The Newbery at 75: Changing with the Times

By Sutherland, Zena | American Libraries, March 1997 | Go to article overview

The Newbery at 75: Changing with the Times


Sutherland, Zena, American Libraries


PEER INTO THE LOOKING GLASS OF CHILDREN'S BELLES-LETTRES AND SEE A REFLECTION OF JURORS' EVOLVING MORES

All the ingredients were there in 1918 when World War I ended. The audience for children's books had been spurred by new Carnegie-endowed libraries, many with separate rooms for children's services. A growing number of those rooms had librarians trained for just such services. Led by Macmillan, many publishers established separate children's-book departments. There was a groundswell of reviewing of children's books by specialists in the field.

The American Library Association gave enthusiastic support, especially in its Children's Librarians Section, which, after several name changes, is now the Association for Library Service to Children. As advocates of good books for children, their gratitude and ours go to such catalysts as the postwar triumvirate of Franklin Mathiews, Frederick Melcher, and Anne Carroll Moore. The two bookmen had approached Moore with a proposal for the establishment of a Children's Book Week in 1919, and pursuant thereto came the donation by Melcher of the Newbery Medal, named after British 18th-century children's book publisher John Newbery. It was, however, the children's librarians who chose the books to be honored.

It's a monumental task, one that is usually considered a pleasure and a privilege by those who are elected or appointed. It may have been easier in 1922, choosing that first Newbery winner. There were fewer books; in fact, between 1915 and 1945 the annual average of new titles was 713. Probably the librarians of that year felt, as we do now, the same sense of obligation to choose wisely. Probably they hoped, as we do today, that the children who read the award books would enjoy them. Almost certainly, they too were familiar with children's needs and their reading interests. And surely, even with fewer eligible books, they were frustrated by the conflicting or competing virtues of fiction and nonfiction, realism and fantasy, poetry and prose.

There are, of course, other factors that influence the opinions and evaluations of committee members, and some of those factors may operate silently. We are all products of our time as well as of our heredity and our environment. We all have convictions about what children should know, or not know, and perhaps at what age. We each have a preference for some styles of writing and most of us have a desire to be objective and rational. We may unwittingly be swayed in individual establishment of priorities by sympathy for an author who has had many Honor Books but never won the medal. Most of us respond favorably to books that espouse a cause we hold dear, and we may differ in our opinions of whether a good novel with an important social message or a good novel with superb characterization is the more worthy.

It is true now, as it was true when John Newbery published children's books, that what is published for children reflects the contemporary society's idea of what children should read, and that opinions about that idea change with time and place. Today our language has changed, our mores have changed, and our ideas about how children learn and what we want them to learn have shifted repeatedly and will surely continue to change in the new millenium.

Meteors in a leaden sky

Among the things that were acceptable 75 years ago was "writing down" to children. Writers had a different concept of children as readers, and most critics and editors of the time shared that concept. When books for children first appeared, they were either prosaically instructive or gloomily minatory. They were used as vessels for instilling precepts of good behavior, piety, respect for parents, and other worthy goals that did little for enjoyment on the part of young readers. Some of this lingered for a very long time in children's books, softening from Puritan doom-and-gloom to Victorian morality and making such pioneers as Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll seem meteors in a leaden sky. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Newbery at 75: Changing with the Times
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.