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Children’s Literature Book Awards and Their 2020 Winners!


Children's Literature Book Awards and Their 2020 Winners!

If you’re looking for the next great book to read, one surefire way is to familiarize yourself with book awards, usually given annually, and peruse lists of past winners. The world of children’s literature, which includes books published for elementary, middle, and high school students, boasts a robust lineup of awards given out year. 

Each award has various criteria. Some are given to new authors, some honor diversity in children’s literature, some focus on writing while others look at the illustrations accompanying a text. The American Library Association (ALA), or YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association division of the ALA) handle most book awards in the world of children’s literature.

Here is a rundown of the major awards given in children’s literature. Please note these are national awards. If you’d like to peruse more deeply, most states also give awards to honor outstanding children’s literature. 

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1. Newbery Medal

The Newbery Medal is the literary equivalent of an Academy Award, literature’s The Big Dance. The award honors John Newbery, an eighteenth-century bookseller. It recognizes the author with the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published the previous year. Each year, the Newbery committee selects one book to receive the Newbery Medal. The runners-up are referred to as Newbery Honor Books. The Newbery has been awarded since 1922 and as such is the oldest children’s book award in the world.

2020 Newbery Medal: New Kid

Written and illustrated by Jerry Craft

Newbery book awards: New Kid by Jerry Craft

Get it HERE.

2. Caldecott Medal

The Newbery Award recognizes outstanding writing; the Caldecott Medal is the counterpart for outstanding illustration in children’s literature. It honors nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. The Newbery Medal committee also selects the Caldecott Medal recipient each year. It began in 1938.

2020 Caldecott Medal: The Undefeated

Written by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Book awards: The Undefeated

Get it HERE.

3. National Book Award

According to its website, the mission of the National Book Foundation is to recognize and celebrate the best literature in America. It does so through various programs including the National Book Award. It covers five categories each year. These categories include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature. One book in each category wins the coveted National Book Award. Five finalists also receive recognition. The award was established in 1950. Books under consideration must have been published in the United States between December 1 of the previous year and November 30. Winners are announced in November.

2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature: The Poet X

By Elizabeth Acevedo

Children's Literature Book Awards and Their 2020 Winners!

Get it HERE.

4. Alex Award

Alex Awards are given annually to 10 books that have “special appeal for young people” ages 12-18. The awards are sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust, named after Edwards (nicknamed Alex by her friends) who pioneered the field of young adult library services. Here’s the current list of Alex Award winners:

5. Morris Award

The Morris Award is given to a debut author who demonstrates an “impressive new voice” in young adult literature. Up to five additional titles are selected as finalists. The William C. Morris YA Debut Award is fairly new to the world of children’s literature. It was first awarded in 2009.

2020 Morris Award Winner: The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

By Ben Philippe

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

Get it HERE.

6. Printz Award

The Michael L. Printz Award is named after a school librarian. It is awarded for an author of teen literature, and according to YALSA, the award criterion is “literary merit.” The award committee also names honor books. 

2019 Printz Award Winner: The Poet X 

By Elizabeth Acevedo

Children's Literature Book Awards and Their 2020 Winners!

Get it HERE.

7. Odyssey Award

The Odyssey Award is given to the best audiobook for children. If you are a fan of audiobooks, be sure to check out previous Odyssey Award winners. The 2020 winner, Hey Kiddo, is a particularly special production. The book is about family addiction. It’s a deeply personal graphic novel memoir, and the audiobook version is adapted and narrated by the author and his family.

2020 Odyssey Award Winner: Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction

Produced by Scholastic Audiobooks, written by Jarrett J. Krosoczka and narrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Jeanne Birdsall, Jenna Lamia, Richard Ferrone and a full cast.

2020 Odyssey Award Winner: Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction

Get the print version HERE.

8. YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction

This award recognizes, as the title suggests, exemplary nonfiction for children. Titles selected are ideal for children ages 12-18.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction 2020: Free Lunch

By Rex Ogle

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction 2020: Free Lunch

Get it HERE.

9. Coretta Scott King Book Awards

These awards honor humanitarian and peace activist Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wife. These awards are, according to the ALA, “given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.”

  • 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Award Author Winner: New Kid by Jerry Craft
  • Coretta Scott King 2020 Book Award Illustrator Winner: Kadir Nelson, illustrator of The Undefeated written by Kwame Alexander
  • 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Awards John Steptoe Award for New Talent Author: Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams 
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

Get it HERE.

10. Pura Belpré Award

Pura Belpré was the first Latina librarian of the New York Public Library. In her honor, the Pura Belpré Award recognizes a “Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth,” according to award criteria. 

2020 Author Award Winner: Sal and Gabi Break the Universe

By Carlos Hernandez

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Get it HERE.

2020 Illustrator Award Winner: Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López

2020 Illustrator Award Winner: Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Get it HERE.

11. Geisel Award

The Geisel Award, named after Dr. Seuss himself, recognizes excellence in writing and illustration for beginning readers.

2020 Geisel Award Winner: Stop! Bot!

Written and illustrated by James Yang

2020 Geisel Award Winner: Stop! Bot!

Get it HERE.

12. Sibert Informational Book Medal

An Association for Library Service to Children committee decided The Robert E. Silbert book award for a distinguished informational book each year. It recognizes both authors and illustrators.

2020 Silbert Winner: Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Written by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

2020 Silbert Winner: Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Get it HERE.

13. Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards

The Horn Book Awards are among the most coveted in the world of children’s literature. The categories include Picture Book, Fiction and Poetry, and Nonfiction.

2020 Fiction and Poetry Winner: King and the Dragon Flies

By Kacen Callender

King and the Dragonflies

Get it HERE.

2020 Picture Book Winner: Saturday

Written and illustrated by Oge Mora

Saturday by Oge Mora

Get it HERE.

2020 Nonfiction Winner: Infinite Hope

By Ashley Bryan

Infinite Hope by Ashley Bryan

Get it HERE.

14. Ezra Jack Keats Award

A new author and a new illustrator receive The Ezra Jack Keats Award each year. According to the award website, the selection committee looks for “books that portray the universal qualities of childhood, a strong and supportive family, and the multicultural nature of our world.”

2020 Writer Award: Small in the City

By Sydney Smith

2020 Writer Award: Small in the City

Get it HERE.

2020 Illustrator Award: Layla’s Happiness

By Ashleigh Corrin

Layla's Happiness

Get it HERE.

Other Book Lists From Amy’s Bookshelf You’ll Love:

Children's Literature Book Awards and Their 2020 Winners!

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AuthorAmy

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I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

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