This is the second in a series of blogs that I am sharing about the American Library Association Youth Media Awards. You can read the introduction blog here, opens a new window.
Two of the “big” awards for children’s literature are the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, opens a new window and the Randolph Caldecott Medal, opens a new window. I found it interesting that this year’s winners have something in common- illustrations that evoke the past and that allude to memory.
The Coretta Scott King award has two winners every year, one for author and one for illustrator. This year the same book won for both, Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford, opens a new window! This award was bittersweet, however, as the illustrator award was given to the amazing artist Floyd Cooper, opens a new window posthumously. You can read my short tribute to Floyd Cooper in a blog post, opens a new window I wrote last year. There are links to a beautiful tribute and a video about Cooper's art technique. Weatherford’s words tell the story of the horrendous event from 1921 in a way that is accessible to kids. Cooper’s rich and warm illustrations show the energy of Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street”. Each page recalls a sepia photograph but includes pops of bright color in each page that illustrate the vitality of the community- a green striped awning, a yellow umbrella, a purple ribbon in a little girl’s hair. Weatherford’s text is straightforward in the telling of the facts but Cooper’s illustrations are subtle. The breadth of violence of that day is shown explicitly. Yet, children can understand, in their own way, what happened from a spread showing people running afraid and a spread that shows a white man with a rifle and a black man with his hands up. This is a powerful book that shares a piece of history.
The Randolph Caldecott Medal winner for this year is Watercress, written by Andrea Wang, opens a new window and illustrated by Jason Chin, opens a new window. The Caldecott is given "to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children." Chin’s watercolor illustrations are beautiful and nostalgic. You can tell the story takes place on a hot summer day. It’s not just the tall ripening corn on the side of the road, Chin captures the bright glare of the sun that washes out a lot of color. You can feel it. The traditional Chinese painting influence in the illustrations ties in with the theme of old life and new life. This lovely book is aimed perhaps more for older children. Adults will appreciate the poignancy of the story.
Of course all of the Youth Media awards are important and all of the authors and illustrators deserving whether they won a medal or an honor. I’ll talk about the Children’s Literature Legacy Award in my next blog. I'll lead up to the Newbery Medal with a couple of posts about some of the lesser known awards. Then we'll have some fun learning about and celebrating 100 years of the Newbery Medal!
Here are the Coretta Scott King honors and other awards and the Caldecott honors.