Science Fiction, Fantasy, and the Newbery

newbery-medalThe Newbery Medal is arguably the most distinguished award a children’s book can receive, but it is undeniable that there is lack of science fiction and fantasy winners. According to the Newbery Award criteria, the award should be given to “author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” (American Library Association, 2017, para. 1). When reviewing past award winners, it seems as though the selectors do not consider the science fiction and fantasy genres to be distinguished enough to receive the medal. It is perhaps because fantasy could be regarded as “silly” or “daydreaming,” and realism and historical fiction are genres that can be considered more serious and educational. Furthermore, it is noted on the Newbery page that the award is based on quality and not content or popularity. This is unfortunate as many books that children find whimsical and entertaining are neglected.

However, the tide seems to be turning, as the 2017 Newbery winner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, is a fantasy novel that includes magic, witches, swamp monsters, and dragons. This could be an indication that the committees are realizing that fantasy and science fiction novels can have the same amount of literary quality as other genres.


American Library Association. (2017) Welcome to the Newbery Medal Home Page!. Retrieved from:

Image from: Kushner, Elizabeth. (2012) The Newbery Medal and Speculative Fiction. [Web log]. Retrieved from:


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