What are the Newbery and Caldecott awards?

The Newbery Medal and the Caldecott Medal are prizes given annually to honor two children’s or two young adults’ books published in the US during the past year.  The Newbery Medal honors an author, and the Caldecott Medal honors an illustrator.

Newbery and Caldecott MedalsThese two awards are considered the most prestigious awards in the U.S. for children’s literature.  They are awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association.

The Newbery award, named after an eighteenth-century British bookseller, goes “to the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in English in the United States during the preceding year.” This award is the older of the two, having been given since 1922.

The Caldecott award, named after a British illustrator of the nineteenth century, goes to “to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in English in the United States during the preceding year.”  This award has been given since 1938.

Both awards list runners-up, named Honor Books.  Once a book is honored with one of these awards, the publisher usually adds a picture of the medal to the book’s jacket to lure readers and buyers.  Most libraries with children’s sections carry recent Newbery and Caldecott winners, and sometimes they are even grouped apart from the other children’s books.

Some well-known past winners of the Newbery Medal include

  • 2004: The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo
  • 2000: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • 1990: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • 1986: Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
  • 1984: Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
  • 1977: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  • 1976: The Grey King by Susan Cooper
  • 1963: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • 1961: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • 1959: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  • 1944: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Some well-known past winners of the Caldecott Medal include

  • 1990:  Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young
  • 1986:  The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburt
  • 1970:  Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
  • 1964:  Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • 1963:  The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Many Newbery and Caldecott winners are included in the exemplars of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.  On the other hand, some of the best loved children’s books (Dr. Seuss’ books, for example) were not Newbery and Caldecott medal winners but are included in the Common Core exemplars.

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