Of the hundreds of thousands of books published annually, only a handful are recognized as the best of the class. We highly recommend the following award winners.
Picture Books“We Are Water Protectors” written by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade won the 2021 Caldecott Medal for its amazing illustrations. This story talks about water’s sacred connection to all life and how it needs to be protected to, in turn, protect all types of life.
The illustrations show that connection, beginning with a baby floating in their mother’s womb to animals dependent on water for food and homes. There are vivid blue hues throughout the drawings, revealing how water is connected to people, plants and animals.
This book was created by Native Americans and is a great story to share with children and adults that how we treat our earth’s resources is connected to how we are able to live.
Middle Grades“Before the Ever After” by Jacqueline Woodson, the 2021 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Author Winner, is an excellent novel in verse for tween readers who are into sports or like books about friendships. It focuses on ZJ, a 12-year-old whose father is an NFL star whose multiple concussions have taken their toll. He has become forgetful and irritable, and now he is home all the time because he can’t play the game he loves.
ZJ works through his feelings with the help of his tight-knit group of friends. “Before the Ever After” is a coming-of-age story in which a young person realizes his parents are all too human.
I recommend anything by Woodson; she writes for all ages — often in verse — and her books, which feature characters of color, are lyrical and brilliant.
Teens“The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo is another wonderful novel in verse that tells the story of Xiomara, a teen living with her strict Catholic family in Harlem. Xiomara processes her world through journaling, unpacking her challenging relationship with her mother, her unique connection with her twin brother, questions about her faith and her feelings for a boy in her class.
With a push from her English teacher, she joins a spoken word poetry club and gains the confidence to speak her truth out loud. Xiomara is by turns confident and vulnerable, a character who will relate to teen readers.
“The Poet X” received numerous awards, including the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from the American Library Association (ALA) and the Pura Belpré Award, also from the ALA.