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    And the Winner Is... A Guide to Newbery Medal Winners from a Christian Perspective

    Some people feel it doesn’t matter what kids read, as long as they’re reading something. But wouldn’t it be so much better to read great literature that sets a good example? The mission of Praiseworthy Books ( is “Endeavoring to help you find the best in literature for your children that meets the standards of Philippians 4:8,” which reads: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” This is a wonderful standard to follow when choosing books.

    How can busy parents find the time to sort through thousands of children’s books to discover the really worthwhile ones? There are many books out there that will do this for you: Great Books of the Christian Tradition, Books Children Love, Honey for a Child’s Heart, and Who Should We Then Read? are just a few. I would also like to point out another one that I have just read, entitled And the Winner Is... A Guide to Newbery Medal Winners from a Christian Perspective. Unlike other children’s literature guides that list hundreds of pages of books of all kinds, this one focuses on Newbery Medal winners. Some Newbery Honor Books and a few of the author’s personal favorites have been added for good measure.

    You may wonder why there is a need to review Newbery books since they have already proven their merit by winning an award. Well, the fact that a book is presented with the Newbery Award doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best – or that some other books aren’t just as good. In some years the competition may be fierce so an otherwise excellent book may not win. In other years, there may not be much to choose from so a poorer quality book got in. The selection of winners also depends on the opinions of the judges who happen to be on the award committee that year. According to the contest rules, the Newbery Award is based on the work’s literary quality, presentation of characters, setting, plot development, accuracy of information, appropriateness of style, etc. The award committee does not consider the book’s didactic intent, wholesome content, moral standards, or lack thereof. You would think the older books are generally safe, but even some of the older ones are not books that I would want my children to read.

    And while many modern titles leave much to be desired, some of the newer ones are pleasantly surprising.

    Thus, the authors of And the Winner Is... are providing a much-needed service to “weed out the wheat from the chaff” of Newbery Award titles. Each book has been carefully read and evaluated by Deb Ekstrand, a home educator and mother of six children, and Barb Brandes, a Christian woman who first began this project to help out some homeschooling friends. They provide a brief overview describing what the subject of the book is about, followed by comments about the book, including whether caution or parental pre-reading is recommended and why. In addition to the books listed alphabetically by title, this 40-page book includes a List of Newbery-Medal winners from 1922 to the present, and a reproducible checklist to keep track of which books you have read.

    My favorite part of this book is the Listing of Books by Historical Time Period (Ancient History to Post-WW2). It is a useful list for incorporating Newbery books into history lessons as supplemental reading. These Newbery books include fictional stories set in certain places and time periods, historical fiction based on real events, and even nonfiction. I know from experience that the more real the past seems to children, the more interesting it is, so children get much more out of a lively discussion of a story or book than they do by just memorizing facts and dates. While the reviews in And the Winner Is... are written from a Christian perspective, I would like to add that you need not be afraid of other cultures or other viewpoints in children’s books as long as you inform your children about them, comment on the ideas in the book, and talk about content you don’t think is right. As the authors of And the Winner Is... write, such a book “might be a book you would want to read aloud, so that these things can be discussed and compared with the truth of God’s word.”

    As a librarian and home educator, I can say the time that Barb Brandes and Deb Ekstrand have spent in reading and evaluating these books is greatly appreciated. I wish I would have had something like this years ago. I recognized quite a few of my own favorites, and some that I am sorry to have missed. The Newbery list is a good starting place to find well-written books, and it’s even better when facilitated by And the Winner Is. This is an inexpensive, invaluable resource for homeschool families, teachers, schools and libraries. I look forward to seeing an expanded edition of this book with annotated reviews of all the Newbery Honor books.


    These pages are a continuous work in progress.
    Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
    All rights reserved.


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