Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz Winners Announced By The American Library Association

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Margaret Kingsbury

Contributing Editor

Margaret Kingsbury grew up in a house so crammed with books she couldn’t open a closet door without a book stack tumbling, and she’s brought that same decorative energy to her adult life. Margaret has an MA in English with a concentration in writing and has worked as a bookseller and adjunct English professor. She’s currently a freelance writer and editor, and in addition to Book Riot, her pieces have appeared in School Library Journal, BuzzFeed News, The Lily, Parents,, and more. She particularly loves children’s books, fantasy, science fiction, horror, graphic novels, and any books with disabled characters. You can read more about her bookish and parenting shenanigans in Book Riot’s twice-weekly The Kids Are All Right newsletter. You can also follow her kidlit bookstagram account @BabyLibrarians, or on Twitter @AReaderlyMom.

The American Library Association announced the winners for the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz Awards yesterday, among many other awards. This year marks the first time a graphic novel has ever won the Newbery Award, which is awarded to the year’s most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The Newbery Award was given to the funny and spot-on social commentary New Kid by Jerry Craft, which tells the story of a new student switching schools to a primarily white school, making him one of the few kids of color in the entire school. New Kid also won the Coretta Scott King Author award.

Why A Graphic Novel Winning The NewBery Award Matters

In 2018, children’s graphic novels and comics accounted for 41% of all comic book sales, far surpassing any other comics category. Yet, comic books are rarely considered for major awards like the Newbery Award. This is despite numerous research studies demonstrating how graphic novels can be gateway reading for reluctant readers, can foster critical thinking skills on multiple levels, and can effectively tackle tough social issues. Still many adults persist in seeing them as inferior reading. In my years shelving middle grade and young adult books in a used bookstore, many parents expressed concern over their children wanting to read graphic novels. I was happy to point out all the amazing things comics can do, the most important of which is making reading fun. This award helps legitimize comics as the unique literary art form they are.

Other Firsts

Kadir Nelson won the Caldecott Award, given to the most distinguished picture book, for the first time along with multiple award winner Kwame Alexander for their collaboration on The Undefeated, a gorgeous picture book honoring black life in the United States. While Kadir Nelson has received several Caldecott Honors, this is the first time his work has been granted the Award. He’s one of the best children’s book illustrators, and paired with Kwame Alexander’s heart rending poem, it’s no surprise the The Undefeated won, though there were many excellent picture books from 2019.

A.S. King won the Printz prize for the first time with Dig, a surreal, fabulist novel that’s dense and dark and very weird and very good. The Printz prize is given to the most accomplished book for teenagers.

It was also the inaugural year for the American Indian Youth Literature Award, which will be given every even year and is administered by the American Indian Library Association. See the winners below.

Notable Awards From The Night

John Newbery Award And Coretta Scott King Author Award

Newbery Honor Books

  • Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
  • Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

    Randolph Caldecott Medal And Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

    Caldecott Honor Books

    Michael L. Printz Award

    • Dig by A.S. King

    Printz Honor Books

    Robert F. Sibert Award

    This award is given for the most distinguished informational book for children.

    The Children’s Literature Legacy Award

    Kevin Henkes, author of the adorable picture books Chrysanthemum and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, among many others. This award honors authors and illustrators who have made a lasting impact on children’s literature.

    Margaret A. Edwards Award

    Steve Sheinkin, author of Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. This award is given for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.

    Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement

    Mildred D. Taylor, author of the Logans series, including Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

    The Pura Belpré Awards

    This award honors a Latinx writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm, and celebrate Latinx cultural experience.

    American Indian Youth Literature Award

    This is the inaugural year for this award, which will be given every even year.

    • Picture Book Winner: Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child (Red Lake Ojibwe), translated into Ojibwe by Gordon Jourdain (Lac La Croix First Nation), and illustrated by Jonathan Thunder
    • Middle Grade Book Winner: Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis (Umpqua/Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde) with Traci Sorell (Cherokee), featuring cover art by Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscogee Creek)
    • Young Adult Book Winner: Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee)

    Stonewall Book Award

    This award is given to children’s and YA books of exceptional merit relating to LGBTQ+ experience.

    Sydney Taylor Book Award

    This award is given to outstanding books for young readers that authentically portray the Jewish experience and are presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries.

    Schneider Family Book Awards

    This award is given for excellent children’s books that display disability.

    The Odyssey Award

    This award is given to the best audiobook for children or young adults.

    Mildred L. Batchelder Award

    This award goes to best translated work.

    • Brown by Håkon Øvreås, illustrated by Øyvind Torseter, translated by Kari Dickson

    William C. Morris Award

    Given to debut authors for teens.

    Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

    This award is given for best beginning reader.

    YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

    Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media Award

    Molly of Denali produced by PBS Kids. This award is given to a digital media producer that has created distinguished digital media for an early learning audience.

    Congrats to all the winners! Be sure to check out more Newbery Award winners, more middle grade graphic novels, and more of the best children’s books from 2019.