The Newbery Medal
So you still have dreams of fame and fortune? Well, you just might get both of them if you are awarded the Newbery Medal. The Newbery Medal is considered the highest honor a children's book author can receive. Everyone in the world of children's literature waits eagerly every year for the announcement of the winner.
Winning the Newbery Medal will put your name on the lips of all involved in the industry. Recognition isn't the only reward, though. You will also see a tremendous boost in the sales of your book, since every library, bookseller, and many children and adults will suddenly feel the need to own your book. The Newbery Award places a permanent stamp of excellence and respect not only upon its winners, but also upon those it designates as Newbery Honor Books.
History of the Medal
John Newbery was the eighteenth-century bookseller who was responsible for the turning point in children's literature with the publication of A Little Pretty Pocket-Book. This book combined elements of education and instruction with amusement and entertainment, paving the way for modern children's books. Publisher Frederic G. Melcher recognized Newbery's achievement and in 1921 proposed to the American Library Association (ALA) that an award be presented in his honor. The ALA readily agreed, and thus the first children's book award was born. Ever since then, the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the ALA, awards the Newbery Medal annually to one children's book author.
The winner of the Newbery Medal receives a bronze medal that was designed by René Paul Chambellan in 1921. The winner's name and date are engraved on the back of the medal.
As the first and most distinguished children's book award in the world, the Newbery Medal carries a lot of weight. The medal's purpose, according to the ALA, is “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.” The Newbery Medal has certainly lived up to its purpose.
Qualifications and Criteria
Since only one author can win this award per year, there must be qualifications set to help make the difficult decision a bit easier. Those children's books considered must have been published the previous year and authored by a U.S. citizen or resident. The book must also have been published in the United States. Reprints and compilations are not eligible. The book's target audience must be any age group of children through the age of fourteen.
The book can consist of any type of writing (fiction, nonfiction, poetry), and the text is primarily what will be taken into consideration. The book must make what the judges deem the most “distinguished contribution to American Children's Literature” of all children's books published that year in America in English. The committee can't take into consideration an author's past works or the author's reputation, nor can the committee take into account how well the book sells or its popularity. The book can't rely on other media and must be a “self-contained entity.”
When deciding on a book's degree of excellence, the committee must take into consideration the interpretation of the theme or concept, the handling of characters and setting, how the plot is developed, overall presentation and organization, and style.
Finding excellence in children's literature is easy; deciding on the “most distinguished American children's book” is not. This was understood from the very beginning, and so the committee is allowed to recognize other books for their merit. These books are called Newbery Honor Books.