Chasing Newbery

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Every year a Newbery medal book is chosen and recognized as the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in the past year. This long history of book selections makes for a rich reading list. For some young book lovers, tackling this collection of literary greats becomes the ultimate reading challenge.

Over recent years, several parents have reported to ALSC that their child has read each and every Newbery Medal-winning book named since 1922 when the award was first given. Our hats are off to all those who have embraced this goal and faithfully read their way through decades of award-winning titles. That is quite an achievement.

To all those up for the challenge, a complete list of Newbery Medal-winning books can be found at:

Twelve-year-old Sophie Blaylock of San Diego, Calif., achieved her Newbery reading goal and tells us all about it below.

What made you decide to read all of the Newbery medal books?

Actually it was my mom’s idea. She found a pamphlet listing all the Newbery winners at our public library in Sandy, Utah, and noticed I had already read some of them. Later that day, she highlighted all the winners I told her I had read. And that’s how it all began. 

How long did it take you to achieve this goal?

I don’t have an exact answer… I had already read about 25 before I started the goal in late June. I finished A Single Shard (my last Newbery) on November 11, 2007. So I read about 60 books in 4 1/2 months to reach my goal.

Which of the Newberys were your favorites and why?

I liked them all, that’s for certain, but I would have to say my favorites were Bud, Not Buddy and Ginger Pye. I liked them because they are heartwarming tales, and they both have a little adventure in them. They are well written and I think they would be excellent books to read out loud.

Were there particular books, especially ones published a long time ago, with which you had trouble identifying/connecting? Which ones and why?

I had trouble connecting with The Story of Mankind and The Dark Frigate. The Story of Mankind felt too text book like and besides, I’m not the biggest fan of that particular genre. I did, however, enjoy the descriptive pictures—they were definitely a form of relief for me! The Dark Frigate was slow—the author spent the first few chapters developing the characters and not much else. It did get a little better when the main characters were kidnapped by pirates!

Any plans to undertake the Newbery honor book list next?

Definitely not anytime soon.  Besides, saying, “I’ve read all the Newbery honors” doesn’t sound as awesome as saying, “I’ve read all the Newbery winners!”

Was it difficult to find copies of the books published a long time ago? How did you get ahold of all of them?

My mom actually found them for me (big thank you to her). Three books had to be taken out of storage: The Story of Mankind (the very first Newbery winner, 1922), Waterless Mountain (1932 winner) and Daniel Boone (1940 winner). Any books our Scripps Ranch Library (San Diego) didn’t have, she ordered (with the help of librarian Miss Ann) online through the library system.

Julie Andrews is the honorary chair of National Library Week 2008, April 13–19.
Read, watch, listen to, or download National Library Week 
announcements starring the legendary actor.

Are you a regular library user? If so, what do you like best about your library?

As long as I can remember, my mom took me to the library. When I was little, we used to go to John Marshall Library in Alexandria, Va., and check out stacks of picture books, fairy tales, non-fiction—you name it! There was always a pile of books at our house.  We also used to go to those shows and guest presentations—puppet shows, storytellers, musicians, exotic animals. Sometimes it was just our family and other times we’d invite friends to go with us. Now, I just concentrate on finding new books. Miss Ann introduced me to the “Young Adult” section so I’ve been spending a lot of time in that aisle lately!

Besides Newbery books, what other kinds of books do you like to read?

I like to read fantasy, adventure and horror/mystery.

When you’re not reading, what are some of your other pastimes and hobbies?

I like to draw Manga (Japanese animation), play Internet games and play with friends.

What would you like to do when you grow up?

I would like to be a book/magazine critic and an author—possibly a Newbery winner?

Alas, no time to rest on your laurels, Sophie and all you other Newbery readers, the 2008 winner will be announced on Monday morning January 14, during a press conference in Philadelphia. Time to get busy reading again!

--Laura Schulte-Cooper, Association for Library Service to Children