ALA Newbery Award Press Release

By Curtis E. Swanson

Source: Top of the News, April 1972, p. 237

From:   Curtis E. Swanson, Manager 
        Public Relations 
For immediate release 

Robert C. O'Brien, the author of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, published by Atheneum, and Nonny Hgrogian, the author-illustrator of One Fine Day, published by the Macmillan Company, have been announced as the respective winners of the John Newbery Medal and the Randolph J. Caldecott Medal, awarded by the Children's Services Division of the American Library Association for the most distinguished books for children published in the United States in 1971.

The announcement was made by Miss Anne R. Izard, who is the chairman of the Newbery-Caldecott Awards Committee of the Children's Services Division of the ALA and the Children's Services Consultant of the Westchester, New York Library System, at a reception given by Daniel Melcher in the Red Lacquer Room of the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, during the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association. Mr. Melcher, who was the sponsor of the awards, is the son of the late Frederic G. Melcher, who was the original donor of the awards.

The presentation of the medals will take place at the Newbery- Caldecott Awards dinner to be held on Monday, June 26, 1972, in Chicago during the Annual Conference of the American Library Association.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is the engaging story of a brave and resourceful widowed mouse who is willing to face many dangers to care for her four children.

One Fine Day is a delightful retelling of an Armenian folktale, similar in theme to The Old Woman and Her Pig.

The honor books for the Newbery Medal are Incident at Hawk's Hill by Allan W. Eckert, published by Little, Brown; The Planet of Junior Brown by Virginia Hamilton, published by the Macmillan Company; The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin, published by Atheneum; Annie and the Old One by Miska Miles, published by Atlantic-Little, Brown; and the Headless Cupid by Zipha Keatley Snyder published by Atheneum.

Caldecott honor books are If All the Seas Were One Sea with etchings by Janina Domanska, published by the Macmillan Company; Moja Means One: Swahili Counting Book with pictures by Tom Feelings, written by Muriel Feelings, published by Dial Press and Hildilid's Night illustrated by Arnold Lobel, written by Cheli Duran Ryan, published by the Macmillan company.

The John Newbery Medal has been awarded annually since 1922 to the author of the most distinguished contribution to literature for children published in the United States during the previous year.

The Randolph J. Caldecott Medal has been awarded annually since 1938 to the illustrator of the most distinguished picture book for children published in the United States during the previous year.

Selection of the winners of the awards and the honor books are made by a committee of twenty-three members from the nominations submitted by children's librarians and school librarians in the United States.

The article below, which describes Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and tells somewhat about the author, followed the above article. It appears to be titled: "Robert C. O'Brien, Newbery 1972." --Simon
Source: Top of the News, April 1972, p. 239

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a humorous, witty, and thought-provoking fantasy peopled with small animals living in today's technological world. A field mouse, Mrs. Frisby by name, cannot move her children from their winter home which lies directly in the path of the farmer's spring plowing, because Timothy has pneumonia. First with fear and later with admiration and gratitude she accepts help from her neighbors, the resourceful rats of NIMH. Injected with a special formula at an experimental animal laboratory the rats have become more intelligent than their captors. When they escape from the laboratory they make preparations to set up a civilization of their own based on their ability to produce rather than steal. Helping Mrs. Frisby with her problem proves to be mutually beneficial. The sympathetic pen-and-ink drawings by Zena Bernstein involve the reader even more completely.

The author, one of a family of seven, was born in New York City about fifty years ago. His parents were school teachers but his father later turned to newspaper writing. Robert O'Brien reports a sort of "Irishness" in the family as evidenced by the names O'Leary and O'Brien. At first music seemed to be his destiny. He studied piano at the Julliard School while attending Columbia. To help pay his tuition he worked as a counselor in a boys' camp where he told stories at night around the campfire. "I believe this is the best training in the world for learning what kinds of stories children like."

Robert O'Brien is a writer and editor for various newspapers, press associations, and magazines. His first book for children, The Silver Crown, was published in 1968. The author and his family live most of the year in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. "I still play the piano a lot; I also fish in the river and cut wood for the fireplace. I have three daughters who read my books chapter by chapter as I get them typed. If I don't have a new chapter ready on schedule, I am reprimanded."

The idea for Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was stored away in Mr. O'Brien's mind when he once observed a building on the grounds at the National Institute of Mental Health unlike any of the others. He was told it housed the rats, mice, rabbits, and guinea pigs raised for use in scientific tests. The attendant mentioned that the "wild" rats now and then managed to escape from their cages. The author found the original Mrs. Frisby living in a corner of his garden at home. Robert O'Brien has tied these two ideas together with vivid descriptive prose, great suspense, and admirable characterization to produce an outstanding book of fantasy.