Newbery Through the Decades Challenge

I’m not big on participating in book or reading challenges online (or in real life). As I’ve gotten older I find that I enjoy reading more serendipitously, following a thread from one book to another. Picking what to read next based on an NPR story or a recommendation from a friend or a cover that looks intriguing.

However, I was excited this year to participate in Amy’s Newbery Through the Decades Challenge. I was attracted to it because it was simple, read one Newbery book month from a particular decade, and because I have an interest in children’s literature and this seemed like a way to push myself to read some of those “I’ll get to it one day” books.

The books I read:
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly (1929 Medal Winner)
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (1936 Medal Winner)
On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1938 Honor Book)
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski (1946 Medal Winner)
Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright (1958 Honor Book)
The Noonday Friends by Mary Stolz (1966 Honor Book)
Figgs and Phantoms by Ellen Raskin (1975 Honor Book)
A Fine White Dust by Cynthia Rylant (1987 Honor Book)
The Mid-Wife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman (1996 Medal Winner)
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman (1995 Honor Book)
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt (2005 Honor Book)
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2010 Medal Winner)
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (2015 Medal Winner)
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2015 Honor Book)

Favorites? 
It’s hard to pick because I truly enjoyed so many of these but I think I’d have to say When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt. Both authors have become favorites of mine and write what I think is some of the best fiction being published today. Forget labels like “juvenile fiction”, both Stead and Schmidt deal with complex problems and situations and emotions and use intricate puzzles and beautiful language to tell their stories.

I also adore Elizabeth Enright and we’ve spent a long happy summer and fall reading aloud first Gone Away Lake and then Return to Gone Away as our lunchtime book.

Biggest Surprise? 
A Fine White Dust by Cynthia Rylant was one of the more intriguing books I read. It was one of the very few books I’ve ever read that deals with deep religious feeling and belief in a young person. I also really loved Caddie Woodlawn, which for some reason I had an aversion to as a child. I don’t know what I was thinking because I should have loved fiesty Caddie.

Disappointments?
Figgs and Phantoms by Ellen Raskin was a bit of a disappointment to me but only because I really love The Westing Game. Figgs and Phantoms is a thousand times weirder than The Westing Game (which is weird enough in it’s own way). I think modern fans of Kate DiCamillo or Kathi Appelt might dig Ellen Raskin.

The Trumpeter of Krakow was probably my least favorite of the books I read and the one book that felt really dated. But I did it as a read aloud and gave my kids the enduring joke of Peter the Button Face as an evil villain. All I have to say now is Button Face and they burst out laughing. So I can’t say it was a total bust.

I’m very thankful to Amy for coming up with this challenge and hope to join again next year. Consider joining us!

3 thoughts on “Newbery Through the Decades Challenge

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I loved it, too, and am already looking forward to next year! I really meant to read Lizzie Bright because I LOVE Gary D. Schmidt, too (as you know). I WILL read it next year, Lord willing. I love When You Reach Me, too, and have been thinking about reading it with my eldest.

  2. It’s so interesting why people choose to (or not to) participate in challenges. I tend to read a lot of nonfiction, so I find that participating in my book club and in a few select online challenges helps me to make time for the fiction that I otherwise wouldn’t read (when my time is fragmented, reading one chapter at a time of nonfiction is tons easier than reading fiction, which I never want to put down.)

    I’m thinking I’ll probably read along with Amy next year – and I’m glad I’ll have reviews and comments from a number of trusted bloggers to help me select which books I’ll read 🙂

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