What happens on January 24, 2022? The 100th Newbery Medal winner will be announced! In case you’re not familiar with the Newbery Medal, that’s about to change.
This is how it all began.
On a bright, spring day in 1744, a revolution began. No gunshots were fired, no battle lines drawn, and no lives lost. Best of all, there were no losers in this revolution, only winners.
Triggered by a much-admired London bookseller named John Newbery (make note, that’s spelled with one “r”), the revolution began quietly and with little fanfare. The only inkling that a history-making event was about to occur came in the form of an announcement that appeared on the back page of a London newspaper dated June 18, 1744:
This Day is publish’d According to
Act of Parliament (Neatly bound and gilt)
A Little Pretty Pocket-Book,
intended for the Instruction and Amusement of
little Master Tommy and Miss Polly . . .
Printed for J. Newbery, at the Bible and Crown,
Near Devereux Court.
In that time, people believed that the sole purpose of books was to teach strict moral and religious values, and anything that might be considered “amusing” or “entertaining” wasn’t welcomed, nor even in the picture at all. John Newbery changed all that.
Many felt that Newbery’s books weren’t proper, but a larger number of children and adults bought his books as if they were buried treasure. The world of children’s books would never be the same.
Newbery died in 1767, but in the early 1920’s a Midwestern bookseller and editor, Frederic G. Melcher, decided that publishers and booksellers needed to do a better job of promoting books for children. In 1921, Melcher made a proposal to the American Library Association that a special medal be given each year to honor the author of the most distinguished book for children. Melcher recognized the impact that John Newbery had had on children’s book publishing, so he suggested that the award be named for Mr. Newbery. An American sculptor named René Chambellan designed the medal.
The first Newbery Medal was awarded in 1922 to Hendrik Willem van Loon. This year, the Newbery Medal turns 100 years old. I’ll be sharing stories over the next months of my interviews and friendships with eighteen of the authors. I’ll keep you apprised of events planned to celebrate the anniversary. I’ll have fun games and quizzes and links to share.
I invite you to join me on this journey, 100 years in the making!
Fasten your seat belts, because here we go!