My January tradition isn’t getting into shape, losing weight, or becoming organized. Instead, I watch for the American Library Association announcements, and get my hands on the latest Newbery Award winning book as fast as I can.
I’ve loved the Newberys since I was old enough to read them. This award, given to “the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature,” began in 1922. I started collecting them in the early 1990s, then got serious a few years ago about tracking down those last few missing books.
Carrie Seidel and I have more in common than membership in this wonderful writing group. She also collects the Newberys. Carrie’s shelves are full of hardbacks, and she especially loves the old library hardback editions with their clear plastic coating and cards with lists of names inside the cover. In contrast, my collection began at thrift stores, so it’s mostly paperbacks. If I really love a Newbery Honor book, it gets shelf space right next to the award winner for that year.
This year’s winner, Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña, was a shock. It’s a picture book. I have to admit that I was annoyed. A picture book winning the Newbery? Then I took the time to read it, and re-read it, and think about the award. The writing is tight and elegant and lyrical; the story is timeless. It’s a gem of a book.
With our youngest in college this year, I once again have the time and energy to devote to writing. I have plenty of picture book ideas that were started and filed in those two decades devoted to active parenting. And so this year, I’m eagerly awaiting March, with the ReFoReMo (Reading for Research Month) Challenge offered by Carrie Charlie Brown. The idea behind ReFoReMo is to use the month to delve into and study picture books—an average of five a day—and use them as mentor texts for our own stories.
Who knows? Perhaps one day there will be another Newbery Award winning picture book, this time with my name on the cover. Not likely, but it sure is fun to dream!
This post first appeared in February 2016 in the Blog: “In the Writer’s Web”