Search on SLJ.com ....
Subscribe to SLJ
Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Comfort Food

I hope many of you are finding the time to wind down a little for the winter holidays. At my library, children’s librarians recently traded lists of titles of  "comfort food books"….children’s books that we turn to, to re-read as adults, to get through challenging times. 

Interestingly, the ones that leapt to mind first for me are all Newbery titles, and none of them sound particularly comforting.

The Dark is Rising is always first on my list. When I think about this book, I’m immediately in the Stanton’s homey home. There’s a mood of something dangerous outside…something Will has not yet been able to put his finger on.  But inside feels safe: just.  Then he opens the present from his older brother, and something bigger and older than he can comprehend is sitting in his lap.  He’s forced to step forward, into the dark, to take his place in the world.   Most years, I pull this one out on Midwinter’s Eve and read it again. It still gives me courage.

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler and The Westing Game  run neck and neck for second.  Same story: Smart girl outsmarts grown-ups, solving a riddle and thus claiming the key to her independence. Even though she’s still a kid, that key will serve her until she can actually use it.  

A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH are next, and here’s when I notice that my choices for comfort food tend to be stories in which the main characters are in peril. To be honest, at this point other non-Newbery titles enter the fray for my attention (Grimm’s tales, The Changeover), including ones that I’ve only read as an adult (The Golden Compass, The Canning Season)… but making such a list, and comparing it to those of my colleagues’ (a lot of Moffats, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Anne of Green Gables…all books I enjoyed reading as a child, but none of which continue to stay in my bloodstream like the ones above) always reminds me of the very different ways in which and reasons why we each reach for a story…just as the people I ride the bus with every morning each see a different city out the window.   

The Newbery criteria help us ferret out some of  the stories for children that are the most effective, and perhaps significant.  I’m fine with a Newbery honoree reaching a small audience, as long as it sustains those that it reaches. What I really hope for is that every reader find–somewhere–a distinguished story that gives them comfort, so that when they have to meet the very real challenges in their life, they don’t feel alone.

share save 171 16 Comfort Food
Nina Lindsay About Nina Lindsay

Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at ninalindsay@gmail.com

Comments

  1. Peggy says:

    > … story that gives them comfort, so that when they have to meet the very real challenges in their life, they don’t feel alone.

    what a wonderful definition of a good book.

  2. Laurie (Six Boxes of Books) says:

    I will definitely re-read The Dark is Rising this week, as well as The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright (Christmas, courage, and making do with little).

  3. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Nina’s list-trading reminds me of a somewhat similar activity during my Newbery term. Many of us decided to meet and have dinner the night before we were to start our deliberations. Naturally, we were all champing at the bit to discuss books (you trade information about books all year long but there is precious little discussion before the big weekend). Yet you really don’t want to jump the gun and start discussing books early. One of the veteran committee members started asking us questions about the Newbery canon. For example, what is your favorite Newbery Medal book read as a kid? What is your favorite Newbery Medal book read as an adult? What is your favorite Newbery Honor book read as a kid? What is your favorite Newbery Honor book read as an adult? And we’d go around the table and answer one question before he proposed the next one. It was an excellent way for us to communicate a little bit about our reading tastes and preferences without running afoul of the proper Newbery protocol.

    Just in case you were wondering . . .

    Best Medal (kid): THE HIGH KING
    Best Honor (kid): THE DARK IS RISING
    Best Medal (adult): THE WESTING GAME
    Best Honor (adult): either THE PERILOUS GARD by Elizabeth Marie Pope or ENCHANTRESS FROM THE STARS by Slyvia Louise Engdahl

    And yours . . .

  4. Sarah Flowers says:

    Best Medal (kid) Johnny Tremain
    Best Medal (adult) Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH
    Best Honor (kid)Charlotte’s Web
    Best Honor (adult) Dr. DeSoto

  5. faith says:

    Oh, I know! I know! The Mixed Up . . No, wait, The Peri . . um, Mrs. Frisby! Definitely –or maybe . . . The Dark, uh Frigate? Is Rising? Er . .but . . . Moccasin Trail, was so, so . . .Yeah.

    This is why they will never have me on the Newbery Committee . . .

  6. Eric says:

    Best Medal (kid) Dear Mr. Henshaw
    Best Medal (adult) The Mixed Up Files…
    Best Honor (kid) Sign of the Beaver
    Best Honor (adult) Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth

  7. Santiago says:

    Best Honor (Kid) Charlotte’s Web
    Best Honor (Adult)Whittington/Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (tie)
    Best Medal (Kid) Mrs.Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
    Best Medal (Adult) The Tale of Despereaux

  8. Billy says:

    My favorite books of all time (and also the ones that bring me comfort) are…
    “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” Everyone by now knows the story, but it isn’t any less special. The message of friendship and “there’s no place like home” always bring me comfort.
    “Anne of Green Gables” Anne Shirley is the most amazing and spirited character that you will ever meet. I think I always loved the way in whick Anne could do so many things wrong and it always turned out all right, and the growing up aspect is more well done than in any other book I can think of. It has always brought me comfort.
    “The Secret” Garden” The best example of character change ever. This has always been for me one of the all time most memorable stories. As long as you have friends, everything can become magical. And in a realistic way. This has always brought me inspiration.
    “The Wind in the Willows” I love the characters, each has his own personality. It always made me feel adventurous and at home at the same time.
    Favorite Medalist: “The Twenty-One Balloons” I know, I know. But if you’ve never read it you must! Adventurous and imaginitive.
    Extremely close runners-up (in rough order): “Island of the Blue Dolphins”, “The Westing Game”, “Walk Two Moons”, “Joyful Noise”, “The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle”
    Favorite Honor: “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” All-time wonderful fun.

  9. Billy says:

    My favorite books of all time (and also the ones that bring me comfort) are…
    “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” Everyone by now knows the story, but it isn’t any less special. The message of friendship and “there’s no place like home” always bring me comfort.
    “Anne of Green Gables” Anne Shirley is the most amazing and spirited character that you will ever meet. I think I always loved the way in whick Anne could do so many things wrong and it always turned out all right, and the growing up aspect is more well done than in any other book I can think of. It has always brought me comfort.
    “The Secret” Garden” The best example of character change ever. This has always been for me one of the all time most memorable stories. As long as you have friends, everything can become magical. And in a realistic way. This has always brought me inspiration.
    “The Wind in the Willows” I love the characters, each has his own personality. It always made me feel adventurous and at home at the same time.
    Favorite Medalist: “The Twenty-One Balloons” I know, I know. But if you’ve never read it you must! Adventurous and imaginitive.
    Extremely close runners-up (in rough order): “Island of the Blue Dolphins”, “The Westing Game”, “Walk Two Moons”, “Joyful Noise”, “The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle”
    Favorite Honor: “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” All-time wonderful fun.

  10. jre says:

    Best Medal – kid
    - Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
    Best Medal
    - adult – Walk Two Moons

  11. Billy says:

    Oh, my goodness! The minute I read my comment I realized I had forgotten to type “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweler”! Definitely one of my all-time favorites. That would go in between “Walk Two Moons” and “Joyful Noise”.

  12. Billy says:

    Sorry. That would be Frankweiler. But I’m sure everyone knew what I meant.

  13. Jonathan Hunt says:

    And I looked at my list and wondered how I could rank THE PERILOUS GARD and THE ENCHANTRESS FROM THE STARS over THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE . . .

  14. a teacher says:

    Medal (kid): MANIAC MAGEE
    Medal (adult): HOLES, WALK TWO MOONS, and GRAVEYARD BOOK!!!

  15. LR says:

    Laura Ingalls Wilder won 3 Honors back in the 40s, and I can’t choose between them. My boxed set of Little House books (the box and the books it contains) is falling apart from being read so often. These are both childhood and adulthood favorites for me. I don’t think I’ve read any other books as often.

  16. Jennifer Schultz says:

    Best Medal (kid): Dear Mr. Henshaw
    Best Honor (kid): Ramona and Her Father (I was a big Beverly Cleary fan-still am)

    Best Medal (adult): Shiloh
    Best Honor (adult): Because of Winn-Dixie

    Not very original, but when I scrolled through the complete list, these were the ones to which I had an immediate reaction.

Speak Your Mind

*