A Newbery Popularity Contest
Educating Alice recently wrote about the sometimes misunderstood popularity of Newbery-winning books (quoting Betsy Birdâ€™s interview at From the Mixed-Up Files). Itâ€™s a nice post and a good reminder to never underestimate a bookâ€™s potential audience.
This inspired me to do some investigating at the 5th and 6th grade school where I work. I checked the circulation stats of every Newbery winner, and created a list of the most checked-out titles over the past two school years. It ainâ€™t scientific (mostly because scientists don’t use the word “ain’t”) but it provides an honest snapshot of one school:
#10: Criss Cross by Lynn Rae Perkins
I was a bit surprised to see Criss Cross in the top 10, as it is regularly lumped into the â€œOh, thatâ€™s not kid-friendlyâ€ group. A lesson to all you groupers out there â€“ stop groupinâ€™.
#9: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Roll always seems to get circulations at my school, it doesn’t hurt that it is a part of our Language Arts curriculum.
#8: The Giver by Lois Lowry
I expected to see Giver here. Itâ€™s a story that continues to spark the imagination of young readers.
#7: Crispin: the Cross of Lead by Avi
For me, Crispin is another slightly unexpected top 10 title. I knew it was getting checked out, but I didnâ€™t assume at a higher rate than The Giver.
#6: Bud, Not Buddy by Christoper Paul Curtis
I couldn’t be more pleased to see Bud on this list. A great story that teachers are quick to recommend (at least here in Michigan, where the book is set).
#5: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Number is just a beloved book, isnâ€™t it? Every year a new crop of kids discover it.
#4: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Reach Me has been tough to find on the shelf since we added it to the collection last year.
#2 (Tie): The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
This was one of the books discussed in the Educating Alice Post. At my school, it appears to be one of the more popular Newbery winners.
#2 (Tie): Holes by Louis Sachar
I figured Holes would be near the top. Itâ€™s hard to argue as this book is totally awesome in every way (so says the founding member of the pretend Holes fan club â€“ let me know if youâ€™d like to join).
#1: The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
An already-popular book is pushed over the top with a little help. While the Despereaux film adaptation made my eyes shout â€œNOOOOOO!!!â€ (figuratively), it certainly provided a boost in the popularity department, even with 5th and 6th grade readers who would usually be considered the high end of this bookâ€™s audience.
So which Newbery winners get love at your school/library?
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About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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