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ALA Youth Media Awards: Children's Staff Have Their Say!

February 14, 2023

On January 30, the American Library Association (ALA) presented their annual Youth Media Awards, celebrating the best in literature for young people. Like many book lovers, NPL Children's staff were keeping an eye out to see what won the Caldecott, Newbery, and other awards. As always, this year there were some surprises along with the expected and well-deserved  triumphs. For a roundup of reactions from yours truly and other Children's staff, continue reading!

This year's Caldecott Medal winner, Hot Dog, was a surprise to many. I read it earlier this year and thought it was very cute, but did not expect it to win the award for "most distinguished American picture book for children." Callie Ann from Southeast loved Hot Dog and hoped it would win something, "but didn't expect it to get the medal." Elizabeth, also at the Southeast Branch, thinks this delightful story of a long-haired dachshund seeking refuge from the heat of the city is heartwarming.


As for the Caldecott Honor books, Berry Song is a well-deserved recognition. However, I was surprised to see a YA book, Ain't Burned All the Bright, be named a Caldecott Honor. But having read it as soon as possible after the announcement, I can readily see why this collaboration between writer Jason Reynolds and his longtime friend Jason Griffin received this honor.

On the Newbery Medal front, Callie Ann looked at lots of blogs predicting who would make the cut, but the winner, Freewater, was on none of them! I am presently reading this historical middle grades novel, and I am on the edge of my seat. Freewater also won the Coretta Scott King Author Book Award. Talk about an outstanding book!

Newbery Honor The Last Mapmaker was the only book that was previously tapped as possible medal winner. Also included in the Honor list was one of my favorite books from last year, Iveliz Explains It All. This moving novel in verse features a Puerto Rican protagonist and is a compassionate look at youth mental health. I would have loved to have had a book like this growing up, and was ecstatic to see it included in this prestigious list. 

Beloved by the aforementioned Callie Ann, as well as Katelyn at Old Hickory, Frizzy is (to the best of our knowledge) the first graphic novel to have ever won the Pura Belpré Author Award! This coming of age middle grades book about learning to love yourself just as you are is now on my to-read list. Nikki at Main loves graphic novels—Frizzy  included—and is
"so glad to see the format continuing to make strides every award season!"

Another graphic novel that made big strides this award season is Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice. A Coretta Scott King Honor Book for both Author and Illustrator, it also won the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. Olympian and activist Tommie Smith's first memoir for young people, this was one of best books I read last year. I recommend it to anyone who cares about justice, sports, and standing up for what is right.

ALA Youth Media Award Winners 2023

For a selection of this year's Caldecott, Newbery,  Pura Belpré, and Coretta Scott King Award winners and honors, check out the above catalog widget. Do not be fooled by the labels "YA," "young readers," or "children's:" the books in this blog post are deserving of every accolade they have earned, and should be read by all those who love great books.

Klem-Mari Cajigas


In a former life, Klem-Marí was a Religious Studies scholar. She much prefers being the Family Literacy Coordinator for Bringing Books to Life! She wants you to read and share books with the children in your life, and for those children to see you to read as well. Originally from Puerto Rico, Klem-Marí also enjoys her cat, baking, yoga, and the works of Octavia Butler.


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