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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

The Ghost of Newbery Past

As we approach the holidays and time off work for many of us, I thought I’d make a less controversial post and stick with something fun!  When Nina and I first started working on the concept of this blog we had some conversation about our personal favorite Newbery winners of the past.  So, I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you and hopefully you can share some of your favorites with me.  I’m thinking about these in terms of all-times and in particular the ones that resonated with me when I was young, not the ones that I discovered as an adult. 

To get your brain juices flowing, here’s the page with all the past winners and honor books.

I will start with saying that I really love all the recent winners.  The Higher Power of Lucky shocked me, because like most of us, I’d never even heard of it.  But I was totally charmed when I got my copy and read it.  Such a fun, funny, lovely story with so much hope, fear and wonder.  Good Masters Sweet Ladies was a title that I put off reading for months, because it seemed so far out of the realm of reading material I enjoy.  But it was, of course, amazingly written, with such a unique and special way of bringing history alive for young people.  I’ve spent so much of my career working with young people trying to find this exact style of interactive reading.  

But back to my childhood favorites.  Well here are a few:

1979 Medal Winner: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
I remember reading this book with my teacher, Mrs. Tesar, in the fifth grade and just being blown away.  I loved the combination of mystery and silliness.  It was one of the few books that I tolerated being read to me as opposed to just reading it more quickly myself.

1978 Medal Winner: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
I’ve been a sucker for a sad book my whole life.  As a child you could have sold me, as opposed to turn me off of a book by saying "the dog dies".  I think maybe I was looking for an expression of the normal childhood sadnesses I had by "feeling" the greater tragedies of these stories.  Bridge to Terabithia haunted me (in a good way). I still re-read it every couple of years.

1971 Medal Winner: Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars
As you can probably tell, I was a bit of a serious child, and this is a book that I was completely enamoured of.  I still love reading books about people with various physical and developmental disabilities and I studied psyhology in part due to my desire to understand these things better.

1968 Medal Winner: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
I really really wanted to be Claudia.  I think this is the book that begun my obsession with New York City.  I finally lived there during graduate school and being poor and struggling in New York City did not live up to the dreams I had built.  But the Met – oh how I still love the Met.

1963 Medal Winner: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
My introduction to the world of science fiction.  Also read by Mrs. Tesar in fifth grade.  I went on to read the rest of the books in the series and to try to write my own time travel science fiction novel.  This is another that I’ve continue to re-read into adulthood.  I’m picky about my science fiction.  It’s not my favorite genre.  But good science fiction always makes my list of favorites.

I’ll stick with those – the true standouts for me, although there are many more that I enjoyed a lot.  What are some of your favorites?  I stuck with winners, but feel free to delve into Honor recipients as well.

Happy Winter!

Sharon McKellar About Sharon McKellar

Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at


  1. A couple of years ago I made a list of my Newbery favorites. Topping it was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (1972).
    Others are Wrinkle in Time (1963), Bud Not Buddy (2000), From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1968), and Johnny Tremain (1944).

  2. I went through the list of Medal and Honor books, trying to boil it down to just a few favorites, but I can’t. Getting it down to about 60 wasn’t too bad, but paring it down further and further was torture! So I’ve got I think 21 here (plus some cheating by counting sequels with the original book).

    1928 Honor Book: DOWNRIGHT DENCEY. Snedeker, Caroline Dale

    1936 CADDIE WOODLAWN. Brink, Carol Ryrie

    Honor Books: THE GOOD MASTER. Seredy, Kate
    (cheating, by adding here and counting only as one:
    THE SINGING TREE. Seredy, Kate (1940)

    1938 Honor Book: ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK. Wilder, Laura Ingalls (and cheating, by adding here and counting only as one: BY THE SHORES OF SILVER LAKE. Wilder, Laura Ingalls (1940) THE LONG WINTER. Wilder, Laura Ingalls (1941) LITTLE TOWN ON THE PRAIRIE. Wilder, Laura Ingalls (1942) THESE HAPPY GOLDEN YEARS. Wilder, Laura Ingalls (1944)

    1939 Honor Book: NINO. Angelo, Valenti

    1945 RABBIT HILL. Lawson, Robert
    Honor Book: THE HUNDRED DRESSES. Estes, Eleanor

    1947 Honor Book: THE WONDERFUL YEAR. Barnes, Nancy

    1948 Honor Book: MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE. Henry, Marguerite

    1953 Honor Book: CHARLOTTE’S WEB. White, E. B. MOCCASIN TRAIL. McGraw, Eloise Jarvis

    1956 Honor Book: THE GOLDEN NAME DAY. Lindquist, Jennie

    1958 Honor Book: GONE-AWAY LAKE. Enright, Elizabeth

    1959 THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND. Speare, Elizabeth George

    1963 A WRINKLE IN TIME. L’Engle, Madeleine

    1968 Honor Book: THE EGYPT GAME. Snyder, Zilpha Keatley

    1972 MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH. O’Brien, Robert C.

    1975 Honor Book: THE PERILOUS GARD. Pope, Elizabeth Marie

    1997 Honor Book: THE THIEF. Turner, Megan Whalen

    2000 26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE. dePaola, Tomie

    2002 A SINGLE SHARD. Park, Linda Sue

  3. Drat, I forgot about the HTML tags again.

  4. As a child “Dear Mr. Henshaw” was one of my absolute favorites. I still often find myself returning to Cleary’s novel. Two years ago i went back and read all of the winners in one calander year. My favorites from that wonderful adventure included: Carry on Mr. Bodwitch, 21 Balloons, The Westing Game, Onion John, Invincible Louisa, Mixed up Files of…, Jacob Have I Loved and The Story of Mankind. Truthfully I enjoyed almost every winner. I was expecting some of the early titles to bore me but nearly all really suprised me especially Shen of the Sea, Hitty, Her First Hundred Years and the aforementioned Story of Mankind. My only disappointments that year were MC Higgins the Great, Bronze Bow and The Whipping Boy (which suprised me because I remember loving this one in third grade).

  5. Monica Edinger says:

    In looking over the list of winners I see that 1963 is the last year with books I read as a child. After that there are many read as an adult (and many of which I’ve taught and read aloud in my classroom). Makes sense as I turned eleven late that year and also spent the following year in Germany where my books Puffins and British (picked up at Foyles in London when we went there on vacation). That said, books that I recall with particular fondness include Millions of Cats

  6. Monica Edinger says:

    … Hurry Home, Candy; The Wheel on the School; Gone-Away Lake, The Witch of Blackbird Pond; and A Wrinkle in Time.

  7. Childhood favorites are From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Westing Game, and The Midwife’s Apprentice. Honor books that I love include Catherine, Called Birdy, The Witches of Worm, The Headless Cupid, The Egypt Game, The Cricket In Times Square. More recent books that I have loved as an adult and children’s librarian are The Tale of Despereaux, Bud, Not Buddy, Al Capone Does My Shirts, and Ella Enchanted.

  8. Fun thread.

    My childhood Newbery favorites were THE DARK IS RISING, THE GREY KING, THE BLACK CAULDRON, and THE HIGH KING.

  9. Including only winners, my top five are: The Westing Game, Mixed-Up Files, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, A Wrinkle in Time, and The 21 Balloons. I do like and/or love a lot of the recent winners, though. I thought Criss Cross was especially perfect.

  10. WALK TWO MOONS is my absolute favorite. I also loved TALE OF DESPEREAUX, VIEW FROM SATURDAY, and lots of others! Really, when I look at the whole list, I am amazed at how many of them I love!

  11. Misti Tidman says:

    Chiming in late, because this is such a fun discussion:

    Of the medal winners, my 5 favorites from childhood were:
    The Hero and the Crown
    From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
    A Wrinkle in Time
    Island of the Blue Dolphins
    The Whipping Boy

    Some of my very favorites were honor books, but if I went into those, I would probably exceed the character limit for this post!

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