The prestigious Newbery Medal honors children’s books that are too complicated, inaccessible, depressing and dreary for most children, critics say.
Of the 25 winners and runners-up chosen from 2000 to 2005, four of the books deal with death, six with the absence of one or both parents and four with such mental challenges as autism. Most of the rest deal with tough social issues.
Anita Silvey asked “Has the Newbery Lost Its Way?” in School Library Journal, setting off a blog debate. After talking to librarians, teachers and book sellers, she discovered that few of the recent picks have attracted readers.
“The Newbery has probably done far more to turn kids off to reading than any other book award in children’s publishing,” said John Beach, a St. John’s University professor who specializes in literacy education.
I remember the feel of the Newbery Medal seal on my copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
By the way, there’s still time to order Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the School That Beat the Odds before Christmas. It’s a fun read — compared to Newbery’s latest pick on life in a medieval village.
Update: Slate’s Erica Perl defends the Newbery choices. Captain Underpants doesn’t need an award to reach readers, she writes.