Heigh Ho the Bery O

Date: 2 February 2013

Books Completed: 23     

Books Left: 177

Earlier this week, the ALA announced its winner for this year’s Newbery award. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan for it to be one of my 200 this year. Considering the event, and the fact that I finished reading 2 previous Newbery winners this week (it is my goal to eventually read them all), I thought I’d share some Newbery thoughts.

As I look over my running list of Newberys I own and have read, I notice an intriguing trend. The ones from the past 30 years or so I either quite enjoyed or was kind of “eh” about, with two notable exceptions (couldn’t stand Desperaux and Jacob Have I Loved).  The same can be said of the ones I’ve read from the 1950s and earlier. The winners from the 60s and 70s however, produce some wildly bi-polar responses from me. I loved It’s Like This, Cat and A Wrinkle in Time. The latter surprised me as sci-fi is so not my genre. To this day Terabithia is an all-time favorite, even though I pretty much weep like a baby every time I read it. But Sounder? The Slave Dancer? Worst of all, Shadow of a Bull? These are truly among the worst books I’ve ever read. And while, obviously, others will disagree with my assessments, those who love the books I despise will likely despise the books I love.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the winners of these two particular decades can inspire such oppositional emotions. The 60s in particular were years of tremendous upheaval and challenging all that came before them. While the books that I loathe are not reflective of the turbulence as far as content goes, I believe the moods they evoke are. More importantly, the collections of winners as a whole during this time mirror the struggle our nation was undergoing—counterculture versus the establishment, questioning versus blind acceptance of authority, change versus the status quo. In other words, the spirits of the books, rather than the actual content, are making a commentary of their times.

Makes me wonder—what will some children’s book lover 40 years from now make of a collection that includes The Giver, A Year Down Yonder, and The Graveyard Book?