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The Children's Literature Legacy Award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a significant and lasting contribution to children's literature through books that demonstrate integrity and respect for all children's lives and experiences.

Walter Dean Myers wins 2019 Children's Literature Legacy Award

Walter Dean Myers is the winner of the 2019 Children’s Literature Legacy Award honoring an author or illustrator, published in the United States, whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children. His numerous works include “Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff” (Viking, 1975) and “Monster” (HarperCollins, 1999).

The award was announced today, during the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Seattle, Washington. The award is administered annually by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the ALA.

“With vast literary talent and deep empathy for young readers, Walter Dean Myers created shelves full of books over the course of his half-century career that were groundbreaking, distinctive, and vital,” said Children’s Literature Legacy Award Committee Chair Andrew Medlar.

Born in West Virginia in 1937, Myers was raised in Harlem where he “found solace in books.” After serving in the U.S. Army he began writing in the 1960s, eventually publishing more than 100 titles for young people. He lived with his family for many years in Jersey City, New Jersey, often creating books collaboratively with his son, Christopher. Walter Dean Myers died in 2014.

His award-winning works include “Somewhere in the Darkness,” which won a Newbery Honor Award in 1993, and “Now Is Your Time!: The African-American Struggle for Freedom,” an ALA Notable Children’s Book and recipient of the 1992 Coretta Scott King Author Award. Myers also received multiple other Coretta Scott King Author Awards and Honors, served as the 2009 Arbuthnot Honor lecturer, was the 2010 United States nominee for the international Hans Christian Andersen Award, and was named by the Library of Congress as the 2012-13 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature with the platform of “Reading Is Not Optional.”      

A prolific and versatile writer who exemplified excellence in many forms, including biography, fiction, history, and poetry, Myers brought profound insight to his vivid portrayals of Black culture and Black lives, especially those of boys and young men, capturing their language and concerns, struggles and successes. With a particular brilliance for humor and curiosity, his work reminds readers, without preaching, that they always have choices.

One of his most valued works is “Scorpions” (HarperCollins, 1988), a Newbery Honor Award winner, in which 12-year-old Jamal draws on his artistic talents and best friend Tito to cope with the realistically portrayed effects of racial stereotyping, gang influence, and institutional indifference. In “Scorpions,” Myers’ compassion for his characters’ experiences and dreams demonstrates his understanding and respect for all children.

Members of the 2019 Children’s Literature Legacy Award Committee are Chair Andrew Medlar, New York Public Library; Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, The Ohio State University; Carol Arlene Edwards, Denver; Amy Kellman, Children’s Literature Consultant, Pittsburgh; and Dr. Cindy A. Lombardo, Richfield, Ohio.