident takes the lives of Billie Jo’s mother and her unborn child, her father is inconsolable. Billie Jo runs away, and she learns new lessons about life and her future.
2. 1997:The View from Saturdayby E.L. Konigsburg, 1996
A unique book for older children, this tale is told by the characters in alternating chapters. The four gifted young students are chosen by Mrs. Olinski, a paraplegic, to be members of the school’s Academic Bowl. It’s interesting because it helps to teach that the world is full of different stories and life experiences that come together and can make something wonderful happen. The book is also great at championing gifted students, which doesn’t always happen. Children should always be reminded that scholastic success is a wonderful goal to achieve.
3. 1996:The Midwife’s Apprenticeby Karen Cushman, 1995
Alyce is first introduced to the audience as Brat, a lowly girl who is made fun of and works for food scraps to survive. This book, though, presents a fantastic view of Medieval life for children as it follows Alyce’s journey to become the midwife’s apprentice. I think that this book can help instill the lesson that hard work can pay off, and a person can become more than others think she is. I know that I really enjoyed the historical aspects of the book.
4. 1994:The Giverby Lois Lowry, 1993
This striking book is one of the best that I ever remember reading as a child. No matter your age, the intriguing story line draws you in and really makes you think about your world and beliefs. It follows a young boy named Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal world, where nothing bad really happens. In December, each 12-year-old is given a life assignment, and Jonas is assigned to The Giver, from whom he learns the meanings of joy and pain.
5. 1990:Number the Starsby Lois Lowry, 1989
For a time as a young person, I was keenly interested in World War II and the Holocaust. This interest led me to this haunting book about a young girl named Annemarie Johansen, who lives in 1943 Denmark. We see a world of hardships, shortages, and difficulties under the Nazi regime as told from the viewpoint of a child. When her family takes in Annemarie’s Jewish friend, Ellen Rosen, life becomes even more difficult. What a wonderful book for children today to learn about the Holocaust and to learn the lessons of bravery and standing up for what is right, even when it is difficult or dangerous.
6. 1986:Sarah, Plain and Tallby Patricia MacLachlan, 1985
I will always remember this book for the image of cutting hair and throwing it to the birds to build nests. For years after reading this book, I would very carefully sweep up my hair after it was cut and put it outside for the birds at my home. It is about two kids, Anna and Caleb, whose mother has died. They want someone to come to make their father laugh, and Sarah enters. It’s set on the prairies of the early 1900s. The book is a wonderful story of loneliness and of love.
7. 1984:Dear Mr. Henshawby Beverly Cleary, 1983
Beverly Cleary books were always favorites of mine as a child, and I really enjoyed this one. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, it is the story of a young boy whose parents have recently divorced, he’s moved to a new place, and is feeling the loneliness of early adolescence. Most children will relate. I loved the format of letter writing to tell a powerful and deep story.
8. 1983:Dicey’s Songby Cynthia Voigt, 1982
Another striking book about life changes and loneliness, this book follows Dicey and her siblings as they go to live with their grandmother after their mother is put into a mental institution. Dicey struggles to keep her family together while avoiding having anything for herself. Her progression as a young woman is powerful. Although I don’t think this is a great book for the very young, it would be a nice read for young teens who no doubt have similar feelings.
9. 1963:A Wrinkle in Timeby Madeleine L’Engle, 1962
I will admit that I am not an avid reader of science fiction. Yet this book was something that I truly enjoyed as a young person. Meg Murry is viewed as emotionally deficient by those around her, but when she is transported to an evil world ruled by an evil IT, she learns that love is the most powerful feeling. She learns, too, that the earth is partially covered by this black evil to be fought against. It teaches that light and love are strong forces to overcome the darkness.
10. 1936:Caddie Woodlawnby Carol Ryrie Brink, 1935
The oldest book on my list, I loved this historical story that is based on the real-life adventures of the author’s grandmother. It focuses on good times, which is something that is great for children. I enjoy a lot of the other books because they help kids learn how to deal with tough times, but sometimes it’s nice to just remember that the good things in life are what are most important. This book, which centers on a young pioneer girl in the 1860s, is excellent for just that reason.