The 2023 ALA Youth Media Awards have been announced, and the winners rock! Check out these books that took home top-notch honors, including the Caldecott, Geisel, and Newbery awards, just to name a few.
The 2023 ALA Youth Media Awards have been announced!
Today is arguably the biggest day in the children’s literature world, and it is so unbelievably exciting!
The 2023 ALA Youth Media Awards were announced this morning, and for those who are obsessed with kids’ books, these are essentially the Academy Awards of children’s literature. We have been on pins and needles for the last couple of months, eager to hear which authors and illustrators will take home top honors.
As always, I watched the awards from my school library. I cheered as some of my favorite stories were honored. I scribbled down notes and quickly ordered award winners I hadn’t been familiar with. Overall, it was an exciting day and we are so excited to share the winners with you!
Here is a list of some of the major awards (with a link to the complete list on the ALA here), together with our thoughts on the Caldecott, Newbery and Geisel awards and affiliate links for your ease of reference.
Because Happily Ever Elephants recommends books for babies through tweens, this post does not include all of the young adult novels that won honors, though I included the winners in the below categories that were appropriate. Again, for the full list of 2023 ALA Youth Media Awards, click here!
Without further ado, here are the winners !
John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:
OUR THOUGHTS: Oh my goodness, this phenomenal story did not let me go! Loosely based on the history of maroon communities in the South, this remarkable, unputdownable novel is the story of two enslaved children who have escaped from plantations in search of freedom. They flee through tangled vines and secret doors and sky bridges, eventually discovering a community called Freewater deep in the swamp. Here, Homer and his little sister Ada learn what it means to live a life of freedom, with a new community and friends. But when Freewater is threatened, will Homer be courageous enough to help the place he now calls home? And just as important, will he be able to get his mother off the plantation and save her, too? This novel astounded me from start to finish. It was captivating, unique, and without a doubt one of the best middle-grade novels I’ve read in recent years.
OUR THOUGHTS: When Maizy Chen travels with her mom to Last Chance, Minnesota to help her ailing grandfather, she makes a lot of discoveries about the town where her mom grew up. The biggest one? The Golden Palace, the restaurant that has been in her family for generations, has a lot of secrets. Who are the people in the photos on the wall? And who would steal a beloved family treasure? Maizy quickly realizes that racism lurks in the small town, and it is up to her to find some answers. Readers will absolutely fall in love with this National Book Award finalist. Maizy is full of heart and determination, and this story of food, family, history, and community will stick with them long after the final page has turned! This is a fabulous book for 10-year-olds!
FROM THE PUBLISHER: In a fantasy adventure every bit as compelling and confident in its world-building as her Newbery Honor Book A Wish in the Dark, Christina Soontornvat explores a young woman’s struggle to unburden herself of the past and chart her own destiny in a world of secrets. As assistant to Mangkon’s most celebrated mapmaker, twelve-year-old Sai plays the part of a well-bred young lady with a glittering future. In reality, her father is a conman–and in a kingdom where the status of one’s ancestors dictates their social position, the truth could ruin her. Sai seizes the chance to join an expedition to chart the southern seas, but she isn’t the only one aboard with secrets. When Sai learns that the ship might be heading for the fabled Sunderlands–a land of dragons, dangers, and riches beyond imagining–she must weigh the cost of her dreams. Vivid, suspenseful, and thought-provoking, this tale of identity and integrity is as beautiful and intricate as the maps of old.
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FROM THE PUBLISHER: Seventh grade is going to be Iveliz’s year. She’s going to make a new friend, help her abuela Mimi get settled after moving from Puerto Rico, and she is not going to get into any more trouble at school. Except is that what happens? Of course not. Because no matter how hard Iveliz tries, sometimes people say things that just make her so mad. And worse, Mimi keeps saying Iveliz’s medicine is unnecessary—even though it helps Iveliz feel less sad. But how do you explain your feelings to others when you’re not even sure what’s going on yourself? Powerful and compassionate, Andrea Beatriz Arango’s debut navigates mental health, finding your voice, and discovering that those who really love you will stay by your side.
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Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children
OUR THOUGHTS: In this darling book, one hot little dog is sizzling in the city. The sidewalks are burning, and he’s tired of people’s feet in his face. Sensing his fatigue, the pup’s owner grabs a taxi and heads to the beach with her dog. Once there? Breath. The hot dog can run, frolic, and get a breath of fresh air. Finally! The art in this book perfectly captures the essence of a steamy, crowded city – you actually feel claustrophobic while reading the story! – and then the calm, refreshing reprieve at the beach. The pup’s day turns from oppressive to awesome, and the illustrations will no doubt delight young readers who are captivated by the dog’s fluidity and expressions. I love and appreciate this story more and more each time I pick it up.
OUR THOUGHTS: This book is absolutely darling! In this sweet story, one little owl has a great big heart. The owl has wanted to be a knight since the day he hatched, but he’s not so big, and he isn’t so strong, either. But he can stay up all night, and maybe he can even help guard the castle since many other knights have gone missing. When owl comes face to face with a hungry dragon, he shows a remarkable display of courage, confidence, and cleverness. Take that, dragon! We love this important message of brains over brawn, and we adore owl’s spirit and resilience!
FROM THE PUBLISHER: Mamie Till-Mobley is the mother of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy who was brutally murdered while visiting the South in 1955. His death became a rallying point for the civil rights movement, but few know that it was his mother who was the catalyst for bringing his name to the forefront of history. In Choosing Brave, Angela Joy and Janelle Washington offer a testament to the power of love, the bond of motherhood, and one woman’s unwavering advocacy for justice. It is a poised, moving work about a woman who refocused her unimaginable grief into action for the greater good. Mamie fearlessly refused to allow America to turn away from what happened to her only child. She turned pain into change that ensured her son’s life mattered. Timely, powerful, and beautifully told, this thorough and moving story has been masterfully crafted to be both comprehensive and suitable for younger readers.
OUR THOUGHTS: This stunner is the story of a girl and her grandmother who gather gifts from the earth on the edge of the wild sea. They get salmon and herring eggs from the sea, then they journey to the forest where they get buckets and buckets of wild berries. Throughout the year, the land gives to them and they give to the land. The cycle is continuous and unwavering: they love and nourish the land, and the land loves and nourishes them in return. This is a gorgeous celebration of the earth and our deep and unwavering connection to nature, and the exquisite illustrations are as beautiful as the prose. This is a stunner, and it is on our list of beautiful Native American picture books!
FROM THE PUBLISHER: Prepare yourself for something unlike anything: A smash-up of art and text for teens that viscerally captures what it is to be Black. In America. Right Now. Written by #1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jason Reynolds. Jason Reynolds and his best bud, Jason Griffin, had a mind-meld. And they decided to tackle it, in one fell swoop, in about ten sentences, and 300 pages of art, this piece, this contemplation-manifesto-fierce-vulnerable-gorgeous-terrifying-WhatIsWrongWithHumans-hope-filled-hopeful-searing-Eye-Poppingly-Illustrated-tender-heartbreaking-how-The-HECK-did-They-Come-UP-with-This project about oxygen. And all of the symbolism attached to that word, especially NOW. And so for anyone who didn’t really know what it means to not be able to breathe, REALLY breathe, for generations, now you know. And those who already do, you’ll be nodding yep yep, that is exactly how it is.
Theodor Seuss Geisel Award
This award is given to the most distinguished beginning reader book.
OUR THOUGHTS: This darling kindergarten book is such a fun read and a wonderful way to inspire a growth mindset in kids. One little creature is trying hard to ride his bike, but it’s hard! Can he do it? Yes, he can! We adore the illustrations, the message, the easy text, and the graphic novel format.
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OUR THOUGHTS: In this adorable book for beginning readers, fish is looking for a friend. One day, he finds one. Wave! Wave seems like the perfect friend until suddenly, Wave gets bigger and bigger. Can this unlikely duo go with the flow and maintain a friendship, even with the wave growing so much bigger than the fish? We love this simple book and the way it encourages children to look past their differences and accept friends for exactly who they are. This is also a great introduction to comics and the graphic novel format. It’s a delight, as is all of Ruzzier’s work!
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OUR THOUGHTS: Gigi is so excited for her grandfather, Ojiji, to come to visit from Japan. She plans so many things for them to do together, but suddenly, nothing seems to go as planned. Will Gigi be able to connect with Ojiji when his visit isn’t at all what she expected? How will they have fun together when they can barely communicate and Ojiji and Gigi continue to misunderstand one another? We love this intergenerational story about an adorable biracial child learning about her Japanese heritage. It’s a tender story, and the way it celebrates inclusivity and diversity leaves us grinning from ear to ear!
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OUR THOUGHTS: Do best friends always have to agree? Or is it okay to disagree sometimes? I love the way this story poses this important question to children, helping them understand and recognize that best friends don’t have to be the same. In fact, the best friendships come when we embrace our glorious differences! I love the expressions Madan gives to these darling characters, helping children understand the emotional context behind the words they are beginning to read. Just darling!
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I love books that fabulously depict lifecycles, and so do kids! This wonderful story illustrates the transformative life cycle of a sunflower. The flower begins as a tiny seed, with winding roots growing below the soil. With sun and rain, the seed grows, leading up to a stunning fold out of a full-grown sunflower. I love how this beautiful children’s book about plants showcases each stage of a plant’s lifecycle!
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Coretta Scott King Book Awards – Author
This award recognizes African-American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults.
WINNER (AUTHOR): Freewater, by Amina Luqman-Dawson
HONOR (AUTHOR): Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler, by Ibi Zoboi
HONOR (AUTHOR): The Talk, by Alicia D. Williams
HONOR (AUTHOR): Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice, by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile
Coretta Scott King Book Awards – Illustrator
WINNER (ILLUSTRATOR): Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual, illustrated by Frank Morrison and written by Carole Boston Weatherford
HONOR: Me and the Boss: A Story About Mending and Love, illustated by April Harrison and written by Michelle Edwards
HONOR: Swim Team, by Johnnie Christmas
HONOR: Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice, by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile
Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award
WINNER (AUTHOR): We Deserve Monuments, by Jas Hammonds
WINNER (ILLUSTRATOR): Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmet Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement, illustrated by Janellle Washington and written by Angela Joy
Pura Belpre Awards
This award honors Latinx writers and illustrators whose children’s books best portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latino cultural experience.
WINNER (ILLUSTRATOR): Where Wonder Grows, illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia and written by Xelena Gonzalez
HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): The Coquies Still Sing, illustrated by Krystal Quiles and written by Karina Nicole Gonzalez
HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): A Land of Books: Dreams of Young Mexicah Word Painters, by Duncan Tonatiuh
HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): Magic: Once Upon a Faraway Land, by Mirelle Ortega
HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): Phenomenal AOC: The Roots and Rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, illustrated by Loris Lora and written by Anika Aldamuy Denise
HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): Srta. Quinces, by Kat Fajardo
HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): Still Dreaming/Seguimos Sonando, illustrated by Magdalena Mora and written by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez
WINNER (CHILDREN’S AUTHOR): Frizzy, by Claribel A. Ortega
HONOR (CHILDREN’S AUTHOR): The Coquies Still Sing, illustrated by Krystal Quiles and written by Karina Nicole Gonzalez
HONOR (CHILDREN’S AUTHOR): The Notebook Keeper: A Story of Kindness from the Border, by Stephen Briseno and illustrated by Magdalena Mora
HONOR (CHILDREN’S AUTHOR): Tumble, by Celia C. Perez
Stonewall Book Award
This award is given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender experience.
WINNER (Children): Love, Violet, by Charlotte Sullivan Wild and illustrated by Charlene Chua
WINNER (Young Adult): When the Angels Left the Old Country, by Sacha Lamb
HONOR: In the Key of Us, by Mariama J. Lockington
HONOR: Kapaemahu, by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, and illustrated by Daniel Sousa
HONOR: The Real Riley Mayes, by Rachel Elliott
HONOR: Strong, by Rob Kearney and Eric Rosswood and illustrated by Nidhi Chanani
Sydney Taylor Awards
This award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.
WINNER (YOUNGER READERS): The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs, by Chana Stiefel and illustrated by Susan Gal
HONOR (YOUNGER READERS): Big Dreams, Small Fish, by Paula Cohen
HONOR (YOUNGER READERS): The Very Best Sukkah: A Story from Uganda, by Shoshana Nambi and illustrated by Moran Yogev
HONOR (YOUNGER READERS): Sitting Shiva, by Erin Silver and illustrated by Michelle Theodore
WINNER (OLDER READERS): Aviva vs. The Dybbuk, by Mari Lowe
HONOR (OLDER READERS): Honey and Me, by Meira Drazin
HONOR (OLDER READERS): Black Bird, Blue Road, by Sofiya Pasternack:
HONOR (OLDER READERS): Ellen Outside the Lines, by A.J. Sass
WINNER (TEEN READERS): When the Angels Left the Old Country, by Sacha Lamb
Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
This award promotes Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage and is awarded based on literary and artistic merit.
WINNER (PICTURE BOOK): From the Tops of the Trees, by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Rachel Wada
HONOR (PICTURE BOOK): Nana, Nenek & Nina, by Liza Ferneyhough
WINNER (CHILDREN’S LITERATURE): Maizy Chen’s Last Chance, by Lisa Yee
HONOR (CHILDREN’S LITERATURE): Troublemaker, by John Cho
WINNER (YOUTH LITERATURE): Himawari House, by Harmony Becker
HONOR (YOUTH LITERATURE): The Silence that Binds Us, Joanna Ho
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
This award goes to the most distinguished informational book for children.
WINNER: Seen and Unseen: What Dorthea Lange, Toyo Miyatake and Ansel Adams’s Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration, by Elizabeth Partridge and illustrated by Lauren Tamaki
HONOR: Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmet Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement, illustrated by Janellle Washington and written by Angela Joy
HONOR: A Seed Grows, by Antoinette Portis
HONOR: Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, by Mara Rockliff and R. Gregory Christie
HONOR: The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs, by Chana Stiefel and illustrated by Susan Gal
Schneider Family Book Award
This award goes to a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience.
WINNER (YOUNG CHILDREN): Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion, by Shannon Stocker and Devon Holzwarth
HONOR (YOUNG CHILDREN): In the Blue, by Erin Hourigan
WINNER (MIDDLE GRADE): Wildoak, by C.C. Harrington
HONOR (MIDDLE GRADE): Hummingbird, by Natalie Lloyd
HONOR (MIDDLE GRADE): Honestly Elliott, by Gillian McDunn
WINNER (TEENS): The Words we Keep, by Erin Stewart
Michael L. Printz Award
This award is for excellence in literature written for young adults.
WINNER: All My Rage, by Sabaa Tahir
HONOR: Scout’s Honor, by Lily Anderson
HONOR: Icebreaker, by A.L. Graziadei
HONOR: When the Angels Left the Old Country, by Sacha Lamb
HONOR: Queer Ducks (and Other Animals): The Natural World of Animal Sexuality, by Eliot Schrefer
Congratulations to all the remarkable winners!
For the complete list of awards, CLICK HERE!