Monday, July 25, 2016

Reading the Newbery Winners: The Story of Mankind

Hi, everyone. Eric here, Laura's husband. This blog technically belongs to both of us, and Laura lets me blog here on occasion. But I haven't done it very often just because Laura says enough here for both of us, and I have my own blog for the stuff I really want to talk about. But I started a new project this year, and figured this would be the place to talk about it.

So what is my project? Read all of the winners of the Newbery Medal, the highest honor given for children's literature published in the United States. And I am reading them in order! So naturally I started with the very first winner, The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon. I've already read at least a dozen of the winners, and based on those this is nothing like what I would have expected! For one, it's non-fiction. Van Loon traces all of western history and civilization from cavemen, through to the earliest civilizations, Greece, Rome, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and all that's happened since then. It's a very ambitious piece of work, but it also does an excellent job of tying all the strings of history together. I like to think I'm a pretty smart guy, and I certainly know a few things about history, but through this book I saw many connections that I have missed in my previous education. I will add that my edition is not the version that won the Newbery, but a later edition, as it has beet added to frequently since its original publication. The latest copyright date in mine is 1984, so it's not the most recent, but it sue gave me a good taste of the original. It was a long book, and a challenge to read at times (and I'm an adult, so imagine how hard this might be for many kids), but ultimately it was worth the effort to see how the world got to be the way it is today.