John Newbery Medal

About the John Newbery Medal
The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

In 1921 Frederic G.Melcher had the Newbery Medal designed by René Paul Chambellan. The bronze medal has the winner's name and the date engraved on the back. The American Library Association Executive Board in 1922 delegated to the Children's Librarians' Section the responsibility for selecting the book to receive the Newbery Medal.

The inscription on the Newbery Medal still reads "Children's Librarians' Section," although the section has changed its name four times and its membership now includes both school and public library children's librarians in contrast to the years 1922-58, when the section, under three different names, included only public library children's librarians. Today the Medal is administered by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of ALA.

How the Newbery Medal Came to Be

The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children's book published the previous year. On June 22, 1921, Frederic G. Melcher proposed the award to the American Library Association meeting of the Children's Librarians' Section and suggested that it be named for the eighteenth-century English bookseller John Newbery. The idea was enthusiastically accepted by the children's librarians, and Melcher's official proposal was approved by the ALA Executive Board in 1922. In Melcher's formal agreement with the board, the purpose of the Newbery Medal was stated as follows: "To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children's reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field."

The Newbery Award thus became the first children's book award in the world. Its terms, as well as its long history, continue to make it the best known and most discussed children's book award in this country.

From the beginning of the awarding of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, committees could, and usually did, cite other books as worthy of attention. Such books were referred to as Newbery or Caldecott "runners-up." In 1971 the term "runners-up" was changed to "honor books." The new terminology was made retroactive so that all former runners-up are now referred to as Newbery or Caldecott Honor Books.

Administered by:

Association for Library Service to Children logo

2005 Winner(s)

Kira-Kira

by Cynthia Kadohata (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)

Two sisters lie on their backs, watching the stars and repeating the Japanese word for "glittering" - "kira-kira." Like this quiet opening scene, Kadohata's tenderly nuanced novel glitters with plain and poignant words that describe the strong love within a Japanese American family from the point of view of younger sister Katie. Personal challenges and family tragedy are set against the oppressive social climate of the South during the 1950s and early 1960s.

Graceful prose illuminates complex relationships, most notably between the two sisters. Katie's remarkably authentic voice changes to reflect both her deeper understandings and her growing sense of self over a span of almost 10 years.

"With compelling quietude that makes room for both pathos and humor, this luminous novel takes us on Katie Takeshima's journey through a childhood punctuated by prejudice, poverty and family tragedy," said Award Committee Chair Susan Faust. "Young readers will be drawn into a narrative that radiates hope from the inside out."


2005 Honor(s)

Al Capone Does My Shirts

by Gennifer Choldenko (G.P. Putnam's Sons/a division of Penguin Young Readers Group)

Alcatraz is the evocative backdrop for Al Capone Does My Shirts -- a highly original novel set in 1935. Twelve-year-old Moose Flanagan tells about his travails on "the Rock," where his father has taken a job. Hilarious antics are deftly interwoven with themes of isolation and imprisonment, compassion and connection.


Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy

by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin)

Set in Maine in 1912 and propelled by a tragic historical event, Schmidt's powerfully haunting novel probes a forbidden friendship between a preacher's son and a dark-skinned girl from a nearby island. Steeped in imagery and laced with surprising humor, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy explores powerlessness, possibility and the profound impact individuals can make.


The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights

by Russell Freedman (Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin)

The Voice that Challenged a Nation meticulously explores resonant themes with the masterful structure of a musical composition. Eloquent, economic prose sheds a personal light on one woman's sometimes reluctant role as a symbol in the struggle against racism and her calling to share an illustrious gift.