1st Edition

Dust Off the Gold Medal
Rediscovering Children’s Literature at the Newbery Centennial

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after July 1, 2021
ISBN 9780367337216
July 1, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
264 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations

USD $160.00

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Book Description

The oldest and most prestigious children’s literature award, the Newbery Medal has since 1922 been granted annually by the American Library Association to the children’s book it deems "most distinguished." Medal books enjoy an outsized influence on American children’s literature, figuring perennially on publishers’ lists, on library and bookstore shelves, and in school curricula. As such, they offer a compelling window into the history of US children’s literature and publishing, as well as into changing societal attitudes about which books are "best" for America’s schoolchildren. Yet literary scholars have disproportionately ignored the Medal winners in their research. This volume provides a critically- and historically-grounded scholarly analysis of representative but understudied Newbery Medal books from the 1920s through the 2010s, interrogating the disjunction between the books’ omnipresence and influence, on the one hand, and the critical silence surrounding them, on the other. Dust Off the Gold Medal makes a case for closing these scholarly gaps by revealing neglected texts’ insights into the politics of children’s literature prizing and by demonstrating how neglected titles illuminate critical debates currently central to the field of children’s literature. In particular, the essays shed light on the hidden elements of diversity apparent in the neglected Newbery canon while illustrating how the books respond—sometimes in quite subtle ways—to contemporaneous concerns around race, class, gender, disability, nationalism, and globalism.

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Gold Medal and the Ivory Tower

Sara L. Schwebel and Jocelyn Van Tuyl

1 The Dark Frigate (1924) and the Use of Masculinity in Early Newbery Culture

Paul Ringel

2 Punching Up, Punching Down: Anticolonial Resistance and Brahmanical Ideologies in Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon (1928)

Poushali Bhadury

3. Sounding the Broken Note: The Trumpeter of Krakow (1929) and Polish History

Kenneth B. Kidd

4 Invincible Nina: Louisa May Alcott and the Depression-Era Feminism of Invincible Louisa (1934)

Anne K. Phillips and Gregory Eiselein

5 The Most Scorned of the Newbery Medalists?: Daniel Boone (1940)

Beverly Lyon Clark

6 In the Tradition of Cannibal Talk: Call it Courage (1941)

Mary K. Bercaw Edwards

7 Of Sultans, Studs, and Stable Boys: Equine and Literary Lineage in King of the Wind (1949)

Megan L. Musgrave

8 Double Dutch Nostalgia: The Wheel on the School (1955)

Anna Lockhart

9 Lost Cat: It’s Like This, Cat (1964) and the Invention of Young Adult Literature

Kathleen T. Horning and Jocelyn Van Tuyl

10 Vision, Visibility, and Disability: Re-Seeing The Summer of the Swans (1971) and The Westing Game (1979)

Sara K. Day and Paige Gray

11 The Women’s Poetry Movement and the Affordance of the Lyric: A Visit to William Blake’s Inn (1982)

Donelle Ruwe

12 "One Jew, one half-Jew, a WASP, and an Indian": Diversity in The View from Saturday (1997)

Adrienne Kertzer

13 Ghosts of Japanese/American History in Kira-Kira (2005)

Giselle Liza Anatol

14 Playing to Win the Newbery: Black Boyhood in The Crossover (2015)

Rachel L. Rickard Rebellino and Rebekah May Degener



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Sara L. Schwebel, who earned her Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization at Harvard University, is the Director of the Center for Children’s Books and a Professor of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Child-Sized History: Fictions of the Past in U.S. Classrooms (Vanderbilt UP, 2011) and the editor of Island of the Blue Dolphins: The Complete Reader’s Edition (University of California Press, 2016) and the Lone Woman and Last Indians Digital Archive.

Jocelyn Van Tuyl, who earned her Ph.D. in French Literature at Yale University, is a Professor of French at New College of Florida. She is the author of André Gide and the Second World War: A Novelist’s Occupation (SUNY Press, 2006), which was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the author-translator of André Gide et la Seconde Guerre mondiale : l’Occupation d’un homme de lettres (Lyon UP, 2017).