Commencing Josh's #Nerdbery Challenge PLUS!

For a while I’ve been contemplating jumping into the history of children’s literature and reading or re-reading many of the classics.  I felt like I needed some sort of structure for this project, and as I considered the various possible ways into this world (these worlds), the Newbery Medal list seemed like a logical place to start. The idea of reading all of the Newbery Medal winners occurred to me as a possible goal for this project, so when I first came across Mr. Schu’s Newbery Challenge, it initially sounded about right for my needs.

But as I looked at the scope of the actual Newbery list and compared it with the endlessly scrolling to-read list in my head, I decided a straight Newbery Challenge is both too much and not enough for me. I need to feel free to skip books on the Newbery list, and I need to mix up other lists with it so I can give myself credit for the non-American and non-Newbery authors I want to study, rather than feeling guilt or failure for going down rabbit holes.

So I am going to do the Newbery Challenge, but I am going to hopscotch and criss-cross my way through the list, and I am going to reference other lists and sources.  For example, here’s another list I really like that will also be informative to my challenge: an informal poll of the Top 100 Chapter Books from the School Library Journal blog A Fuse #8 Production.  I will be augmenting and footnoting my challenge with so many titles that it will likely take me years and years to complete.  But that’s okay.  For example, I want to read The Jungle Book and The Graveyard Book back-to-back.  I want to read John Christopher’s Tripod Trilogy that I loved as a kid, even though his books likely aren’t on any award or classics lists and might not even be in print.   I will use the lists as references and starting places, but I will slavishly follow nothing but my own interests as they happen to intersect with the lists. I am hopeful that since Mr. Schu states that the one rule of his Newbery Challenge is that it is “stress free,” I can still consider what I am doing as part of his challenge. If not, oh well, I’m still doing it my way.

Because it makes the most sense to me, I am going to use authors as my primary way into the challenge. I will pick an author and read that author’s Newbery and/or Newbery Honor book(s), as well as some of their non-Newbery-winning books if I find them of interest.

I am officially commencing with Kate DiCamillo as my first author. However, I have to give some due to the fact that I initially stumbled onto the value of this author-centered method last year after I read Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli and hoped it would win the Newbery.  (I sort-of apologize that this blog keeps coming back to that misbegotten idea, and I do think I am about ready to let it go.  But even if it was a silly hope it has proven fruitful to me in a number of ways, as you will see if you read on below and also dig back into my earlier posts.)  My love of Hokey Pokey led me to investigate Spinelli’s back catalog, starting with the excellent 1991 Newbery winner Maniac Magee, and then moving on to some of his other books, such as Crash, and the Newbery Honor-winning Wringers. Thus Spinelli was the initial choice for my by-author reading project, until I got sidetracked with life and other books. When Kate DiCamillo recently in reality did win the Newbery for Flora & Ulysses and I read it and loved it, I decided I wanted to revisit her back catalog and consider it the start of this project in earnest. So I’ve put Spinelli aside for now, but I want to give him one more blog mention and I’ll probably come back to him later.

In addition to official Newbery-winning authors, I will also focus on a few should-have-been-could-have-been Newberys, some never-ever-ever-could-have-been Newberys, and classic books/authors who are Newbery-less by reason of having written their books before the advent of the Newbery Medal and/or by reason of not being American. Examples of authors in this category I am likely to explore (or re-explore) are Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Frances Hodgson Burnett, etc.

So that’s my version of the challenge, and one of the main ongoing projects documented on this blog. I am keeping track of my progress on this page: Check back here if you want to know more about my progress and process, and wish me luck?

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