Newberry Medal Books That Are Actual Winners

June 14, 2021

Almost all the reading challenges this year include a category for a Newberry Medal book, so let's talk about ones that aren't boring! 

Yes, let's admit it - for whatever reason, books that win awards like this are not usually the same ones our kids are dying to read for fun. There may be a number of reasons for that, none of which I'll explore here, but what I will say is that there can be real value to a Newberry Medal winner, and there are a few that can also be truly engaging reads for their intended audience. Here's a brief description of what qualifies a book for the award. Read on for books that I think are also actually interesting. 

Books in the CHESS library - come check them out!

Last Stop on Market Street

As a picture book Newberry Medal winner, this is a rare find! Students who aren't ready for - or interested in - the chapter books typically associated with this category can use this book to meet the requirement in a quick (and charming!) way.

When You Reach Me 

 I've been unsuccessful so far at persuading kids to try this book, which is a shame, because it's very cool (with some deep concepts - but they don't need to know that!). It's starts like a contemporary middle grade mystery, but it throws in a science fiction twist that makes it all the more fascinating. So because I haven't yet been able to tempt a reader to check it out, I'm broadening the appeal and encouraging families to give their kids a nudge in its direction!

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

For readers who like fantasy, this is marvelous! It turns out, too, that it weaves strong and expected messages of truth and forgiveness into a beautifully written story. 

(Note: families who prefer to avoid mentions of magic in their stories will want to pass on this one!)

Books not in the CHESS library, but totally worth finding in another library!

When You Trap a Tiger

This is the 2021 winner - a magical realism story with about Korean families and folktales.
 (Once again, if magic is a deal-breaker for your family, this obviously won't be your pick.) 

The Crossover

This is a book written in verse - but give it a chance before you pass on it! Novels written in verse aren't just poetry, and they certainly aren't poetry as we're used to it (so it might be best not even to mention that word when trying to sell a kid on it!). They are often more accessible to reluctant readers because they are quick reads with very short chapters and few words (lots of white space left on the page, which might be helpful to readers who tire, physically and mentally, of words crowding the pages of most books), and those words are often shaped to complement the story in neat visual ways. This one, too, is a basketball story, with a moving message about family tied in, and may be appealing to our boys who love sports!

Hopefully these are exciting for your students as well as enriching ones. I'd love to hear about it, one way or the other!

As always...happy reading!

-Mrs. Meester

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