Friday, June 28, 2013

First Newbery Medal: Newbery Books for Teens

Yesterday in 1922, the American Library Association gave out its first Newbery medal. The Newbery recognizes excellence in writing for children ages 0-14. The Printz, which is set up to be the teen equivalent, is for ages 12-18, so you see there's a bit of an overlap. To celebrate the first Newbery award, and because I'm off to the ALA Annual Conference today, here's a list of some of my favorite Newbery titles that are great for teens. (This list was originally scheduled to post yesterday, but SCOTUS striking down DOMA was enough to bump it a day.)


The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. Matt's DNA came from El Patron, who rules the country of Opium, on the border between the US and the country formerly known as Mexico. But Matt's days are numbered and the only way to survive is to escape, but life outside of El Patron's house isn't easier, or safer. This was a Newbery honor in 2003.

The Thief by Meghan Whalen Turner. Gen is a thief who brags so much in jail, the king frees him to steal the impossible. If he succeeds, he will be greatly rewarded, but he'll die if he fails or tries to run. The first in a series, follow it with The Queen of Attolia. This was an honor book in 1997.

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. This book details the lives of children growing up in Europe during Hitler's reign. Some joined the Hitler Youth by choice, some by force. Some joined the resistance and some were sent to camps. Some were sent to the front lines to fight. These are their stories. This was an honor book in 2006.


The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by by Margarita Engle. Starting in 1850, when Rosa, a slave girl with healing knowledge, is lent out to the slave hunter and his son, the story follows her, the son (Lieutenant Death), and a complete cast of characters throughout the next 50 years as Cuba fights multiple wars in an attempt to win independence from Spain. This was an honor in 2009.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Lawson. When her uncle dies and leaves her his homesteading claim, Hattie leaves Iowa for Montana to prove it up. An orphan, Hattie is tired for being bounced between various relatives, but proving the claim in order to keep it is hard for anyone, let alone a teenaged girl living by herself. Follow it with Hattie Ever After. This was an honor in 2007.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. Rosa Parks was not the first African American to be arrested in Montgomery for not giving up her seat. Claudette Colvin was. But, unlike Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin did not spark a movement and is not a household name. Hoose tells her story, and gives a close-up look at how the Montgomery Bus Boycott really started. This was an honor in 2010.


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. When Jack murders his family, Bod seeks refuge in the graveyard, where he is adopted by the ghosts and other creatures and spends his time exploring the lair of the Indigo Man. Bod is happy there, but he can never leave, for Jack is still out there, waiting. This won in 2009.

After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson. Three girls are best friends in Queens, listening to Tupac and trying to deal with the big and small issues of their lives, trying to find where they fit into the larger picture. But then one girl has to leave and Tupac is killed and everything changes. This was an honor in 2009.

Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. This was the day's other big winner, winning the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction (full disclosure-- I was on that committee), the Siebert Award (also for nonfiction) and a Newbery Honor. Sheinkin weaves together tales of scientific discovery, partisan sabotage, and spies as the US, Nazi Germany, and the USSR race to build a nuclear weapon while trying to keep the others from being able to do the same. This was an honor in 2013.

What Newbery titles do you recommend for teens?

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