The American Library Association has announced the winners of the most prestigious awards for children’s and young adult literature for 2021 with its Youth Media Awards.
The books and other forms of media range from stories about the struggles of a boy who stutters to a book about a Black teen who discovers a historically white secret magical society to a biography of Aretha Franklin to the story of an immigrant boy in an Oklahoma middle school who tries to tell his story of fleeing Iran. Here is a list of many of the winners and honor books.
The prestigious Newberry Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller. The novel is a story about a girl whose family moves in with her sick grandmother. A magical tiger from Korean folklore appears to the girl and offers her a deal to help her grandmother get better. The book also won the Asian/Pacific American Award for children’s literature.
Five books were named Newberry honor books: All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team, written by Christina Soontornvat; BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Michele Wood; Fighting Words, written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley; We Dream of Space, written by Erin Entrada Kelly and illustrated by Erin Entrada Kelly and Celia Krampien; and A Wish in the Dark, written by Christina Soontornvat.
The Newbery Medal, the oldest children’s book award in the United States, was first given out in 1922. It’s named for an 18th-century author and publisher who is the first known person to specialize in books for children.
Randolph Caldecott Medal
We Are Water Protectors, illustrated by Michaela Goade and written by Carole Lindstrom, won the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book for children. Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption.
Four Caldecott Honor Books also were named: A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart, illustrated by Noa Denmon and written by Zetta Elliott; The Cat Man of Aleppo, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu and written by Irene Latham & Karim Shamsi-Basha; Me & Mama, illustrated and written by Cozbi A. Cabrera; and Outside In, illustrated by Cindy Derby and written by Deborah Underwood.
These awards recognize both African-American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults.
Before the Ever After, written by Jacqueline Woodson, won the King Author Book Award. This novel-in-verse explores how a family moves forward when the glory days of the father’s sports career have passed. ZJ and his family deal with the cost of professional sports on Black bodies, specifically brain injuries to a pro football player.
Frank Morrison won the illustrator award for R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, written by Carole Boston Weatherford. This picture book biography gives a vibrant portrait of Franklin’s life, including her fight against injustice and work for civil rights as well as her musical career.
The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe author award for new talent went to the young adult fantasy novel Legendborn, written by Tracy Deonn. The story centers on a Black teenage girl who discovers a secret historically white magic society while attending a residential pre-college program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Michael L. Printz Award
This award goes for excellence in literature written for young adults. The Printz Award went to Everything Sad is Untrue (a true story) by Daniel Nayeri. It tells the tale of Khosrou, an immigrant boy in an Oklahoma middle school where everyone calls him Daniel. He tries to tell his story of fleeing Iran and the story of his people but instead must face down his jeering classmates.
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
This award is given for the most distinguished informational book for children. This year is went to Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann. It tells the tale of the honeybee Apis as she embarks on her journey through life.
The Pura Belpré Award, which honors the best book by a Latinx author, was awarded to ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat, illustrated and written by Raúl Gonzalez. In this new Vamos! title, Little Lobo returns to share his love of food and wrestling and takes readers on a tour of food trucks that sell his favorite foods, like quesadillas with red peppers and Mexican-Korean tacos. The book is peppered with easy-to-remember Latin-American Spanish vocabulary.
Schneider Family Book Award
This award honors books that represent characters with disabilities. This year’s recipient is I Talk Like a River, written by Jordan Scott and illustrated by Sydney Smith. It tells the story of a boy who stutters and feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he would like. It takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice.
A complete list of all of the awards given to books and other kinds of media is available from the American Library Association at this link.