For immediate release | January 25, 2021

Tae Keller, Michaela Goade win Newbery, Caldecott Medals

CHICAGO - Tae Keller, author of “When You Trap a Tiger,” and Michaela Goade, illustrator of “We Are Water Protectors” are the 2021 recipients of the John Newbery and Randolph Caldecott Medals, the most prestigious awards in children’s literature.

Keller and Goade were among the award winners announced at 8 a.m. CT, Jan. 25, by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, held virtually Jan. 22 - 26. The Newbery and Caldecott Medals honor outstanding writing and illustration of works published in the United States during the previous year.

The 2021 Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature went to Tae Keller for “When You Trap a Tiger”, published by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House.

This masterpiece of magical realism is an evocative story of love, loss, and hope that brings Korean folklore to life. Through her halmoni’s tales, Lily learns that with stories we can share our past and shape our future.

“Keller’s riveting tale about the power of stories can help readers embrace the tiger within themselves—by displaying their strength and courage when necessary,” said Newbery Medal Committee Chair Dr. Jonda C. McNair.

Tae Keller grew up in Hawaii and like Lily in “When You Trap a Tiger,” she too is biracial. She writes about biracial girls who are trying to find their voices. Keller was inspired to be a writer by her mother who is an author. She lives in Seattle.

The 2021 Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book is awarded to Michaela Goade for “We Are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom and published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings.

Michaela Goade’s vivid, swirling watercolors capture the sacredness of water and amplify Carole Lindstrom’s passionate call to action and celebration of Indigenous ancestry and community.

Rich symbolism and repeating floral patterns appear alongside distinctive colors and atmospheric light to tenderly frame the defiant young protagonist standing up against the real-life horrors of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“Michaela Goade’s semi-translucent color palette beautifully bathes every page with powerful illustrations,” said Caldecott Medal Committee Chair Annisha Jeffries.

Michaela Goade is an enrolled member of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and is of the Kiks.ádi Clan (Raven/Frog). She received the American Indian Youth Literature Award for Best Picture Book in 2018 for "Shanyaak'utlaax: Salmon Boy" and was selected by Jury as a featured artist at The Original Art 2020, an Exhibition of Children's Book Illustrators at The Society of Illustrators in New York. Goade lives in Sheet’ká (Sitka), Alaska.

Five Newbery Honor Books were named:

“All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team,” written by Christina Soontornvat, published by Candlewick Press.

Soontornvat skillfully describes the dramatic real-life rescue of the Thai Boys’ soccer team in 2018 by highlighting the teamwork of the cave divers and the drilling and medical teams which were crucial for the survival of the coach and the twelve boys. “All Thirteen” exemplifies superb narrative nonfiction writing.

“BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom” written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Michele Wood, and published by Candlewick Press.

Weatherford masterfully recounts the true story of Henry “Box” Brown, who shipped himself to freedom in a box. All 51 poems, with the exception of one, are sixains—representing the six sides of a box. The poems are filled with emotional intensity and have implications for the present day.

“Fighting Words” written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Della depends on her fierce older sister Suki, especially after escaping an abusive home. In foster care, though, Suki begins to unravel. Bradley creates a survival story that transcends—addressing the toughest of topics with honesty, hope, and humor. Della’s powerful voice lingers long after the last page is turned.

“We Dream of Space” written by Erin Entrada Kelly, illustrated by Erin Entrada Kelly and Celia Krampien, and published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

In the days before the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, the Thomas siblings navigate the dangerous space of middle school and the fractured constellation of their family. With a deftly constructed 80s backdrop, Kelly’s realistically imperfect characters struggle to connect, only finding success when they abandon their own lonely orbits.

“A Wish in the Dark” written by Christina Soontornvat, published by Candlewick Press.

Told in the alternating perspectives of two memorable characters, Pong and Nok, Soontornvat sets this story in the Thai-inspired world of Chattana, where light and dark symbolize contrasts between the rich and the poor. A timeless, yet timely, fantasy that highlights social disparities and the value of friendship and justice.

Four Caldecott Honor Books were named:

“A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart” illustrated by Noa Denmon, written by Zetta Elliott, and published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group.

Noa Denmon’s strategic use of light/dark colors and urban environments augment a black child's emotional range from joy and then sorrow and anger when he learns news of a shooting, and subsequently hope and love. Community solidarity, representation of Black Lives Matter, and images of cultural icons such as Beyoncé, Malcolm X, and others add to the power of the art.

“The Cat Man of Aleppo” illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, written by Irene Latham & Karim Shamsi-Basha and published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

War-torn Aleppo is given hope from Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel’s humanitarian efforts to care for the deserted cats in the city. Shimizu’s digitally colored black ink images build a powerful sense of place with thoughtful details and varied perspectives, leading us from scenes of desolation to ones of joy and optimism.

“Me & Mama” illustrated and written by Cozbi A. Cabrera and published by Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

Cozbi A. Cabrera captures a young girl’s adoration for her mother in a series of masterful acrylic paintings that chronicle a day in their lives. Light, texture, and vibrant color imbue each moment with love, telling a universal, yet an exquisitely specific story that centers everyday Black joy.

“Outside In” illustrated by Cindy Derby, written by Deborah Underwood and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Cindy Derby’s brilliant use of watercolor, powdered graphite, and dried flower stems soaked in ink beckons young readers to reflect on the outdoors and their place in the world.

Members of the 2021 Newbery Medal Selection Committee are: Chair Dr. Jonda C. McNair, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio; Sarah Bean Thompson, Springfield-Greene County Library, Springfield, Missouri; Elizabeth A. Burns, New Jersey State Library, Talking Book & Braille Center, Trenton, New Jersey; Timothy D. Capehart, Beavercreek Community Library, Greene County, Ohio; Arika J. Dickens, Sunset Elementary School, Bellevue, Washington; Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles; Hyunjin Han, Mandel Public Library, West Palm Beach, Florida; Susan Dove Lempke, Niles-Maine District Library, Niles, Illinois; Maren C. Ostergard, King County Library System, Issaquah, Washington; Dr. Linda M. Pavonetti, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan; David C. Saia, Heim Middle School, Williamsville, New York; Jo Phillips Schofield, Stark County District Library, Canton, Ohio; Eva Thaler-Sroussi, Wellesley Free Library, Wellesley, Massachusetts; Lisa M. Thomas, Pikes Peak Library District, Colorado Springs, Colorado; Alicia S.Q. Yao, San Diego Public Library, San Diego, California; and Award Administrative Assistant Gretchen Schulz, Schaumburg Township District Library, Schaumburg, Illinois.

Members of the 2021 Caldecott Medal Selection Committee are: Chair Annisha Jeffries, Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland, Ohio; Carmen Lynette Boston, DC Public Library, Washington, D.C.; Christine Caputo, Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Edith Irene Ching, University of Maryland, Silver Spring, Maryland; Alec B. Chunn, Eugene Public Library, Eugene, Oregon; Dr. Brenda Dales, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio; Melissa Zymboly Depper, Arapahoe Libraries, Englewood, Colorado; Shannan Hicks, William F. Laman Public Library System, North Little Rock, Arkansas; Gaye Hinchliff, King County Library System, Kirkland, Washington; Hanna Lee, First Regional Library; Erin Ford Nguyen, Knox County Public Library, Knoxville, Tennessee, Sarah Okner, Vernon Area Public Library, Lincolnshire, Illinois; Sarah Rodriguez, Scarsdale Public Library, Scarsdale, New York; Mary Schreiber, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Parma, Ohio; Catherine Sorensen, Heathcote School, Scarsdale, New York.

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

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

Communications and Marketing Office

(312) 280-4393