Out of the Dust one the 1998 Newbery Medal, and I can totally see why. It's set in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, and Billie Jo tells her story through poetry, which means a lot of white space on each page, which means that the pages just fly by.
I loved her voice, and--novels in verse can seem contrived, or like--well, now, isn't this really just a really short novel where the author hit the "Enter" key and regular intervals? But Out of the Dust read like poetry, and the spare language really worked for story, and especially for the character. I could just picture her keeping her emotions locked up--feeling things strongly, but expressing them only in the most minimal of ways.
Realistic, tragic, and seriously amazing. This is going on my list of "Newbery Winners to Hand to Kids Who Really Really Don't Want to Read a Newbery Winner."