Saturday, October 18, 2008

this post is longer than some newberry award winners

My friend Emily is too good for a blog. She's kind of like my friend Pete, who's too primitive for a cell phone or like Rhett who's too scared for lasik.

Emily does have a lot to say, so sometimes it's up to one of us wired people to get the word out.

If anything, Emily's big claim to fame is that she's read every single Newberry Award winning book. I asked her to make a list of the best ones and she said that she didn't remember every single book in detail, so she decided to read them all again. How's that for ready (read: read-y (that was a lot of reads))! Earlier this week she emailed me the big list, with lots of insightful and funny comments. Looking for a book to read to your kids or a book that is written so well that it appeals to kids as well as adults? THIS is the DEFINITIVE list!

Her words follow:

The Newberry Award was established in 1922 to honor the best American book for children. I read all of the winning books in elementary school and decided to read them again after a discussion with a friend. So, I have spent the last seven marvelous months reading the best children's books in the United States. Needless to say, some of them were better than others. In an effort to save all of my dear friends the pain of a bad book I have written reviews. These reviews were written within minutes of finishing a book so it's really all about my first impressions. If you are looking for a good book to read, feel free to pick something from my list. However, I am not responsible if you don't like the book. Our tastes are just different. Enjoy!

Books to Read

1927 Winner: Smoky, the Cowhorse by Will James

One of my favorite books ever. Story written like an old cowboy would tell it -- grammar, spelling, and everything else. Smoky is a great horse, trained by Clint, then stolen and turned into a mean ornery thing. A story about what positive actions and words can do.

1923 Winner: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

It was fun reading a book that is part of our popular culture. The bullfighting chapters made me laugh out loud. Really turned on my imagination.

1941 Winner: Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry

Kind of reminded me of Robinson Crusoe and Life of Pi. A young man whose name means courage but doesn't have any sets out on a quest to become courageous. Set in Polynesia.

1956 Winner: Carry on Mr Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

A boy is constantly told he can't do something. But, he uses his brain and helps others and accomplishes more than anyone thought possible. Brings a ship through a fog and learns Latin.

1955 Winner: The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong

I remember liking this one from childhood. There is a sweetness and energy in it. It's the story of a little girl's impossible dream and the way an entire village came together to make it come true.

1959 Winner: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

This is a good girl book. Kit from Barbados teaches a little girl to read and saves a supposed witch from death. Everybody marries the right person.

1952 Winner: Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes

The story of a rather amazing little dog. I'd consider reading the other books in this series. I enjoyed the lesson about never stop looking for what you want.

1948 Winner: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois.

A man wants to get away from the world so he builds a giant balloon with the idea to be alone for a year. Lands on Krakatoa, meets an Utopian society and flees with the group when the volcano explodes. Ironically, there was a story in the paper just after I read this about a priest floating away in a balloon (or something like that.)

1963 Winner: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.

It's A Wrinkle in Time -- what else needs to be said?

1968 Winner: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

The book that probably started me on the slippery slope of professional museum life. Because the next best thing to living in a museum is working in one! Also an interesting idea about wanting change and growth and something different about our lives.

1972 Winner: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien

Utopia building genetically altered lab rats totally rock. And there's a great story about fearlessly working for the benefit of others.

1978 Winner: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Really great book. Really sad ending. Nice references to CS Lewis and other Newberry winning books. Captured the spirit of childhood

1979 Winner: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Very clever. I was wrapped up in solving the mystery right along with the characters. Nice twist at the end.

1982 Winner: A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard

Poetry! Some nice nuggets in here. Should I know who William Blake is?

1991 Winner: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

One cool kid. His goodness, kindness, and love of the world changes the lives of everyone around him. I almost felt like a ten year old again when reading this.

1994 Winner: The Giver by Lois Lowry

A great book. The power and importance of memory -- good, bad, painful, happy, bitter, sweet. And the importance of choice. The utopian society they had built for themselves scared me a little.

1997 Winner: The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

On the surface a group of mismatched people accomplishes the seemingly impossible. I liked this one for the conclusions and connections it let you make on your own. You had to pay attention to catch it all.

1999 Winner: Holes by Louis Sachar

Very entertaining and nice mental images. A good story that doesn't beat you over the head with message. I can tell why it has been so popular.

2004 Winner: The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo

An unlikely hero saves the day. I smiled and chuckled through this entire book. Great lessons told in a fun and approachable way.

Books to read once. They might change your life but they might not.

1942 Winner: Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray

Set in Medieval England. Story of the son of a minstrel and the lessons he learns about life as he is out on the open road.

1938 Winner: The White Stag by Kate Seredy

Really short (read it in an hour) Myth of how the Huns arrived in Hungary. Paints Attila the Hun in a different light. I liked it and the illustrations were very Art Nouveau and cool.

1937 Winner: Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer

Nice story. A little girl has a wonderful year and touches many lives when her parents move to Italy. She gets to roller skate all over New York City and meets people her aunt wouldn't approve of. Kind of sad ending as she grows up at the end of the year.

1926 Winner: Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman

Chinese folk tales -- how dynamite and kites were invented, how a tailor became a general and defeated the enemy, how a village beat away sea demons and stopped flooding. Liked this better than Tales from Silver Lands. (1925 winner) Felt more Chinese than Silver Lands felt South American.

1930 Winner: Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field

History told from a doll's perspective. She travels on a whaling ship, lives in India, is adopted by a Quaker family, kidnapped by crows, and ends up in an antique store. It made me wonder about the stories my toys could tell.

1929 Winner: The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly

Cool story that for me came down to the importance of keeping your promises. Felt a little more advanced than previous winners. Made me want to visit Krakow.

1962 Winner: The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

In the beginning, it's about a Jewish boy who wants to rid Israel of the Romans and bring to pass the physical kingdom of God. In the end it's about Jesus.

1961 Winner: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

Apparently based on a true story. The story of a girl who survives and thrives after being left on an island alone for twenty years. I was sad at the end for the loss of her civilization

1953 Winner: Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark

Story of a young Inca boy in the 1930s? and his place in the millenia of Inca experience. Not spectacular but not bad either. Maybe it would help if I knew more about Peru. Way better than the other South American book.

1951 Winner: Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates

A young man, stolen from his tribe, brought to the US as a slave, buys his freedom and frees others. I think I was supposed to be more inspired by this than I was.

1950 Winner: The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli

Another medieval England story. A crippled boy learns no wall in life is so impenetrable that it doesn't even have a door in it. He saves the castle, reunites with family, and becomes friends with a monk. I liked Adam of the Road more.

1949 Winner: King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry

This was one of my favorite authors growing up. I guess I'm a sucker for a good horse book! Then and now I've been disappointed in the ending. I want Sham to have a triumphal race around the track -- beating his children.

1965 Winner: Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska

One of the better coming of age stories so far. The best part though is reading all about bullfighting. Not spectacular, just good. Why are women writing all these coming of age stories about boys?

1966 Winner: I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino

Good one. Not only makes me want to read a real biography about the main characters but to look at Velazquez paintings. A nice story about a man's faithful life to a family he loved.

1970 Winner: Sounder by William H. Armstrong

Very sad. A boy's father arrested for stealing food. Dog almost killed during arrest. Boy goes on a quest to find his father, becomes a man. Learns to read -- a huge deal for the family. Incredible love and loyalty for and from a dog.

1973 Winner: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

A girl leaves her modernized Alaskan village, lives off the wilderness and is adopted by wolves. Almost joins white society then realizes she would rather live by the ancient ways. A sad tale of the ending of the traditional way of life.

1976 Winner: The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Fourth book in a series of five. Another Welsh mythology story. It was good and there are some nice truths, but knowing the other books would probably help. This is a series I might go back and read.

1977 Winner: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Inequalities in 1920s Mississippi. In the end a father gives up (possibly) his most prized possession for the chance he might be able to save a life.

1980 Winner: A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-1832 by Joan W. Blos

A nice coming of age story set in 1830s New Hampshire. I'm not sure if I would have liked it more or less if I hadn't put on my historian's hat while reading it.

1987 Winner: The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman

A fun story. A good reminder that boys constantly in trouble really need to be allowed to be boys. Jemmie's frustrations with Prince Brat are hilarious.

1990 Winner: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

I liked the idea that all of Denmark is the kings bodyguard -- in a sense it extends much further than that. Stories about the Holocaust are always gut wrenching for me.

1993 Winner: Missing May by Cynthia Rylant

About love, accepting others as they are and moving on through loss. Set in West Virginia, includes a boy named Cletus.

1995 Winner: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Filled with all kinds of great overactive teenage imaginations and differences between families. In the end, a sad book on many levels that was starting to move towards healing.

2001 Winner: A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

Small town life during a recession. A girl and her grandmother have a bond. They were interesting characters and I wanted to connect with them but didn't for some reason.

2002 Winner: A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

A 12th century Korean orphan grows up to become one of the best potters in the country. After he thinks he has failed, he finds a large enough remnant to accomplish his goal. I liked this one.

2008 Winner: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz

One of the better life in Medieval Europe books I read. (and there have been a lot in the Newberry winners) Monologues from different teenage residents in a village. Some of them consciously interact with each other, others interact but don't know it.

1984 Winner: Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

I'm a Beverly Cleary fan -- I remember liking a lot of these books. I was drawn into Leigh's story -- his journey of discovery and his views of the world. He felt real to me.

1986 Winner: Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

More of a short story than a book -- read it in 30 minutes. A story about coming to love the place you are for what it is. About a mail-order bride.

Read it... or not... whatever...

1939 Winner: Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright

A 9 year old girl's summer in the Midwest. Hitchhiking, county fairs, swimming, going to town. It was ok. It was comparable to Roller Skates but I liked Roller Skates more. Weren't really a lot of good life lessons in this one.

1936 Winner: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

Has always felt like a cheap knockoff of Little House on the Prairie to me. (the books, not the 1970s tv show) Not one of my favorites. Little girl in Wisconsin -- grows up, has siblings, meets Indians, etc.

1935 Winner: Dobry by Monica Shannon

Follows a little boy in Bulgaria over the course of several years. What it means to be in a community. Grandfather is a master storyteller. The book ends as Dobry leaves his village to make his own way in the world. It ended where I wanted the story to begin.

1934 Winner: Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs

Was this really the best book of 1934? The whole point of it was that all of Alcott's life experience prepared her to write Little Women. Mostly hero worship. I think they wanted to give the award to Little Women but the rules wouldn't allow them to.

1933 Winner: Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Lewis

Yet another China book. I kept waiting for the big climatic moment but it never happened. Every chapter this coppersmith apprentice gets into a scrape, learns from it, then does something else stupid the next chapter. Exciting adventures left me disappointed in the end.

1932 Winner: Waterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer

Kind of bland. A Navajo boy coming of age written by a white woman who made yearly visits to the reservation. Really a reflection of 1930s thought about Native Americans. Story set in 1920s or 1930s -- automobiles, airplanes, hogans, and ponies. Very idealized.

1931 Winner: The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Really short (read in 30 minutes) A poor artist commissioned to paint an image of the dying Buddha. A kind and gentle cat can't be in the painting because it didn't honor the living Buddha. Redeemed in the end. Very Japanese.

1928 Winner: Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji

How to train a carrier pigeon. Set in India. Nice Hindu lessons about love, courage, etc but I couldn't get over the fact that it was about a pigeon!

1925 Winner: Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger

Short stories set in South America. Kind of like Hans Christian Anderson. Where armadillos come from, 400 young men who killed giants, origin of monkeys, etc. It was ok.

1922 Winner: The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon

History of the world (evolution into Western 20th century history) written for children. Definitely groundbreaking for 1922 but definitely not on my list of 600+ page books to read again. I got bored and stopped reading on page 160 just after the Normans invaded England. Has very cool illustrations.

1960 Winner: Onion John by Joseph Krumgold

Reminded me a lot of ...And Now Miguel. Not my favorite either! Why not just teach an Eastern European English and not try to remake his entire life! I didn't care as much about Andy either.

1958 Winner: Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith

Story of the western front of the Civil War. Kind of dumb. Jeff doesn't want Watie to get rifles and he becomes a spy for the Union army. Way down on my list of suggested Civil War reading. And, they spelled drought "drouth" (the old-fashioned way). It bugged me the entire book!

1957 Winner: Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen

Sweet story of small, daily miracles (and big ones too!) that happen to a family when they move to the country. Very sweet, wholesome. The biggest miracle is that the father recovers from the war.

1954 Winner: ...And Now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold

And yet another southwest Indian book. This time about a sheepherders family. Miguel is the middle child and doesn't quite know where he belongs. He dreams big, learns a lot, and finds even seemingly great dreams have unfortunate consequences.

1945 Winner: Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

How to keep animals from digging up your garden from the animals perspective. Kind of cute. Took a few pages to realize the book was from an animals perspective. I was kind of confused.

1944 Winner: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

A young man comes of age at the dawning of the American republic. Johnny Tremain is an apprentice silversmith who becomes friends with Paul Revere, Sam Adams, Josiah Quincy, etc. Very patriotic. Seemed to be a big reflection of what was going on in the US and world in 1944. Seemed a real departure from previous winners.

1964 Winner: It's Like This, Cat by Emily Neville

Just ok. A New York City boy adopts a stray cat and takes it with him as he does his normal teenage boy things. Didn't stick out in any way.

1967 Winner: Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt

A girl's coming of age story. Nothing really happens -- she just grows up and learns to deal with everyday life. Nothing spectacular, nothing bad. Maybe because it happens slowly.

1969 Winner: The High King by Lloyd Alexander

I might like this more if I'd read the other four books in the series. Didn't understand the back story enough. Really clich├ęd ending. Part fantasy part welsh mythology -- not really my thing.

1971 Winner: Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars

Should really be called "Two Days of the Swans." A young mentally disabled boy gets lost and his 14 year old sister learns some good life lessons. Kind of blah -- quick read but I was getting bored.

1974 Winner: The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox

This one confused me. Why write a book about a slave ship in 1974? This would probably give children nightmares -- people getting kidnapped, shot, thrown overboard, shipwrecked...

1975 Winner: M.C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton

Felt like a book you would read in highschool to dissect all the symbolism. Couldn't really tell you the point of it what life lesson I learned.

1981 Winner: Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

The message I learned from this book this time is that sometimes our "afflictions" are self-imposed because we're too selfish to look outside of ourselves. I really didn't have a lot of sympathy for Louise. Although as a 15 year old I totally related.

1983 Winner: Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt

It grew on me as the story progressed. My final feeling for these characters was pity -- which I doubt was the authors point. Another story of growing up and changing perspective.

1985 Winner: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Fantasy. Such a departure from all other winners I don't know how to rank it. Good book on its own, but the whole ending section with Luthe left me confused and uneasy. Really enjoyed most of it.

1989 Winner: Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman

Clever two voice poems about bugs. Kind of out of place for the rest. I thought it was interesting to write something for two people when reading is so solitary. Maybe I would have liked it more if I had convinced a roommate to read out loud with me.

1992 Winner: Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds

A boy and his dog. Nothing special. Kind of a morally ambiguous ending.

2000 Winner: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Shares a lot of elements of other award winners -- orphan, living on the street, black kid in a white man's world, hard economic times, finding your place in the world, and finding a family. Nothing particularly enthralling.

2003 Winner: Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi

Orphan boy, Medieval England, falls in with a juggler. I saw the plot twist coming about 100 pages before it happened. Sadly, the really cool sword fight is in the last five pages. I felt like someone slammed on the brakes for the ending. And what's up with the author with only one name?

2007 Winner: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

Middle of the road book. There is no way this book would have been accepted 30 years ago -- divorce, foster care, electrocuted mothers, mothers in prison, eavesdropping on AA meetings...

2005 Winner: Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

A Japanese-American family moves to Georgia and learns how to cope with grief and hard times. Not that good, not that bad.

Don't bother

1942 Winner: The Matchlock Gun by Walter Edmonds

More of a short story than a book. A Dutch family attempts to ward off an Indian attack in about 1700 New England. I wanted more of their story. In the end, the mother is injured and the house burns down. Did they really succeed?

1940 Winner: Daniel Boone by James Daugherty

Not that great. The noble settler, the evil savage. Seemed a step back in cultural awareness from previous winners. Written for children but not one I would recommend to children. The historian in me went eek! a lot when reading this.

1924 Winner: The Dark Frigate by Charles Hawes

Pirates and other bad people in the entire book. The story of Phillip Marsham -- has the sea in his blood and gets mixed up with pirates. Escapes, acquitted of piracy charges, becomes a hero, and returns to the sea in the very same ship he had sailed on as a pirate (spooky eh?) Not very excited to be reading this one.

1947 Winner: Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

Miss Hickory is made of a hickory nut and a twig. Reminded me of Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. Very creepy, Alfred Hitchcock type ending.

1946 Winner: Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski

Set in rural backwoods Florida. All of it was in vernacular slang. Never got used to it. Never felt allegiance to any of the characters.

1988 Winner: Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman

The historian in me came out and I was disappointed. The author contradicted himself and oversimplified things. Too much text, not enough photos!

1996 Winner: The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman

A girl comes of age in Medieval Europe blah blah blah. Is midwifery and childbirth an appropriate subject for young adult fiction?

1998 Winner: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Not such a fan. It felt like she was trying too hard with the free verse poetry. Was the dust supposed to symbolize something?

2006 Winner: Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins

Teenagers growing up together and learning about life. This author was trying to be literary and deep. I think I missed something. Would a teenager really understand this book?


Blogger J.R. said...

Sorry for this not relating to books or awards or berries. But did you know Mode is wrapping up their next album? And they have a world tour planned for 2009? Freaking gadget yes!


October 18, 2008 3:27 AM  
Blogger Laura Lee said...

Nothing like a big long list of books -- most of which you haven't read to let you know you suck at reading. I've maybe read 5 or 6 of these.

Does Emily have ALL of these in her library for people to borrow?

October 18, 2008 12:21 PM  
Blogger Emily Utt said...

Thanks Jon! I feel almost famous now. I'll get through the book backlog on my bedside table and start then start on the Hugo winners.
You can get all these books at the great Salt Lake City Library except for, oddly enough, 21 Balloons. I had to whip out my trusty Salt Lake County library card to get that one.

October 18, 2008 1:26 PM  
Blogger John Edvalson said...

So, I have read about 15 of these. I disagree with Out of the Dust, I thought that one was great. Otherwise I agree with the rankings.

October 18, 2008 4:31 PM  
Blogger John Edvalson said...

So, I have read about 15 of these. I disagree with Out of the Dust, I thought that one was great. Otherwise I agree with the rankings.

October 18, 2008 4:31 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Thanks Emily!! I'm surprised I have actually read quite a few of these. I will have to start the process of getting a New York City Public library card. I've heard it is quite the exclusive little club - you basically have to prove you are part of the mafia to qualify for one. HA!

October 18, 2008 9:44 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

Thanks Emily and Jon, I'm always looking for new books to read.

October 19, 2008 5:55 PM  
Blogger Rhett said...

Great List! Get Emily to do more of them! (Like the Hugo winners... I'm excited for that one)

October 20, 2008 9:43 AM  
Blogger Maker said...

Who is this Newberry chap?

I'm with Rhett. Tell Emily to get on to the Hugo's and Nebula's. Hopefully I have read more than a few on those lists.

Also, reading is FUNdamental.
I'm just sayin'...

October 21, 2008 2:19 PM  

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