Newbery: Books For Kids

As one of the two most prestigious awards given for children’s literature in the United States, the John Newbery Medal is given to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” (Newbery Medal Home Page) By way of that introduction this list of books is surely one that cannot be passed by. These books will inspire and enlighten young minds. Our favorites are here and we hope you will enjoy discovering your own favorites as well.

Criss Cross book
#1
Criss Cross
Written and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-11

She wished something would happen.

Something good. To her. Checking her wish for loopholes, she found one. Hoping it wasn’t too late, she thought the word soon.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, he felt as if the world was opening. Life was rearranging itself; bulging in places, fraying in spots. He felt himself changing, too, but into what?

So much can happen in a summer.

The Whipping Boy book
#2
The Whipping Boy
Written by Sid Fleischman and illustrated by Peter Sis
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Award-winning author Sid Fleischman blends the broadly comic with the deeply compassionate in this memorable novel, winner of the Newbery Medal.

A Prince and a Pauper . . . Prince Brat and his whipping boy inadvertently trade places after becoming involved with dangerous outlaws. The two boys have nothing in common and even less reason to like each other. But when they find themselves taken hostage after running away, they are left with no choice but to trust each other. “A rollicking tale of adventure and mistaken identity . . . . Robust scenes and characters are vividly evoked.”—Kirkus Reviews

This briskly told tale of high adventure, taut with suspense and rich with colorful characters, was named an ALA Notable Book. Sid Fleischman’s celebrated novel features brief, action-packed chapters and includes black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott Honor artist Peter Sís. “An 18th century tale about the escapades of a resourceful orphan and a spoiled young prince. . . . Full of adventure, suspense, humor, and lively characters.”—The New York Times

Supports the Common Core State Standards

M.C. Higgins, the Great book
#3
M.C. Higgins, the Great
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Discover this masterpiece from Virginia Hamilton that was the first book to win the Newberry, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award.

Mayo Cornelius Higgins sits on his gleaming, forty-foot steel pole, towering over his home on Sarah’s Mountain. Stretched before him are rolling hills and shady valleys. But behind him lie the wounds of strip mining, including a mountain of rubble that may one day fall and bury his home.

M.C. dreams of escape for himself and his family. And, one day, atop his pole, he thinks he sees it—two strangers are making their way toward Sarah’s Mountain. One has the ability to make M.C.’s mother famous. And the other has the kind of freedom that M.C. has never even considered.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead book
#4
Crispin: The Cross of Lead
Written by Avi
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

“Avi’s plot is engineered for maximum thrills, with twists, turns, and treachery aplenty. . . . A page-turner to delight Avi’s fans, it will leave readers hoping for a sequel.”-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“ . . . [T]he book is a page-turner from beginning to end . . . [A] meticulously crafted story, full of adventure, mystery, and action.” -School Library Journal (starred review)

“Historical fiction at its finest.”-VOYA

The Summer of the Swans book
#5
The Summer of the Swans
Written by Betsy Byars
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A Newbery Medal Winner

All summer Sara Godfrey has fretted over herself, her impossible body, her terrible new haircut. One moment she’s elated, the next, she’s in tears. And she can’t figure out why. Maybe her wildly changing moods are tied to the sudden and unaccountable appearance of the swans, which hold the rapt attention of Charlie, Sara’s mentally handicapped brother, who she loves far more than herself these days. In fact, it will be the sudden disappearance of Charlie that will compel Sara to abandon her own small, annoying miseries, and lose herself in searching for him. In her anguish, Sara turns to Joe Melby, whom she has long despised, and together they search through the dense woods and rough fields to find him. Sara knows that she will never be the same again.

“A compelling story.”—Publishers Weekly

  1. The Hero and the Crown - Robin McKinley’s mesmerizing history of Damar is the stuff that legends are made of. The Hero and the Crown is a dazzling “prequel” to The Blue Sword. Aerin is the only child of the king of Damar, and should be his rightful heir. But she is also the daughter of a witchwoman of the North, who died when she was born, and the Damarians cannot trust her. But Aerin’s destiny is greater than her father’s people know, for it leads her to battle with Maur, the Black Dragon, and into the wilder Damarian Hills, where she meets the wizard Luthe. It is he who at last tells her the truth about her mother, and he also gives over to her hand the Blue Sword, Gonturan. But such gifts as these bear a great price, a price Aerin only begins to realize when she faces the evil mage, Agsded, who has seized the Hero’s Crown, greatest treasure and secret strength of Damar.

  2. Dicey's Song (2) (The Tillerman Cycle) - The Newbery-winning novel in Cynthia Voigt’s timeless series is repackaged with a modern look. When Momma abandoned Dicey Tillerman and her three siblings in a mall parking lot and was later traced to an asylum where she lay unrecognizing, unknowing, she left her four children no choice but to get on by themselves. They set off alone on foot over hundreds of miles until they finally found someone to take them in. Gram’s rundown farm isn’t perfect, but they can stay together as a family—which is all Dicey really wanted. But after watching over the others for so long, it’s hard for Dicey to know what to do now. Her own identity has been so wrapped up in being the caretaker, navigator, penny counter, and decision maker that she’s not sure how to let go of some responsibilities while still keeping a sense of herself. But when the past comes back with devastating force, Dicey sees just how necessary—and painful—letting go can be.

  3. Jacob Have I Loved - The remarkable Newbery-winning classic about a painful sibling rivalry, and one sister’s struggle to make her own way. Sara Louise Bradshaw is sick and tired of her beautiful twin Caroline. Ever since they were born, Caroline has been the pretty one, the talented one, the better sister. Even now, Caroline seems to take everything: Louise’s friends, their parents’ love, her dreams for the future. For once in her life, Louise wants to be the special one. But in order to do that, she must first figure out who she is . . . and find a way to make a place for herself outside her sister’s shadow.

  4. The Slave Dancer - One day, thirteen-year-old jessie Bollier is earning pennies playing his fife on the docks of New Orleans; the next, he is kidnapped and thrown aboard a slave ship, where his job is to provide music while shackled slaves “dance” to keep their muscles strong and their bodies profitable. As the endless voyage continues, Jessie grows increasingly sickened by the greed, brutality, and inhumanity of the slave trade, but nothing prepares him for the ultimate horror he will witness before his nightmare ends — a horror that will change his life forever.

A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32 book
#10
A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32
Written by Joan W Blos
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

The journal of a fourteen-year-old girl, kept the last year she lived on the family farm, records daily events in her small New Hampshire town, her father’s remarriage, and the death of her best friend.

Up a Road Slowly book
#11
Up a Road Slowly
Written by Irene Hunt
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 12-18

The beloved author of Across Five Aprils and No Promises in the Wind presents one of her most cherished novels, the Newbery Award-winning story of a young girl’s coming of age…

Julie would remember her happy days at Aunt Cordelia’s forever. Running through the spacious rooms, singing on rainy nights in front of the fireplace. There were the rides in the woods on Peter the Great, and the races with Danny Trevort. There were the precious moments alone in her room at night, gazing at the sea of stars.

But there were sad times too—the painful jealousy Julie felt after her sister married, the tragic death of a schoolmate and the bitter disappointment of her first love. Julie was having a hard time believing life was fair. But Julie would have to be fair to herself before she could even think about new beginnings…

“Hunt demonstrates that she is a writer of the first rank…Those who follow Julie’s growth—from a tantrum-throwing seven-year-old to a gracious young woman of seventeen—will find this book has added a new dimension to their lives.”—The New York Times Book Review

I, Juan de Pareja: The Story of a Great Painter and the Slave He Helped Become a Great Artist book
#12
I, Juan de Pareja: The Story of a Great Painter and the Slave He Helped Become a Great Artist
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 12-18

When the great Velázquez was painting his masterpieces at the Spanish court in the seventeenth century, his colors were expertly mixed and his canvases carefully prepared by his slave, Juan de Pareja. In a vibrant novel which depicts both the beauty and the cruelty of the time and place, Elizabeth Borton de Treviño tells the story of Juan, who was born a slave and died an accomplished and respected artist.

Upon the death of his indulgent mistress in Seville, Juan de Pareja was uprooted from the only home he had known and placed in the charge of a vicious gypsy muleteer to be sent north to his mistress’s nephew and heir, Diego Velázquez, who recognized at once the intelligence and gentle breeding which were to make Juan his indispensable assistant and companion―and his lifelong friend.

Through Juan’s eyes the reader sees Velázquez’s delightful family, his working habits and the character of the man, his relations with the shy yet devoted King Philip IV and with his fellow painters, Rubens and Murillo, the climate and customs of Spanish court life. When Velázquez discovers that he and Juan share a love for the art which is his very life, the painter proves his friendship in the most incredible fashion, for in those days it was forbidden by law for slaves to learn or practice the arts. Through the hardships of voyages to Italy, through the illnesses of Velázquez, Juan de Pareja loyally serves until the death of the painter in 1660.

I, Juan de Pareja is the winner of the 1966 Newbery Medal.

Latino Interest.

Onion John book
#13
Onion John
Written by Joseph Krumgold and illustrated by Symeon Shimin
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The story of a friendship between a 12-year-old boy and an immigrant handyman, almost wrecked by the good intentions of the townspeople. One of the distinguished books of our time. . . . The writing has dignity and strength.—School Library Journal. 1960 Newbery Medal; ALA Notable Children’s Books of 1940-1970.

Shen Of The Sea: Chinese Stories for Children book
#14
Shen Of The Sea: Chinese Stories for Children
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A series of fascinating Chinese stories, strong in humor and rich in Chinese wisdom, in which the author has caught admirably the spirit of Chinese life and thought.

  1. Shadow of a Bull - Manolo was only three when his father, the great bullfighter Juan Olivar, died. But Juan is never far from Manolo’s consciousness — how could he be, with the entire town of Arcangel waiting for the day Manolo will fulfill his father’s legacy? But Manolo has a secret he dares to share with no one — he is a coward, without afición, the love of the sport that enables a bullfighter to rise above his fear and face a raging bull. As the day when he must enter the ring approaches, Manolo finds himself questioning which requires more courage: to follow in his father’s legendary footsteps or to pursue his own destiny?

  2. Waterless Mountain - Younger Brother lives in a dry land, and he dreams of finding the wide water of the Pacific Ocean. This gentle coming-of-age story, rooted in the traditional culture of the Navajo, recounts Younger Brother’s journey toward finding his vocation as a medicine man. Under the guidance of his uncle, the boy learns about the ancient songs, customs, and ceremonies of his people as well as the modern-day magic of movies and airplanes. Written in the 1930s by an authority on Native American life and lore, this Newbery Medal winner offers a vivid portrait of Navajo beliefs and traditions. Its simple but poetic storytelling style is enhanced by numerous black-and-white illustrations.

  3. Roller Skates - A Newbery Medal Winner! Growing up in a well-to-do family with strict rules and routines can be tough for a ten-year-old girl who only wants to roller skate. But when Lucinda Wyman’s parents go overseas on a trip to Italy and leave her behind in the care of Miss Peters and Miss Nettie in New York City, she suddenly gets all the freedom she wants! Lucinda zips around New York on her roller skates, meeting tons of new friends and having new adventures every day. But Lucinda has no idea what new experiences the city will show her…. Some of which will change her life forever. “A refreshingly lively and genuine story.”—The New York Times

  4. Rifles for Watie - Winner of the Newbery Medal An ALA Notable Children’s Book Winner of the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award A captivating and richly detailed novel about one young soldier who saw the Civil War from both sides and lived to tell the tale. Earnest, plain-spoken sixteen-year-old Jeff Bussey has finally gotten his father’s consent to join the Union volunteers. It’s 1861 in Linn County, Kansas, and Jeff is eager to fight for the North before the war is over, which he’s sure will be soon. But weeks turn to months, the marches through fields and woods prove endless, hunger and exhaustion seem to take up permanent residence in Jeff’s bones, and he learns what it really means to fight in battle—and to lose friends. When he finds himself among enemy troops, he’ll have to put his life on the line to advance the Union cause. Thoroughly researched and based on firsthand accounts, Rifles for Watie “should hold a place with the best Civil War fiction for young people” (The Horn Book).

...And Now Miguel book
#19
...And Now Miguel
Written by Joseph Krumgold and illustrated by Jean Charlot
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 12-18

He wanted to be treated like a man, not a child.

Every summer the men of the Chavez family go on a long and difficult sheep drive to the mountains. All the men, that is, except for Miguel. All year long, twelve-year-old Miguel tries to prove that he, too, is up to the challenge, that he, too, is ready to take the sheep into his beloved Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

When his deeds go unnoticed, he prays to San Ysidro, the saint for farmers everywhere. And his prayer is answered . . . but with devastating consequences.

When you act like and adult but get treated like a child, what else can you do but keep your wishes secret and pray that they’ll come true.

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze book
#20
Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze
Written by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis and illustrated by William Low
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

When Young Fu arrives with his mother in bustling 1920s Chungking, all he has seen of the world is the rural farming village where he has grown up. He knows nothing of city life. But the city, with its wonders and dangers, fascinates the 13-year-old boy, and he sets out to make the best of what it has to offer him.

First published in 1932, Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze was one of the earliest Newbery Medal winners. Although China has changed since that time, Young Fu’s experiences are universal: making friends, making mistakes, and making one’s way in the world.

The Trumpeter of Krakow book
#21
The Trumpeter of Krakow
Written by Eric P Kelly and illustrated by Janina Domanska
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-13

For well over thirty years, Eric P. Kelly’s Newbery Award winner has brought the color and romance of ancient times to young readers. Today, The Trumpeter of Krakow is an absorbing and dramatic as when it was first published in 1928.

There was something about the Great Tarnov Crystal…Wise men spoke of it in hushed tones. Others were ready to kill for it. Now a murderous Tartar chief is bent on possessing it. But young Joseph Charnetski was bound by an ancient oath to protect the jewel at all costs.

Gay Neck: The Story of a Pigeon book
#22
Gay Neck: The Story of a Pigeon
Written by Dhan Gopal Mukerji and illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

Writing out of his own experience as a boy in India, Dhan Gopal Mukerji tells how Gay Neck’s master sent his prized pigeon to serve in Word War I, and of how, because of his exceptional training and his brave heart, Gay Neck served his new masters heroically. Winner of the 1928 Newbery Medal.

Secret of the Andes book
#23
Secret of the Andes
Written by Ann Nolan Clark
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A Newbery Medal Winner

An Incan boy who tends llamas in a hidden valley in Peru learns the traditions and secrets of his ancestors.

“The story of an Incan boy who lives in a hidden valley high in the mountains of Peru with old Chuto the llama herder. Unknown to Cusi, he is of royal blood and is the ‘chosen one.’ A compelling story.”—Booklist

  1. The Twenty-One Balloons (Puffin Modern Classics) - A Newbery Medal Winner Professor William Waterman Sherman intends to fly across the Pacific Ocean. But through a twist of fate, he lands on Krakatoa, and discovers a world of unimaginable wealth, eccentric inhabitants, and incredible balloon inventions.Winner of the 1948 Newbery Medal, this classic fantasy-adventure is now available in a handsome new edition. “William Pene du Bois combines his rich imagination, scientific tastes, and brilliant artistry to tell a story that has no age limit.” —The Horn Book

  2. The Higher Power of Lucky (Hard Pan Trilogy) - Lucky, age 10, can’t wait another day. The meanness gland in her heart and the crevices full of questions in her brain make running away from Hard Pan, California (population 43), the rock-bottom only choice she has. It’s all Brigitte’s fault for wanting to go back to France. Guardians are supposed to stay put and look after girls in their care! Instead, Lucky is sure that she’ll be abandoned to some orphanage in Los Angeles where her beloved dog, HMS Beagle, won’t be allowed. She’ll have to lose her friends: Miles, who lives on cookies, and Lincoln, future U.S. president (maybe) and member of the International Guild of Knot Tiers. Just as bad, she’ll have to give up eavesdropping on 12-step anonymous programs, where the interesting talk is all about Higher Powers. Lucky needs her own “higher power” - and quick. But she hadn’t planned on a dust storm, or needing to lug the world’s heaviest survival-kit backpack into the desert.

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!