I haven't mentioned all of the Newbery winners that I've read (and blogged about over at The Newbery Project) for a long time. So here are links to some of the best of the ones that I've read in the last year:
The Twenty-One Balloons, by by William Pène du Bois - won in 1948 and I think this is the most underrated of my favorites. It belongs on your shelf along with Jules Verne, and both my (then 11 year old) son and I loved it.
Miracles on Maple Hill, by Virginia Sorensen - set squarely in the 1950's, I think this is another winner a lot of people have never heard about. Great story about the healing power of nature (think The Secret Garden).
Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon, by Dhan Gopal Mukerji - sadly, no boy (and few girls) over the age of 8 or 9 will ever check this out of the school library, and it was surprisingly modern and engaging for something that was published in 1927. Maybe you can find a copy published in the U.K., where it carries the title Chitra: The Story of a Pigeon. Seriously, this story of a pigeon was pretty darn cool. Who would have guessed?
Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary - another book that sounded booooring but was fun. If you've ever written a letter to an author (or your child has to for a school project), you might enjoy this. And you don't have to be divorced or have divorced parents to like the book, either.
Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field - yes, old-fashioned again (hey, it won in 1930), but surprisingly interesting, especially for a book about a doll. I don't even like dolls and I liked this a lot.
and finally, my favorite out of all of these: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman - this year's winner. I didn't want to read it at first, because I'm not a huge fan of horror, but the reviews (even before it won the Newbery) convinced me that I should give it a try.
The first chapter is scary - not graphic and gory, but definitely scary. And if one of your kid's anxieties is that people are going to sneak into your house and kill you all while you sleep, you might want to steer them away from The Graveyard Book for a bit. Anyway, because of the nature of the story, librarians are having a hard time deciding whether to put it in the regular kid's section or in the YA or Teen section.
The Ann Arbor District Library gets mentioned in this article as having
"hit upon the most Solomon-like solution to the problem — it classifies Gaiman’s book under Y for youth fiction, which is in between J for juvenile and T for books in the teen room."I see that my local library (the Saline District Library) put it in the youth section ("birth through age twelve"). I kind of hope that they buy another copy and put it in the Teen section, because some of the comments on the School Library Journal article note that older kids don't want to check stuff out of the "little kid" section, whereas readers that are 11-14 years old are usually eager to venture into the Teen room. My 12 year goes happily back and forth between the two sections, but he's oblivious to some of the social rules and status distinctions that rule his peers.
I liked Roger Sutton's perspective on this. Really, though, you should just buy your own copy of The Graveyard Book, read it yourself (because I predict you'll want to read it again and again), and decide if your kids can handle it.