Michael's Musings

FridayReads: Newbery Winners of the 1930s

(FridayReads is a weekly feature in which I discuss a book that I’m either currently reading or just have on my mind. It is inspired by @TheBookMaven and her #FridayReads hashtag.)

The time is fast approaching for the ALA Midwinter Meeting, and with that the awarding of the 2013 Newbery Medal. Previously, I wrote about the first decade of Newbery winners; now I’d like to delve into the award’s second decade, the 1930s. Here’s the winning crop:

Newbery Medal Winners of the 1930s

I would consider this decade’s collection to be on average more enjoyable than the previous one. The 1930s had the first book which I enjoyed without reservation: the 1936 winner, Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. It was the first true page-turner of the bunch, with well-drawn characters that I found relatable, even 77 years removed. I especially loved Caddie’s rambunctiousness and spirit.

The “headstrong girl who gets into trouble” appeared multiple times among this decade’s winners; Caddie did the best job with it, and the subsequent year’s winner, Roller Skates, had its moments, but I just could not get into 1939’s offering, Thimble Summer. There was just nothing at stake in that book, and it’s the only one I really didn’t feel like finishing. (Of course, I plugged through anyhow.)

The world cultures on display were handled, I thought, with more sensitivity in this decade than the previous. I was fascinated by the Chinese world depicted in Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, and while The Cat Who Went to Heaven seemed slight (in both the weight of the physical book and its contents), I still loved the idea of a child in the first third of the 20th century being introduced to Buddhism.

All in all, I wouldn’t discourage anyone from giving these books a chance (except, maybe, for Dobry or the aforementioned Thimble Summer.

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