Sara L. Schwebel, professor and director of the Center for Children's Books, and Jocelyn Van Tuyl, professor of French at New College of Florida, have coedited a new book, Dust Off the Gold Medal: Rediscovering Children's Literature at the Newbery Centennial, which was recently published by Routledge. The Newbery Medal, the oldest and most influential children's book award in the United States, marks its 100th anniversary this year. In Dust Off the Gold Medal, Schwebel and Van Tuyl collect fourteen essays, written by contributors across the country, who examine Newbery winners that have been understudied by literary scholars.
"Newbery Medal-winning books rarely go out of print, enjoying permanent spots on library shelves. But children's literature has changed considerably in the hundred years since the awards' inception," said Schwebel. "Should Newbery Medal-winning books remain in perpetual circulation, being introduced to each new generation of schoolchildren? There has been a dearth of scholarship on the prize-winning books despite their outsized influence."
Each chapter of Dust off the Gold Medal, which is organized chronologically from the 1920s to the 2010s, analyzes a title neglected by literary scholars, illustrating how it responds to contemporary concerns around race, class, gender, disability, nationalism, and globalism.
"When I first entered the field, I set myself the task of reading all of the Newbery winners," said Schwebel. "I wondered, on more than one occasion, 'why did this title win the prize?' The contributors of this volume speculate on just that question, presenting wonderful arguments for texts whose import had previously been obscure to me—and to many others."
A historian and children's literature scholar, Schwebel's work centers on the way books, media, and school instruction shape young people's conceptualizations of the past. She is the author of Child-Sized History: Fictions of the Past in U.S. Classrooms (2011) and the editor of Island of the Blue Dolphins: The Complete Reader's Edition (2016) and The Lone Woman and Last Indians Digital Archive. Schwebel holds a PhD in the history of American civilization from Harvard University.