A Brief History of the Newbery Medal

John Newbery lived in England during the 18th century and contributed significantly to the genre of children’s literature. As a publisher, John Newbery influenced the growth of children’s literature as a genre, including publishing several children’s books that he had written himself. The John Newbery Medal is named for him.

The Newbery Medal was created in 1921 by Frederic G Melcher and is awarded to one original work that was the most distinguished contribution for children’s literature in the previous year. The book must be published in English and written by an American citizen or resident to be considered for the Newbery Medal.

Since the beginning, the medal has created controversy over what would be called distinguished for a children’s book. The idea was that by rewarding distinguished children’s books, the genre as a whole would become more distinguished from other, lower quality, children’s books that had little value to the general population. This presented a problem for these authors writing popular children’s series. Their books were selling well, but they were not deemed distinguished enough to win an award.

The criteria and rules of the medal have been chagned many times over the years, but the idea of the most distinguished contribution has remained the same.

This year, for the first time, the winner of the Newbery Medal was a children’s picture book rather than a longer work of literature.

What are Fractured Fairy Tales?

A fairy tale might be the first story that you remember hearing as a child. That story might also be different from the stories that children are hearing today. Fairy tales are constantly changing as they are being retold and the stories that you might hear today are very different from when they were first written down, but as long as the story is similar it is still called a fairy tale.

Would it surprise you to know that the princess in Sleeping Beauty isn’t named Aurora? In Charles Perrault’s telling of The Sleeping Beauty, the princess remained nameless for the story. Grimm’s version  does give the princess a name, but it isn’t Aurora, it’s Rosamund. The name Aurora that is used in the Disney cartoon came from the daughter of the nameless princess.

Then, would it surprise you that the princess was not raised by fairies, but by her own parents? The princess was blessed by the fairies in BOTH stories, but then she was raised by her own parents.

These stories have been evolving for centuries and have recently become a very popular genre for young adults called Fractured Fairy Tales. That is when the familiar story is changed by altering the storyline, the characters, or even by combining several stories that are not usually put together.

Fairy tales are in the non-fiction section of the library under the call numbers NF 398.2, J 398.2, and in the fiction section by author.

Some authors to look for are Donna Jo Napoli, Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, Robin McKinley, Marissa Meyer, Alex Flinn and many others.

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