So I hustled down to my local second-hand book shop and bought what they had. Now my total's up to 60. Not bad, but nowhere near a perfect score. Naturally, I've read more of the recent winners, plus the ones from my childhood, but not as many from the decades before 1960. Still working on that.
Sounder by William H. Armstrong (originally published by HarperCollins in 1969; this paperback released 1972)
Newbery Medal Winner 1970
Synopsis (from HarperCollins): During the difficult years of the late nineteenth century South, an African-American boy and his poor family rarely have enough to eat. Each night, the boy's father takes their dog, Sounder, out to look for food and the man grows more desperate by the day. When food suddenly appears on the table one morning, it seems like a blessing. But the sheriff and his deputies are not far behind. The ever-loyal Sounder remains determined to help the family he loves as hard times bear down on them.
Why I recommend it: The writing has a lyrical and timeless quality, helped I'm sure by the simplicity of calling the characters "the boy" and "his father" and "his mother". The only character with a name in the entire story is the dog, Sounder.
Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska (hardcover published in 1964 by Atheneum; this paperback edition from Aladdin, 2007)
Newbery Medal Winner 1965
Synopsis (from Indiebound): Manolo was only three when his father, the great bullfighter Juan Olivar, died. But Juan is never far from Manolo's consciousness -- how could he be, with the entire town of Arcangel waiting for the day Manolo will fulfill his father's legacy?
But Manolo has a secret he dares to share with no one -- he is a coward, without afición, the love of the sport that enables a bullfighter to rise above his fear and face a raging bull. As the day when he must enter the ring approaches, Manolo finds himself questioning which requires more courage: to follow in his father's legendary footsteps or to pursue his own destiny?
Why I recommend it: Despite the dated subject matter, this is a quiet and inspiring little book about courage and facing one's fear. I totally fell in love with Manolo as a character.
The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox (hardcover published in 1973 by Bradbury Press; this paperback edition published 2008 by Aladdin)
Newbery Medal Winner 1974
Synopsis (from Indiebound): One day, thirteen-year-old Jessie Bollier is earning pennies playing his fife on the docks of New Orleans; the next, he is kidnapped and thrown aboard a slave ship, where his job is to provide music while shackled slaves "dance" to keep their muscles strong and their bodies profitable. As the endless voyage continues, Jessie grows increasingly sickened by the greed, brutality, and inhumanity of the slave trade, but nothing prepares him for the ultimate horror he will witness before his nightmare ends -- a horror that will change his life forever.
Why I recommend it: I thought I knew a lot about slavery in the U.S., but then I read The Slave Dancer and learned a lot more. This book would be excellent for starting classroom discussions.
How many Newbery medal winners have you read?