Orphan stories in children’s literature are rich and complex, and they have historically permeated the pages of children’s books. The purpose of this study was to explore the use of orphans as protagonists in children’s award-winning literature through content analysis. This study utilizes all the Newbery Award winning books (1922 – 2011) as well as the Newbery Honor books of the last decade (2002 – 2011) to provide a wide and deep swath of novels in order to present both historical perspective and attention to current trends. Specifically, this study explores how orphans are portrayed in Newbery texts, considers the messages these books convey about orphans, and compares the literary orphans against their real life counterparts. This investigation also seeks to determine the efficacy of previously established paradigms of orphan stories when compared to Newbery award-winning texts. The data in this study demonstrate that the orphan narrative is a popular form of children’s literature in the Newbery collection. It is a common literary tool for Newbery authors, and it serves as a platform for writers to develop strong, determined, and resilient protagonists who overcome adversity. The study also suggests that while there are similarities between the portrayal of orphans in Newbery texts and real life orphans, there are some discrepancies, particularly in the literary orphan’s ability to overcome the obstacles he or she faces. Additionally, current paradigms of orphan narrative literature do not wholly capture this corpus of texts. Finally, recommendations for practical classroom applications of the Newbery orphan stories are introduced
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