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

Routledge. (Children’s Literature and Culture). Aug. 2021. 280p. ed. by Schwebel, Sara L. & Jocelyn Van Tuyl, eds. Tr $160. ISBN 9780367337216.
Fourteen essays focus on specific Newbery Medal books, including at least one winner from each decade of the award’s 100-year history. The essays take a refreshing scholarly approach, integrating research, historical context, and high levels of literary analysis. The chosen titles represent “neglected Newberys,” rather than the most commonly lauded books on the Medal list. While the featured title frames each essay, the authors explore a wide range of related topics in fascinating ways. Pieces on Charles Boardman Hawes’s The Dark Frigate and James Daugherty’s Daniel Boone, for example, analyze concepts of masculinity within children’s literature and prizing, while Nancy Willard’s A Visit to William Blake’s Inn is examined within the context of the 1970s women’s poetry movement. Useful historical context supports the analysis of the literature and the times in which it was created. Several essays point out ways in which trends of the time and contemporary movements may have affected Newbery selections: For example, Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover and the impact of the Council on Interracial Books for Children and We Need Diverse Books. Comparing the specific cultural content of a 1920s winner like Dhan Gopal Mukerji’s Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon to that of more recent books like Cynthia Kadohata’s Kira-Kira is one example of how the connections between essays enhance the whole book. Individual pieces provide fascinating and thought-provoking insights related to the featured book and its time. Taken as a whole, the collection provides a valuable exploration of the impact and significance of prize-winning children’s literature from the past century.
VERDICT A welcome addition to children’s literature scholarship.

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