Favorite Newbery Award Winners + Printable List

Favorite Newbery Award Winners + Printable List

This year, I’ve read seven Newbery award winners and several of the Newbery honor books. They often have rich plot lines, rich characters, and a beautiful writing style. Here are my top favorite Newbery award winners. Someday I hope to read them all. To keep track of them, I made a free printable list! 🙂

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Newbery Award Winners

2019: Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

I didn’t like this year’s Newbery as much as others on this list, but I thought I’d give my two cents since it’s the newest. Merci is a middle schooler attending a private school on scholarship. She navigates the highs and lows of middle school, mean girls, her beloved grandfather battling Alzheimer’s, and her unique Cuban family lifestyle. It wasn’t a terrible book, but I didn’t think anything was particularly memorable about it.

2016: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

I really enjoyed 2016’s Newbery Honor book The War That Saved My Life, but I thought it was interesting that a picture book won. Last Stop on Market Street has great pictures and is about appreciating your community.

2015: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Told in free-verse poetry, this is the story of an African-American twin who loves basketball. I enjoyed this one a lot more than I thought I would. I’m not a huge fan of poetry books, but this was intelligently written and handled themes like sibling rivalry and the loss of a parent. I also liked it better than another freeverse Newbery, Out of the Dust.

2014: Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo

Going into this book, I didn’t know what to expect but I love Kate DiCamillo. Kate really can write any genre from heartwarming to this quirky and silly book. Flora and her squirrel Ulysses are just two of this story’s eccentric characters. Quirky kids or highly gifted kids (especially those who love vocabulary!) are going to LOVE this one. It blends a graphic novel with text beautifully.

2013: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Inspired by a true story, this novel is from the point of view of a gorilla in a shopping mall named Ivan. It was written simply but well, making it a solid choice for all ages. Sweet and poignant, this reminded me of a good Pixar movie.

2004: The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

I remember reading this in elementary school and instantly being captivated by the beautiful story of a mouse, a princess, and a spool of thread. The chapters are short, and it would make a solid read-aloud.

1999: Holes by Louis Sachar

Holes is one of my all-time favorite books and movies. Stanley Yelnats is wrongly accused of stealing a pair of shoes and is sent to Camp Green Lake, a detention camp that is neither green nor has a lake. He must dig one hole every day…but why? This story is filled with adventure, friendship, and is an enduring classic I’d recommend to anyone. It also doesn’t shy away from difficult topics like racism, but it handles them well.

1994: The Giver by Lois Lowry

This one might be better for teens, but The Giver is one of the most brilliant books I’ve read. Jonas lives in a perfect world with no pain, no hunger, no color, and no sadness. It comes at a hefty price as happiness, love, and beauty are non-existent. It’s thought-provoking and a must-read for mature middle schoolers and teens.

1990: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

I’ve read dozens of Holocaust novels, and Number the Stars remains one of my favorites. During the Holocaust, Denmark was able to save 97% of their Jewish population by working together. It’s an incredible story of a nation’s bravery, told from the perspective of 10-year-old Annemarie. It is simple enough for elementary students, but older students will be able to realize how much the Danish risked in helping their neighbors.

1987: The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman

A selfish boy nicknamed Prince Brat and his whipping boy find themselves trading places, prince and the pauper style. It’s not as graphic as the title suggests, has a bit of humor mixed in, and is a solid adventurous story of friendship. It would pair well for a medieval study, since there are so few books on that topic.

My Favorite Newbery Honor Books

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff

I cannot speak highly enough of this book. Hollis Woods has grown up in the foster care system her whole life. When she is sent to live with Josie, an elderly woman, everything seems perfect – until Josie starts to lose her memory. Read it. You will not regret it.

Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff

I’ve read almost all of Patricia Reilly Giff’s books. I love her plots, characters, and style. During the 1940s, Lily is spending the summer in Rockaway where she befriends a Hungarian refugee named Albert. Like everyone, Lily is not perfect and her mistakes may come with a price.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ada is a 10-year-old girl who has never gone outside before. Because of her club foot, her mother is embarrassed by her and refuses to let her outside of the house. As WWII rages on, she is sent to London and fate brings her and her little brother to live with Susan. This story was so well written and engrossing. It’s heart-wrenching at times and you find yourself rooting for little Ada despite her mistrust and brokenness. HOWEVER, there are VERY subtle hints of lesbianism and the use of the word “slut.” It also handles very mature topics (abuse, neglect) so I think this one is best for mature tweens and teens.


Grab this free printable checklist of all of the Newbery winners! (updated for 2020)

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  • I also really loved The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, and loved the sequel as well. It got me reading Bradley’s other books and I especially liked Jefferson’s Sons. About your review:
    1. I’m not British but have read a lot of British novels and I think when they use the word “slut” it is without the sexual connotations it has for us. It seems to just mean somebody who is dirty and slovenly.
    2. The hints of lesbianism shouldn’t be a problem for kids of any age who are old enough for the story. The novel doesn’t tell us a thing about Susan’s sex life, nor would I want it to. It does tell us that she once had a loving relationship with a woman named Becky. If Susan lived in the USA or the UK now she and Becky could be legally married. Plenty of kids have gay parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or family friends. Plenty of kids will grow up to be gay themselves, and by upper elementary or middle school some of those kids are aware of it, while others may have a feeling that they are somehow different. They understand the same-sex relationships on the same level that they understand opposite-sex ones and knowing about love can only do the kids good.

    • Thanks! I’m currently reading the sequel and am enjoying it. I did really enjoy it, which is why I included it on this list. I wanted to give the warnings as a heads up since my audience is primarily American. Susan and Becky lived in the 1940s so it was appropriately discreet, but still something parents should be aware of.

  • Have you ever read UP A ROAD SLOWLY by Irene Hunt? It won the Newbery award in 1969, I believe. It never gets much press, but in my opinion is still among the best of the best Newbery books. It follows the story of Julie whose mother dies when she is about six years old. Since her dad has to work, she is sent to live with a spinster aunt in the country. I think I read this one at least seven times as a kid, and then used it as a read aloud for my own kids. They loved it, too.

  • Is this download still available? It isn’t working for me and I’m trying to figure out what the issue might be.