Meg Medina won this year’s John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature for her novel “Merci Suarez Changes Gears,” the story of an 11-year-old girl who navigates her home life with a Cuban-American extended family and her experiences as a scholarship student at a private school. Medina is the second Latinx writer to win the award — Matt de la Pena won in 2016 for the picture book “Last Stop on Market Street,” illustrated by Christian Robinson — and the first to win for a novel.
Sophie Blackall won the Randolph Caldecott Medal, which is awarded to an illustrator for the year’s most distinguished American picture book, for “Hello, Lighthouse,” a chronicle of working and living in a remote lighthouse that pays tribute to the difficult job lighthouse keepers performed for centuries. Blackall, who also won the award in 2016 for “Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear,” becomes the ninth illustrator to win the award multiple times since it was first given in 1938.
The Newbery and the Caldecott awards are the most anticipated of the annual prizes given out by the American Library Association for young adult and children’s literature. They were announced Monday at the association’s midwinter conference in Seattle. Considered among the most prestigious prizes given for children’s literature, the awards are known to drive sales and spur librarian and teacher recommendations.
Two Newbery Honor Books were also named: “The Night Diary,” by Veera Hiranandani, and “The Book of Boy,” by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Caldecott Honors went to “Alma and How She Got Her Name,” by Juana Martinez-Neal; “A Big Mooncake for Little Star,” by Grace Lin; “The Rough Patch,” by Brian Lies; and “Thank You, Omu!” by Oge Mora.
“The Poet X,” written by Elizabeth Acevedo, took the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. The novel in verse, about a Dominican-American girl living in Harlem who finds her voice through slam poetry, was also the winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
At Monday’s awards, “The Poet X” also won the Pura Belpre Author Award honoring a Latinx writer whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latinx cultural experience. The Pura Belpre Illustrator Award went to Yuyi Morales for “Dreamers,” her picture book recounting the journey she took with her young son as an immigant from Mexico.
The Coretta Scott King Book Awards, recognizing outstanding African-American authors and illustrators, went to the author Claire Hatfield for “A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919,” and the illustrator Ekua Holmes for “The Stuff of Stars,” written by Marion Dane Bauer.
The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book went to “Fox the Tiger,” written and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor.
The young adult author Walter Dean Myers, who died in 2014, was honored with the Children’s Literature Legacy Award, given to an author or illustrator whose books have made a significant and lasting contribution to children’s literature. Previously called the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the prize was renamed last June in recognition of the racial insensitivity in Wilder’s work.
This year also marked the first time the Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature were announced at the meeting, with the picture book “Drawn Together,” written by Minh Le and illustrated by Dan Santat, and the novels “Front Desk” by Kelly Yang and “Darius the Great Is Not Okay” being honored. The organization announced that beginning in 2020, it will honor the “very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians” with an award given out in even-numbered years.