Jacqueline Woodson, Frank Morrison win 2021 Coretta Scott King Book Awards

For Immediate Release
Mon, 01/25/2021


Communications and Marketing Office

ALA Media Relations



CHICAGO – Jacqueline Woodson, author of “Before the Ever After” and Frank Morrison, illustrator of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul,” are the winners of the 2021 Coretta Scott King Book Awards honoring African American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults. Tracy Deonn, author of “Legendborn” is the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent winner. The awards were announced today at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, held virtually Jan. 22 – 26.

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). The awards encourage the artistic expression of the African American experience via literature and the graphic arts; promote an understanding and appreciation of the black culture and experience;and 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.

“Before the Ever After,” published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, is Jacqueline Woodson’s stirring novel-in-verse which explores how a family moves forward when their glory days have passed and the effects of professional sports on the Black body. 

Jacqueline Woodson is the recipient of the 2020 Hans Christian Andersen Award, the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the 2018 Children’s Literature Legacy Award. She was the 2018–2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and in 2015, she was named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She received the 2014 National Book Award for her New York Times bestselling memoir “Brown Girl Dreaming,” winner, a four-time National Book Award finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. 

“Both heartbreaking yet hopeful, Woodson’s novel-in-verse eloquently explores how ZJ deals with the symptoms CTE has on his father and how the family tries to cope in its aftermath.  As ZJ struggles with his ever-changing relationship with his father, he is surrounded by love and support by his family and friends. The reader goes on a painful journey with ZJ and experiences through a child’s eyes how it feels to lose the one person who is the center of your world,” said Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury Chair LaKeshia Darden.

In “R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul,” written by Carole Boston Weatherford and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, is an early indoctrination into hip-hop culture that can be seen through Morrison’s work, which has been dubbed a mash-up of urban mannerism, graffiti and abstract contemporary, and reflects deeply on the lost of human stories from past eras.   

“Morrison’s rich, vibrant, and grand depictions capture the essence of Aretha Franklin and give her the R-E-S-P-E-C-T that the Queen of Soul is due.  Morrison’s skillful composition captures Aretha’s likeness from childhood into adulthood and masterfully pays homage to her contribution to the civil rights movement,” said Darden.

Frank Morrison is the award-winning illustrator of many books for young readers, including “Jazzy Miz Mozetta,” winner of the Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award for New Talent; “Little Melba and Her Big Trombone,” a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book; “Muhammad Ali,” and “How Sweet the Sound.” Before becoming a children’s book illustrator and fine artist, Morrison toured the globe as a break-dancer. He lives in Georgia with his family. 

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 winner is Tracy Deonn for “Legendborn,” published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.  Filled with mystery and an intriguingly rich magic system, Tracy Deonn’s YA contemporary fantasy “Legendborn”offers the dark allure of “City of Bones” with a modern-day twist on a classic legend and a lot of Southern Black Girl Magic. 

Three King Author Honor Books were selected:

“All the Days Past, All the Days to Come,” by Mildred D. Taylor, and published by Viking, an Imprint of Penguin Random House LLC; “King and the Dragonflies,” by Kacen Callender, and published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.; and “Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box,” by Evette Dionne, and published by Viking an Imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Three Illustrator Honor Books were selected:

“Magnificent Homespun Brown,” illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, written by Samara Cole Doyon, and published by Tilbury House Publishers; “Exquisite: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks,” illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera, written by Suzanne Slade, and published by Abrams Brooks for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS; and “Me and Mama,” illustrated and written by Cozbi A. Cabrera, and published by Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 

Members of the 2021 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury are Chair LaKeshia Darden, Campbell University, Buies Creek, North Carolina; Jewel Davis, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina; Jason Miles Driver, Sr., Chicago Public Library, Chicago; Susan H. Polos, Greenwich Country Day School, Greenwich, Connecticut; Maegen J. Rose, Rye Country Day School, Rye, New York; Sheila M. Geraty, Brookwood School, Manchester, Massachusetts; and Maria Estrella, Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland, Ohio.

American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, ALA has been the trusted voice of libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit ala.org.

For information on the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit www.ala.org/yma.