The Winners of the 2023 ALA Youth Media Awards

Every winter, the American Library Association awards a slew of medals to the year's best in children's and teen literature. The heavy hitters are the Caldecott and Newbery, for pictures and story respectively, but there are many prestigious others as well.

The American Library Association was founded in 1876 and is the largest and oldest professional organization promoting and advocating for libraries in the world. The medal winners and runner-up "honor" books are selected by committees of practicing youth librarians from around the country. The first children's medal awarded by the ALA was the Newbery in 1922, which went to Hendrik Willem van Loon's The Story of Mankind.

The 2023 Newbery Medal was awarded to Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson. After fleeing the plantation where they were enslaved, siblings Ada and Homer discover the secret community of Freewater, and work with freeborn Sanzi to protect their new home from the encroaching dangers of the outside world. Freewater is Luqman-Dawson's debut novel, and she says she "loves using writing to tell stories and build an understanding of race, culture, and community."

The Caldecott Medal went to Hot Dog by Doug Salati, a summery picture book about mindfulness, featuring an overheated - and overwhelmed - canine in need of sea, sand, and fresh air. Salati both wrote and illustrated the book, and has illustrated several previous picture books. School Library Journal says that Hot Dog "is a story about listening to the voiceless when they're trying to tell you something." 

The Coretta Scott King Award, recognizing African-American creators of the most outstanding books for children, went to Luqman-Dawson's Freewater for the Author award, and Frank Morrison's Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual for the King Illustrator Award. The popular spiritual, "Standing in the Need of Prayer," has been reworked to chronicle the milestones, struggles, tragedies, and triumphs of African American people and their history. The text and illustrations of this inspirational book are informative reminders of yesterday, hopeful images for today, and aspirational dreams of tomorrow.

The Sibert Medal, for the best informational book for children, was given to Seen and Unseen: What Toyo Miyatake, Dorothea Lange, and Ansel Adams' Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration. Legendary photographers Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams all photographed the Japanese American incarceration, but with different approaches - and different results. This nonfiction picture book for middle grade readers examines the Japanese-American incarceration - and the complexity of documenting it - through the work of these three photographers.

I Did It! by Michael Emeberley took home the prize for the most distinguished beginning reader book, the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Part of the I Like to Read series, a girl tries and tries again to learn to ride a bicycle and all her friends provide words of encouragement.

Jason Reynolds' Stuntboy in the Meantime nabbed the Odyssey Award, for the best audiobook for children. Portico Reeves' secret identity as Stuntboy allows him to use his superpower keep everybody safe, but when his superhero parents start fighting a lot he feels the responsibility to save them.

These and many other award-winners can be found in the Children's Room! Ask us to help you find them, log into your account and place a hold in our catalog, or access the e-book or e-audiobook versions on the free Libby app. And there is more to discover - browse the full list of this year's ALA Youth Media Award winners. If Freewater or Hot Dog is checked out, try a past Newbery or Caldecott winner. Happy reading, and cheers to the next 100 years of the ALA book awards!


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