Have you ever been where the wild things are? Taken a ride on the Polar Express, or a walk with Madeline and her classmates in two straight lines? Have you hung out with Mr. Popper’s penguins, or Johnny Tremain, or a mouse named Despereaux? If so, you’ve read a Newbery or Caldecott-winning book—and you know just how magical children’s literature can be. Now, reports Thu Huong-Ha for Quartz, the list of award-winning books just got longer with the announcement of this year’s most prestigious honors for the genre.
This morning, the American Library Association revealed its 2017 awards for the top books for children and young adults. The announcement, part of the Association’s midwinter meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, is like the Academy Awards for children’s book authors and illustrators—an acknowledgment that American librarians stand behind the work of a new stable of imaginative and emotionally powerful books for young readers.
The John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature was awarded to The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. The book, which was a New York Times bestseller, tells the story of a young girl raised by a good witch, a pocket-sized dragon and a poetry-writing monster, who must contend with the magic within her to help protect those she holds most dear.
Given annually by the American Library Association since 1922, the Newbery Medal was named after an 18th-century English bookseller named John Newbery who is considered to be the father of children’s literature. Newbery is responsible for publishing one of the first collections of Mother Goose rhymes and other whimsical children’s stories that turned children’s publishing into a viable—and very profitable—industry.
Newbery Honors went to Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan, The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, and Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk.
The Randolph Caldecott Medal for most distinguished American picture book for children is named for a British artist and illustrator who helped make illustrated books for children popular during the Victorian era. This year's medal was awarded to Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michael Basquiat. Written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe, the book tells the story the future street artist and neo-Expressionist’s childhood in New York through artwork that echoes Basquiat’s vibrant, collage-like creations. Caldecott Honors went to Leave Me Alone! illustrated and written by Vera Brosgol, Freedom in Congo Square, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and written by Carole Boston Weatherford, Du Iz Tak? illustrated and written by Carson Ellis, and They All Saw a Cat, illustrated and written by Brendan Wenzel.
Two other familiar names are among those emblazoned on awards given out today. The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are named after the American author and Civil Rights activist and wife of Martin Luther King, and they honor African-American authors and illustrators of children’s books. One of the awards in her name, the King Author Book award, was given to March: Book Three. Third in the graphic novel trilogy about John Lewis’ young life, the book was written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. As SmartNews reports, the trilogy has already won a number of prestigious awards and is being used in school curricula to teach students about the Civil Rights movement. March: Book Three also snagged the prestigious Michael L. Printz award for young adult literature.
Another award is named after Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose Little House books changed the genre forever in the 1930s. The award named after Wilder honors an author or illustrator who has, like Wilder, made a significant and lasting contribution to children’s literature. This year’s winner, Nikki Grimes, has written 45 books for children and young adults, many of which bring the African-American experience to life for kids.
From a city bus to the Civil Rights Movement to a magical witch's world, this year's winners just go to show that it's a wide world for young readers. You can read up on the entire list of award winners here.