Here is one more quotation on a column outside our public library:
Anyone care to argue that one?
I’d hand over Walter, the Farting Dog to our grandsons any day rather than take them to a PG kids’ movie I knew nothing about. (Don’t take this as an endorsement of Walter. I’ve never read it.) Given my druthers, I’d choose a Newberry Medal book.
Beginning in 1922, the ALA began selecting an outstanding children’s book each year and awarding it a special medal. They named it after John Newberry, an 18th century English publisher whose publication of children’s books first made them a recognized segment of the literary market. It was the first award in the world to honor children’s literature. Any book with that emblem on the front is worthy of note.
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski won the Newberry Award in 1946 and became the favorite book of many children in the 1950’s, including me. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, and Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink were some of my daughters’ favorites. More than a dozen have been made into movies. Stick with the books.
When my children were young, I tried to read the Newberry books myself so that we could talk about them. I’ve missed a great many since then, but started again recently. I’d forgotten how good they can be! There may be humor, sadness, adventure, history, love, loneliness…the authors of these books don’t sugar-coat or spoon feed or lecture their young readers. They tell a good story with good writing. Here is the mission statement:
To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children’s reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field.
It was a librarian at our small branch which hooked our daughter on Newberry books as well as the list of children’s classics. My mother read them and so did I.
The 2010 winner, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead was so good I found myself recommending it to strangers with children. Since the narrator is female, I wondered if I dared recommend it to our grandsons, only to learn that Oldest Grandson had already read and “loved it.” A fourth generation reading a Newberry book. The cover recommends it for Ages 9 and up. Oldest Grandson, age 12, is one smart kid and an avid reader. If he says it’s not too young for his age, believe him. For that matter, I confess that “and up” includes me. Really. I liked it that much. The School Library Journal reviewer proclaimed it to be one of the best children’s books ever written.
I’m all for buying books and even though I read When You Reach Me as an audio book from the library, I plan to buy a print copy. I often do that when I read an especially good library book. Good authors deserve support. Buy it for your kids or grandkids, but read it yourself, too.
That silver emblem on the cover is a strong hint that there is a good story inside.
And that, I think, is just what the Doctorow ordered.