100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

So You Want to Win the Newbery? (Part II)

Yesterday in Part I, we looked at which month has produced the most Newbery winners. Today is all about critical acclaim.

(Many thanks to Elizabeth FamaJohn Cochrane, and Jen Baker who inspired me with this post at Someday My Printz Will Come.)

As fans of the Newbery know, not all medal winners arrive to unanimous praise from the major children’s literature review journals (Booklist, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Horn Book, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal) .

So over the last 10 years, what’s the average number of starred reviews for Newbery winners? Here’s the breakdown.

(Click to enlarge)

*Update: It looks like my source was off with Horn Book stars (thanks to Jonathan for the catch), numbers have been adjusted*

If you add it all up, 3.5 starred reviews is the average. No Newbery winner in the last 10 years has received a starred review from all six of the reviewers listed, but three came close (When You Reach Me, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, and Criss Cross with five each). Kirkus Reviews had the best “batting average”, awarding stars to 90% of the books that went on to win the Newbery in the last decade.

Anything jump out to you?

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 scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Jonathan Hunt says

    I think some of these numbers are off. I had THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN with 3, HIGHER POWER with 1, KIRA KIRA with 2, and DESPERAUX with 4,

    • Travis Jonker says

      Hi Jonathan – thanks for chiming in – I want to get these numbers right. I’m using Follett Titlewave and it’s showing the numbers I listed. Is there another source you’re pulling from?

  2. Benji Martin says

    Are you saying we should switch our SLJ subscriptions to Horn Book? ;) Just kidding. Everyone knows that we should be reading both.

  3. Kudos to you for doing this! I tried a few months ago, and got my numbers so tangled I gave up.

  4. Vicki Kouchnerkavich says

    So how does winning the Newbery compare to winning the Heisman trophy? Winning the Heisman does not guarantee you success in your field in the future.

  5. That’s an interesting comparison Vicki. In my opinion it all comes down to how you define success. I think the individual book will probably have success for a long time to come. The other day, I had a hankering to read Julie of the Wolves. I knew that since it had won the Newbery, I could wonder into almost any public library and find it. Even books as atrocious as Story of Mankind and The Dark Frigate are in nearly every collection. The Newbery at least assures long term sales- if only to libraries.

    The author though, could be a one and done. Like a Tim Tebow type. Most though, will probably continue to publish decent books for a long time. Publishers respect the medal, and writing talent stays around much longer in life than football talent .

    Plus, there’s a big talent gap between college and the NFL. I don’t think authors deal with anything like that.

  6. Allison Williams says

    Seeing the lack of stars for The Higher Power of Lucky, that only confirms my initial rejection of this book for my collection. Of course, once the furor arose about the mention of dog body parts, the pressure was on to include the book as a rejection of Puritan censorship.

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