After the Call: Dazzled and Honored

Oh, I remember that evening. We were entertaining dinner guests, and the phone rang. I answered it, and listened, and then the call was over, so I returned to the table to report, except — and I remember this vividly — that the mental tape on which I had always recorded (at least for short-term memory purposes like school and faculty meetings) whatever words I had just heard, was blank.

“I think,” I said, “I think they just told me that I won the Newbery.”

I was dazzled.

I had a few years previously encountered children’s books through becoming a middle-school English teacher who believed in book reports, and finding in the public library that there was shelf after shelf of books for kids. I was a kid who read, but when I was a kid, reading, there was no such abundance or variety to choose from. I started at A (think: ­discovering Lloyd Alexander) and began my reading list. I was impressed, and delighted, at what was on offer. So that when my book was recognized I knew the value of…Yes, I was dazzled, and honored, and pleased as punch.

At the time, I looked at the shiny gold medal and thought of the ­Newbery Award–­winning books I had come upon for my students and myself, and wondered about the time in the future when my book would be on a library shelf with the gold, like theirs, dulled by time and use, like an old wedding ring. The Newbery had given my book (not its author, who I like to think has her head screwed on right) a chance at the kind of immortality stories can win.

I’ll tell you, my gratitude for that gift has not abated, not a whit.

From the May/June 2022 special issue of The Horn Book Magazine: The Newbery Centennial.

Cynthia Voigt

Cynthia Voigt won the 1983 Newbery Medal for Dicey's Song and a 1984 Honor for A Solitary Blue (both Atheneum). Her latest book is Little Bird (Greenwillow).

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