13 May 2008

Summer Reading Project - The Newberys

Jackie, my fellow bookseller and kids' lead, thought that it would be really cool if a bunch of us read all the Newbery Medal winning children's books.

And I thought, "Why not?" I can count on one hand the number of Newbery books I've read previously - only five. I think it would be really interesting to see how the winning books have changed over time. There is an added bonus. Because these are children's books, only a few of them are very long so I can read them very quickly. Should satisfy my start-itis-type urges.

Kate dug the list of Newbery winners out of the ALA website. Honest to spit, I never realized that the Newbery awards started back in 1922. This is definitely a summer project. As it turns out, the University of Iowa Libraries has at least one copy of each title (except I think one might be available only in Special Collections). It helps when the College of Education has a Curriculum Lab, aka a library full of children's and teen's books. So I checked out both the 1921 and 1972 editions of the first Newbery winner, The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon. The 1999 edition (the one that's linked) is currently available. First impression? The language used in the book is so completely stilted and non-PC that it is laughable. Here's an example:

"Like many of the animals who fill the Zoo with their strange noises, early man liked to jabber. That is to say, he endlessly repeated the same unintelligible gibberish because it pleased him to hear his own voice" (pp 11-12, van Loon 1922).

It's a bit like the old educational filmstrips from the 1950s. Sing-songy.

In a related incident, I did finally acquire a library card. I really don't need seventy children's books. Especially the ones I don't particularly like.

PS: Jackie, you need to update your blog.

Current book-in-progress: The Story of Mankind, The Black City, The Lord of the Flies (I am revisiting old books I hated in school), The Shakespeare Wars (way more gossipy than I thought it would be), and ideas (bedtime book).
Current knitted item: Tan neckwarmer, which turns out not to be tan but dark gray because I forgot what bland color I bought and just remembered wrong. Essentially a 4x4 ribbed short scarf with buttonholes.
Current movie obsession: Just finished Excalibur (great performance by Helen Mirren as Morgana; I love Dame Helen); am currently working on Becoming Jane which feels miscast a way (Maggie Smith=good; Julie Walters=also good, and she would make a great Mrs. Bennet someday; Anna Maxwell Martin=excellent; Anne Hathaway=really? there weren't any British actresses willing to play Jane Austen?)
Current iTunes loop: Chill Tracks list and Juno soundtrack (happiness)

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