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Jan 29

American Library Association Youth Literary Awards for 2021

Posted on January 29, 2021 at 4:53 PM by Lindsey Kult

2021 ALA Award Winner Collage

The American Library Association announced the winners of the major Youth Literature Awards!  We’ve compiled the descriptions from NoveList and included the catalog links so you can place the ones that interest you on hold.  All of winners are available on Libby along with most of the honorees. 

John Newbery Medal

When You Trap a Tiger Book Cover

When You Trap a Tiger, by Tae Keller

Moving with her parents into the home of her sick grandmother, young Lily forges a complicated pact with a magical tiger, in a story inspired by Korean folktales.


All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team, by Christina Soontornvat

Combines firsthand interviews with scientific and cultural insights in a middle grade account of the 2018 Thai cave rescue of the Wild Boars soccer team and the critical, sophisticated engineering operation that saved the lives of 13 young people.

BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom, by Carole Boston Weatherford

Retells in verse form the story of Henry Brown, an enslaved man who escaped from Virginia by having himself enclosed in a wooden box and shipped to freedom in Philadelphia.

Fighting Words, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Depending on an older sister who protected her when their mother went to prison and their mother’s boyfriend committed a terrible act, 10-year-old Della tries to figure out what to do when her older sister attempts suicide.

We Dream of Space, by Erin Entrada Kelly

Cash, Fitch, and Bird Thomas are three siblings in seventh grade together in Park, Delaware. In 1986, as the country waits expectantly for the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, they each struggle with their own personal anxieties.

A Wish in the Dark, by Christina Soontornvat

Escaping from the prison where he was born, Pong discovers harrowing truths about the gap between the world’s privileged ruling class and impoverished laborers, while the prison warden’s daughter who is hunting him uncovers other daunting secrets.

Randolph Caldecott Medal

We are Water Protectors Book Cover

We are Water Protectors, by Carole Lindstrom

Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption.


A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart, by Zetta Elliott

Illustrations and easy-to-read text express a child's awareness of being filled with deep emotions, from joy to sorrow and anger to compassion, but above all, love.

The Cat Man of Aleppo, by Irene Latham & Karim Shamsi-Basha

The courageous and true story of Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, who in the midst of the Syrian Civil War offered safe haven to Aleppo's abandoned cats.

Me & Mama, by Cozbi Cabrera

On a rainy day when the house smells like cinnamon and Papa and Luca are still asleep, when the clouds are wearing shadows and the wind paints the window with beads of water, I want to be everywhere Mama is.

Outside In, by Deborah Underwood Only available on Libby

Outside is waiting, the most patient playmate of all. The most generous friend. The most miraculous inventor. This thought-provoking picture book poetically underscores our powerful and enduring connection with nature, not so easily obscured by lives spent indoors.

Coretta Scott King Book Award


Before the Ever After Book Cover

Before the Ever After, by Jacqueline Woodson

ZJ's friends Ollie, Darry and Daniel help him cope when his father, a beloved professional football player, suffers severe headaches and memory loss that spell the end of his career.


All the Days Past, All the Days to Come, by Mildred Taylor

A long-awaited conclusion to the story that began in the Newbery Medal-winning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry finds young adult Cassie Logan searching for a sense of belonging before joining the civil rights movement in 1960s Mississippi.

King and the Dragonflies, by Kacen Callender

In a small but turbulent Louisiana town, one boy's grief takes him beyond the bayous of his backyard, to learn that there is no right way to be yourself.

Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box, by Evette Dionne

Describes a history of the role of African American women as a significant force in the suffrage movement and their efforts to be accepted as equal partners by their fellow activists.


R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Aretha Franklin was born to sing. The daughter of a pastor and a gospel singer, her musical talent was clear from her earliest days in her father's Detroit church where her soaring voice spanned more than three octaves. Her string of hit songs earned her the title "the Queen of Soul", multiple Grammy Awards, and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But Aretha didn't just raise her voice in song, she also spoke out against injustice and fought for civil rights.


Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration, by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

Magnificent Homespun Brown is an exploration of the natural world and family bonds through the eyes of a young, mixed-race narrator. A living, breathing, dazzlingly multi-faceted, exuberant masterpiece, firmly grounded in her sense of self-worth and belonging. This is a story, a poem, a song, a celebration about feeling at home in your own beloved skin.

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Cozbi Cabrera

Introduces the life and work of Gwendolyn Brooks, from her early love of poetry and her first published poems as a girl in Chicago through her financial struggles as an adult during the Depression to winning the Pulitzer Prize for her second book.

New Talent Author Award

Legendborn Book Cover

Legendborn, by Tracy Deonn

Wanting to escape her previous life after the accidental death of her mother, 16-year-old Bree enrolls in a program for high school students at the local university before her witness to a magical attack reveals her undiscovered powers as well as sinister truths about her mother’s death.

Michael L. Printz Award – Young Adults

Everything sad is untrue Book Cover

Everything Sad is Untrue, by Daniel Nayeri

At the front of a middle school classroom in Oklahoma, a boy named Khosrou (whom everyone calls "Daniel") stands, trying to tell a story. His story. But no one believes a word he says. To them he is a dark-skinned, hairy-armed boy with a big butt whose lunch smells funny; who makes things up and talks about poop too much. Like Scheherazade in a hostile classroom, Daniel weaves a tale to save his own life: to stake his claim to the truth.


Apple (Skin to the Core), by Eric Gansworth

The term "Apple" is a slur in Native communities across the country. It's for someone supposedly "red on the outside, white on the inside." Eric Gansworth tells the story of his family, of Onondaga among Tuscaroras, of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds.

Dragon Hoops, by Gene Luen Yang

As a comic book enthusiast and graphic novelist, Printz Medalist Yang has always been more partial to superheroes than to sports. But in 2014, as a teacher at a Catholic high school in Oakland, Calif., Yang is drawn to a story about the school’s basketball team—the Dragons . Rumor has it that under the current coach, a former player at the school, this year’s team will surely grab the state championship. Shadowing the group for an entire season, Yang interviews players and coaches to uncover the talented students’ stories and the program’s allegedly shadowed past. Using documentary-style storytelling, Yang serves as both narrator and a character, alternating player backstories and the Dragons ’ 2014 season with interstitials about the sport’s beginnings and early tensions, historical and present-day discrimination (Black Lives Matter, Sikh persecution following the partition of India), and Yang’s own work-life balance. Using a candid narrative and signature illustrations that effectively and dynamically bring the fast-paced games to life, Yang has crafted a triumphant, telescopic graphic memoir that explores the effects of legacy and the power of taking a single first step, no matter the outcome.

Every Body Looking, by Candice Iloh

With complex relationship dynamics and heavy-hitting issues like rape, overbearing and neglectful parents, and addiction, this book will leave readers deeply affected. A young woman's captivating, sometimes heartbreaking, yet ultimately hopeful story about coming into her own.

We Are Not Free, by Traci Chee

Growing up together in the community of Japantown, San Francisco, four second-generation Japanese American teens find their bond tested by widespread discrimination and the mass incarcerations of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

There are even more award-winning books! You can find them here.