Jerry Craft, author of “New Kid,” and Kadir Nelson, illustrator of “The Undefeated,” are the winners of the 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Awards honoring African American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults. Author, Alicia D. Williams of “Genesis Begins Again,” and Illustrator April Harrison of “What Comes from the Heart,” are the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent winners. The awards were announced today at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, held Jan. 24 – 28, in Philadelphia and presented in Chicago at the ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition in June.
The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are presented annually by the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee of the ALA’s Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT). The awards encourage the artistic expression of the African American experience via literature and the graphic arts; promote an understanding and appreciation of the black culture and experience, and commemorate the life and legacy of Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination in supporting the work of her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for peace and world brotherhood.
“New Kid” published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, is tells the story of Jordan Banks, an artistic Black middle school student who has transferred from public school to an elite, predominantly White private school and must contend not only with typical middle school challenges but also with microaggressions and code-switching. “Told in a graphic novel format, Jordan’s experiences are rendered highly accessible to young people and include his own doodles, journal entries and handbooks for middle school students,” said Christina Vortia, Coretta Scott King Book Awards Juror.
Author and Illustrator Jerry Craft creates impactful picture books, middle grade and graphic novels, and comics. He has won five African American literary awards and has co-founded Schomburg’s prestigious Annual Black Comic Book Festival. Born in New York City, Craft lives in Norwalk, CT.
“Craft’s graphic novel offers a fresh, youthful voice, to the discussion on how Black youth navigate predominantly white faces. This story will resonate with many youth who have found themselves in similar situations as Jordan,” said Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury Chair LaKeshia Darden.
“The Undefeated,” illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Kwame Alexander and published by Versity, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is an emotional deep dive into the unapologetic brilliance of the Black experience in the face of unspeakable injustice. “Capturing the excellence of iconic figures in Black history, as well as the known and unknown victims of brutality, this book showcases the raw humanity of generations of determination and will. Themes of survival, hope, and resilience permeate in this masterful picture book,” said Christina Vortia, Coretta Scott King Book Awards Juror.
“Kadir Nelson is a master visual storyteller of imagery and his choice of illustrations from “the unspeakable” spreads to deciding when it was appropriate to have little to no image on the page speaks to his expertise,” said Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury Chair LaKeshia Darden.
Kadir Nelson is the author and illustrator of numerous titles, as well as illustrator of several commemorative postage stamps. Nelson is a two-time Caldecott Honor Award winner. He received an NAACP Image Award for the book Just the Two of Us. For his book, We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, he received the 2008 CASEY Award for best baseball book, the 2009 Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the 2009 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award. From author’s webpage.
The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent affirms new talent and offers visibility for excellence in writing and/or illustration at the beginning of a career as a published African American creator of children’s books. This year’s author winner is Alicia D. Williams for “Genesis Begins Again,” published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, a Caitlyn Dlouhy Book. “There are 96 things that Genesis hates about herself, and her dark skin is at the top of the list. Genesis tries to hold her family together as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Williams’ authentic youthful storytelling explores how Genesis navigates poverty, family relationships, bullying, and overcomes the feelings of self-hate due to the trauma of colorism,” LaKeshia Darden, Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury Chair.
Alicia Williams is a graduate of the MFA program at Hamline University. An oral storyteller in the African American tradition, she is also a teacher who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Genesis Begins Again is her debut novel.
The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent affirms new talent and offers visibility for excellence in writing and/or illustration at the beginning of a career as a published African American creator of children’s books. This year’s winner is April Harrison for “What Comes from the Heart,” published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. “Harrison’s soft illustrations, a mix of collage and acrylic painting, tell the story of James who knows what it’s like to have very little. When his close friend Sarah’s family loses all they own in a fire, he struggles to come up with a suitable gift to give her. The carefully pieced together illustrations and earthy tones are a suitable pairing for this tale that reminds the reader that a gift that comes from the heart is always priceless,” LaKeshia Darden, Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury Chair.
April Harrison is self-taught and paints images primarily in acrylics, powders, watercolors, pencils, and collage. She resides in Greenville, SC.
Three Author Honor Book (s) were selected:
“Look Both Ways,” by Jason Reynolds, and published by published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, a Caitlyn Dlouhy Book.
“The Stars and the Blackness Between Them,” by Junauda Petrus, and published by published by Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
“Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky,” by Kwame Mbalia, and published by Disney-Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group.
Three Illustrator Honor Book(s) were selected:
“The Bell Rang,” illustrated by written by James E. Ransome and published by Atheneum Books For Young Readers, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, a Caitlyn Dlouhy Book.
“Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace” illustrated and written by Ashley Bryan and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, a Caitlyn Dlouhy Book.
“Sulwe,” illustrated by Vashti Harrison written by Lupita Nyong’o, and published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.
Members of the 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury are Chair LaKeshia Darden, Campbell University, Buies Creek, N.C.; Irene L. Briggs, Library of Congress/Young Readers Center, Silver Spring, Md.; Jewel Davis, Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C.; Jason Miles Driver, Sr., Chicago Public Library; Susan H. Polos, Greenwich Country Day School, Greenwich, Conn.; Maegen J. Rose, Rye Country Day School, Rye, N.Y.; and Christina Vortia, HypeLit, Land O’ Lakes, Fla.
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For information on the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and other ALA Youth Media Awards, visit www.ala.org/yma.