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Newbery Medal Winning Authors Series: Charles Boardman Hawes

By Adrienne Rivera. Feb 24, 2024. 11:09 PM.

Topics: Children's Books, American Literature, Newbery Award

The John Newbery Medal is awarded annually to a children's book that represents the height of achievement in that field of literature. 1924's winner is particularly notable because he passed away before receiving the award. Today in our Newbery Medal Winning Authors series, we look at the 1924 winner, Charles Boardman Hawes, who, in his short life, earned the most prestigious award for children's book writers in America.

 Who is Charles Boardman Hawes
the dark frigate

Charles Boardman Hawes was born in New York in 1889. He was raised in Bangor, Maine, and went on to study at Bowdoin College and Harvard University, where he worked as the editor of The Quill. After graduating, he served as editor of The Youth’s Companion and for The Open Road, a position he held until his death.

He released his first book, The Mutineers: a tale of Old Days at sea and Adventures in the Far East, as Benjamin Lathrop set it down sixty years ago. His second book, The Great Quest: A Romance of 1826 in 1920. The Mutineers was named an Honor book in 1922 for the inaugural Newbery Award. He passed away unexpectedly in 1923 after contracting pneumonic meningitis.

His second book, Gloucester, by Land and Sea, is the story of a New England seacoast town released two days after his death. His wife, Dorothea Hawes, daughter of writer George Washington Cable, attended to his literary estate, seeing to the publication of his novel The Dark Frigate, which told the story of Philip Marsham, who lived in the time of King Charles and was bred a sailor but came home to England after many hazards by sea and land and fought for the King at Newbury and lost a great inheritance and departed for Barbados in the same ship, by curious chance, in which he had long before adventured with the pirates.

He was posthumously awarded the Newbery Award in 1924, which she accepted in his place. She also completed his nonfiction work Whaling, which was released in 1924. In 1923, Atlantic Monthly Press, who published two of Hawes' novels as well as some of his nonfiction work, held the Charles Boardman Hawes Memorial Contest for which a $2000 prize and publication was offered to the best children's adventure novel that embodied the "character and excellence" of Hawes' work.

The winner was Clifford MacClellan Sublette for his novel The Scarlet Cockerel. The entries were so good that the press published the two runners-up.

Collecting Hawes

The Mutineers

Hawes' Newbery Honor-winning The Mutineers tells the story of Benjamin Lathrop, a sixteen-year-old boy who boarded The Island Princess in 1809 out of Salem, Massachusetts. On its way to China, The Island Princess is beset by numerous perils and adventures, teaching Benjamin much more about the sea than he bargained for. Notable for being one of the very first Newbery Honor books, this novel is written in the form of Benjamin's journals.

The Dark Frigate

Hawes was posthumously awarded the Newbery Medal in 1924 for The Dark Frigate. Much like his previous Newbery Honor book, this novel tells the story of a young boy at sea. This time, orphan Philip Marsham is forced to flee his London home by signing on to the Rose of Devon crew headed toward Newfoundland. When pirates seize the ship, Philip is unwillingly conscripted into a life of crime and piracy.

A Selection of This Year’s Newbery Honors

In lieu of no recorded Newbery Honor books named this year, we have instead included a selection of other notable American children's books published the same year as Hawes’ The Dark Frigate.

Doctor Dolittle's Post Office by Hugh Lofting

This third book in the Doctor Dolittle series by Newbery-winning author Hugh Lofting tells the story of how Doctor Dolittle establishes a post office in the fictional kingdom of Fantippo and teaches the animals there how to deliver mail, in effect predicting air mail as the future of postal service. The book also introduces his classic character, Mudface the Turtle, the world’s oldest animal who survived the Biblical flood.

The Cowardly Lion of Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson

Thompson's third Oz book, the seventeenth in the overall series, The Cowardly Lion of Oz, features the store of the beloved Cowardly Lion, hero of The Wizard of Oz and dear friend to Dorothy Gale. In this book, the Cowardly Lion believes he has used up all his courage and is tricked into believing eating a brave man will restore it. He falls in with clown Notta Bit More and a young boy, Bob Up, who have been coerced into providing a lion for the collection of a ruler of a neighboring desert. Though the three initially plan to use each other for their ends, they become friends, prevailing over the desert of Mudge and discovering their courage.

Browse More Newbery Medal Books

Adrienne Rivera
Adrienne Rivera received her MFA in fiction from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She currently lives in southern Indiana.


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