Newbery Through the Decades–1960s

newbery through the decades

It’s about time for my annual lament about the swift passage of time.  Where is 2016 going?  Zoom!

Anyway. . . Happy May Day!  Did you ring any doorbells and deliver any posies this morning?  That’s a tradition I could definitely appreciate!

Here are the books up for grabs for this month’s Newbery Through the Decades challenge:

1969 Medal Winner: The High King by Lloyd Alexander

Honor Books:

  • To Be a Slave by Julius Lester
  • When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer

1968 Medal Winner: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

Honor Books:

  • Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabethby E. L. Konigsburg
  • The Black Pearl by Scott O’Dell
  • The Fearsome Inn by Isaac Bashevis Singer
  • The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

1967 Medal Winner: Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt
Honor Books:

  • The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell
  • Zlateh The Goat and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer
  • The Jazz Man by Mary Hays Weik

1966 Medal Winner: I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
Honor Books:

1965 Medal Winner: Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska

Honor Book:

1964 Medal Winner: It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Neville

Honor Books:

1963 Medal Winner: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Honor Books:

  • Thistle and Thyme: Tales and Legends from Scotland by Sorche Nic Leodhas, pseud. (Leclaire Alger)
  • Men of Athens by Olivia Coolidge

1962 Medal Winner: The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

Honor Books:

  • Frontier Living by Edwin Tunis
  • The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
  • Belling The Tiger by Mary Stolz

1961 Medal Winner: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Honor Books:

  • America Moves Forward: A History for Peter by Gerald W. Johnson
  • Old Ramon by Jack Schaefer
  • The Cricket In Times Square by George Selden, pseud. (George Thompson)

1960 Medal Winner: Onion John by Joseph Krumgold
Honor Books:

So many good books!  I’m narrowing it down to two:

Both of these are re-reads for me, but I love them both, and it has been decades since I’ve read either.  Also, I’m responsible for a weekly middle school bookclub at our homeschool co-op next year, and we’ll mostly be reading Newbery winners.  Since the students will be roughly in the age range of 11 to 14, I’m looking for Newberys that fit that demographic, hence the re-reading of these two books this month.  Suggestions for potential bookclub books are welcome.

What are your 1960s picks?

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

(Warning:  this review contains possible spoilers.)

Number the Stars was one of our read-alouds for our World War II studies.  Choosing a read-aloud for World War II was no small feat for me; this time period is one of my own particular areas of interest, so I know of a lot of books that would easily fit the bill.  However, I consider this particular novel by Lois Lowry to be a “gateway novel” for Holocaust literature, mostly because nothing terrible happens in the story, so it isn’t terribly shocking or emotionally overwhelming.  (All of the extreme tragedy happens off stage–before the story begins.)  Also, the fact that there is a Boomerang available for this title was a deciding factor for me; having copywork/dictation passages picked out for me, as well as points for discussion, is a necessity.

I read this story a couple of decades ago I guess, but I remembered it as a simple story about heroic people, and a story in which I learned something new:  I did not know that Swedish scientists developed a method by which Nazi tracker dogs’ senses of smell could be disabled so they could not find the runaway Jews they were searching for.  That’s the one detail I remember about the story, so it obviously stuck with me.  Otherwise, it’s a simple story of friendship between Annemarie, a Danish girl, and her friend Ellen, who happens to be a Jew.  The heroism of the Danish people is exemplified by Annemarie’s family when they take Ellen’s family out of Copenhagen to the seacoast where they can safely escape to Sweden.  The chapters are short and the dialogue is plentiful, making this an ideal read-aloud.  It’s not a complex story, but it’s one I give a Highly Recommended as the perfect starter story to a fascinating, exhilarating, and horrifying time in history.  Lowry is a master storyteller, of course, and her personal note at the end detailing which parts of the story are true and which are fictional made the story even more heart-wrenching for my tender, middle-aged heart.  This one won a well-deserved Newbery Medal in 1990.




Two by Robert Lawson

Last month I started reading Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson for the 1940s Newbery Through the Decades challenge, and I’m embarrassed to say how long it took me to read it.  Difficulty or boredom weren’t the culprits; lack of time, commitment, and organization were–just when I’d reach for it, I’d realize I’d left it somewhere: in the van, in my office, downstairs in the basement, etc.  It accompanied me on trips and on an unexpected (and blessedly short) tenure in the hospital when my dad had an emergency appendectomy.  Despite the passage of an inordinate amount of time and my weak and faulty memory, I did finish it, and I’m glad I did.

It’s the story of a veritable menagerie of animals who live on Rabbit Hill, but the primary focus is on Little Georgie and his experiences as the animals anticipate the arrival of new Folks on the Hill.  Someone new–someone human–is moving into the Big House, and the animals want to know:  will the family be friends or foes?  Little Georgie gets into various scrapes that affect all of the animals, from his own parents to his crotchety Uncle Analdas to Phewie the skunk to Little Willie the fieldmouse.  The end of the story is very satisfying and one that any animal lover could appreciate.  It’s also vocabulary-rich and fairly complex.  What’s not to love?  Obviously the 1945 Newbery award committee thought so, too.  While my girls would definitely think this one is beneath them now, I think it might make a good read-aloud for the DLM:  it’s funny, it’s exciting,it contains Lawson’s delightful illustrations, and it’s about animals.  We might give it a try to see if it piques the interest of the resident five year old who can be a hard sell.

For some reason I don’t think when I picked my 1950s Newbery Through the Decades selection I realized I was picking a book by the same author.   All I knew that is that The Great Wheel is about the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, and because I adore Richard Peck’s Fair Weather, which is about this same world’s fair, I wanted to read it.  It turns out that the two Lawson books are very different, so I definitely didn’t feel bored or fatigued by going from one to the other.  The Great Wheel is about a young man named Conn, who is eighteen or nineteen for most of the story, and who leaves his native Ireland to seek his fortune in the U.S.  Because his Uncle Patrick happens to be Mr. George Washington Gale Ferris’ top foreman, Conn joins the workcrew building the famous wheel.  This tale involves a lot of detail about the engineering and building of the Ferris wheel, and I learned a little bit about ironwork and what went into such a feat before the turn of the twentieth century.  It isn’t so detailed that I couldn’t enjoy it, though.  Delightful illustrations by Lawson himself add to the story.  The PC-police would probably find much to censure in this story, what with all the various nationalities represented in all their various stereotypes and dialects.  I found it delightful and full of snap and color.  Lawson’s characters are fully developed, if they do follow stereotypes.  Of course, what I love the most is the element of romance that the story is tinged with, and I was very pleasantly surprised when the romantic element comes full-circle in the end and comes to a very satisfying conclusion.  This story definitely falls on the upper end of the age-range for Newberys; it would take a fairly mature reader or listener to take in all the detail.  This is a book I’m glad to have read, and I’m glad that I forced gave my eldest the opportunity to read it.  A bonus for me is that one of my favorites, the aforementioned Richard Peck, wrote the introduction to this “biography of the first Ferris wheel,” as he calls it.  Highly Recommended.

Robert Lawson was a well-known and prolific author and illustrator, and the winner of both the Caldecott and the Newbery Awards.  Both of these honors were very much deserved.

Reviews of Lawsons’ books at Hope Is the Word:

newbery through the decades


Monthly reading report: February and March 2016

Well, so much for making this a monthly event.  My last report was January’s, and while my personal reading has sunk pretty low, I don’t want to forget what I’ve read, and especially what I’ve read aloud.  This Sunday afternoon Steady Eddie encouraged me to take an hour or so to work on my long-neglected blog.  It has thus far been a day of caring for sick children, so it feels good to spend a few moments on something I want to do instead of what must be done.  :-)

What I read in February and March:

    • Finished Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson–review here
    • Ninety Days of God’s Goodness by Randy Alcorn–I intended to share my thoughts on this very thought-provoking devotional,
      but it never happened.  I think I got this one either cheap or free for the Kindle, but if you’re into devotional books, this one is definitely worth the price.  One thing I really like about it that it’s ninety days instead of thirty–that gave me plenty of time to “sit” with the material.  The real message in this book is revealed by the subtitle:  Daily Reflections That Shine Light on Personal Darkness.  This is no happy-happy-joy-joy, rainbows-and-unicorns promise of nothing but “blessings” in this life; instead, it focuses on trials, tribulations, pain–even the unthinkable–and reorients our perspective.  Here’s a snippet from day sixty-nine:

We come into this world needy, and we leave it the same way.  Without suffering we would forget our neediness.  If suffering seems too high a price for faith, it’s because we underestimate faith’s value.

Suffering uncovers our trust in God-substitutes and declares our need to transfer our trust to the only One who can bear its weight.  Richard Baxter wrote, “Suffering so unbolts the door of the heart, that the Word hath easier entrance.”  God uses suffering to bring us to the end of ourselves and back to Christ.  And that is worth any cost.

Highly Recommended

    • Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and and Elaine Mazlish–This is a book that came recommended by Julie Bogart in her coaching community, the Homeschool Alliance, of which I am a part.  This is another one that I am really glad I read and that I fell like I need to turn right around and read again.  The premise of Faber and Mazlish is that the parental response to sibling “issues” is often a determining factor to the health of the relationship between/among the siblings and the parent/child relationship.  One thing I like about this book is that Faber and Mazlish share succinct comic strips in which their takeaways are expressed–sort of a “do it this way, not this way” approach.  I feel like I need to print those out and hang them up around the house where I can see them.  I read this one on the Kindle but would like to have it in print form.  Highly Recommended.
    • Roller Skates by Ruth Sayer–Oh, how I loved this one.
    • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker
      Bradley–I couldn’t wait to read this one, a Newbery honor book for 2015.  I’m a sucker for WWII books, no matter the plotline.  This one is particularly compelling–Ada, a girl with a clubfoot, is neglected and abused at home, so when children are evacuated from London due to the blitz, she takes her little brother and runs away to the countryside.  They end up in the home of Susan, a woman with problems of her own, and they slowly become a family.  Ada learns that adults can be trusted and that she has something to offer the world.  This is a painful read at times, but beautiful because of the transformation Ada undergoes.  (For the author’s take on something that is hinted at but never explicitly spelled out in the book, go here.)

What I Read Aloud

  • Fair Weather by Richard Peck–review here–this book made me laugh aloud more than anything I’ve read in the past several years
  • War Horse by Michael Morpurgo–loved this one
  • Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery–It pains me a good bit that I never shared my thoughts about this one, but honestly, I don’t think I would’ve done it justice.  When you’ve lived with a series of books as long as I’ve lived with Anne, well, what else can you say?  I will say this:  as always, I loved Mr. Harrison, but this time through I loved Paul Irving a little less and Davy Keith a little more than I did in my childless days.  :-)  We’re currently taking a little break from Anne but will be back with her soon.
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor–not-to-be-missed
  • Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey–I had never read this classic story that’s so popular among homeschoolers especially, but now that I have, I can see why everyone loves it so.

It feels like I’m forgetting something, but this is the bulk of my reading, at least.  I’m going to try to do better in the future about keeping my lists updated.  I hope that that becomes easier as our weekly commitments get fewer as the traditional school year wends to a close.