Now that I’ve confessed my desire to be in a Newbery book club, what about the actual books? Just about every Newbery winner (or honor book) would make a fine choice, but I’m looking for something that hits a few major points. First, the book should be entertaining for adults. I don’t expect (or want) my children’s literature to be so convoluted my kids can’t enjoy them, but the very best stories resonate with readers of all ages. Second, I’m looking for something that will prompt some discussion. Some of my favorite books make terrible book club selections because there just isn’t much to say. (On the same note, some of the best book club discussions I’ve been in were about books I only sort of liked.) Here are 9 ideas for any kindred spirits out there looking to read more Newbery winners with friends:
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer is one of the first Newbery books I read and loved as an adult. It is fast paced and extremely gripping. Even if you don’t like science fiction, I dare you not to get sucked into this one. (If you’re open to Newbery honor books as well, The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm is also fantastic)
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis is a funny, sweet story about a boy looking for his father. The book takes place the year my father was born, and I always appreciate a peek back into what life was like when he was young.
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. So many of Creech’s books are wonderful (I’m looking at you, Love That Dog), but this was the first of her novels I loved. Aside from my childhood nostalgia, this is a good choice if your book club ever talks about the structure of a book. If so, the story within the story should make for good discussion.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg is always a favorite. I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading it again recently with my son. (For bonus points, read The View from Saturday too to complete the set of Konigsburg’s Newbery winners)
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. If I close my eyes, I can still see the old copy I read as a kid. The cover was faded and bent (probably from me stuffing it in my backpack so often). I love everything about this book and I can’t wait to introduce it to my own children.
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin is a murder mystery. Think Clue for kids. Mysteries usually open up a fun discussion because each reader will have a different experience trying to solve the puzzle. (Here’s a cool Newbery fact: Ellen Raskin designed the original dust jacket for A Wrinkle in Time.)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is just weird enough to be interesting but still completely accessible. If you’ve never read anything by Gaiman, this is a great place to start. David McKean’s illustrations are fantastic, which certainly helps.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien will always have a place in my heart as the first book my oldest child and I both loved that was new to me when we read it. Any book that can keep a seven-year-old and his mother both sneaking extra chapters is worth your time.
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. How many times can I talk about this book? One more can’t hurt. The Hero and the Crown is a masterpiece. It is beautiful and strange and appeals to the part of me that always wants to be more useful and brave.
The Giver by Lois Lowry feels a bit like cheating, so I’m not even counting it in the my nine books. If by some chance you haven’t read this book, however, do. There is so much to talk about here.
Even with The Giver, I’m still a couple books short of a year’s book club reading. What else should be on this list?