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ALA Announces Their Top Books for 2019

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Katisha Smith

Staff Writer

Katisha is a former military brat who studied engineering because she couldn’t hack it as a writer. You can find her on the internets talking books, movies, pop culture, beauty or whatever is floating her boat at the moment.

During the Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, Washington, the American Library Association announced their top books of 2019, the winners of the Book, Print & Media Awards, including the Youth Media Awards and the Andrew Carnegie Medals. Here are some of the ALA’s best of the best for your reading (and listening) enjoyment:

A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 by Claire Hartfield

This YA nonfiction book that won the Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award, recognizing an African American author of outstanding books for children and young adults, tells the story of how building tension and conflicted interests exploded into the 1919 Chicago Race Riot.

All of A Kind Family Hanukkah Book CoverAll-of-a-Kind-Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins (Author) and Paul Zelinsky (Illustrator)

Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Young Readers that honors outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience, All-of-a-Kind-Family Hanukkah gives a glimpse of a Jewish immigrant family and their customs. Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier is the winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers. The winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Teen Readers is What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing Book CoverAn Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green (Narrated by Kristen Sieh and Hank Green)

When her YouTube video of an extraterrestrial goes viral, April May is pushed into the international spotlight and becomes the spokesperson of the human race in one of the selections on the Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration for Adult Listeners that highlights extraordinary narrators and listening experiences. The other 12 winners include The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips (Narrated by Bahni Turpin), Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas (Narrator), Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (Narrated by Julia Whelan), A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong (Narrated by Helen Huber, T. Christian Miller, and Ken Armstrong), The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson (Narrated by MacLeod Andrews), The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea (Narrator), I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell (Narrated by Daisy Donovan), The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (Narrator), The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers (Narrated by Dion Graham), The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar (Narrated by Sneha Mathan), The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (Narrated by Kristin Atherton and Michael Fox), and The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein (Narrated by Rachel Tidd).

Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Moss is dealing with the aftermath of his father’s murder by an Oakland police officer in this winner of the Schneider Family Book Award for teens (ages 13–18), which recognizes books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience. Winners in the other age categories are Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky (Author), Patrick Downes (Author), and Scott Magoon (Illustrator) for young children (ages 0–10) and The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor for middle grades (ages 11–13).

The Black Gods Drums Book CoverThe Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

Creeper is done with living on the streets of New Orleans and sets her sights on the smuggler airship “Midnight Robber” in this winner of the Alex Award, given to the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences. The other books on the list include The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir, Circe by Madeline Miller, Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover, The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and  What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil, Green by Sam Graham-Felsen, Home After Dark by David Small, How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evision, and Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Darius is overwhelmed by his upcoming first-time trip to Iran in the novel that won the William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens, as well as the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Young Adult Literature.

Drawn Together Book CoverDrawn Together by Minh Lê (Author) and Dan Santat (Illustrator)

A lack of common language between a young boy and his grandfather leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But magic happens with a shared love of art and storytelling in the Picture Book winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, honoring the literary and artistic merit of individual work promoting Asian/Pacific Americans and their heritage. The Children’s Literature winner for the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature is Front Desk by Kelly Yang.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Morales brings her own immigration story to life in this picture book that won the Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latinx illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latinx cultural experience.

Fox the Tiger Book CoverFox the Tiger by Corey R. Tabor

A fun and mischievous fox wishes he were a tiger and decides to become one in the winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book.

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman

This illustrative biography tells the story of the first person to document the metamorphosis of the butterfly and won the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children.

Go the Way Your Blood Beats: On Truth, Bisexuality and Desire by Michael Amherst

This winner of the 2019 Stonewall Book Award – Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award is part essay, part memoir, part love letter and challenges the idea that sexuality can ever be fully known or categorized.

the great believers book coverThe Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Winner of both the Stonewall Book Award – Barbara Gittings Literature Award and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, The Great Believers is the story of friendship and redemption in the face tragedy and loss during the 1980s AIDS crisis in Chicago.

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

In this powerful memoir that won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, Laymon explores what a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a nation teetering on the brink of moral collapse.

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall

This picture book that transports its readers into the daily life of a lighthouse keeper and  his family won the Randolph Caldecott Medal for most distinguished American picture book for children.

Julian is a Mermaid Book CoverJulián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

The winner of the 2019 Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award for an English-language children’s book of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender experience, tells the story of self-love and celebrates individuality in a boy inspired by a glimpse of costumed mermaids. It shares the award with Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender.

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Merci Suárez deals with difficult changes with her friends and family in this novel that won the John Newbery Medal for most outstanding contribution to children’s literature.

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Claudia’s best friend Monday Charles is missing in this novel that won the Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe New Talent (Author) Award affirming new talent and offering visibility to excellence in writing that might otherwise go unacknowledged.

The Fox on the Swing Book CoverThe Fox on the Swing by Evelina Daciūtė (Author) and Aušra Kiudulaitė (Illustrator)

This picture book, translated from the Lithuanian Laime Yra Lape, about a friendship between a boy named Paul and the fox he meets on walk home from the baker won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.

The Poet X Book CoverThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry in Acevedo’s debut novel that won the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. The Poet X also won the Pura Belpré (Author) Award honoring a Latinx writer whose children’s books best portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latinx cultural experience.

Sadie by Courtney Summer (Author), Rebecca Soler (Narrator), Fred Berman (Narrator), Dan Bittner (Narrator), Gabra Zackman (Narrator)

After the death of her sister Mattie, Sadie goes on the hunt to find the killer in this winner of the Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.

Safe House Book CoverSafe Houses by Dan Fesperman

Selected as the winner in Adrenaline by the Reading List Council who choose the best in fiction for adult readers, Safe Houses is a suspenseful story of a daughter seeking the reasons behind the gruesome murder of her parents. Other winners on the Reading List include Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett in Fantasy, Between Earth and Sky by Amanda Skenandore in Historical Fiction, The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell in Horror, The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey in Mystery, Intercepted by Alexa Martin in Romance, The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal in Science Fiction, and Stray City by Chelsey Johnson in Women’s Fiction.

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer (Author) and Ekua Holmes (Illustrator)

Bauer’s poetic text combines with Holmes’s vivid illustrations to blend art and science in this picture book that won the Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award recognizing an African American illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults.

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

All the neighbors arrive for Omu’s homemade stew in this winner of the 2019 Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe New Talent (Illustrator) Award affirming new talent and offering visibility to excellence in illustration that might otherwise go unacknowledged.

The Unwanted Book CoverThe Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown

This full-color graphic novel of the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis received the 2019 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults honoring the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12–18).



S0…we want to know which books on the list get top marks from you and which books are now TBR?

Sound off in the comments!