The John Newbery Medal - which acclaims American children's literature - has been awarded since 1922. It is named after the 18th century British bookseller John Newbery. The first Newbery Medal was given to The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon. Since then, many Newbery winners have become classics, loved by children and adults alike. Newbery books have been read by generations of children in many languages around the world. Some are now highly collectable.
To celebrate this prize, we present 10 beautiful first editions from authors who either won a Newbery Medal or received Honours (runners-up) - you'll find treasures, including signatures and personal inscriptions. For a complete list of every Newbery winner, visit The Newbery Medal: the best American children's books since 1922.
Collectable books from Newbery authors
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
First published in 1962 by Ariel Books, A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by dozens of publishers because they thought no young reader would understand the combination of science, and good versus evil – it went on to win the Newbery Medal in 1963. Ellen Raskin, author of the 1979 Newbery winner The Westing Game, designed the beautiful 1960s era dust jacket.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
E.B. White’s classic story about “Some Pig” and his eight-legged friend Charlotte was first published by Harpers & Brothers in 1952 and received Newbery Honours in 1953. The 1952 first edition of Charlotte's Web includes a beautiful pictorial dust wrapper, illustrated title lettering on the buff cloth boards, and black and while illustrations throughout by renowned illustrator Garth Williams.
The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
The Dark is Rising is a five-part fantasy series by British author Susan Cooper published between 1965 and 1977. The books draw on Arthurian legend, Celtic and Norse mythology, and English folklore to depict the battle between good and evil. Cooper received Newbery Honours for the second book, The Dark is Rising, in 1974 and won the medal in 1976 for Book 4, The Grey King.
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
Doctor Dolittle, a whimsical physician who can talk to animals, first appeared in illustrated letters Hugh Lofting sent to his children from the trenches of World War I. The first Dolittle book, The Story of Doctor Dolittle: Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts Never Before Printed was published in 1920. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle followed in 1922 and won the 1923 Newbery Medal. Eighteen full page illustrations by Lofting and a scarce colour printed pictorial dust jacket make this first edition, published by Frederick. A. Stokes, a valuable addition to any collection.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
Written by Robert C. O’Brien and illustrated by Zena Bernstein, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM was published in 1971 and won the Newbery Medal the following year. The fictional story of a widowed field mouse who seeks the aid of a group of former lab rats was inspired by the mid-century research of John B. Calhoun on mouse and rat population dynamics. The tale was adapted for film in 1982 as The Secret of NIHM.
Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder is one of the most well-known American children’s authors and her Little House books are widely read, yet she never won the Newbery Medal. Five of the eight novels Wilder published in her lifetime received Newbery Honours: On the Banks of Plum Creek (1938), By the Shores of Silver Lake (1940), The Long Winter (1941), Little Town on the Prairie (1942) and These Happy Golden Years (1944). Later editions were illustrated by Garth Williams.
American children’s author Beverly Cleary received Newbery Honours for Ramona and Her Father (1978) and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1982) before winning top prize in 1984 for Dear Mr. Henshaw. A librarian by trade, Cleary published her first book, Henry Huggins, in 1950. Henry, his dog Ribsy, his neighbourhood friend Beezuz Quimby and her little sister Ramona became household names across North America. Beverly Cleary first editions sell for up to five figures, but a vintage copy doesn’t have to be worth a lot of money to be valuable to a Cleary fan.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Published in 1960, Island of the Blue Dolphins tells the story of a young Nicoleño girl who is stranded alone on an island off the coast of California. Author Scott O’Dell based his Newbery Medal-winning book on the true 19th century story of “The Lone Woman of San Nicholas Island”. The stunning pictorial dust jacket was illustrated by artist and children’s book author Evaline Ness.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, The Giver by Lois Lowry is a young adult dystopian novel loved by children and adults alike. The Giver was followed by Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son – each of these four books follows a different protagonist in the world of The Giver and together form The Giver Quartet. Lowry won her first Newbery Medal in 1990 for her young adult World War II novel, Number the Stars.
The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois
The 21 Balloons, by writer and illustrator William Pène du Bois, is a children's surrealist utopian novel about a retired school teacher who discovers a hidden, diamond mining society after crash landing his hot air balloon on the island of Krakatoa. This 1947 first edition published by Viking Press includes several whimsical drawings by Pène du Bois in addition to a vibrant pictorial dust wrapper. Pène du Bois wrote and illustrated dozens of children’s books throughout his life, and even worked alongside George Plimpton as art editor of The Paris Review in the 1950s.