The Allen County Public Library has a Newbery Book discussion group that recently ranked all of the Newbery winners from best to worst. Since a couple of my library friends have weighed in on these rankings, I had to follow suit. Because I love lists and rankings.
The first thing I noticed was how few Newbery Books I’ve read. I can only say for certain that I’ve read 17 of the 89, way worse than the BBC list (interesting blog post about it). I guess that means that I jumped to the adult section before I was done with the kids’ section (though I have to admit that there were only 57 Newbury winners when I graduated from high school!)
Another thing I noticed was that I feel differently about the books depending on whether I read them as a child or as an adult. I’m not one of those adults who prefers children’s books; there is always a sense of remove (“oh, how nice for the little ones”).
Read as an adult (*indicates both). My ranking:
8. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien (1972). Had a boyfriend who loved this book for some reason. I’ve never been much of an animals-as-main-characters book lover (except for Watership Down)
7. Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (1981). Meh
6. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1978). I read this after I heard her speak at the Festival of Faith and Writing. I enjoyed her speech more than the book.
5. *A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (1963). I enjoyed it more as a kid, but really love some of her other work.
4. The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo (2004). I got it for free at ALA. Thought it was cute.
3. Holes by Louis Sachar (1999). Vince and I love to watch the movie together, so I read the book after seeing the movie, which is one of my least favorite things to do.
2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2009). Didn’t like it as much as I had hoped to, based on who the author is. Still pretty good.
1. *The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1979) I still liked it when I read it as an adult with Vincent.
Read as a youngster:
11. Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt (1967). No memory of this book.
10. Sounder by William Armstrong (1970) Had to read this for school. A downer.
9. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare (1962). Don’t remember much about it.
8. The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (1950). I know I read it. That is all.
7. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (1961). I remember being traumatized by a film version of this book before I was seven. In grade school, this was the “hot” book in the school library and always had a waiting list of several weeks.
6. Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry (1941). Remember those Scholastic Book flyers, and you’d save up your money and buy as many books as you could? This was one I bought.
4. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Brink (1936). Another Scholastic Book purchase. Looking at the date on this, I’m surprised that Scholastic was selling some of these books so many years after their publication. I really liked this book and read it several times.
3. *The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1979) LOVED this book as a kid.
2. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (1968). For a good part of my childhood, this was my favorite book, and I longed to go live in a museum somewhere.
1. The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (1985). She’s still one of my favorite authors, and this is still one of my favorite books.