Forget about the red carpet and who will take home the statue for Best Picture. The awards show readers should really care about is the American Library Association’s announcement of the top books of the past year for children and young adults. It was an event to remember: The mood in Boston was celebratory and the honorees covered a broad array of subjects, ranging from stories about a harmonica and a famous bear to narratives about a renowned trombonist and the civil rights movement.
The John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to American children’s literature was awarded to Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson. In this tale about gratitude and contentment, CJ spends his Sundays with his grandmother, riding the bus across town to Market Street. Along the way, CJ learns to stop worrying so much about what he lacks and to instead appreciate the beauty all around him — a timely and lovely lesson we can all take to heart. Last Stop on Market Street joins recent distinguished winners of the Newbery Medal including Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, and Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan.
The Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children was awarded to illustrator Sophie Blackall for Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, written by Lindsay Mattick. Finding Winnie relates the little-known but touching true story of the bear that inspired A.A. Milne to create the beloved Winnie-the-Pooh. The last time a bear won the Caldecott was in 1953, when Lynd Ward’s The Biggest Bear took the top prize.
Four Caldecott Honor Books were also named: Trombone Shorty, illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Troy Andrews; Waiting, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes; Voices of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, illustrated by Ekua Holmes and written by Carole Boston Weatherford; and Last Stop on Market Street.
The Coretta Scott King Book Awards, which recognize African American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults, went to Rita Williams-Garcia, author of Gone Crazy in Alabama, and to Bryan Collier for his illustrations in Trombone Shorty. Gone Crazy in Alabama — a companion to the award-winning One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven — tells the story of the Brooklyn-born Gaither sisters, who learn how to navigate both the rural South and their complex family as they spend a summer with their grandmother and great-grandmother in Alabama. Trombone Shorty also takes readers to the South — this time to New Orleans — to tell the story of how author Troy Andrews beat the odds to follow his dream and become an internationally respected musician.
King Author Honor Awards also went to All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely; The Boy in the Black Suit, by Jason Reynolds; and X: A Novel, by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon. King Illustrator Honor Awards were bestowed upon The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore, written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, and Last Stop on Market Street.
Jerry Pinkney received both the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his lasting contribution to children’s literature. Pinkney, perhaps best known for his 2010 Caldecott Award-winning book The Lion and the Mouse, has earned a stunning five Caldecott Awards, five Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards, and four Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honors. A prodigious illustrator, Mr. Pinkney has been creating gorgeous and memorable children’s books for more than fifty years and his multiple honors this year are a fitting tribute to his lifetime of work.
For a full list of all award winners, please visit the American Library Association’s website.