Books And More

The Best in Children’s Books

The American Library Association announces the winners of prestigious awards

January 23, 2017
ALGONQUIN BOOKS OF CHAPEL HILL

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and March: Book Three were awarded top honors at this year’s ALA awards.

The best books for kids have been announced! The American Library Association (ALA) named its winners for the best children’s books on January 23 at its Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. The featured awards for children’s and young adult literature include the prestigious John Newbery and Randolph Caldecott medals and Coretta Scott King Awards. Committees made up of librarians and other experts select the winners.

“This has been an unprecedented year in children’s publishing,” said Dr. Pauletta Brown Bracy at the conclusion of the awards announcement. Dr. Bracy is chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee.

Read on to see what books were awarded this year’s top prizes.

Kelly Barnhill won the John Newbery Medal for her book, The Girl Who Drank the Moon

BRUCE SILCOX
Kelly Barnhill won the John Newbery Medal for her book, The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

John Newbery Medal — The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Newbery Medal honors the most outstanding book for children. This year it was awarded to The Girl Who Drank the Moon, written by Kelly Barnhill. The fantasy book tells the tale of Luna, a young girl raised by a witch named Xan, Glerk the swamp monster, and Fyrian, a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. After Luna is abandoned in the forest, Xan raises her. But she accidentally feeds Luna starlight, which gives her extraordinary power. As she grows up, Luna must find a way to unlock the magic inside of her.

Barnhill said she was humbled and exhilarated by winning the award. “It’s amazing for me just to be part of a group of people that honors children’s stories and recognizes the fact that we’re all built out of stories and those stories start in childhood.”

To read the full interview with Barnhill, click here.

Javaka Steptoe won the Randolph Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

GREGG RICHARDS
Javaka Steptoe won the Randolph Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

Randolph Caldecott Medal — Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Each year, the Randolph Caldecott Medal is given to the best picture book for children. The 2017 winner is Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. It is the first picture book biography to focus on artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Basquiat always wanted to be an artist. His mother encouraged him by taking him to museums and doing art projects. Radiant Child follows Basquiat as he emerges in the 1980s as one of the most famous artists in the world.

“I hope this book will help kids love and appreciate Basquiat’s artwork,” Steptoe told TFK on the day he received the award. “I wanted to tell his story in a way that wasn’t being told.”

To read the full interview with Steptoe, click here.

Congressman John Lewis won four ALA awards for his book, March: Book Three.

JEFF HUTCHENS—GETTY IMAGES
Congressman John Lewis won four ALA awards for his book, March: Book Three.

Coretta Scott King Awards

The Coretta Scott King Awards are given every year in multiple categories to the best African American authors and illustrators of children’s books.

This year’s Author Book Award went to civil rights activist and United States congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin for March: Book Three. The book is the third in the March trilogy of graphic novels about Lewis’ work during the Civil Rights Movement. Book Three focuses on Lewis’ time with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as it fights injustice and organizes protests leading up to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Lewis received four ALA awards, honoring Book Three. This is the first time an author has won so many ALA awards in a single year. "March is a guidebook reminding us that we all must speak up and stand up for what is right, what is fair, and what is just,” Lewis said in an e-mail to TFK.

After the win, Aydin spoke to TFK on the phone about the book. He shared some words of advice for young writers. "You have to pick a story that you believe in with all your heart because nobody else will,” Aydin told TFK. "I deeply believed that John Lewis’ story was worth telling at a time when not many people did."

Andrew Aydin co-authored March: Book Three, which won four ALA awards including the Coretta Scott King Author Award.

COURTESY TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS
Andrew Aydin co-authored March: Book Three, which won four ALA awards including the Coretta Scott King Author Award.

To read the full interview with Aydin, click here.

The 2017 Coretta Scott King Award Recipient for Illustrators went to Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, which was recognized for its artwork. This is Steptoe’s second time winning this award. He also won for his debut book, In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall.

Other winners

Nicola Yoon was named the John Steptoe New Talent Award winner for her book The Sun is Also a Star. (This award is named for acclaimed children’s book illustrator John Steptoe, who is the father of Radiant Child illustrator Javaka Steptoe.) Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop was given the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. Author Nikki Grimes was awarded the 2017 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, while Sarah Dessen was given the Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award. For their portrayal and affirmation of the Latino experience, the 2017 Pura Belpré Awards went to Esquivel!: Space-Age Sound Artist, The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes, and Juana & Lucas.

Take a look at some of last year’s winners here.


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