JCPL’s picks for the 2018 Newbery Award

The ALA Youth Media Awards are almost upon us which means that very soon, our Caldecott and Newbery winners will be announced for this year! The Newbery Medal was the first award of its kind in the world. It is awarded annually to an American author for the most distinguished children’s book. We’ll follow up next week with our picks for the Caldecott award, and watch out for the official announcement February 12!


There is always a lot of buzz among schools and libraries about which books should win these prestigious awards. Here are some books that our Youth Services staff feel merit consideration:

Our picks for the Newbery Medal

The Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

This story, told from the perspective of a sentient oak tree named Red, explores the ideas of community, tolerance, and acceptance. Betty Cobb, Youth Services Manager, says, “Applegate took the bullying of an immigrant family and brought it down to a level kids could understand. There wasn’t a pat solution to her story.”

Applegate has already won the Newbery Medal once in 2013 for her novel, The One and Only Ivan, a fictional account of a real gorilla named Ivan who was captured as an infant and brought to the United States to be put on display in a shopping mall.



I Love You, Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

This epistolary novel follows the letters of ten-year-old Mamie to Michael Collins, a U.S. astronaut on the historic Apollo 11 mission. Mamie feels somewhat isolated as she deals with family issues, and what starts out as a class assignment soon turns into an outlet for her turbulent emotions. Jennifer Johnson, School Age Program Coordinator, says, “This highly underrated title explores how quickly children can be forced to grow up when confronted with the possibility of divorce. The author also does an excellent job of making the excitement of the space race palpable.”

For Jennifer’s full review of this book, click here.


The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

This debut novel follows a young boy’s journey across the country to reunite with his father who was injured in Afghanistan. Along the way, he convinces himself that if he can find all the birds on his list of “someday birds” that he and his father wished to see, everything will turn out okay. Jennifer Johnson says, “I love everything about this book as it is when left up to reader interpretation. For that reason, I think it could be a strong contender for the Newbery.”




Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin

This non-fiction tale chronicles the oppression of Native Americans in the early twentieth century. It focuses on the tale of an underdog football team at the Carlisle Indian School that makes history. Betty Cobb says, “Sheinkin can’t be beat with the way he writes nonfiction in such narrative. It’s like he’s writing a fiction book with all the factual information woven through to make it an engaging story. He really describes how the Native Americans were treated in the early 1900’s and the way football helped a few excel even with the racial inequality that existed then.”

Sheinkin already has a Newbery Honor under his belt for Bomb: The Race to Build-and Steal-the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon in 2013. Could this be the year he secures the medal?

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

This coming-of-age novel tells the story of Cammie, the warden’s daughter who lives with her father at the Hancock County Prison. More than anything, Cammie wants a motherly figure in her life. Can she find that sort of nurturing spirit amongst the inmates? Jennifer Johnson says, “This book vividly and accurately captures all the conflicting emotions of the tween years, especially when one or more parents are absent, physically or emotionally.”

Spinelli is a giant of middle grade and young adult fiction. His classic novel, Maniac Magee, won the Newbery in 1990 and he received a Newbery Honor for Wringer in 1997. Is he overdue for another award?

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