Awards – 1941 through 1960

1941  Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry

I particularly enjoyed reading this because my parents spent part of their teenage years in Tonga and Hawaii. I grew up hearing stories of their adventures and seeing examples of the various handicrafts my grandparents had brought home from their stay. This short telling of a Hikueru legend is appealing to all those of us who have struggled with fear and who have desired to be brave. In addition, the descriptions of how Mafatu survives his adventures are exciting and interesting.  (Mar 2010)

1942  The Matchlock Gun by Walter Dumaux Edmonds

The most enjoyable part of this book is the fact that it is based on a real event in the lives of real people.  I found Gertrude to be such a brave person and an inspiration to her children.  But it’s hard to imagine any modern child being so obedient as Trudy and Edward were! (Apr 2011)

1943  Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Gray Vining

Adam goes on the road with his minstrel father and promptly falls into a variety of adventures.  I like his quick thinking and the way he takes to heart the lessons his father has taught him over the years.  I suspect Ms. Vining’s portrayal of medieval times is more sanitary that it was in real life, but overall, very enjoyable. (Mar 2011)

1944  Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Historical fiction isn’t my preferred genre and this novel didn’t look all that interesting, but thank heavens it was on my list of Newberry winners!  This was a great book.  As I have gotten older I have thought a lot more about how important it is to understand how the United States came into being (at least for citizens of the country) and this is a great introduction to one aspect of that beginning.  I’m thinking I’ll be reading this one aloud to my kids.  Johnny starts out as kind of obnoxious, but I liked watching him mature, and gradually joining the revolution as he begins to catch a glimpse of the importance of human life and dignity and freedom. (May 2010)

1945  Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

Here is a short tale of animal paradise – people who appreciate all the small animals and are willing to share.  There’s not much of a plot – Little Georgie is hit by a car and nursed back to health by the Big Folks.  Meanwhile the animals don’t know what to think – is he being tortured or cared for?  The animal characters are more human-like than animal-like, but it is a fun imagining of life as a small creature. (May 2010)

1946  Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski

One of the most interesting things about this book is the information it provides about a place and time in American history. The writing includes regional dialect and word usage that might prove difficult at first, but gives an essential flavor to the story. I also enjoyed watching how enemies became friendly neighbors, just by doing what was right.  (Mar 2010)

1947  Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

“Miss Hickory” is a curious little book.  The main character is a doll made of an apple tree twig.  Living out in nature during one winter, she has adventures with the various animals that live around her.  There isn’t much of a story, but the descriptions are whimsical and Miss Hickory finds her true place in the world. (May 2010)

1948  The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène Du Bois

A fun adventure story in the vein of ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ but for kids. The Utopian society living on Krakatoa, the idea of ballooning around the earth, a United States where the President offers his private train for travel – it is all idealistic and fun. An interesting reflection of the age. (May 2010)

1949  King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry

Part of the appeal of this story is the overwhelming odds that Agba and Sham overcome before someone recognizes the worth of Sham.  I especially liked the love Agba had for Sham and how he stuck with Sham despite the difficulties of being mute and a foreigner.  The illustrations (by Dennis Wesley) are quite detailed and beautiful. (Mar 2011)

1950  The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli

Surely the Middle Ages was dirtier and more dangerous than Ms. de Angeli describes, but you can’t help liking this story of a boy who is taken under the wing of good men who teach him and give him skills and strength and confidence.  I liked the title and how it suggests the theme of the book – looking for the opportunities that lie in the obstacles. (May 2011)

1951  Amos Fortune: Free Man by Elizabeth Yates

The way that Ms. Yates describes Amos Fortune makes me wish I had known him.  He is such a kind and wise and tender-hearted man – a true King.  The story is perhaps not as realistic as it might have been in terms of describing the treatment of Black men and women but Ms. Yates focuses on the theme of true freedom – of knowing oneself and God – and it is a peaceful thing to read. (May 2011)

1952  Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes

This is a cute little book, perfect for kids.  It is written from a child’s viewpoint and infused with that particular “magical view” of the world that many children have. Another thing that makes this story stand out is that the emotions are real and not glossed over.  The ending, in particular, emphasizes both the ecstasy of reunion and the heartbreak of all the months of separation. (May 2011)

1953 Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark

This Newberry award winner gives the reader a glimpse into the surviving Inca culture with some thrilling scenes and a secret at the end. I loved the relationship of Cusi with his llama, Mitsi. Ms. Clark described llama behavior much like I think of them – though I have absolutely no real life experience with them! (Feb 2013)

1954 … and now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold

You can’t help but like Miguel – a younger son in a family of older, capable brothers and a large family that herds sheep. He wants so much to be thought of as a man – as capable as the brothers he looks up to. The writing is simple and the setting is almost another character. (Feb 2013)

1955 The Wheel on the School by Meindert De Jong

What a lovely little book. As the teacher says, “sometimes when we wonder, we can make things begin to happen.” This small story of six children who wonder about storks and then begin to change their village life discover friends where there weren’t any before and bring their village together. (Mar 2013)

1956 Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

Ms. Latham creates the world of eighteenth-century mathematical and nautical wonder, Nathaniel Bowditch. From his earliest years to his adult success as a man who changed the face of navigation, the author paints a picture of a likeable boy (and man) who never lets adversity and sorrow get in the way of using his intelligence and making a way in the world for himself. Clearly qualified to pursue higher education, when circumstances preclude formal study, Nat does it all on his own – and then passes that knowledge on to others in ways that make them better too. A very enjoyable book. (Mar 2013)

1957  Miracles on Maple Hill byVirginia Sorensen

This is a simple tale of the healing miracles of rural living and the work and friendships that Marly’s family found.  Ms. Sorensen addresses such ideas as the paradox between hunting and valuing life, the damages of war and the healing of nature, and learning to look beyond appearances and prejudices.  Marly is an appealing character – wanting miracles to happen in her family, alternately annoyed with her older brother and then loving him more fiercely than ever.  Watching Marly’s family come together after the difficulties caused by the father’s time during the war is a rewarding read. (Apr 2010)

1958 Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith

What a great look at the Civil War from a less seen perspective. The historical details of this novel make it particularly interesting, and the storyline is exciting. Jeff is likeable and has a character that is open and questioning, so that he can appreciate people for who they are on whichever side of the war they are on. (Mar 2013)

1959  The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

I have to admit, I was a bit reluctant to read this – I didn’t want to read a tale about New England witch hunts. Fortunately for me, this is a book about a girl out of her element, growing up, falling in love, and learning to love things she didn’t know before. The setting of Puritan Connecticut is bleak, but also, just as Kit discovers, beautiful as well. And despite their best intentions, even the most religious were apt to fall prey to the worst of human nature. Ms. Speare takes a gentle hand to the “witch hunters”, showing that while they are wrong, Kit wasn’t necessarily right either. An entertaining read, as well as informative.  (Mar 2010)

1960 Onion John by Joseph Krumgold

Andy is such a likeable and innocent boy – not a lot of 12 year olds like him in the world today. Mr. Krumgold creates characters who are memorable and parents who can admit when they are wrong and children who can love and respect their parents even when they don’t agree. Lovely. (Mar 2013)

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