Newbery Firsts

A timeline of memorable firsts from the Newbery Medal's first 100 years

June 1, 2022

The first Newbery Medal is awarded to The Story of Mankind, written and illustrated by Dutch American historian and journalist Hendrik Willem van Loon.

Dhan Gopal Mukerji becomes the first person of color and the first Asian American author to win the Newbery. Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon is set in his homeland of India.

Rachel Field holding Hitty.
Photo: ALA Archives

With Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, Rachel Field becomes the first woman to win the medal. The novel is told from the point of view of a doll (pictured, in Field’s lap) that has traveled the world.

Librarian and Harlem Renaissance poet Arna Bontemps becomes the first Black person to win a Newbery Honor. His book Story of the Negro examines Black history before and after enslavement in America.

Joseph Krumgold becomes the first person to win two Newbery Medals, for … And Now Miguel (1954) and Onion John (1960).

Virginia Hamilton (third from left) at the 1975 Newbery-Caldecott Banquet.
Photo: ALA Archives

Virginia Hamilton becomes the first Black person to win the Newbery Medal. Hamilton’s book M. C. Higgins, the Great is a coming-of-age novel set in the Appalachian Mountains.

A volume of poetry—A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard—wins the Newbery Medal for the first time.

Paul Fleischman wins for Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, making him and his father, Sid Fleischman (author of 1987 awardee The Whipping Boy), the only parent and child to win Newbery Medals.

Christopher Paul Curtis
Photo: ALA Archives

Christopher Paul Curtis’s book Bud, Not Buddy becomes the first book to win both a Newbery Medal and a Coretta Scott King Award.

Linda Sue Park becomes the first Asian American since Mukerji to win the Newbery Medal. Her historical novel, A Single Shard, takes place in 12th-century Korea.

New Kid by Jerry Craft becomes the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal.


From left, Lois Lowry, Cynthia Kadohata, Tae Keller, and Jerry Craft.

Winner’s Circle

Conversations with past winners of the Newbery Medal

Fenton T. Newbery (located at left), a direct descendent of John Newbery, watches author Arthur Bowie Chrisman receive the 1926 Newbery Medal for Shen of the Sea from Nina C. Brotherton, chair of ALA’s Children’s Librarians Section. Frederic G. Melcher (located at right), who instituted the Newbery Medal, looks on. Photo from the ALA Archives.

100 Years of the Newbery Medal

A look at the legacy—and future—of this distinguished award for children's books