The Courage and Risk of Self-Discovery 

Kids are constantly adding pieces to the rose window that will define them for the rest of their lives: likes, dislikes, hobbies, personality, and so forth. A lot of times, kids are set on a path and expected to follow it, but when they look around their crowded lunchroom and find their peers sticking to the status quo, it can be hard to cut their own path in this world. To be authentic, to find a dream and follow it in spite of what others have to say, is perhaps the bravest thing one can do. 

Let’s spend a moment and explore three titles that highlight the significance of being courageous, and what it means to take risks in discovering who you truly are.

Jacqueline Woodson’s autobiography-in-verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, offers a deeply vulnerable glimpse into the spirit of a young poet who seems predestined to become a writer. Even as a child newly moved to Brooklyn, Woodson understood that: 

For the majority of her youth, Woodson stood in the vast shadow of Odella, her brilliant older sister. Odella excelled in her studies, described as “gifted,” “outstanding,” and “brilliant” – her bright light often dimming the inner glow of her younger sister. In contrast, Woodson found herself battling a learning challenge that twisted words on the page and left her struggling to keep up in her classes. But words proved to be kinder than Woodson could’ve ever anticipated, because when she took the time to be patient with herself, “the words come pouring out of me.” 

Trying to gain her family’s approval to become a writer proved to be a steeper challenge than Woodson anticipated. Her love for writing and story-telling may have been deeply ingrained, but that doesn’t stop naysaying relatives: 

Does this negativity prevent Woodson from pursuing her love of writing? Nope! Woodson knows that the tales spinning through her head are too important to remain internalized and understands that she was “a long time coming.” Never doubting her gifts – though her “voice shakes” the first time she recites one of her poems to her class – Woodson comes into herself, blooming brilliantly and becoming one of the strongest literary voices of this generation.  

 For the unforgettable cast of Jason Reynolds’ Look Both Ways, students in Ms. Broome’s class have an important assignment: “to imagine ourselves as objects. Any object we want.” And that task sends kids casting about for who they are, and what they might become. We meet the Low Cuts with their hearts of gold, a boy with lips that sting thanks to an accidental VapoRub application, and a pair of maybe-maybe-not water bear boogers.  

There’s also Ty Carson, whose life has been turned upside down thanks to an exchange at the water fountain: “Ty had been kissed. By a boy… On his cheek.” He may have been surprised by such a sudden exchange, but he wasn’t mad – and that is what he found most surprising. And though Slim is the one who met Ty at the water fountain, it’s Slim who turns the rumor mill around to attack Ty. And that doesn’t sit right with Ty’s best friend, Bryson, who arrives at the lunch table to an awful scene: “They were calling Ty all kinds of names. Names that bite. Names that stick and mark. Names that catch fire and leave a burnt smell in the air.” 

Bryson doesn’t see anything wrong with boys who like other boys, and he doesn’t understand why the other kids are making such a big deal about some incidental contact while hydrating. So when Bryson smacks a kiss to Ty’s cheek to show it’s no big deal,   Bryson doesn’t consider that “attention would be paid.”  

But that attention comes in the form of a major beat-down after the last bell rings. 

Though feeling guilty that Bryson got himself hurt, Ty also finds himself touched by this display of loyalty and friendship. When Ty rushes out of school, he “jammed his hand into [a] bush and snatched a fistful of roses” and brings them to Bryson’s house under the guise of playing video games. Bryson invites Ty in, demanding nothing but companionship and some Call of Duty. 

It’s such a simple thing, this blanket acceptance from Bryson. And Bryson giving Ty the space, company, and reassurance to do just that is no small feat, either. However, it is such a monumental display of courage for Ty in the face of such viciousness from his classmates – the courage to risk his friendship to offer up a fistful of roses in thanks. There’s no telling what the future holds for Ty and his identity, but there’s no doubt he’ll always have Bryson in his corner. 

In Lesa Cline-Ransome’s gorgeous novel, Finding Langston, the risk that comes with self-discovery is more subtle. Langston has been transplanted from the home he’s known all his life and finds Chicago quite different from Alabama: there’s no red clay, there’s no Grandma, and there’s no Mama, who’s loss Langston feels constantly. It’s hard enough to discover yourself in normal circumstances, but Langston can’t even find his way home from school. While fleeing from a pack of bullies, though, Langston stumbles upon an unanticipated safe haven at the George Cleveland Hall Branch of the Chicago Public Library. He’s never seen so many books all in one place. Even better, he’s never encountered another person with his name before, especially not a famous Black poet. Falling heart first into the work of Langston Hughes is pivotal for Langston. It “feels like reading words from [his] own heart.” For a boy that’s moved to a new, strange city, something as small as “a book in the library about magnolia trees, just like the ones back home” becomes a vital crutch for Langston to lean on. 

The thing is, it’s a crutch Langston hides from his father at every turn. He even tells his father he’s playing with a non-existent group of boys rather than admit he’s frequenting the library. 

But why? 

The memories Langston has of his mother often feel slippery and fleeting, so far from him most days, it’s as if his Mama lived in a different decade. Homesickness has become so deeply ingrained in Langston, it’s like he’s gained another rib. Expressing all of this openly doesn’t feel like an option, not when Langston’s father is so loathe to express his own grief while determined to give Langston a better life in Chicago. Poetry, for Langston, is something that he wants to keep “all to [him]self.” It’s an outlet for his grief and a window back to all he was made to leave behind. As Langston tells himself: 

Carrying such huge, heavy feelings alone is no way to live, though, and after one of the books is damaged by another student, Langston understands that he has no choice but to lay out and share this precious secret he’s spent weeks protecting. 

It takes Langston sharing a poem aloud for Langston’s father to finally reveal that Mama loved to read, as well. Learning that the very same words that have brought Langston back to himself once meant as much to his Mama is incredibly affirming for Langston. There’s an undeniable sense of security in the knowledge that, in being a reader, a thinker, and possibly even a poet in the making, Langston is his mother’s son and will carry on her memory even though she’s somewhere he can’t reach. And while we don’t get to see them together in the library’s stacks, readers can hope that while Langston’s “Mama led [him] to this library” the same higher power might move Langston’s father to better appreciate Langston and his love for poetry, too. 

As William Faulkner once said, “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” Sure, taking a leap of faith can be incredibly daunting, but a mere second of courage can lend itself to a lifetime of living authentically. So what do you dream of? What is lingering on the end of your tongue that you can never quite bring yourself to say or do? There’s no need to rush or fret if you don’t have all the answers, not when you’ve got three brilliant titles to inspire you along the way. 


Swallowing Wild Beasts – a Re-Discovery of The Little Prince

[This is a personal essay by Program Specialist, Kayla Aldrich. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is not a title in Read to Them’s catalog.]

 

When you look at the image below, what do you see? Does it scare you?

It looks like a hat, right? It’s got the shape and color of a hat, so why on earth would you ever be scared of it?

Now, look at the image again. Look closer, and then you’ll see why it’s alright to be frightened:

It’s an elephant that’s been swallowed by a boa constrictor! If you didn’t see it before, surely you see it now.

This is a test that The Little Prince’s narrator would use on “a grown-up who seemed to me at all enlightened” to see “if he really understood anything.” To see if one can understand what is really important in life.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a French pilot and a prolific writer throughout the 1930s and 40s. He even won the National Book Award for his novel, Wind, Sand, and Stars. In 1935, Saint-Expéry crashed his plane in the Libyan desert and traveled for days to find help, an experience that would define him, and his career, for the remainder of his life.

The Little Prince is a fable narrated by a nameless pilot who crashed in the desert only to awake and find a young stranger standing beside him. (Sound familiar?) The stranger – the Little Prince, of course – asks the pilot to draw him a sheep. Disoriented and bemused, the pilot sees no other option than to pull out a pencil and paper. For eight days, the pilot learns of the Little Prince’s origins on Asteroid B-612 and his journey across six different planets before his arrival on Earth. He even learns how the Little Prince tamed a fox by creating ties with it:

“For me wheat is of no use whatever. Wheat fields say nothing to me. Which is sad. But you have hair the color of gold. So it will be wonderful, once you’ve tamed me! The wheat, which is golden, will remind me of you. And I’ll love the sound of wind in the wheat…”

The Little Prince is a fable narrated by a nameless pilot who crashed in the desert only to awake and find a young stranger standing beside him.

I first read Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince as a middle schooler back in 2012. Not only had I seen quotes excerpted from The Little Prince floating around Tumblr, but I was lucky enough to have an English teacher with a sprawling classroom library. Finding a well-loved copy of the book among dozens of other well-loved titles felt like fate. I remember flying through the story in just one sitting, moved by the boy who wished to reunite with his beloved, ephemeral rose, but most of my friends were reading other, more contemporary things. (This was, admittedly, the height of The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Twilight crazeneedless to say, my focus was drawn elsewhere.)

Then, in my junior year of college, I found a second edition of The Little Prince in a used bookstore, and spent an afternoon reacquainting myself with the pilot and his strange, golden friend. It was familiar, a reprieve between my readings of darker, denser classics like Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations. I also knew that I wanted to be a published author, and every fiction workshop leader will tell you that reading a lot is just as important as writing a lot. The Little Prince is something of a storytelling masterclass, clocking in at less than 90 pages with the rich sort of prose I’d always strived to capture in my own work. Naturally, as a diligent student of the craft, I kept the book off the shelf much longer, but I still didn’t give it the attention it deserved.  

Now, with college graduation two years behind me, The Little Prince comes to mind with increasing frequency. It’s a book that’s been hailed as timeless, universally cherished- and you won’t catch me disagreeing with either label. P.L. Travers, who wrote the Mary Poppins series, once said that, “The Little Prince will shine upon children with a sidewise gleam. It will strike them in some place that is not the mind and glow there until the time comes for them to comprehend it.” That, to me, is what makes the book so vital, so necessary. A global pandemic continues to rage and most days, it can be hard to let my inner child run as wild and free as she used to.

“I may be a little like the grown-ups,” the pilot realizes, rather early in his friendship with the Little Prince. “I must have grown old.”

Oh, but haven’t we all?

See, what drove the Little Prince from Asteroid B-612 was that rose of his. She was vain, and the Little Prince was bothered by how much she demanded of him. When he lands on Earth, though, he is crushed by the sight of a garden filled with five thousand roses who look exactly like his rose. The Little Prince had felt rich, because he had “just one flower” that was singular, that was, in his eyes, on a pedestal that no other bloom could reach.

But isn’t the Little Prince’s rose still important?

So many of us grown-ups have trouble looking beyond the surface of things. It’s why you probably failed the test at the start of this post. It’s not something that happens overnight, but a mindset we slip into gradually. One might argue that they don’t have time to think deeper, that they have a pressing to-do list and must get on their way, thank you very much.

And to that, I’d say, “Pause. It’s worth it, I promise.”

At the heart of the novel, there is yet another lesson the Little Prince is taught by his fox: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly: what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

There could be thousands of flowers, but none are as important as the single rose the Little Prince has watered and tended to. Deeper than that, there is beauty and wonder to be found in common things. A fleeting sunset. A favorite mug. A pen that writes better than other pens. What makes these things important to you, of course, is the love and care you’ve put into them.

It’s a simple truth, but it’s something that can easily be forgotten when issues deemed more pressing are at play. Though I’m only 23, it often feels as if I’m racing against time, that I cannot rest until I’ve accomplished a lifetime’s worth of achievements. When that mindset threatens to consume me, I try my best to step back. To take a breather. For the first time in years, I’ve started to paint again. Sure, my landscapes aren’t giving Bob Ross a run for his money, but they’re mine. I sat with them and I mixed every color that ultimately landed on the canvas, and even if none of my little wonders are very good–

What is essential is invisible to the eye.

I try to gently remind myself of this as often as I can. It’s something I have no doubt many of us could benefit from hearing, now and then.

The Little Prince may be categorized as children’s literature, but that doesn’t mean its lessons expire once elephants swallowed by boa constrictors begin to look like hats. That’s the beauty of children’s books: their lessons are universal, packaged for children but accessible to all ages.

And that’s the power of any good book, isn’t it? To revisit characters and their messages, and be touched by them both in new ways. To have such vital lessons standing by, ready when you are.

Ready when you need them the most.


Author Lesa Cline-Ransome Discusses Courage

To discuss Courage, Bruce and Sara sat down with Lesa Cline-Ransome. Lesa is the author of Read to Them title, Finding Langston, the first part of a trilogy that follows three young Black boys as their lives intersect in 1940s Chicago. The trilogy continues with Leaving Lymon and concludes with Being Clem. All three of the boys are in Chicago as a result of the Great Migration of families out of the Jim Crow South into cities in the North, looking for better opportunities. That act of leaving home behind and venturing to a new and unknown place represents a huge act of courage, one undertaken by millions of Black families in the early to mid-20th Century. Lesa’s books are filled with characters that show other acts of courage – big and small. During our conversation, Lesa discussed how she wrote these novels first to be great stories. Themes like courage arise as the stories unfold.  

During this wonderful conversation, we learn more about Lesa’s writing process, including how Finding Langston, the stand-alone novel, became Finding Langston, the first book of an interconnected trilogy. We also learn about how she found the courage to write these novels after spending her career as an acclaimed picture book author. Lesa also shared touching personal anecdotes from her family history – growing up in a house with music; a father who migrated North but didn’t really like to talk about it; and a mother who still reveres Joe Louis. She also shed light on a critical playground scene that she uses to anchor the trilogy, replaying it in all three books. That pivotal scene shows readers why it is so valuable to understand a story from more than one point of view.  Lesa was so generous with her time and her insights, and we love the books even more after talking with her. 


Read to Them Schools Receive Mother Cabrini Health Foundation Grants

Read to Them is incredibly honored to be selected as a Mother Cabrini Health Foundation grantee for 2022. Through this partnership, and the work of countless educators across the state, Read to Them is eager to continue to support vulnerable communities in each corner of New York.

“As we look back at the compounding crises of the last few years, the health-related needs of vulnerable communities have only grown. Our grantees have demonstrated tremendous resilience, creativity, and dedication to serving those in need, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have such detrimental impact,” said Alfred F. Kelly, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of Visa and Chair of the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation Board.

The Cabrini Health Foundation awarded Read to Them two grants, the first of which will serve students in the Syracuse City School District in Syracuse, NY. The primary focus of this project is to address literacy loss of Syracuse students in grades K-6 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through an accessible literacy initiative and an emphasis on reading proficiency, Read to Them’s One School, One Book program will aid in building a bridge between the Syracuse community, schools, and parents. The goal is to enable students to read at home and at school, a balance that is pivotal in increasing reading levels.

The second grant will serve students in Oswego and Fulton (Oswego County), Lafayette (Onondaga County) and Rome (Oneida County) School Districts. This grant will focus on partnering with these four districts in grades K-8 to target the Three Rs from the Pandemic – Reading, Regression, and Recovery. Students returning to school are expected to be one year behind in reading. Read to Them will partner to address reading regression and involve the districts and their communities, and engage parents in helping their children overcome this huge barrier to academic success. Read to Them endeavors to reach across academic and economic barriers to engage all sectors in the community to address the pressing issue that is reading regression.

Literacy is the foundation to improving the economic future of children. It is fundamental to equity in healthcare, economic stability, and the dignity of life. Read to Them is grateful for the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation for emphasizing this simple, but crucial truth and looks forward to our budding partnership.

 

 

The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of New Yorkers, bolster the health outcomes of vulnerable communities, eliminate barriers to care, and bridge gaps in health services. Named after a tireless advocate for immigrants, children, and the poor, the Foundation funds programs and initiatives across New York State that provide either direct healthcare services or address the social determinants of health. For more information, visit the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation.


Through the Lens of Quiet Courage

quiet – silent, noiseless, inaudible, low, soft, discreet, inobtrusive, soundless…

courage – bravery, nerve, pluck, valor, daring, audacity, mettle, resolution, guts…

In “Finding Langston”, a young boy named for the legendary poet finds the quiet courage to carry on.

At first glance, these words have no overlap, no lens-shaped area of commonality. And yet, if we use a sharper lens, we find that quiet can be an essential characteristic of courage. Lesa Cline-Ransome, Jason Reynolds, and Jacqueline Woodson show us the poetry of quiet courage –  with a little help from Langston Hughes.

In Freedom’s Plow, Langston Hughes issues this call:

When a man starts out with nothing,

When a man starts out with his hands

Empty, but clean,

When a man starts to build a world,

He starts first with himself

And the faith that is in his heart –

The strength there,

The will there to build.

Witness the soft grace in “Finding Langston” from Lesa Cline-Ransome.

It must be that authors feel this same quiet courage when trying to build a world from an idea and a blank page, facing an unknowable future. We, the readers of their ultimate stories, are so lucky that they – as Jason Reynolds says –  “jump anyway.” With that leap, we are gifted wonderful words – characters and stories – that prove courage doesn’t have to be bombast and armor and swords and hills to die on. Instead, courage can be firm resolve, inner strength.

Witness the soft grace in Finding Langston from Lesa Cline-Ransome. A young boy named for a poet finds the quiet courage to carry on in his new home of Chicago as he and his father join the Great Migration from their native Alabama. Now, Langston’s overalls and accent are “country,” worthy of ridicule from his new city peers. With his father immersed in his own grief over the death of Langston’s mother, the boy must face all of this strangeness largely alone. Alone, that is, until a dash to avoid schoolyard taunts lands him in the library, a place with “a ceiling so big and bright, seems like God himself is looking down.”

The George Cleveland Hall Branch of the Chicago Public Library leads young Langston to his mother’s lasting legacy, passed down to him through his name – that name, a caring librarian, a book, and then a new-found love for poetry that lay dormant in his DNA. But where is the quiet courage in that discovery? It comes, finally, when he steels himself to share his bridge to his mother with his mourning father, carving the smallest of notches in the armor the man has built around his own pain:

As Jason Reynolds says, “jump anyway.” With that leap, we are gifted wonderful words, characters, and stories.

“Listen, son. I don’t know anything ‘bout Langston Hughes and I sure don’t know anything about poems. Only Langston I’m worried ‘bout is the one sitting here in front of me.”

We’re quiet for a bit.

“Can I read you one?” I ask.

“Read me a poem?” Daddy laughs.

“Just one,” I say.

“Sure, go on and read me a poem.”

I try to remember how Miss Fulton read the words, slow and strong. I open one of the books and start.

The quiet courage to share a poem brings this father and son closer, close enough for a father to see the importance of the library to young Langston. Close enough to allow his son to build a bond of words and art with his gone-too-young mother. Close enough, in the end, for the father to ask, “Which way is the library?”

There’s nothing soft about a school bus falling from the sky. Jason Reynolds has his own way of showing the quiet courage deep inside everyday children as they do everyday things like walking home from school. In Look Both Ways, he shows ten different ways to find the depth and dignity in our children, lying just beneath the swagger and sweat, backpacks and backtalk. It might be the friendship between Jasmine and TJ even though “boys and girls can’t just be friends.” Or the Low Cuts finding the courage to face the neighborhood pool hall filled with “old men, like scraggly human cigarettes with non-human cigarettes dangling from their mouths”  – all to help one boy’s mom who could be the parent of any of them. It could be a broken skateboard leading to a boy’s confession to his mother, or an envelope with a joke inside – a gift for a Grandfather whose memory is slipping away. And, it could also be a quickly grabbed fistful of roses, thorns and all, to show an emotion you can’t quite name.

The final story in Look Both Ways weaves all the threads together as young Canton observes the ebb and flow of students leaving Latimer Middle School at the corner of Portal Avenue. That corner is the place where all courage – quiet or otherwise – once drained right out of young Canton. It happened several weeks earlier when his crossing guard mother did the most courageous thing of all – pushing a student out of the way of a school bus that was most definitely on terra firma. After that, courage has been in short supply for Canton. Luckily, Mr. Munch – the school custodian and Canton’s afterschool pal – finds just the answer, an emotional support dog, made from a push broom. With the courage-building broom dog on his lap, Canton now observes the world from his corner. “He watched his classmates tap-dance with tongues, challenging one another, slipping and sliding from story to story.”

These stories are, at their core, the thing that girds these middle schoolers as they find their way, literally and figuratively. The courage is clear, even if cleverly crafted to masquerade as a meandering walk through the neighborhood.

In Jacqueline Woodson’s “Brown Girl Dreaming”, the protagonist clings to stories – the essence of what words are for – rather than drowning in the business of reading and writing.

And then there is Jacqueline Woodson’s deeply personal masterwork, Brown Girl Dreaming, showing us her own quiet courage to find her voice, her poetry, and her calling. As a girl, words seemed to fight against her, rather than rallying to her aid. Undeterred, she clung to stories – the essence of what words are for – rather than drowning in the business of reading and writing. She safeguarded her love of story, and we are the beneficiaries of that courage.

reading

I am not my sister.

Words from the books curl around each other

make little sense

until

I read them again

and again, the story

settling into memory. Too slow

the teacher says.

Read faster.

Too babyish, the teacher says.

Read older.

But I don’t want to read faster or older or

any way else that might

make the story disappear too quickly from where

            it’s settling

inside my brain,

slowly becoming

a part of me.

A story I will remember

long after I’ve read it for the second, third,

tenth, hundredth time.

Growing up in three distinct worlds, Jackie finds role models for quiet courage all around her. First, in Ohio, the courage of a young mother to leave a place that will never be home, to return to a place that puts her in a box that will never fit.

But what did it look like

when she finally left him?

 

A woman nearly six feet tall, straight-backed

and proud, heading down

a cold Columbus street, two small children

beside her and a still-crawling baby

in her arms.

And then in South Carolina, the courage of a grandmother to live with dignity in a place that constantly reminded her of her place. That place might take and take and take from its Black citizens, but it cannot erase a memory of a long-ago slight and the courage to walk right past, head held high.

We walk straight past Woolworths’

without even looking in the windows

because the one time my grandmother went inside

they made her wait and wait. Acted like

I wasn’t even there.

And again, her mother, this time with the courage to break out of that box that Nicholtown has put her in, to chart her own course, to find her own home.

She wants a place of her own that is not

The Nelsonville House, The Columbus House,

The Greenville House.

Looking for her next place.

Our next place.

Right now, our mother says,

we’re only halfway home.

So, when faced with the challenge of words dancing in front of her eyes, refusing to behave, Jacqueline had these wells of quiet courage to draw from. And just imagine if young Jackie didn’t have the tenacity, the resolve, and the quiet courage to make the most of the sounds and rhythms of words, to hold true to her love for stories. Imagine the absence of her stories for us all.

Our young people find quiet courage by seeing quiet courage – in the world around them, maybe, but definitely in these books. Then, when faced with obstacles, both external and internal, they will have the courage to jump anyway.

Jump anyway.

Dreams don’t have timelines,

deadlines,

and aren’t always in

straight lines.

Jump anyway.

From For Every One by Jason Reynolds

Quiet acts of courage build young people ready to answer Benni’s insistent question from Look Both Ways

“How you gon’ change the world?”


A Look at the 2022 ALA Youth Media Award Winners

A recent tweet from Grace Lin @pacylin, Children’s Literature Legacy Award winner. Congratulations from all of us!

We are fortunate to find ourselves in a golden age of children’s literature. With each year, the stories available to children of all ages are increasingly diverse, capturing a wide-range of experiences while respecting the emotional intelligence of young readers. Each January, the American Library Association (ALA) shares a slate of awards that recognize and amplify books and other outstanding media for youths and teens. Read to Them is proud to acknowledge and celebrate the several authors whose books in our catalog of titles have been recognized for their contributions to children’s literature:

  • Emily Jenkins (author of Toys Go Out and co-author of Upside Down Magic) won a Sydney Taylor Award Honor for Whistle which she wrote under the name E. Lockhart
  • Grace Lin (author of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and The Year of the Dog) won the Children’s Literature Legacy Award
  • Ellen Oh (editor of Flying Lessons and Other Stories) won an Asian/Pacific American Award Honor for Finding Junie Kim
  • Jason Reynolds (author of Ghost and Look Both Ways) won a Schneider Family Book Award Honor for Stuntboy in the Meantime
  • Gordon Korman (author of Restart) won a Sydney Taylor Award Honor for Linked

In addition to authors in Read to Them’s catalog, several authors and illustrators featured in our 2021 Read Aloud to a Child Week books on Gratitude had their works recognized by the ALA, as well:

  • Watercress by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin won the Caldecott Medal, the Newbery Honor, and the Asian/Pacific American Honor
  • Nikki Grimes (author of Thanks a Million) won the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement
  • Christian Robinson (illustrator of Last Stop on Market Street) won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor for Nina: A Story of Nina Simone
  • Traci Sorrell and Fran E. Lessac (author and illustrator of We Are Grateful) won the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Honor and The American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor for We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know

Congratulations to Newberry Medalist Donna Barba Higuera! She won for her middle-grade science fiction novel, The Last Cuentista.

This year’s Newberry Medalist is Donna Barba Higuera’s middle-grade science fiction novel, The Last Cuentista. Though this selection is not in Read to Them’s catalog, several of our staff admire this novel and how it highlights storytelling as an invaluable resource to preserve the past and to forge and maintain one’s identity for the future.

While many awards from the ALA are quite well-known — the Coretta Scott King Award, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Randolph Caldecott Medal— others often fall under the radar.  You can click here for a full list of the ALA Youth Media Award winners.

Read to Them would like to extend our appreciation for and our congratulations to all the 2022 winners! We look forward to following this talented roster of authors and illustrators, and cannot wait to see what stories they create in the years to come.