Over the years, I’ve noticed that a lot of the books that have won the Newbery Award (the most prestigious award in children’s literature) are historical fiction. Exactly half of the ten most recent award-winners were historical novels. And while 2010’s Newbery medalist isn’t historical, two of the honor books are—The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.
Why is historical fiction so overrepresented among Newbery winners? Historical titles definitely don’t constitute half of all the books being published, or half the books that customers buy. Some people might argue that the number has to do with the Newbery’s selection process: Winners are chosen by a committee of librarians, who tend to be more partial to historical fiction than the rest of the population.
I think the reason runs deeper than that, though. When you write historical fiction, you have to review your text over and over again just to get your facts straight. And as you go over every single word so many times, your writing improves, too. The eventual result is a highly polished, well-written book.
This isn’t to say that writers in other genres can’t revise extensively and create beautiful stories. They can and they do. But extensive research and revision is a more necessary part of historical fiction, and overall I think this leads to better books.
Why do you think so many Newbery winners are historical? Is it because of the selection process, the quality of the writing, or both? Or is it another factor?
Melissa L. is the YA Editorial Assistant for Wonders and Marvels. You can read more about her here: Editorial Staff.