In case you missed it amidst everything else that happened last month, the 2017 Newbery Medal was announced on January 23rd. The award, granted by the American Library Association, is the US’s highest honor in children’s literature — not to be confused with the Caldecott Medal, which goes to the year’s best picture book.
This year’s honor went to Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon, with honorable mentions going to 3 other books. The distinction of the Newbery alone should have you well on your way to your local independent bookstore. But if you’re not sure which to pick up first, here are the details on the 2017 honorees.
Newbery Medal Winner
The Girl Who Drank The Moon
A blend of fantasy, philosophy, and spirituality on par with The Giver, The Girl Who Drank the Moon takes place in a mythical village called the Protectorate. Every year, on the day of sacrifice, the Protectorate’s youngest infant is brought by its Elders into the forest, stranded and presumably left to die, lest an evil witch destroy the village. What the Elders don’t know is that the witch is not evil at all. In fact, she feeds the infants starlight, before delivering them to compassionate parents in other cities. All of them, that is, except one, whom she accidentally feeds moonlight. With moonlight comes magical powers, and with magical powers come immense responsibilities — not to mention a few expert plot twists.
Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives And Dreams Brought To Life
Ashley Bryan’s beautifully illustrated book tells the stories of 11 people owned by one Cado Fairchilds. It’s all based on real documents from the 1800s and all rendered in touching, haunting, narrative poetry. Bryan imagines their inner hopes and dreams through the scant details listed on an estate appraisal. All characters are buoyed by memories of their childhoods in Africa, all are stripped of their humanity by our country’s horrific past. It’s a book that explores dark truths with a tender heart. And it may be wise to have some supplementary reading on hand after you share it with the kids.
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children And Their Holy Dog
The Inquisitor’s Tale tells the epic story of a group of pilgrims from different walks of life who set out on a marvelous adventure. It’s sort of like The Avengers, except it’s set in medieval France and has less mutations-by-experiement. The tea consists of a young Christian peasant who sees visions of the future, a Jewish boy imbued with strange healing abilities, and a Muslim-born monk with incredible physical strength. Together they must face religious persecution, racial intolerance, dangerous knights, and the challenges of standing up for their friends. Also, there’s a dog!
Set in rural Pennsylvania during World War II, this tale follows a 12-year-old girl named Annabelle. Her life is mostly a quiet one, safe from the evils of war until the arrival of Betty Glengarry. Betty’s a bully who attacks Annabelle, steals her lunch money, and even breaks the necks of birds. When Annabelle attempts to fix the situation by going to her parents, Betty weasels her way out of punishment by blaming Toby, a local veteran. In her attempts to defend Toby, Annabelle gradually discovers that doing good means making hard choices. All told, Wolf Hollow is a story about cruelty and injustice that feels eerily resonant.