As someone who has read every Newberry Medal winner (and quite a few of the Honor winners), I hope I can say with authority that this book most definitely belongs on this list. It is magical in that Neil way that I'm just ga-ga for! (Oh dear, did I just write "ga-ga"? This must be big news!)
First you should read his description of how he found out the news. He's on a press tour right now promoting Coraline. (Another insanely excellent book, of course.) Right after The Graveyard Book was published, people started saying that it should be the Newberry Medal winner, but there was a problem. One of the chapters of the book was previously published in an anthology of short stories. Did this exclude it from the competition? No one was sure and many thorough readings of the rules ensued. But since the book has won, we can guess how that debate ended up.
The Man and I have been able to hear Neil read only twice. The first time was at this big fancy pants dinner put on by the Plain Dealer. The evening was very posh. We were served a nice dinner along with the other patrons of this event most of whom were... extremely mature. This was ten years ago, so we were mighty young to be there. Luckily, there was a balcony of cheap seats, for those who just came for the readings and dinner. The crowd that started to fill up that balcony made the two of us feel much more comfortable. The balcony scene seemed to have the opposite effect on our table mates though.
There were two other readers, can't remember who they were, and then Neil did a lovely reading. I remember that he read Nicholas Was which made everyone squirm in their seats, but I felt like I was going to float away.
But it was at the book signing part of the evening where the Man and I really made a big impression. Let me set the scene:
Here's the two of us, nervous as can be, creeping up in line, getting closer and closer to an author we admire above all others. As the last person in front of us melts away, there's nothing between Neil and us but a long table. Somehow I was able to hand our copy of Stardust to him.
Who would you like this signed to?
We can't move. Can't talk. We are pathetic. But before he can ask again, The Man blurts out-
Calliope. Sign it to Calliope. Our daughter.
Oh, Calliope! That's one of my favorite names!
Ours too! I think I said that. Maybe we said it together. Did I mention we were a little giddy?
He writes "Calliope" at the top of the page, then stops and looks at us both.
Calliope... Not because of me, is it?
This part I remember embarrassingly clear. We both just start grinning and nodding like complete idiots. I think we also started saying "Yes" over and over again.
Now I really am scared. He said right to our big smiling goofy faces. Then he wrote this:
Congratulations Neil! Keep the wonderfulness coming!