For immediate release | February 12, 2018

Renée Watson, Ekua Holmes win 2018 Coretta Scott King Book Awards

DENVER — Renée Watson, author of “Piecing Me Together,” and Ekua Holmes, illustrator of “Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets,” are the winners of the 2018 Coretta Scott King Book Awards honoring African American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults. David Barclay Moore, author of “The Stars Beneath Our Feet,” and Charly Palmer, illustrator of “Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song,” are the winners of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. The awards were announced today at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, held Feb. 9–13, 2018, in Denver, Colorado, and presented in New Orleans at the ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition in June.

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are presented annually by the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee of the ALA’s Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) to encourage the artistic expression of the African American experience via literature and the graphic arts; to promote an understanding and appreciation of the Black culture and experience, and to commemorate the life and legacy of Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination in supporting the work of her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for peace and world brotherhood.

In “Piecing Me Together,” published by Bloomsbury, Jade is a likable protagonist who is easy to root for. There are many stories that shape who we are as people—and Jade helps others express their feelings and thoughts about the world around them. Watson provides a multi-layered, yet necessary look at Black womanhood.

Renée Watson is an author, educator, and activist from Portland, Oregon, who now lives in New York City. Watson has taught creative writing and theater in public schools and community centers throughout the U.S. for over twenty years. She often focuses on the lived experiences of Black girls and women.

“Watson brings us a coming-of-age tale that eloquently explores the many facets of Jade, a brilliant and creative teen on the brink of young adulthood,” said Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury Chair Sam Bloom.

In “Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets,” written by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth and published by Candlewick Press, Ekua Holmes’s mixed-media collage images balance the tone and tenor of the new poems created by the authors, while paying homage to each of the featured poets in the subtle details extracted from various aspects.

"Holmes expertly infuses the multilayered poetry with the richness of the Black art aesthetic in her original, evocative, vibrantly colored compositions," said Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury Chair Sam Bloom.

Ekua Holmes is a native and current resident of Boston, Massachusetts, who has worked as an artist, curator, and active member of Boston’s art community. She was influenced by the need to fill the void of what she perceived as an absence of positive Black images in her childhood neighborhoods.

The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent affirms new talent and offers visibility for excellence in writing and/or illustration at the beginning of a career as a published African American creator of children’s books. This year’s winners are author David Barclay Moore for “The Stars Beneath Our Feet,” published by Alfred A. Knopf, and illustrator Charly Palmer for “Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song,” published by Farrar Straus Giroux.

“The Stars Beneath Our Feet” provides a realistic lens on the Black American experience and infuses it with heart, soul, and imagination. Moore plays with language, culture, stereotypes, and reality to create an engaging book that will resonate with youth in urban communities everywhere searching for positive survival techniques.

“Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song” visually tells the story of the singer’s career through the use of vibrant, colorful illustrations that juxtapose her rise in fame in comparison to the South African people’s civil rights struggle with apartheid. Palmer’s bold illustrations expertly complement the text in a riveting duet.

Three King Author Honor Books were selected:

“Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut” by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James, and published by Bolden, an Agate Imprint, a Denene Millner Book.

“Long Way Down” by Jason Reynolds, published by Atheneum, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, a Caitlyn Dlouhy Book.

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Two King Illustrator Honor Books were selected:

“Crown: an Ode to the Fresh Cut,” illustrated by Gordon C. James, written by Derrick Barnes, and published by Bolden, an Agate Imprint, a Denene Millner Book.

“Before She Was Harriet:The Story of Harriet Tubman,” illustrated by James E. Ransome, written by Lesa Cline-Ransome, and published by Holiday House.

Members of the 2018 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury are: Chair Sam Bloom, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County; Kacie Armstrong, Euclid (Ohio) Public Library; Jessica Anne Bratt, Grand Rapids (Mich.) Public Library; LaKeshia Darden, Campbell University, Blues Creek, N.C.; Dr. Sujin B. E. Huggins, Dominican University, River Forest, Ill.; Erica T. Marks, Cleveland Public Library; and Martha V. Parravano, Horn Book Inc., Boston, Mass..

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world with more than 57,000 members. Its mission is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

For information on the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit

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Macey Morales

Deputy Director

American Library Association

Public Awareness Office