Sometimes the predictions turn out to be right on target, and sometimes the Newbery Committee surprises everyone! The big surprise from this week’s Youth Media Awards was definitely the decision to award the 2016 John Newbery Medal to the author of a picture book. Although certainly not required (the target audience can be up to fourteen years old), this prize has traditionally been given to the author of a chapter book for children. Yes, we’ve seen the Newbery won by a handful of poetry or non-fiction books, but not by a picture book.
So congratulations to Matt de la Pena, author of the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature, published in 2015. The official Newbery citation states “CJ’s journey with his Nana is not just a simple bus ride; it is a multi-sensory experience through which he discovers that beautiful music, nature and people surround him. CJ’s questions are familiar, and Nana answers him with gentle wisdom. Right up until their arrival at the last stop on Market Street, Nana guides CJ to become “a better witness for what’s beautiful.” De la Pena is best known as an author of Young Adult books, although he also wrote an excellent picture book biography, A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis.
The Newbery Selection Committee also named three books as 2016 Newbery Honor Books. These are not shown in any particular order; Honor Books are all viewed as equal in rank by the committee.
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. There was no surprise with this choice. Bradley, originally from Fort Wayne, is well-known for writing excellent historical fiction, and this was a popular choice for all the “Newbery Guessers.”
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan – another favorite of book critics and readers. This has been described as a “genre-defying tour de force.” Ryan merges fairytale elements with historical fiction as she explores the power of music. This is definitely on my list to read!
Roller Girl, written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson. This is the only one of the Newbery selections that we do not currently have in the library, but one was ordered shortly after Monday’s announcement. Let us know if you would like your name put on a waiting list for this title. This graphic novel would be perfect for tweens who are experiencing the awkwardness of moving away from a circle of childhood friends while reaching out for new friends who share your interests. I’ll be very excited to see this when it arrives!