For immediate release | January 23, 2017

Kelly Barnhill, Javaka Steptoe win Newbery, Caldecott Medals

ATLANTA - Kelly Barnhill, author of “The Girl Who Drank the Moon,” and Javaka Steptoe, illustrator of “Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat,” are the 2017 winners of the John Newbery and Randolph Caldecott Medals, the most prestigious awards in children’s literature.

Barnhill and Steptoe were among the award winners announced Jan. 23, by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, Jan. 20 – 24, Atlanta, Georgia. The Newbery and Caldecott Medals honor outstanding writing and illustration of works published in the United States during the previous year.

The 2017 Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature went to Kelly Barnhill for “The Girl Who Drank the Moon.”

“Moonlight is magic. Ask anyone you like.” Barnhill’s story is also pure magic, distinguished by careful development of a complex plot and indelible evocation of unique characters. Love, heartbreak, hope, sorrow, and wonder all shine in exquisite, lyrical prose.

“This compassionate, hopeful novel invites children everywhere to harness their power, and ask important questions about what keeps us apart and what brings us together” said Newbery Medal Committee Chair Thom Barthelmess.

Before becoming an author, Kelly Barnhill was a bartender, a teacher, an activist, and a janitor. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children.

The 2017 Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book is awarded to Javaka Steptoe for “Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat,” written by Javaka Steptoe and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Like Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work, Steptoe’s illustrations radiate energy and immediacy. A patch-worked canvas of scavenged wood, painted and collaged with photos, and images of human anatomy, evokes the improvisatory nature of Basquiat’s art. “Radiant Child” resonates with emotion that connects Steptoe with Basquiat and Basquiat with young readers.

“Steptoe’s engaging art makes Basquiat approachable for children without minimizing his complexities,” said Caldecott Medal Committee Chair Rhonda K. Gould.

New York City author and illustrator Javaka Steptoe began his career teaching art at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Steptoe earned an art degree from Cooper Union. His debut book, “In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers,” garnered a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award in 1998.

Three Newbery Honor Books were named:

“Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dream Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan” written by Ashley Bryan, and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division. Inspired by an 1828 estate appraisement, Ashley Bryan honors the lives of eleven slaves in poetry and collage. Conveying the terror of the patterroller and the hope of voices raised in song, Bryan imagines for each person a life of oppression and a dream for freedom.

“The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog” by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly, and published by Dutton Children’s Books, Penguin Young Readers Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Informed by six years of research, and reminiscent of “The Canterbury Tales,” Adam Gidwitz has written a brand-new illuminated manuscript, a sometimes harrowing, sometimes hilarious epic about three magical friends on the run in 1242 France and their encounters with a dragon, a holy dog, and cheese.

“Wolf Hollow” by Lauren Wolk, and published by Dutton Children’s Books, Penguin Young Readers Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Set in rural Pennsylvania during World War II, this compelling story of consequences addresses complex issues of bullying, PTSD, and discrimination. At the center of this atmospheric novel, articulating themes of self-reliance, hope, and justice, is our heroine Annabelle who struggles to confront her tormentor and her own conscience.

Four Caldecott Honor Books were named:

“Leave Me Alone!” illustrated and written by Vera Brosgol, and published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership. At the end of her rope, Granny is desperate for time alone to finish knitting sweaters for a house filled with dozens of rambunctious children. Brosgol’s expressive watercolor and cartoon art presents a genre-breaking journey taking Granny from the traditional forest setting to the mountains to the moon and beyond.

“Freedom in Congo Square,” illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and published by Little Bee Books, an imprint of Bonnier Publishing Group. As they work throughout the week, slaves look forward to their afternoon of music, hope, and community in Congo Square, New Orleans. Christie’s folk-art inspired paint and collage images powerfully capture the emotions of this little-known historical event. Vibrant color and brilliant use of line heighten the impact of the rhyming couplets.

“Du Iz Tak?,” illustrated and written by Carson Ellis and published by Candlewick Press. A diverse community of anthropomorphic bugs is intrigued by an unfurling sprout. Carson Ellis deftly depicts the mysteries of life in an imaginary, natural world. Through intricate details and the witty humor of a made-up language, “Du Iz Tak?” is a treasure trove of visual and linguistic literacy.

“They All Saw a Cat,” illustrated and written by Brendan Wenzel and published by Chronicle Books LLC. A cat’s walk through the world becomes a surprise-filled exploration of perspective and empathy. As the feline encounters a variety of creatures, the thoughtful composition paired with spare language and repetition focuses on each individual’s perception of it. Wenzel’s use of a range of art materials reinforces the idea that the essence of a cat might be in the eye of the beholder.

Members of the 2017 Newbery Medal Selection Committee are: Chair Thom Barthelmess, Whatcom County Library System, Bellingham, Wash.; Tony A. Carmack, Placer County Library, Auburn, Calif.; Kimberly Castle-Alberts, Akron-Summit (Ohio) County Public Library; Betsy Fraser, Calgary Public Library, Alberta, Canada; Elaine M. Fultz, Madison Local Schools, Middletown, Ohio; Krishna Grady, Darien (Conn.) Library; Matthew Krueger, Irondequoit Public Library, Rochester, N.Y.; Laura Lutz, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York; April Mazza, Massachusetts Library System, Marlborough, Mass.; Daniel L. Meyer, Queens Borough Public Library, Kew Gardens Hills, N.Y.; Gene Nelson, Provo (Utah) City Library; Maryann H. Owen, Oak Creek (Wis.) Public Library; Brandy Sanchez, Daniel Boone Regional Library, Columbia, Mo.; Shana M. Sojoyner, California Library Association, Pasadena, Calif.; and Jamie Watson, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, Md.

Members of the 2017 Caldecott Medal Selection Committee are: Chair Rhonda K. Gould, Walla Walla County Rural Library District, Walla Walla, Wash.; Martín Blasco, Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Hillsboro, Ore.; Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua (N.Y.) Library; Marian L. Creamer, Children's Literature Alive!, Portland, Ore.; Erica Dean Glenn, Berkeley (Calif.) Public Library; Stacy Dillon, LREI, New York; Brian D. Hart, EveryLibrary, Macon, Ga.; Holly Jin, Skokie (Ill.) Public Library; Lauren Aimonette Liang, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; Susan Z. Melcher, Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Ky,; Janet C. Mumford, James McKinney Elementary School Library, Richmond, B.C., Canada; Laurie Reese, Los Angeles Public Library; Lisa Von Drasek, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Ashley Waring, Reading (Mass.) Public Library; and Brian E. Wilson, Evanston (Ill.) Public Library.

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 is committed to creating a better future for children through libraries. To learn more about ALSC, visit their website at

For information on the John Newbery and Randolph Caldecott Medals and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit



Macey Morales

Deputy Director

American Library Association