Newbery Award Winning Books for Middle School
If you haven’t added any Newbery award winning books for middle school to your tween’s reading list, now is the time. They’re some of the best books for middle schoolers.
Whether or not your middle schooler likes to read, choosing books that won this prestigious award is an easy way to find some quality literature.
Start with some of the most recent winners and see how your tween likes them.
John Newbery medal winners encompass a wide variety of genres, so chances are that your student will find a title amongst these that they’ll enjoy.
Newbery Award Winning Books for Middle School
To make it easy, look at the books listed below to start with.
These award-winning stories are full of action, adventure, and personal choices, making them excellent choices for tweens and teens to read.
When my daughter was younger, she read as many of the winners as she could, including many of these.
What is the Newbery Award?
The Newbery Award is one of the most prestigious children’s book awards around. First established in 1922, this American Library Association award is presented to a children’s book author each year, recognizing excellence in writing and content.
It is named after John Newbery, the 18th century London bookseller and publisher who believed in producing books for young people that were both entertaining and educational.
There are two distinct categories – the Newbery Medal and the Newbery Honor.
The Newbery Medal is awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Newbery Honors are given for other books that also show excellence in writing.
The winners are stories that are appropriate for children up to and including age fourteen, so it’s a great resource for finding quality reads for middle schoolers.
Why should middle schoolers read Newbery award-winning books?
Reading award-winning books is a great way for middle schoolers to dive into some of the best stories and literary works available.
Not only are these books entertaining, they also teach valuable lessons about life that can help young people grow as both readers and individuals.
With interesting characters, unique themes, and complex plots, these types of books often lead to engaging conversations and thought-provoking discussions.
By giving middle schoolers access to top-notch literature, they will explore new worlds while still learning important life skills like problem solving and critical thinking.
In addition, reading Newbery Medal books helps boost imagination and encourages creative expression, Two key components in helping young people develop into mature adults.
They also help build vocabulary skills, which are important for preparing middle schoolers for high school.
Just know that some older titles may contain some outdated language and beliefs. You may want to do some research before reading if that’s of concern for you.
Any links in this post may be affiliate links. See my disclosure statement.
Where Can You Find Newbery Medal Titles?
Start your search by visiting your local library or bookstore. Ask your librarian or bookseller if they have any titles that have won literary awards.
Tweens can also look for books with gold stickers noting their status as Newbery Medal winners on their covers.
It is also possible to search for Newbery Medal winners online. The ALSC provides a list of all the books that have won the award since 1922, so you can check out what previous generations of readers enjoyed!
Newbery Award Winning Books
Books that have won the Newbery Award should be on every middle schooler's reading list. Here are stories that tweens and teens will appreciate and enjoy.
The story follows two enslaved children, Homer and Ada, as they flee from Southerland Plantation in search of freedom. Along the way, they discover Freewater – a secret community deep in the swamp made up of formerly enslaved people and freeborn children.
As Homer finds new friends in his newfound home, he must also craft a plan to protect Freewater from an impending threat while finding his mother who was left behind on their escape.
This inspiring tale is loosely based on the history of maroon communities in the South and celebrates courage, friendship, adventure and survival.
This is the 2023 winner, written by by Amina Luqman-Dawson
In this book by Tae Keller, readers meet a girl named Lily and a magical tiger.
Lily and her family move in to take care of her sick grandmother. During her stay, Lily uncovers a secret family history thanks to a magical tiger from the Korean folktales her grandmother told her over the years.
The tigers believe Halmoni stole something from them and they want it returned. They say if she gives the object back, they'll heal her grandmother.
With the help of her sister and new friend Ricky, Lily will have to find courage, strength, and knowledge to save her grandmother before it's too late.
This folklore tale won the Newbery Award in 2021.
Seventh grader Jordan banks is a budding cartoon artist living in a Washington Heights apartment. Instead of the art school of his dreams, his family sends him to a prestigious private school in the Bronx.
He has a hard time fitting into the new school culture while staying connected to his neighborhood friends. Not only is he the “new kid” at the school, but he’s one of the few kids of color in his grade.
While reading, you see how this young man is torn between the two worlds, changing in unexpected ways as he gets closer to school.
He makes some good friends, but will he be able to keep his old ones as well? And will he become someone else, or will he be able to stay true to himself?
This is a middle-grade graphic novel by Jerry Craft. It's the first comic-style story to win this award. It is the 2020 Newbery Medal winner.
This is the story of Merci, a student in the sixth grade who is struggling to keep up with her schoolwork and her changing family life. Merci's grandfather has just moved in with her family, and her best friend has started to drift away from her.
Merci turns to writing in her journal and through these entries, we see her learn to navigate the challenging waters of middle school.
Along the way, she finds strength and courage within herself to make the changes she needs.
This is the 2019 winner of the Newbery Medal by Meg Medina.
This book follows the story of Virgil Salinas, a shy Filipino-American boy who often feels different from others, especially his family.
Thanks to a prank pulled by a bully named Chet Bullens, he gets trapped in a well with his guinea pig.
All of a sudden, two girls he knows, Valencia Somerset and Kaori Tanaka, as well as Kaori's little sister Gen, find themselves working together to locate Virgil.
While they may not have been friends before this adventure, friendship blossoms after their successful mission.
This 2018 winner was written by Erin Entrada Kelly.
It tells the story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla living in captivity at a suburban shopping mall.
Through his friendship with an elephant named Stella, he finds the courage to stand up for what he believes in and ultimately makes the decision to return to his natural habitat.
The novel explores themes of freedom, family, loyalty, and compassion as it follows Ivan on his journey from captivity to freedom.
It is an uplifting story about finding one's true home and discovering that even when life seems hopeless there can be hope found if we look hard enough.
Katherine Applegate won this award in 2013.
Abilene Tucker is a young girl who has been sent away to live in Manifest, Kansas, her father's hometown.
Although he has told her many fascinating tales about the town, she is quite disappointed when her imagination doesn’t match reality. To her, it’s just an old town, struggling to survive.
However, she finds a box full of old keepsakes and a letter that mentions a spy named Rattler.
Suddenly, she’s thrust into the middle of an old mystery. With a little help from her new friends, she learns valuable things and discovers there is more to this small town than she first realized.
Clare Vanderpool wrote this 2011 award winner.
This story is about two Japanese American sisters, Katie and Lynn. It follows their journey as they move away from their Japanese community in Iowa to the South, in Georgia and face the challenges that come with being an immigrant in a new country.
Teens will see how love and resilience helps the family overcome the obstacles life throws at them. As their bond grows stronger, so does their determination to make it through each day with hope for a better tomorrow.
This is an inspiring tale of courage, family bonds, and never giving up on your dreams despite hardships along the way.
This 2005 medal winner was written by Cynthia Kadohata
This is the story of a brave and adventurous mouse named Despereaux who embarks on an epic quest to save an endangered princess from the clutches of evil rats.
Along the way, he meets a number of other characters including humans, animals, and even talking objects that help him in his journey.
He learns valuable lessons about courage, kindness, friendship, and love while facing danger and adversity at every turn. In the end, it is up to him to find out what it truly means to be brave before all hope for rescuing the princess is lost forever.
Kate DiCamillo won the award in 2004 for this story.
This book follows the journey of an orphaned boy named Tree-ear who breaks a valuable piece of pottery and promises to work to pay for it.
He stays and works with Min, the master potter, learning the trade along the way. With Min's guidance and support, Tree-ear works hard to learn all aspects of pottery making while also facing difficult challenges along his path.
Through it all, Tree-ear learns valuable lessons about friendship, perseverance and selflessness that will stay with him forever.
This 2002 winner was written by Linda Sue Park
This is the story of Mary Alice, a young girl who leaves Chicago to head to rural Illinois to stay with her Grandma Dowdel for a year.
Grandma is a captivating character full of wit, wisdom, and unconventional methods. Through Mary Alice's eyes, tweens will watch as Grandma Dowdel navigates the trials and tribulations of small-town life with her own unique brand of humor and grace.
During their time together, Mary Alice learns about life, love, friendship, and courage.
Richard Peck wrote this 2001 award winner.
Stanley finds himself sent to Camp Green Lake (a boy’s detention center) for a crime he didn’t commit. Once there, he realizes this is not what he was expecting.
There’s not even a lake at Camp Green Lake. It’s just next to an old dried-up patch of land in the desert.
Instead of character building through swimming and interesting activities, the boys spend their days digging big holes. But what exactly are they looking for?
Intertwined in this story is one from many years earlier, Stanley’s family's story.
This is the 1999 Newbery Medal winner by Louis Sachar.
Jonas is twelve-years-old living with his "family" in a small ideal community.
Everyone and everything is perfect. Order, discipline, and conformity are cherished values. Jonas soon learns that the real world differs greatly from the one he lives in.
Outside the community, there is joy, holidays, and beauty. But there’s also pain, disappointment, and anger. Jonas realizes that he must make a choice that could change everything.
Tweens will find themselves asking, what they would sacrifice for a perfect world?
This 1994 winner was written by Lois Lowry.
When Claudia runs away from home, she isn’t just running away, she feels the need to run toward something. Because of this, she doesn’t just go anywhere, she runs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and brings her brother Jamie, along with her.
While hiding in the museum, they become captivated by an angel statue and the mystery surrounding it. The museum bought it at an auction for $250, but it may be far more valuable if it ends up being an antique piece by Michelangelo.
It’s the ultimate museum sleepover and a grand adventure!
This is the 1968 Newbery award winner by E.L. Konigsburg.
Deep within the Pacific Ocean lies an island, home to a tribe of Indians that has made it their home. Karana is one of its them; she's been living there since birth and her father leads the tribal community.
He tries to negotiate with Russian fur traders regarding the number of otters they’re hunting, but things go horribly wrong and the tribe is forced to leave the island.
Karana ends up as the only person on the remote island where survival will require tenacity, courage, and creativity. Luckily, she has all three.
Scott O'Dell wrote this 1961 winner.
Hopefully, this list has inspired you and your family to read some of these prize-winning stories. I hope your tweens and teens will find new favorites amongst these honor books.
More Books for Middle Schoolers
Along with some Newbery Medal winners, add some of these to your tween’s reading list.
- Books that Inspired Disney Movies
- Fantasy Novels
- Middle-grade Fiction Books
- Biographies for Middle Schoolers
If your kids struggle with reading, consider switching over to audiobooks. They’re a lifesaver for some families, including those who love read aloud time.
If you’re constantly on the go, try downloading books onto a Kindle.
Does your tween read Newberry Award winning books?