Newbery Winners We Love

  • by Gwen Glazer

    Every January, the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference makes headlines with its announcement of the newest Newbery Medal and Honor winners. The coveted awards, which mark the best children’s books of the year, began in 1922.

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    The list of past winners boasts many familiar faces — Ramona Quimby, Frog and Toad, the Witch of Blackbird Pond, Mrs. Frisby and her rats, the Cricket in Times Square — as well as a host of lesser-known titles worth exploring.

    Our Readers Services librarians picked out six of our favorite Newbery winners, plus a dozen bonus titles at the end.

    last stop

    Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña (2016)

    Readers travel through the city on a bus with CJ and his grandmother, as he asks questions and gets answers about why his family is less privileged than others around him. The book reflects the life of an urban kid who isn’t often depicted in more conventional (and more pastoral) picture books for young children. Words of wisdom from Nana: “Sometimes when you're surrounded by dirt, CJ, you're a better witness for what's beautiful.” Gwen



    when you reach me

    When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2010)

    A character-driven, intricately plotted, first-person narrative with a touch of science fiction. A twelve-year-old NYC girl tries to make sense of a series of mysterious notes while her mom prepares to be a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid. —Lynn






    Holes by Louis Sachar (1999)

    Stanley Yelnets finds himself at a juvenile correctional facility for boys in the Texas desert. The boys are required to dig a 5x5 hole every day — ostensibly to build character, but actually to help a corrupt warden in her search for treasure. The dialog in the book is well crafted, and the multiple plotlines snap together in the end in the most satisfying way. Lynn






    Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1990)

    When Annemarie — a Danish girl in Copenhagen during World War II — sees what's happening to her best friend and other Jews in her town, she's moved to join the Resistance and do what she can to help. Number the Stars is often the first work of fiction about the Holocaust that kids are exposed to, and it's an amazing book: moving, realistic, simply but beautifully written. The perfect introduction to an impossibly difficult historical reality. —Gwen





    Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1978)

    A more beautiful tale of friendship, love, and imagination has never been written. Paterson's masterpiece traces the story of a boy and a girl who together invent a magic land in the forest that eventually helps one of them cope with the devastating loss of the other. (I will always remember my third-grade teacher sobbing as she read the end of this book out loud to us. Devastating, but wow, what a demonstration of the power of children's literature.) —Gwen






    From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (1968)

    Claudia and her brother run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she sees a statue so beautiful that she's compelled to identify its sculptor. To find out, she must visit the statue's former owner, the elderly Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. It's no coincidence that both this book and When You Reach Me are on my list. They share a wonderful sense of place (NYC) and the kids in both books enjoy an agency that feels nostalgic to me. They run around, no parents, solving mysteries. —Lynn



    More winners and honor books we love:


    Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

    Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!