The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
A Newbery Book Should Have Broad Age Appeal
There’s nothing worse, in my mind, with a Newbery winner that is too high such that only the most advanced elementary school readers can attempt it. The Westing Game is a good example of that for me. It won in 1978.
A Newbery Winner Does Not Have to be Middle Grade Chapter Book
Last’s year picture book surprise, Last Stop on Market Street, opened up the possibility that other genres are being seriously considered. Both Roller Girl and El Deafo took home Newbery Honor prizes too, putting graphic novels right in the hunt.
The Newbery Seeks Diversity?
Winning a Newbery does have a significant financial impact for an author which can not be underestimated. This award can affect what might get published in the future, showing that diversity books appeal to a broader audience than the characters they represent. Brown Girl Dreaming is a good example of that in showing the world that a girl about a brown girl would be read by non-brown girls.
My 2018 Newbery Predictions
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
The only reason I suspect that this book won’t get Newbery recognition is because of previous honors via The One and Only Ivan which won in 2013. But this story is remarkable in its spareness that still conveys exquisite detail of multi-generations of intertwining stories as told by a special tree who has been rooted in place for centuries, assisting in the making of wishes come true. Applegate adds in an especially relevant theme of anti-Muslim bigotry which is a Very Important Message, pushing this book, at least for me, into Newbery recognition territory. It’s a kind of Charlotte’s Web meets [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla
Charlie has OCD and possibly also has Aspergers Syndrome. Accommodating his needs leads his crew on a cross country trip in search of birds in a circuitous path that finalizes at a hospital in Virginia caring for their brain damaged father. While Charlie’s siblings are on this trip — three siblings with their own strong personalities — it’s their caregiver, the mysterious Ludmila whose own backstory they discover throughout the course of their journey, that ties her, indirectly, to their father. And it’s during this adventure that includes meeting an assortment of people that pushes Charlie out of his usual routine and into a quest for both birds and a chance to meet a mysterious ornithologist that inspires him. Weaving these backstories together to such a satisfying ending is what makes this book Newbery caliber for me. It reminds me of Walk Two Moons and Moon Over Manifest, yet Pla manages to tie even more backstories together which is quite a feat. All the more remarkable that this is her debut book! [chapter book, ages 8 and up]