Newbery Award books, by definition, must be written by Americans or first published in the United States, but they do not have to be ABOUT the United States.
These books are all set in various parts of the modern United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) although they are all set in the past.
The Dark Frigate by Charles Boardman Hawes
Newbery Medal, 1924
The Dark Frigate is a great adventure story about a boy who makes his way on his own after his father dies. It starts in England and moves onto a British ship.
FREE download of The Dark Frigate from Project Gutenberg
FREE audio version of The Dark Frigate from Librivox
Cedric, the Forester by Bernard Gay Marshall
Newbery Honor Book, 1922
Cedric, the Forester is the story of a friendship between a Norman and a Saxon in the time of Richard the Lion Hearted in England. It includes a plot line involving the signing of the Great Charter of King John.
I don’t think American kids learn nearly as much as they should about British history given the fact that American government draws so heavily on British precedence. This book has a great story and great historical background.
Free downloads of Cedric, the Forester at Project Gutenberg
The Big Tree of Bunlahy by Padraic Colum
Colum was a folklorist who wrote many collections of folk literature for children.
The Big Tree of Bunlahy is a collection of stories that he collected from his own home in Bunlahy, Ireland.
Read The Big Tree of Bunlahy online at Hathi Trust.
Read more about Padraic Colum on The Lois Level here: FREE Reads and Resources about the Celts for Kids (and Adults)
Padriac Colum wrote several Newbery Honor books on different topics, so check future installments on The Lois Level for more!
Tod of the Fens by Elinor Whitney
Tod of the Fens is set in Boston, England.
That’s right…did you think the Puritans just made up the name Boston? Take a look at the map of Massachusetts…they didn’t make any other place names up. The Virginians didn’t either. But I digress….
Tod lives with a group of men outside of the city along with an incognito Prince Hal, who is the heir to the throne….
Elinor Whitney Feld was a children’s author who also founded The Horn Book magazine, which is still the preeminent journal of children’s literature in the United States.
About these books (republished from Part 1)
When the copyright on books or other media expires, it goes into what is called the “public domain”. That means that the book can be reproduced freely without getting permission or having to pay the author royalties.
The most prestigious award for American children’s literature, the Newbery Award, has been around since 1922, so some of the first books to get this award are in the public domain. Over the next few weeks, we are excited to guide you through what you can find and where. Most guides simply go chronologically, but we don’t find that arrangement very interesting or helpful, so instead, we have organized them by topic.
And just to add to the fun, we’ve added in some famous options to go along with them. While these books aren’t free, they are usually easy to find either used or through libraries, especially in the United States.
Part of the reason these books receive the award is because of their creative approach to storytelling. For that reason, some of them really defy easy categorization, but that’s what also makes them good. So it seems in the end, the most systematic way to do it is to sort the books by the rough geographical location in which they are set.
If you don’t have children in your life, don’t let that put you off these books. Good children’s literature is often good literature, and if you enjoy great stories, you will enjoy these.
Note: Sometimes the edition shown here from Amazon is not free. Be sure to search by author to find the free edition, which may have less elaborate formatting or illustrations that the paid version. If we have a link to an open-source version that does not require an account, we share that.
Never ask minors (including teens) to open any online accounts. There’s no way to tell what kind of data the site might pull from the user even if no identifying information is required.
If there is no open source version, it is perfectly legal to create a PDF yourself and share it electronically or print out hard copies.
Because there are no author royalties to pay, Print copies of public domain books are usually inexpensive and can sometimes be purchased for less than the cost of printing yourself. Look for Dover Thrift editions in particular.
The Lois Level FREE Newbery Award Series
Free and Famous
Find more fantastic and FREE adventure stories set on land and sea on The Lois Level here: Free Classic Adventure Stories for Kids, Teens, and Adults
Find FREE fantastic folklore from England at The Lois Level here: FREE Stories from English folklore and history for Kids ages 8 to 11
Find FREE retellings of Shakespearean Plays…but easier to read…here: FREE Stories from Shakespeare for Kids 8+
Not Free, but Easy to Find (in libraries and used)
Books set in the United Kingdom and Ireland
Newbery Medal, 1943
Adam of the Road is set in 13th Century England
Karen Cushman is a personal favorite at The Lois Level
The Midwife’s Apprentice, set in medieval England, won the Newbery Medal in 1996.
Catherine, Called Birdy is set in 13th century England and was a Newbery Honor Book in 1995.
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is a story about life in a medieval village told in a series of monologues, which is significant if you consider that most medieval people had very limited written literacy and needed to rely on oral literacy.
It received the Newbery Medal in 2008.