They didn't get the Newbery or Caldecott but these kids' authors won big this year

They didn't get the Newbery or Caldecott but these kids' authors won big this year

8:22am Jan 25, 2022
The cover of Firekeeper's Daughter, which won multiple prizes this year from the American Library Association.
The cover of Firekeeper's Daughter, which won multiple prizes this year from the American Library Association.
Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
  • The cover of Firekeeper's Daughter, which won multiple prizes this year from the American Library Association.

    The cover of Firekeeper's Daughter, which won multiple prizes this year from the American Library Association.

    Macmillan Children's Publishing Group

  • Novelist Angeline Boulley's first book for teenagers, Firekeeper's Daughter, won multiple awards from the American Library Association this year.

    Novelist Angeline Boulley's first book for teenagers, Firekeeper's Daughter, won multiple awards from the American Library Association this year.

    Amber Boulley / Macmillan Children's Publishing Group

  • Malinda Lo has been racking up   prizes for her YA novel, Last Night At the Telegraph Club.

    Malinda Lo has been racking up prizes for her YA novel, Last Night At the Telegraph Club.

    Sharona Jacobs. / Penguin Young Readers

Angeline Boulley did not win a Newbery or a Caldecott medal this year from the American Library Association.

Those are the two oldest and arguably most prestigious awards in children's literature. But they're among 22 awards the ALA handed out this week to books for kids, and a few names kept coming up during the ceremony, Boulley's among them.

An enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Boulley was honored with the American Indian Youth Literature Awards for her YA novel Firekeeper's Daughter. It also won the William C. Morris Award for a debut book by a first-time author writing for teens, and the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. That's three significant awards.

Author Malinda Lo was only a runner up for the Printz award but please don't feel too sorry for her. Her YA novel Last Night At the Telegraph Club had already won a National Book Award; the ALA awarded it the youth literature prize for Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature as well as the Stonewall Book Award - Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children's & Young Adult Literature award given to young adult books related to the LGBT experience.

"I belong to both of those communities so I'm tremendously honored," Lo told NPR, beaming in a call over Zoom.

But the book for young people that received the most recognition from the American Library Association this year is called Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre. Author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Floyd Cooper each won a Coretta Scott King award this year. Unspeakable was also a Caldecott honor book and a runner up for the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal.

"For me, the biggest reward comes in the form of a question," Weatherford told NPR. She says when children engage with her book, they always ask her the same things. "Did that really happen. or, why did that happen? Why did White people treat Black people so unfairly? Why were they being so hateful?"

A children's book about the Tulsa race massacre could be banned in a number of states these days, Weatherford warns, because some legislators might view it as "critical race theory." She says would have loved to celebrate with her collaborator Floyd Cooper, but the acclaimed illustrator did not live to see his most recent set of honors. Cooper died in July of cancer at the age of 65.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Transcript

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Two of the most meaningful words in children's literature are Caldecott and Newbery. Those are the names of prestigious medals awarded each year by the American Library Association. But they're among nearly two dozen awards the group handed out this year to books for kids. And NPR's Neda Ulaby noted a few names that just kept winning during this year's ceremony.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: One of the best books for teenagers in American Indian literature was...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: "Firekeeper's Daughter" by Angeline Boulley.

ULABY: A member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Boulley won two other awards - best first young adult novel and an award for excellence in literature for young adults. Author Malinda Lo was only a runner-up for that award, but try not to feel too sorry for her.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: "Last Night At The Telegraph Club," written by Malinda Lo.

ULABY: Lo won the best young adult prize for LGBT literature and...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: The 2022 Asian/Pacific American Award for Youth Literature is "Last Night At The Telegraph Club," written by Malinda Lo.

ULABY: But the book for young people that received the most recognition from the American Library Association this year is called "Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAROLE BOSTON WEATHERFORD: So we won more awards than any other book.

ULABY: Author Carole Boston Weatherford has won lots of awards. She and her collaborator, the illustrator Floyd Cooper, each won a Coretta Scott King Award this year. "Unspeakable" was also a Caldecott honor book and a runner-up for the Robert Sibert Award. But Weatherford says the biggest reward for her is when a child reads about this piece of history and starts asking questions.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WEATHERFORD: Did that really happen, or why did that happen?

ULABY: A book about the Tulsa Race Massacre could be banned in a number of states these days, she warns, because some legislators might see it as critical race theory. Weatherford was looking forward to working on her next book with Floyd Cooper, but he died in July of cancer. He was 65 years old.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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