I was chatting with the owner of a new bookstore (So much hope slipped between the pages of THAT retail choice!) who told me that she reads anything put in front of her nose.
It's the Little Bookstore, btw, and if you are in her part of the world, go buy a book from this young business owner. Oh hell, suit up and go buy a book from any independent bookstore. Yes, a real book. From a real businessperson.
Since it's a summer unlike other summers (unlike ALL other summers, we can only hope) I decided to go a different way.
Instead of reading whatever finds its way to the front of my face, I thought, perhaps make a discipline of it.
Ah, that delicious question: what to read?
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John Newbery was a British bookseller who turned children's literature to profit (he published The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes in 1765.
Not the Adam Ant version).
The American Library Association uses his name (John Newbery, not Adam Ant) to recognize the most "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."
Each year since the 1920's, a book wins the Newbery Medal. And often there are a couple of runners-up –– Newbery Honor books.
Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, whatever, chosen by a group of American librarians.
Doing the easy math, it's 100 of the best books for younger readers from the past 100 or so years.
I already know a good quarter-century of those book covers from my childhood, but the more recent ones are unexplored territory.
Sidebar: I'm sure it's still going, but reading competitions in grade school ––!
As I remember, any book gave you 1 point, a book with the shiny silver Newbery Honor sticker 2 points, the gold Newbery Medal 3.
Not that it supplied any street cred, but man, I was really good at that game. How I looked forward to those weeks.
I've knocked out a couple of dozen new titles in the past couple of months, and revisited a double-handful of childhood favorites.
I'm formulating a few theories about the trend of Newbery winners.
The earliest winners tended to focus on "exotic" settings, then came a rash of Revolutionary War stories, and a run on historical fiction.
Unexpectedly, many of the older Newbery seem to me to hold their value -- Gay-Neck, the unfortunately titled 1925 winner about a pigeon in India, still speaks to surviving war, while 1973's The Slave Dancer was frankly amazing: a brutal and intimate depiction of the African slave trade from an unexpected viewpoint.
I'm not ending the experiment yet, especially since there doesn't seem to be any equally reliable award for "adult" fiction. And because there are so dang many yet to go.
Here's a short list that I read (or re-read) this summer.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craig George
Getting Near to Baby by Audrey Couloumbis
Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
Abel's Island by William Steig
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm
The Crossover by Alexander Kwame
A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck
A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
Wittington by Alan Armstrong
Lily's Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
Criss Cross by Lynne by Rae Perkins
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
The Watsons go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Wish they earned some credit for some middle-school reading team...