Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Newbery Wayback Machine: Invincible Louisa, by Cornelia Meigs (1934)


An interesting facet of the experience of reading some of the older Newbery winners is the difference between their reception at the time of their publication and the way they come across now. When Invincible Louisa, Cornelia Meigs' 1934 winner was published, Children's Literature raved that it was a "graceful, well-written account," adding that Meigs "weaves in many evocative descriptions of Louisa's environment and feelings, thus creating a biography that seems more interesting and appealing than a more factual, unadorned work."

Reading Invincible Louisa in 2020, I found it a dull grind of a book. The tone, full of mawkish sentimentality and unconcealed hero worship, was off-putting and strange. In order to enjoy Invincible Louisa at all, one has to fully sign on to the theory that Louisa May Alcott was not only one of The Greatest Writers Ever, but that both she and every member of her family were some of the finest specimens of humanity that America has ever produced, worthy of the most profound respect and admiration. The hagiographic tone sits uneasily with me, and starts to feel downright defensive in places -- most notably when discussing Louisa's father, Bronson Alcott, the least practical of the New England Transcendentalists, and a man who, let's be honest, failed out of a lot of the things he tried to do. 

It also helps -- a lot -- if the reader already possesses a wealth of background knowledge on its subject. Invincible Louisa assumes that its audience has already read and is intimately familiar with the details of Alcott's most famous work, Little Women. Now, that book remains a classic, and there are still plenty of modern children who are familiar with the story -- if not from the novel, then perhaps from one of the four classic film adaptations of it. However, my guess is that the number of children who require no explanation as to the identities and importance of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau is miniscule, as are those who can tell you the entire plot and theme of Pilgrim's Progress -- which are additional things that Invincible Louisa takes for granted. Given all of this, it's hard for me to picture many children who would make much headway with the book, assuming they even picked it up.

Speaking of children picking Invincible Louisa up, I'm not sure I've ever seen a book issued with so many different covers with such little appeal. The image at the top of this article is the edition I read, which, with its severe black and white shot of Alcott in profile on a faded gold background, is almost confrontationally off-putting. But there's a whole wealth of other choices:

There's the original 1933 edition, where Louisa seems to be in the process of turning into a giraffe

A 1975 printing, in which Louisa is a knockoff Paul Klee drawing, and her soul is trying to escape from her puckered eyeballs.

The 1968 printing, with near-unreadable text on the blue cover, and an "insert image here" silhouette of Louisa

The "I did this in five minutes using royalty-free images and fonts" Kindle cover

The 1991 cover, which depicts the time that Louisa spent attending Sweet Valley High

And the 1995 "designed by grandma" cover, which, bizarrely, seems to still be the one the publisher is using.

Poor Louisa. An iconic writer deserves better than this.

Eight Honor books were named in 1934, which is tied with 1931 for the all-time high. The best known of them is Wanda Gág's The ABC Bunny, which is the book I would have chose for the Newbery, but which, as a picture book, probably didn't stand a chance of taking the top honor that year. At any rate, we still have Invincible Louisa, though it's clad in some of the worst packaging imaginable.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Newbery Wayback Machine: Thimble Summer, by Elizabeth Enright (1939)

Thimble Summer opens in the middle of a horrible hot and dry spell in rural Wisconsin. Nine-year-old Garnet Linden has gone swimming with her brother Jay in what's left of the nearby river. As she explores the exposed riverbed, she finds a silver thimble. That very night, the rains finally come, in a joyous, chaotic storm.

So begins Garnet's "thimble summer," full of joyous and exciting memories. They're memories fully grounded in the time and place of the Depression-era Midwest -- accidentally getting locked in the library with her best friend Citronella, taking in a starving teenaged orphan, winning a blue ribbon at the fair for a prize pig. All of this is described in sparkling, incisive prose, which is a delight to read. 

This is an episodic, low-stakes novel, but one that excels in its ability to conjure up a time and a place. The characters are also brilliantly executed -- I especially appreciated Garnet's quickly shifting moods, where sadness easily gives way to happiness, and vice versa. It felt grounded in the reality of being a child, in the way that the best children's literature does.

And, in all honesty, Thimble Summer may be my favorite of the '20s/'30s Newbery books that I've read. It's not perfect -- for example, contemporary readers will notice the book's handful of passages about Native Americans and may question the sensitivity of some of them (though, to be clear, as these things go, this isn't Caddie Woodlawn or Hitty). It does hold up better than most American children's novels of that vintage, and it seemed to me to be a particularly honest novel, both in its descriptions of setting, and in its emotional tenor.

Elizabeth Enright's storied career would, in addition to her 1939 Newbery win, net her an Honor in 1958 for Gone-Away Lake, the title she's probably most famous for now. That one was ranked #42 in School Library Journal's 2012 survey of children's novels, with two of her other books also showing up: The Saturdays (#75), and The Four-Story Mistake (#80). Five Newbery Honor books were named in 1939, the best-known of which is Richard & Florence Atwater's Mr. Popper's Penguins. It was a competitive year, which also featured Dr. Seuss's The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' The Yearling, which didn't make the Newbery list, but did win the Pulitzer Prize. Even in this storied company, I think Thimble Summer holds its own, and I'm glad for the time I spent with it.


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Newbery Wayback Machine: The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pène du Bois (1948)

Professor William Waterman Sherman has taught math at a boys' school in San Francisco for forty years. Given that this is his background, his dream in retirement -- to spend an entire year living in blissful solitude on a carefully constructed hydrogen-filled balloon, without ever touching down -- is eminently understandable. 

It also, sadly for Professor Sherman, is a dream easily disrupted by a suitably uncooperative seagull. A hole in the balloon the size of said seagull leads him to come down on the island of Krakatoa. The island is supposedly uninhabited, but turns out to host a secret group of San Franciscan exiles, who have stumbled upon the diamond mine to end all diamond mines. 

Most of the remainder of the plot of The Twenty-One Balloons, which won William Pène du Bois the 1948 Newbery Medal, consists of the good Professor learning about the society of the Krakatoan residents. Their fabulous diamond-given wealth has allowed them to stealthily import materials for opulent houses, each in the style of a different country. We learn about their form of government (which is, somehow, based on restaurants), their unusual names (each family is assigned a letter of the alphabet, which leads to the book's best joke), and their futuristic inventions (the bedsheet roll works much better than the electrified bumper car-style furniture). However, readers can put the year in which the book is set (1883) together with the location of Krakatoa, and guess that this society may be running on borrowed time.

All of this is narrated by Professor Sherman himself, in a frame story that involves his rescue, and his ensuing lecture before the Western American Explorers' Club. The novel owes a huge debt to Jules Verne (who is name-checked in the book), and a fair amount to Hugh Lofting, Mary Norton, and other authors in the "fantastic adventure" genre that was popular in the first half of the 20th century. The way in which The Twenty-One Balloons stands out may be in the narrowness of its focus. Unlike most of the other books in this style, it's not episodic -- despite traveling around the world, the Professor only visits the one exotic locale. Most similar titles also include at least one child as a traveling companion for the adult adventurer, but Professor Sherman emphatically does not. Now that I think about it, I believe there are only two children in the book who even have speaking lines, and neither of them emerge as a distinct character.

If I'd read The Twenty-One Balloons as a child, I'm pretty sure I would have thrilled to it, in much the same way that I did to Pippi Longstocking and The Mysterious Flight to the Mushroom Planet. As an adult, I found it quaint, but -- except for a paragraph featuring a Native American chief, and a handful of the kind of offhand remarks about "natives" that are nearly impossible to avoid in books of this vintage -- generally inoffensive, and sometimes charming. 

Pène du Bois illustrated The Twenty-One Balloons, and was well-enough regarded as an illustrator to make him one of a handful of people to figure in both Newbery and Caldecott history -- he took two Caldecott Honors, for Bear Party in 1952, and Lion in 1957. His 1948 Newbery win came in a year that featured an embarrassment of riches. Five Honor books were named, including one that's likely better known these days, Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry. Other well-known books from that year include Betty MacDonald's Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, as well as a whole bevy of classic picture books: Goodnight Moon, It Looked Like Spilt Milk, Stone Soup, and White Snow, Bright Snow (which won the Caldecott). But, in its hydrogen-powered glory, The Twenty-One Balloons soared over all of them to take the gold medal.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Newbery Wayback Machine: Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli (1991)

I freely confess that I am probably the wrong reader for Maniac Magee. This book not only won the 1991 Newbery, but the 1990 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, as well as enough regional and state book awards to fill a trophy case. It placed #17 on the 2010 Fuse #8/School Library Journal Top Children's Novels poll. Plenty of smart, careful readers love this novel. The weight of opinion is on their side. You should probably listen to them.

I...did not love Maniac Magee. It's not a long book, and the chapters are extremely short, but I still had more trouble finishing it than anything I've reviewed since Miracles on Maple Hill. My brain kept actively resisting the novel, partly for reasons that are possibly unfair, and partly for reasons that I think are genuine flaws in the book.

Let's get the unfair stuff out of the way first. The title character, Maniac Magee himself, is less an actual kid, and more of a figure out of a tall tale. The introduction frames him exactly this way, and big chunks of the book are spent describing his various feats of athleticism and bravery. We've established before in this space that child characters with near-superhuman abilities are a tough sell for me in books that are neither high fantasy (the Harry Potter exception), or intended to be larger-than-life comedies (which exempts the likes of Pippi Longstocking). I found the sections of Maniac Magee that focused on Maniac's legendary exploits tiresome, but a different reader could easily feel otherwise.

On a deeper level, Maniac Magee is really about the way that Maniac manages to bridge the gap between Black and White residents of the town of Two Mills. In an era where Antiracist Baby is a bestseller, and books such as Brown Girl Dreaming, P.S. Be Elevenand Patina and the rest of Jason Reynolds' Track series dig deeply into the entrenched causes and profound effects of American racism, Maniac Magee reads to me as almost unbearably naive. Maniac (who is White) "doesn't see color," and that's what lets him unite the two halves of the town. The American history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination doesn't seem to enter into it. 

Look, I was there in the 1990s, and I remember the dominance of the strain of thought where the main thing we needed to overcome racism was to see everyone as "a member of one race -- the human race." While I'd certainly agree that we need to see the common humanity we all share, there's a whole lot more to dismantling structural racism than the power of that brand of positive thinking. Jerry Spinelli certainly captured a moment in time, but it's a moment where the prevailing ideas were, in my opinion, overly simplistic. In its own way, thinking that Maniac could unite the town in the way that he does is just as fantastical as Maniac's running exploits and knot-untangling skills.

Certainly, Maniac Magee has its heart in the right place, and maybe I'm being too harsh on a book in the light of later developments -- which is something I've previously complained about when it comes to books like Waterless Mountain. I don't want to be unfair in my criticisms of a beloved novel. I don't think Maniac Magee has aged very well, however. 

Other notable American children's novels of the year included the only Honor book, Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle; Caroline B. Cooney's thriller The Face on the Milk Carton, which scrapes the upper edge of the Newbery eligibility guidelines; Jean Craighead George's The Far Side of the Mountain; and Judy Blume's Fudge-a-Mania.  It's unusual for the Newbery committee to only name one honor book -- before 1991, the most recent time that that had happened was in 1980, and as of this writing, it hasn't happened since 1999 -- and so it's possible it was perceived as a thin year. But, given the many accolades Maniac Magee received at the time, it would be hard to argue that the book didn't deserve the gold medal. I'm still not sold on it, but again, it's entirely probable that I'm just not the right reader for the book. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Newbery Wayback Machine: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor (1977)

Cassie Logan lives with her family -- her parents, her three brothers, her grandmother, and a family friend, Mr. Morrison -- in rural Mississippi during the Great Depression. These are hard times and a hard place for a Black family, but the Logans have something that serves as their anchor -- four hundred acres of land, which they work and protect with fierceness and joy. However, neither the bonds of family nor the grounding of the land can save Cassie from a hard education in the racism of her surroundings. Incident after incident drives this point home, until a climatic summer night involving a robbery, a lynching attempt, and a fire that threatens everything the Logans have.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry puts the reader so firmly in its setting that I could almost feel the red dust between my toes. This also extends to the characters, each of whom seemed three-dimensional and real. Each of Cassie's family members, all the way from Big Ma to her youngest brother, Little Man, have their own hopes and fears, dreams and desires. The secondary characters also come alive, with even the worst of them, such as the odious White storekeeper Kaleb Wallace, remaining rooted in reality. It's hard to overstate how well Mildred D. Taylor describes the place, time, and people in this novel.

As legendary children's literature critic Zena Sutherland once wrote (in a positive overview of the novel), "[Roll of Thunder] is not an unflawed book, but it is a memorable one." There are, indeed, some places where it's possible to quibble with the plotting; most notable to me is Little Man and Cassie's reaction to seeing their race written inside their school readers, which felt to me like it happens way too early in the book, given the way the overall plot arc involves the children coming to a realization of how permeated with racism the world around them is. But overall, the book works so well that my mind didn't linger on any plot difficulties or other blemishes.

1976 was a strong year for American children's literature. The 1977 Newbery Committee listed two honor books, Abel's Island, by William Steig, and A String in the Harp, by Nancy Bond; other well-regarded titles from the year include Frog and Toad All Year, by Arnold Lobel; The Missing Piece, by Shel Silverstein; and Summer of the Monkeys, by Wilson Rawls. Even in that company, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry stands as a worthy winner, and an enduring classic in the Newbery canon.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Newbery Wayback Machine: Ginger Pye, by Eleanor Estes (1952)

The title character of Ginger Pye is a fox terrier mix who belongs to ten-year-old Jerry Pye. The story covers the way they come together, and several of their ensuing adventures, until Ginger is abruptly dognapped halfway through the book. The remainder of the novel largely consists of the attempts of Jerry and his sister Rachel to locate Ginger, until the dénouement when they are reunited. 

The world of Ginger Pye is a relatively small one; the scene never leaves the environs of the Pyes' hometown of Cranbury (a thinly fictionalized version of West Haven, Connecticut). That world, however, is outlined with a keen eye. I could clearly visualize the places, events, and, especially, the characters. The supporting cast, in particular, is described in ways that feel true to the ideas children have of other people. From Sam Doody, the captain of the high school basketball team, whom the Pye children look up to with barely-disguised hero worship; to the children's Uncle Bennie, who is only three years old, but worthy of profound respect, simply because he's an uncle; to Mr. Tuttle, who is one of the tallest men in town when seated, but only of average height when standing, because his height is concentrated in his torso -- they all seemed, not only like recognizable people, but those people as they might be described by elementary school-aged children. 

This isn't a plot-driven novel, and the plot as it stands is probably the weakest element of Ginger Pye -- the confrontation between the Pye children and the dognapper seems like it's going to provide the climax of the book, but it never really happens. On the other hand, the plot isn't really the point; as in so many of these mid-century "family novels," the individual episodes are what the reader remembers after finishing the book.

As is often the case in books from the 1950s, there are some questionable racial attitudes in Ginger Pye. They're always mentioned more or less in passing -- I don't remember there being a single character of color on the book -- but they're there nonetheless, as when Rachel worries that that a whistle will bring a congregation of "Gypsies" around, or when she frets that a bee sting on her lip makes her "look like a Ubangi." It's the sort of thing one might want to discuss with a child reader before handing them the book.

Five Honor books were named in 1952: Americans Before Columbus, by Elizabeth Baity; Minn of the Mississippi, by Holling C. Holling; The Defender, by Nicholas Kalashnikoff; The Light at Tern Rock, by Julia Sauer; and The Apple and the Arrow, by Mary & Conrad Buff. I've never read any of them, so don't feel particularly able to talk about how they stack up to Ginger Pye, but I also note that none of them have become lasting classics. The best-known book that wasn't recognized by the Newbery committee is likely Ellen Tebbits, the second novel by Beverly Cleary. That one is well-regarded, but as far as I'm aware, isn't considered one of Cleary's top-tier titles. If parts of Ginger Pye perhaps haven't aged all that well, it was still one of the finest achievements in American children's literature for its year, and was a fine choice for the Newbery.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Newbery Wayback Machine: The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo (2004)

The Tale of Despereaux likely needs little introduction from me. It exists in the rarified air of A Wrinkle in TimeMrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMHThe Giver, and Holes -- Newbery winners that are eventually encountered by just about everyone who spends time with children's books. The last time that School Library Journal and Fuse #8 ran their Top 100 Children's Novels poll, Despereaux ranked #51, a placing that, if anything, undersells the book's popularity.

Kate DiCamillo is one of the most important American children's writers of the 21st century. She had already vaulted to prominence with her debut book, Because of Winn-Dixie, which had netted her a 2001 Newbery Honor, but Despereaux, her third novel, truly cemented her place in the firmament. Despereaux features all of her trademarks: an unlikely hero; a sweet relationship between a human and an animal; and moments of gentle humor mixed in with moments of deep tenderness. 

The novel's structure builds as several plot threads are introduced -- one in which the titular hero, a tiny, misfit mouse, meets and falls in love with a princess, and then is thrown into a dungeon; one in which a rat named Chiaroscuro, torn between his love of the light and the dark nature of ratly culture, accidentally causes a national catastrophe; and one in which a small girl named Miggery Sow is sold by her father into a life of hardship and abuse. All of these stories converge in the second half of the novel, culminating in an ending both thrilling and compassionate. 

Despereaux isn't a novel without flaws -- I may be in the minority, but I remain unenthused by the persistently intrusive narrator, and some of the descriptions of Miggery Sow start to shade uncomfortably into the physiognomic. However, they're minor flaws, and the book on the whole is a triumph. 

The 2003 publishing year featured an embarrassment of riches in American children's literature. In addition to Despereaux, the year included two highly-regarded books that would end up as Honor titles (Kevin Henkes' Olive's Ocean, and Jim Murphy's An American Plague), two classic picture books (Mo Willems' Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, and Mordecai Gerstein's The Man Who Walked Between the Towers), and Gregor the Overlander, the book that introduced a pre-Hunger Games Suzanne Collins to a wide audience. Even with that competition, however, Despereaux was and remains an uncontroversial choice for the gold medal. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

2021 Contenders: Lily to the Rescue, by W. Bruce Cameron

When my stepdaughter was younger, her favorite genre was something that I referred to as "animals in mild peril." These are books where the protagonist usually has a parent or other relative who works as a vet, or a wildlife rescuer, or something similar, and where the plot will revolve around one specific animal's journey. The literary apotheosis of this type is probably something like Elana K. Arnold's A Boy Called Bat, and there are dozens of series with names like Animal Ark and Vet Volunteers that cover this ground at length.

W. Bruce Cameron is best known for his adult work (A Dog's Purpose; 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter), but he's no stranger to the Animals in Mild Peril realm; in fact, Lily to the Rescue is a spin-off from Cameron's earlier Puppy Tales series. It's narrated by the title character, a rescue dog who works at a shelter, helping to comfort and socialize the other animals. Her special human is Maggie Rose, whose mom also works at the shelter. Lily reports what she sees and hears accurately, but her interpretations of events are often wrong, which is the source of much of the novel's gentle humor.

The plot involves Lily and Maggie Rose's rescue of an injured crow named Casey. There aren't any surprises here to anyone familiar with the genre, but the characters are warmly written, and the book's brisk pace means that it doesn't overstay its welcome. Lily to the Rescue isn't complex or powerful enough to be a real Newbery contender, but it's got more depth than most of its competition; given that it's going to be the starting point for its own series, readers who eagerly devour this sort of thing should plan on spending some time with Lily.

Publication in March by Starscape / Tom Doherty Associates / Macmillan

Thursday, February 20, 2020

2021 Contenders: Blue Skies, by Anne Bustard

Life is complicated for fifth-grader Glory Bea Bennett. Her father was lost on Omaha Beach, and is listed as MIA -- but Glory Bea is sure that he's coming home, just like he promised. This means that she isn't taking much of a shine to Randall Horton, her father's old friend from the military who seems to be taking too much of an interest in Glory Bea's mother. But one of the Merci Boxcars -- forty-nine railroad boxcars sent to the USA from the grateful people of France -- is going to be stopping in Glory Bea's hometown of Gladiola, Texas, on its way to the state capital in Austin. Glory Bea is sure that boxcar will bring her father home.

I had a hard time fully engaging with Blue Skies. Part of this, if I'm being honest, was because reading about Glory Bea constantly reminded me that I'd already encountered that particular piece of wordplay in another children's novel. But more so, it was because I felt like Blue Skies never fully took flight. Many of the plot points seemed awfully familiar to me, from a child character refusing to believe that a family member who perished in WWII is actually dead, to the trauma resulting from combat service in WWII, to a child trying to break up their parent's new relationship.

A well-worn plot can, of course, be magic in the right hands, if the details, setting, and characters bring it to life. Probably the area in which Blue Skies does best is the setting -- the (fictional) town of Gladiola rang true to me, and the bits about the Merci Boxcars do a great job of highlighting a nearly-forgotten slice of American history. Overall, however, I often felt like I was having trouble remembering the book even while I was reading it.

It's possible that readers with an affection for historical fiction or mid-20th-century Americana may find and love Blue Skies. It's hard for me to imagine that it will garner a mass following though, or that it will tick enough boxes for the Newbery committee to show it some love.

Publication in March by Simon & Schuster

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Newbery Wayback Machine: Up a Road Slowly, by Irene Hunt (1967)

Up a Road Slowly, Irene Hunt's 1967 Newbery winner, covers ten years in Julie Trelling's life, from the time she loses her mother at the age of seven, to her graduation from high school at seventeen. During this period, she lives with her Aunt Cordelia, a stern schoolteacher who nonetheless softens as the narrative progresses. She also deals with her dissipated Uncle Haskell, falls in, out, and in love, and navigates changing family dynamics, as marriages and moves alter circumstances.

I didn't much care for Up a Road Slowly as I read it, and my assessment didn't really change after I finished it. It's a pale copy of a copy of Anne of Green Gables (1908) or Little Women (1868-69) -- heck, Julie's personal goal, to become a writer, is exactly the same as that of Anne Shirley and Jo March, and though the book mercifully ends before Julie enters the working world, she comes from a whole family of schoolteachers (which, you may remember, is the profession that both Anne Shirley and Jo March enter). But Julie is a good deal less memorable than her predecessors; I finished the book feeling like I didn't really know her all that well.

Part of the problem is that the book covers ten years in less than 200 pages (in my edition), which means that it's racing at breakneck speed through the whole process, casually mentioning events that have never been recounted, and generally telling, not showing. One of the reasons that Anne and Jo feel so alive is that we have plenty of time to linger on their adventures and learn their individual quirks -- Little Women also covers ten years, but is easily twice as long as Up a Road Slowly, and the timeline of Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea (1909) combined is only six years or so.

There are other issues too: the prose feels deliberately affected and old-fashioned, even for the time; I never really got to like Aunt Cordelia all that much; and there are some passages that feel awfully dated now. The worst of these last is probably the part where, when Julie is seven, two boys forcibly hold her arms back while a third, Danny Trevort, kisses her. After Julie, justifiably in my opinion, punches Danny in the face and gives him a black eye, Aunt Cordelia tells her "that a small boy's kiss was hardly in as poor taste as a small girl's physical violence." Though Cordelia eventually revises her opinion to admit that "the boys certainly have their share of the blame for this unfortunate episode," it just wasn't enough for me. Julie actually ends up dating Danny at the conclusion of the book, but I still came out of it wishing that I was reading about Anne and Gilbert Blythe instead. It's way funnier when Anne cracks the slate over Gilbert's head, and a good deal less rape-y to boot.

Clearly, I'm the wrong audience for Up a Road Slowly. As for the Newbery? Well, it wouldn't have been my choice, but I don't think it was an obvious mistake. The 1966 publishing year wasn't the strongest of the decade. Other than the three Honor books, The King's Fifth, by Scott O'Dell; Zlateh The Goat and Other Stories, by Isaac Bashevis Singer; and The Jazz Man, by Mary Hays Weik, the only other "classic" book from the year I can identify is Lloyd Alexander's The Castle of Llyr. The Alexander book would have been my choice, but given that he had already won a 1966 Honor for The Black Cauldron, and would later win the 1969 Newbery for The High King, his Prydain books are pretty well represented in the Newbery canon. Even if I don't think Up a Road Slowly is all that good, I can't identify anything I think was obviously slighted. All years aren't created equal.