The Newbery’s of 2013

Several years ago I set a goal to read all of the Newbery Medal and Honor books. I looked up and typed out the titles of all the winners over the years all the way back to 1922 when the award began.

If you don’t know what the Newbery award is, every year the ALA (American Library Association) will bestow the seal of the Newbery Medal on the children’s book they deem the most distinguished of the previous year. Named for an 18th century English bookseller, the Newbery Medal was the first children’s book award in the world. (If you are interested, you can read John Newbery’s story in the picture book Balderdash! by Michelle Markel.) While there is only one medal winner each year, the ALA always acknowledges additional books with the Newbery Honor award.

I don’t read the books in any particular order. Once I complete one, I head to my spreadsheet and change the color of the title from black to orange. While the orange is growing, there is a lot of black because there are a lot of books. Some I have loved, some I haven’t cared for, all I hope to share, eventually.

Today we are heading back to 2013. Before we get to the books, here are a few other things that were going on:

In 2013 Rainbow Loom, Minecraft and Beanie Ballz were big hits in the toy world. “Selfie” was added to the dictionary; Candy Crush and What Does the Fox Say took the internet by storm. It was also the year of the Boston Marathon bombing, and on the brighter side, William and Kate welcomed Prince George to the world.

While trends come and go, thankfully, good books stick around. This year’s Newbery list is a good one.

2013 Newbery Medal Book:

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

From Amazon:

This unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendship. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated book is told from the point of view of Ivan himself. 

Having spent twenty-seven years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.

I LOVED, Loved, LOVED this book from Katherine Applegate. Sweet, poignant and inspiring, I wholeheartedly agree with the ALA picking this book as 2013’s winner. A great book for readers of all levels, if your kids haven’t read it they should give it a try.

Readers 8 and up

2013 Newbery Honor Books:

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

From Amazon:

The master puppeteer, Gaspare Grisini, is so expert at manipulating his stringed puppets that they appear alive. Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, is spellbound by Grisini’s act and invites him to entertain at her birthday party. Seeing his chance to make a fortune, Grisini accepts and makes a splendidly gaudy entrance with caravan, puppets, and his two orphaned assistants. 

Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are dazzled by the Wintermute home. Clara seems to have everything they lack — adoring parents, warmth, and plenty to eat. In fact, Clara’s life is shadowed by grief, guilt, and secrets. When Clara vanishes that night, suspicion of kidnapping falls upon the puppeteer and, by association, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall. 

As they seek to puzzle out Clara’s whereabouts, Lizzie and Parse uncover Grisini’s criminal past and wake up to his evil intentions. Fleeing London, they find themselves caught in a trap set by Grisini’s ancient rival, a witch with a deadly inheritance to shed before it’s too late.

I would steer Splendors and Glooms towards older readers. It was creepy at times and definitely had a darker, gothic feeling throughout the story. I read it several years ago and liked it. My daughter on the other hand really liked it. She was going through a fairy tale phase at the time, liked the suspenseful nature of the story and doesn’t mind darker books. This one checked those boxes and was a winner in her mind.

Readers 10 and up

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin

From Amazon:

The true story of the race to create the most dangerous weapon in history―perfect for middle grade readers and history enthusiasts. 

In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents.

In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world's most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.

Fast-paced and intriguing, this is historical nonfiction that reads like a novel. I loved this book and would easily recommend it to any kid interested in history or a really good story.

Readers 10 and up

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

From Amazon:

Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone's business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she's been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her "upstream mother," she's found a home with the Colonel--a café owner with a forgotten past of his own--and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess.

She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known. 

A southern mystery that is hard to beat. Most of my kids have read this one and all of them have loved it. A suspenseful page-turner with characters you want to root for make it a hard book to beat.

Readers 10 and up

My personal opinion: I am always curious what lands a book on a list like this. I love that The One and Only Ivan won the ultimate award. I also love that Bomb made the list, it truly is excellent narrative nonfiction for kids. Three Times Lucky my kids loved and I enjoyed. Would I have put it in the Newbery category, probably not, but it was well-written and a good story. Splendors and Glooms is my least favorite of the four. It was a unique tale combining fairy tale elements with dark, gothic mystery, but it moved a little slow and didn’t stick with me.

What do you think? Have you read any of 2013’s Newbery winners? Books bring up all kinds of emotions and opinions, do you think they were worthy winners?

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