I had occasion the other day to review titles of Newbery medal and honor books, and it occurred to me that maybe the winning titles reflected either some observation about kids and their dreams and desires, or an ideal that the Newbery committee wished kids could attain. So I decided to count the instances of certain key words in the titles and I came up with the ideal Newbery child.
The Newbery kid owns or at least has access to a horse. There were six titles with horses in them. Cats and dogs tied for second with five mentions each (unless you take the title of Wanda Gág's 1929 opus, Millions of Cats, literally, in which case cats win paws down). Bunnies (or rabbits), bears, goats, and scorpions all tied farther down with two mentions apiece. I confess I'm a little disturbed by the scorpions.
The Newbery kid prefers nighttime illumination to come from the moon (four mentions) rather than the stars (three mentions). One might naturally conclude, therefore, that nocturnal adventures are to be preferred over diurnal ones, but the word "night" shows up only once, while there are four mentions of "day". No mention of the sun, however.
The Newbery kid prefers to hang out in the mountains (eight mentions). If the mountains are unavailable, the next best choice in geographical features is the island (six mentions). I suppose an island with a mountain on it would be perfect. There were a few less desirable locations that got one mention each: the fens, a volcano (but who'd want to live there?), and the devil's cave (but ditto?).
The Newbery kid loves rivers more than any other body of water. Rivers got five mentions, the ocean (or sea) got three, and lakes, two.
Many cities, from Paris to Birmingham, from Vancouver to Athens, are mentioned in Newbery book titles, but our ideal kid prefers New York over them all.
The Newbery kid prefers trees (five mentions) to any other plant material, and blue (four mentions) is the favorite color.
Ships (including sailboats) are the best method of transporting a Newbery kid. Other modes of transportation (roller skates, dragonwings, 21 balloons) sound intriguing, but are not very practical when one considers that our model child will most likely be living near a river (or possibly on an island). And don't forget, the kid also has access to a horse (or millions of cats).
A Newbery kid's favorite season is summer and favorite holiday is Christmas.
A Newbery kid's preferred occupation is either princess (three mentions) or king (again, three mentions). The third-most popular occupation is doctor (two mentions).
A Newbery kid's favorite food? Either strawberries, apples, maize (corn), soup, or waffles. And he or she prefers to drink out of a goblet. Or a cauldron, for those with larger appetites.
A Newbery kid's best weapon is a gun (either a musket, a matchlock gun, or a rifle), but the sword comes in second.
The Newbery kid likes to live (or at least hang out) in a house (four mentions). The next favorite dwelling is a bridge (two mentions), or such diverse places as the circus, a castle (good choice for the princess or king), a tomb (handy if you choose scorpions for a pet), an inn, or a graveyard.
The Newbery kid has a number of choices when it comes to making a fashion statement. Options include a dress, moccasins, pigtails, a crown, and a cross of lead.
Well, being a Newbery kid sounds pretty good to me. I wouldn't mind living in a tree-shaded house near a river with a horse (and a cat or a dog) to keep me company, a strawberry patch in the garden, and a boat to take me to town (or to the mainland). I wouldn't mind being a princess, as long as I was a deposed one, because I don't want the responsibility. I would enjoy watching the moon rise above the mountains during a perpetual summer. And I'd love a pair of moccasins.