Jerry Craft, Kadir Nelson win Newbery, Caldecott Medals

For Immediate Release
Tue, 01/28/2020

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Macey Morales

Deputy Director

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PHILADELPHIA - Jerry Craft, author of “New Kid,” and Kadir Nelson, illustrator of “The Undefeated,” are the 2020 recipients of the John Newbery and Randolph Caldecott Medals, the most prestigious awards in children’s literature.

Craft and Nelson were among the award winners announced January 27, by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, January 24 -28, in Philadelphia. The Newbery and Caldecott Medals honor outstanding writing and illustration of works published in the United States during the previous year.

The 2020 Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature was awarded to Jerry Craft for “New Kid,” illustrated by the author and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers.

Jordan Banks can’t help seeing privilege when he transfers to Riverdale Academy Day School for seventh grade. As one of the few African American students in the school, he regularly deals with racism and microaggressions. Craft creates an intimate, relatable world inviting readers in, and holds them there.

“This distinct, timely, and honest story respects children and gives its readers a glimpse into what it means to be other,” said Newbery Medal Committee Chair Krishna Grady.

Jerry Craft is the author and illustrator of numerous picture books, graphic novels, and middle grade novels. Born in Harlem and raised in nearby Washington Heights, he received his BFA in advertising from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and now resides in Connecticut.

The 2020 Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book is awarded to Kadir Nelson for “The Undefeated” written by Kwame Alexander and published by Versify, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Kadir Nelson’s rich illustrations amplify Kwame Alexander’s poetic tribute to the resiliency, strength, and perseverance of the historical and present-day Black experience.

Gripping, realistic oil portraits use light and forward movement to portray the deep humanity and contributions of Black brilliance in America.

“Through color and composition, Kadir Nelson’s daring visuals erupt off the page.  They challenge our emotional capacity in this layered journey of heroes,” said Caldecott Medal Committee Chair Julie Roach.

Kadir Nelson lives in Los Angeles, California and has received Caldecott Honors for both “Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom,” written by Carole Boston Weatherford, and “Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad,” written by Ellen Levine. Nelson also has earned Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Honor Awards and an NAACP Image Award. He has created art for Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker, and the New York Times. His artwork is exhibited around the world.  

Four Newbery Honor Books were named:

“The Undefeated,” written by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, and published by Versify, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“The Undefeated” “is for us.” Written in sparse poetic verse, the contributions of African Americans are celebrated and explored. The reader is invited on a journey of dreaming, of persevering, and of bravery. The past intersects with the present, leaving readers forging their own paths of discovery. America, this is for you.

“Scary Stories for Young Foxes,” written by Christian McKay Heidicker, illustrated by Junyi Wu, and published by Henry Holt and Company, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group.

Seven foxes, in the dark and twisted Antler Wood, want to hear scary stories. And, they will. Imagine a character with gooey eyes. Imagine trying to slink away from the Golgathursh’s grin. And imagine Beatrix Potter as a villain. Adventure, survival, and humor all celebrate the importance of story …even scary ones.

“Other Words for Home,” written by Jasmine Warga, published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

This book follows Jude and her mother, both Muslim, who flee war-torn Syria for a new life in America. This novel in verse is an inspiring story of resilience. It explores themes of family, prejudice, and what home truly means in a timely and honest manner.

“Genesis Begins Again,” written by Alicia D. Williams, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, a Caitlyn Dlouhy Book.

This book tells the story of 13-year-old Genesis, struggling with colorism and self-loathing. Her dark skin is just one of the 96 things she does not like about herself. This powerful novel deals with family struggles and internalized racism. A hopeful ending will leave both Genesis and readers seeing the possibility of self-worth.

Three Caldecott Honor Books were named:

“Bear Came Along,” illustrated by LeUyen Pham, written by Richard T. Morris and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

“Oh, what a ride!” After tumbling into a river, Bear is swept into an epic journey, collecting woodland companions along the way. The river comes to life with Pham’s energetic lines, gradual increase of vivid color, and surprising page turns to form a rollicking adventure and bonding connections.

“Double Bass Blues,” illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez, written by Andrea J. Loney and published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

Ignited by an electrifying snap of the string bass, Nic navigates between the symphony of two worlds: music and community. Syncopated rhythms, musical harmony and familial love are vibrantly expressed through riotous color, dynamic lines, and kinetic movement. This inventive composition visually illuminates the auditory experience that is the blues.

“Going Down Home with Daddy,” illustrated by Daniel Minter, written by Kelly Starling Lyons and published by Peachtree Publishers.

An African American family reunion gives a boy a chance to connect to his vibrant roots. Featuring a warm, rich color palette, every spread has multiple, complex layers. Earthy imagery and Adinkra symbols help tell a story of intergenerational love and ancestral memory.  

Members of the 2020 Newbery Medal Selection Committee are: Chair Krishna Grady, Darien Library, Darien, Conn; K.C. Boyd, Jefferson Academy, Washington, D.C.;  Julia Casas-Rose, Santa Monica (Calif.) Public Library;  Dr. Alpha DeLap, St. Thomas School, Medina, Wash.; Jenna Friebel, Oak Park (Ill.) Public Library; Christopher Lassen, New York Public Library & Brooklyn Public Library, Long Island City, N.Y.; Dennis  LeLoup, Indianapolis, Ind.; Eileen Makoff, PS 234 Independence School, New York; Dr. Petros Panaou, University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.; Deanna Romriell, Salt Lake City (Utah) Public Library; Karen Scott, Thompson Middle School Library, Alabaster, Ala.; Soraya Silverman-Montano, Las Vegas Clark County Library District; Mary R. Voors, Fort Wayne, Ind.; Beatriz Pascual Wallace, Seattle Public Library; and Sandy Wee, San Mateo (Calif.) County Libraries.

Members of the 2020 Caldecott Medal Selection Committee are: Chair Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge, Mass.; Joel Bangilan, Harris County Public Library, Houston, Texas; Ericka Brunson, Kitsap Regional Library, Bremerton, Wash.; Evan Michael Bush, Athens (Ga.) Regional Library System; Jean Darnell, St. Pius X, Friendswood, Texas; Dr. Christina Dorr, Hilliard City School District/ Kent State University, Hilliard, Ohio; Pamela Greene, Inglewood Public Library, Los Angeles, Calif.; Alia Jones, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Cincinnati, Ohio; Sophie Kenney, Aurora (Ill.) Public Library; Linda Klein, Anchorage (Alaska) Public Library; Erica Marks, Cleveland (Ohio) Public Library; Michelle Ng, San Mateo County Libraries, Belmont, Calif.; Eboni Njoku, DC Public Library, Washington, D.C.;  Gloria Repolesk, Emmet O'Neal Public Library, Mountain Brook, Ala.; and David (Mitch) Self, McWhirter Elementary, Seabrook, Texas.    

ALSC is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children.  With a network of more than 4,000 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers, and educational faculty, ALSC members are committed to engaging communities to build healthy, successful futures for all children. To learn more about ALSC, visit their website at www.ala.org/alsc.

For information on the John Newbery and Randolph Caldecott Medals and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit www.ala.org/yma.