The John Newbery Medal is the big one. It is given out to the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature each year. The medal winner can be a picture book, poetry, a chapter book, a first reader, and about any experience or story, by an American. Anything can go with this award and this year history was made. For the first time ever, the committee selected a graphic novel as the Medal winner. And not just any graphic novel – a graphic novel written by an African American about a young black boy’s experience as the new kid at a fancy, private school. Even though graphic novels are hugely popular, I can’t think of any others that center a contemporary, young black protagonist. Although, I can’t really place any, the internet is a wonderful resource, here’s a great list of more graphic novel options with African American characters. Still this is an important pick that reflects the experiences of so many people and is perfectly written for its audience. Kudos to New Kid and Jerry Craft and the rest of the winners!
New Kid by Jerry Craft
Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds–and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself? (Summary from Clevnet catalog).
“There are very important books that talk about slavery and civil rights or police brutality or gang life, but I really wanted to add to their narrative by adding a boy who has a mom and a dad, a family who loves him, a support system, neighbors,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about anything bad happening, anyone meeting an unexpected demise. [It’s] something a kid can just read and relax and be like, ‘Wow I actually feel good reading this. I actually laughed.’ That’s not something I ever had growing up.” – Jerry Craft Breaks Barriers with Historic 2020 Newbery Win – interview with Jerry Craft from School Library Journal
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (again!)
Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
For a list of all the awards winners click here.