This post will be the first in a series of Newbery reviews by year. I’ve read many, many Newbery books already, and I want to get reviews up for those books. Out of necessity, both in terms of how long it will take to type up that many reviews and also in terms of how notoriously poor my memory is for details of books I’ve read, these reviews will be short and sweet. I just want to give my overall impression of and recommendation for the book, rather than the more in-depth reviews I’m trying to write for books I’ve read more recently. With all of that said, please enjoy these short reviews, starting with the first Newbery awards ever given: 1922!
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Medal Winner: The Story of Mankind; Hendrik Willem van Loon
Wow, this book was boring. It just wasn’t interesting to me at all. It has a very old-timey feel, and van Loon tries to cover all of history, from prehistoric times. Non-fiction is always a toss-up for me, and this is as dry as any school history textbook. Just no.
Rating: Traumatizingly Bad
Cedric, the Forester; Bernard Marshall
Interesting story, although I remember very little of it. This book is written in “old” English, which I found interesting but may be off-putting to young readers. There are knights and castles and crossbows and messengers on horseback. It’s all very Robin Hood.
Rating: Good but Forgettable
The Old Tobacco Shop – A True Account of What Befell a Little Boy in Search of Adventure; William Bowen
This is such a cute, funny book. When I first read it, I called it a “good smell” book, and I stand by that description. It’s the kind of book you’d pick up in a musty used bookstore, covered in dust and full of yellowed pages and quaint phrases. Just read this description from Amazon:
Little Boy first went to the Old Tobacco Shop, he stood a long while before going in, to look at the wooden figure which stood beside the door. His father was sitting at home in his carpet-slippers, waiting for tobacco for his pipe, but when the Little Boy saw the wooden figure he forgot all about hurrying, Now dont be long, his mother had said, and his father had said Hurry back, but he forgot all about hurrying, and stood and looked at the wooden figure a long time: a little hunchbacked man, not so very much taller than himself, on a low wooden box, holding out in one hand a packet of black wooden cigars. His back was terribly humped up between his shoulders, his face was square and bony, if wood can be said to be bony, he was bareheaded and baldheaded, he had a wide mouth, and his high nose curved down over it and his pointed chin curved up under it; and his breast stuck out in front almost as much as his shoulders stuck out behind.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good
The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles; Padraic Colum
There are some types of stories I just don’t like (see: animal stories), and mythological stories (unless they are very distinctive) are usually one of them. This was a pretty good retelling of some of the Greek myths, but that’s just not my thing.
The Windy Hill; Cornelia Meigs
This is another book that I found interesting when I was reading it, but now can remember very little about it. The Windy Hill follows the summer adventures of two children, a kind of story I almost always enjoy, but I can’t remember any details.
Rating: Good but Forgettable