2004 Newbery Medal and Honor Books

2004 Medal Winner

image of book cover for the tale of despereaux

The 2004 Newbery Medal winner is The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread  written by  Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering  (Candlewick Press).

“The Tale of Despereaux” draws the reader into an enchanting account of a smaller-than-usual mouse in love with music, stories and a princess named Pea. This tiny hero faints at loud noises but gathers the courage to fulfill his dreams.

With character and plot far more complex than the traditional fairy tale, separate stories introduce Despereaux, condemned for talking to the princess; the evil rat, Roscuro, who loves light and soup; and Miggery Sow, a farm girl with royal aspirations. Their fates are threaded together as Despereaux undertakes a hero's quest that culminates in mice, rats and humans living almost happily ever after. The lyrical language of this distinctive tale is as savory as the palace soup.

“With finesse, DiCamillo masterfully weaves drama, mystery and intrigue with high humor and fun into a cohesive, captivating and distinguished tale,” said Newbery Award Chair Eliza T. Dresang. “Time-honored themes of good versus evil, light versus dark, unrequited love, loyalty and search for identity have roots in many mythic and literary classics familiar to children. This story is sure to entice, challenge and delight readers of all ages.”

2004 Honor Books 

Olive's Ocean - book cover imageOlive's Ocean by  Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books)

12-year-old Martha receives a page from the journal of a classmate, Olive, who has died in an accident. Olive's entry about a desire to be Martha's friend, to see the ocean, and to become a writer propels Martha into a journey from childhood to the brink of adolescence. Beautiful and powerful imagery drawn from the sun, sand and sea of Martha's summer with her family and friends at Cape Cod skillfully reflects the pain and joy of Martha's coming-of-age and awareness of her own mortality.


cover image from "an american plague"


An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy (Clarion Books)

“An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793” dramatically recounts the true story of the yellow fever epidemic that nearly decimated the population of Philadelphia at the end of the 18th century. Integrating newspapers, diaries, personal testimonies and period illustrations, the narrative delivers a social and medical history of the times and raises chilling questions about the disease today.

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