The 1998 Newbery Medal winner is Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (Scholastic).
In Out of the Dust, 14-year-old Billie Jo relates how her mother dies after an accident with burning kerosene. Blaming both herself and her father, she is unable to express herself through her piano playing because of the burns that scar her hands. She leaves but quickly returns to her home "of dust" and she realizes how much a part of her it is.
Ellen Fader, 1998 Newbery Committee chair, said, "Hesse's painstaking first-person narration of Billie Jo's withering and, finally, taking root is spare and gritty. She creates a stark and piercing rhythm in a free verse form that naturally and immediately communicates this story of Billie Jo's fierce spirit and growing self-understanding."
Listen to Karen Hesse’s Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech [Link downloads MP3 audio file/27MB]
by Gail Carson Levine (HarperCollins)
Spunky, stubborn, and very clever, this new Cinderella spends a lifetime trying to outwit the curse of a fairy's unwelcome gift of obedience. In a kingdom populated with ogres, giants, princes, and fairies, Ella begins a fruitless quest to have the curse lifted, only to discover that she has that power within herself.
"An extrodinary plot device, an assortment of wonderfully drawn characters, and a richly detailed fairy tale setting add up to an outstanding debut by talented newcomer Levine. She has taken the basic elements of the Cinderella story, placed it in a wholly satisfying new context, and deepened our appreciation of the original tale."
by Patricia Reilly Giff (Delacorte)
During her 1944 summer vacation in the Rockaways, ten-year-old Lily's best friend moves away and her beloved father Poppy goes off to war. Then Lily meets Albert, a young Hungarian refugee with whom she builds a poignant friendship based on shared loneliness, secrets and lies.
"The author skillfully evokes the sights, the sounds, deprivations and fears of the World War II home front in this psychologically complex, multi-layered historical novel. Lily is an engaging character, memorable for her impudence, her sense of humor and her vulnerability. The setting is unique, but the problem of overcoming childhood guilt is universal."
by Jerry Spinelli (HarperCollins)
Palmer LaRue dreads his approaching birthday because he does not want to be a wringer, one of the ten-year-old boys who breaks the necks of pigeons wounded at the town's pigeon shoot fund raiser. When his three bullying friends suspect he is sheltering a stray pigeon, Palmer decides to take a personal stand against this annual rite of passage.
"In Palmer LaRue, Spinelli creates a child who grapples with age-old questions about conformity and peer pressure. The fast-paced narrative proceeds with mounting tension to illuminate Palmer's moral dilemma. Spinelli bases the book's core incident on actual pigeon shoots held regularly in Pennsylvania, lending authenticity to a sometimes gentle and sometimes violent story."