Normally on the day after the ALA Youth Media Awards announcements, I’m organizing my reading for the month to come, planning to catch up on winning titles that I missed. Especially the Newbery. I often criticize the Newbery for its predictable choices and lack of diversity, but I’m also obsessed with reading the winners and Honor books. Only this year, I’ve already read all the winners!
I used to aspire to Newbery completion. A couple of years ago, I joined the Nerdbery Challenge and thought I’d blast through the books I hadn’t yet read. But I hadn’t factored in the horror show that is the Newbery’s early years. (I am emotionally scarred for life from reading Miss Hickory. I had to take a long break after that one.)
Still, I was slowly moving along with the challenge until I met The 21 Balloons. That’s the book that did me in.
It’s not even that long, but I struggled to read it for months and ended up abandoning it even after I’d given myself permission to skim. I’d pick it up, skim one endless paragraph, and shove it back on the shelf. It got to the point where I was picking it up, skimming ONE SENTENCE, and shoving it back on the shelf. When I found myself actively avoiding the entire act of reading because I told myself I had to finish 21 Balloons before I could read anything else, I decided to call it.
Let’s face it: life is short, and there are a lot of wonderful books that need to be read. The 21 Balloons isn’t one. And neither, I’m betting, are the next two books I needed to read in my chronological pursuit of Nerdbery completion: I already cringe at just the title of Amos Fortune, Free Man, and while the title of Secret of the Andes is merely boring, the description promises a story that is, at the very least, racially insensitive. (I’m guessing I’d find it closer to offensive.)
But I’m Newbery obsessed and I couldn’t entirely abandon the challenge. Instead, I gave it a twist: I’m now aiming to read all the Newbery Medal winners since 1980 and all the Honor books since 2000.
I’m so close to completing the first part of that challenge. I only have three Newbery Gold winners left to read from 1980-2015:
I have a feeling that once I get through all the Gold medal winners back to 1980, I’ll decide I want to tackle the 1970s. I’m halfway finished with that decade, after all, and one of the five remaining books I’d need to read is one I’ve heard is one of the best older Newberys, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. But the 1970s also require two books I really don’t want to read: Susan Cooper’s The Grey King (I hated the first book in this series and never read more; I don’t like reading a series out of order) and Paula Fox’s The Slave Dancer, whose book description on Amazon includes the word horror about three times. More scarring for life!
So to round out my top 10, I’ve decided to focus on 7 Honor Books that I can’t believe I haven’t read yet: