2011

Author Award Winner

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia J WIL
It is 1968, and three black sisters from Brooklyn have been put on a California-bound plane by their father to spend a month with their mother, a poet who ran off years before and is living in Oakland. It's the summer after Black Panther founder Huey Newton was jailed and member Bobby Hutton was gunned down trying to surrender to the Oakland police, and there are men in berets shouting "Black Power" on the news. Delphine, 11, remembers her mother, but after years of separation she's more apt to believe what her grandmother has said about her, that Cecile is a selfish, crazy woman who sleeps on the street. At least Cecile lives in a real house, but she reacts to her daughters' arrival without warmth or even curiosity. Instead, she sends the girls to eat breakfast at a center run by the Black Panther Party and tells them to stay out as long as they can so that she can work on her poetry. Over the course of the next four weeks, Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, spend a lot of time learning about revolution and staying out of their mother's way. Emotionally challenging and beautifully written, this book immerses readers in a time and place and raises difficult questions of cultural and ethnic identity and personal responsibility. With memorable characters (all three girls have engaging, strong voices) and a powerful story, this is a book well worth reading and rereading.


Author Award Honor Book

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
Myers takes readers inside the walls of a juvenile corrections facility in this gritty novel. Fourteen-year-old Reese is in the second year of his sentence for stealing prescription pads and selling them to a neighborhood dealer. He fears that his life is headed in a direction that will inevitably lead him “upstate,” to the kind of prison you don’t leave. His determination to claw his way out of the downward spiral is tested when he stands up to defend a weaker boy, and the resulting recriminations only seem to reinforce the impossibility of escaping a hopeless future. Reese’s first-person narration rings with authenticity as he confronts the limits of his ability to describe his feelings, struggling to maintain faith in himself; Myers’ storytelling skills ensure that the messages he offers are never heavy-handed. The question of how to escape the cycle of violence and crime plaguing inner-city youth is treated with a resolution that suggests hope, but doesn’t guarantee it. A thoughtful book that could resonate with teens on a dangerous path

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina is the setting for this tense novel that blends the drama of the catastrophic storm with magic realism. Twelve-year-old Lanesha’s teenage mother died while giving birth to her, and, because her mother’s wealthy uptown family won’t have anything to do with her, she is raised in the Ninth Ward by loving Mama Ya-Ya, 82, who feels like her “mother and grandmother both.” Born with a caul over her eyes, Lanesha is teased at school, but she is strengthened by her fierce caretaker’s devotion and by a teacher who inspires Lanesha to become an engineer and build bridges. Lanesha also has “second sight,” which includes an ability to see her mother’s ghost. As the storm nears and the call comes for mandatory evacuation, Mama Ya-Ya envisions that she will not survive, but Lanesha escapes the rising water in a small rowboat and even rescues others along the way. The dynamics of the diverse community enrich the survival story, and the contemporary struggle of one brave child humanizes the historic tragedy

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri
Robert Sandifer—called “Yummy” thanks to his sweet tooth—was born in 1984 on the South Side of Chicago. By age 11 he had become a hardened gangbanger, a killer, and, finally, a corpse. In 1994, he was a poster child for the hopeless existence of kids who grow up on urban streets, both victims and victimizers, shaped by the gang life that gives them a sense of power. Neri’s graphic-novel account, taken from several sources and embellished with the narration of a fictional classmate of Yummy’s, is a harrowing portrait that is no less effective given its tragic familiarity. The facts are laid out, the suppositions plausible, and Yummy will earn both the reader’s livid rage and deep sympathy, even as the social structure that created him is cast, once again, as America’s undeniable shame. Tightly researched and sharply written, if sometimes heavy-handed, the not-quite-reportage is brought to another level by DuBurke’s stark black-and-white art, which possesses a realism that grounds the nightmare in uncompromising reality and an emotional expressiveness that strikes right to the heart
 

Illustrator Award Winner

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Laban Carrick Hill j 921 Dave Hil
As a closing essay explains, little is known about the man known as Dave the potter. Two things are certain, though: he was a slave in South Carolina, and he was a potter of uncommon skill. As Hill writes, “Dave was one of only two potters at the time who could successfully make pots that were larger than twenty gallons.” He also inscribed strange, sophisticated poetry into the clay: “I wonder where / is all my relation / friendship to all— / and, every nation.” The verses Hill uses to introduce us to Dave are sometimes just as evocative: “On wet days, / heavy with rainwater, / it is cool and squishy, / mud pie heaven.” The book’s quiet dignity comes from its refusal to scrutinize life as a slave; instead, it is nearly a procedural, following Dave’s mixing, kneading, spinning, shaping, and glazing. Collier’s gorgeous watercolor-and-collage illustrations recall the work of E. B. Lewis—earth-toned, infused with pride, and always catching his subjects in the most telling of poses. A beautiful introduction to a great lost artist.
 

Illustrator Honor Book

Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix illustrated by Javaka Steptoe, written by Gary Golio
Although Jimi Hendrix’s music typically sits in the wheelhouse of teenagers discovering their countercultural streak, this picture book deigns to introduce the revolutionary musician to younger readers. By no means a straight bio, it describes his formative early life with lines like “A truck engine backfired, pounding like a bass drum, as a neighbor’s rake played snare against the sidewalk. . . . The sounds of life were calling out, and Jimmy Hendrix wanted to answer them.” It is, however, a convincing portrait of a boy who was electrified by music and heard the world very differently from anyone else; his single-minded drive to “paint with sound” in his own fashion will inspire young artists of all stripes. Steptoe’s chaotic, textured artwork screeches in feedback wails on the page, filled with impressions in lieu of representations. Hendrix’s struggle with drugs is addressed in an afterword, but as pure virtuoso, guitar heroes don’t get any bigger, and readers with hands itching for frets will be entranced.
 
 

John Steptoe New Talent Award for Illustration

Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon, authors of “Zora and Me

Sonia Lynn Sadler, illustrator of “Seeds of Change,” written by Jen Cullerton Johnson

Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement

Dr. Henrietta Mays Smith, professor emerita at the University of South Florida, Tampa, School of Library and Information Science

 

2010

Author Award Winner

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal,” written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.  j 921 REE
Sitting tall in the saddle, with a wide-brimmed black hat and twin Colt pistols on his belt, Bass Reeves seemed bigger than life. As a U.S. Marshal - and former slave who escaped to freedom in the Indian Territories - Bass was cunning and fearless.
When a lawbreaker heard Bass Reeves had his warrant, he knew it was the end of the trail, because Bass always got his man, dead or alive. He achieved all this in spite of whites who didn't like the notion of a black lawman.

For three decades, Bass was the most feared and respected lawman in the territories. He made more than 3,000 arrests, and though he was a crack shot and a quick draw, he only killed fourteen men in the line of duty. Bad News for Outlaws reveals the story of a remarkable African American hero of the Old West.

Author Award Honor Book

“Mare’s War” by Tanita S. Davis
Meet Mare, a grandmother with flair and a fascinating past.

Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma. But somewhere on the road, Octavia and Tali discover there’s more to Mare than what you see. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less-than-perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.

Told in alternating chapters, half of which follow Mare through her experiences as a WAC member and half of which follow Mare and her granddaughters on the road in the present day, this novel introduces a larger-than-life character who will stay with readers long after they finish reading.

Illustrator Award Winner

“My People,” illustrated by Charles R. Smith Jr., written by Langston Hughes.
Langston Hughes's spare yet eloquent tribue to his people has been cherished for generations. Now, acclaimed photographer Charles R. Smith Jr. interprets this beloved poem in vivid sepia photographs that capture the glory, the beauty, and the soul of being a black American today.

 

Illustrator Honor Book

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers,illustrated by E. B. Lewis, written by Langston Hughes.
Langston Hughes has long been acknowledged as the voice, and his poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, the song, of the Harlem Renaissance. Although he was only seventeen when he composed it, Hughes already had the insight to capture in words the strength and courage of black people in America.
Artist E.B. Lewis acts as interpreter and visionary, using watercolor to pay tribute to Hughes's timeless poem, a poem that every child deserves to know.

 

John Steptoe New Talent Award for Illustration

The Rock and the River, written by Kekla Magoon  YA MAG
The Time: 1968
The Place: Chicago

For thirteen-year-old Sam it's not easy being the son of known civil rights activist Roland Childs. Especially when his older (and best friend), Stick, begins to drift away from him for no apparent reason. And then it happens: Sam finds something that changes everything forever.

Sam has always had faith in his father, but when he finds literature about the Black Panthers under Stick's bed, he's not sure who to believe: his father or his best friend. Suddenly, nothing feels certain anymore.

Sam wants to believe that his father is right: You can effect chnage without using violence. But as time goes on, Sam grows weary of standing by and watching as his friends and family suffer at the hands of racism in their own community. Sam beings to explore the Panthers with Stick, but soon he's involved in something far more serious -- and more dangerous -- than he could have ever predicted. Sam is faced with a difficult decision. Will he follow his father or his brother? His mind or his heart? The rock or the river?

Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement

Walter Dean Myers is the winner of this first-ever Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award pays tribute to the quality and magnitude of beloved children’s author Virginia Hamilton. Myers’ books include: Amiri & Odette: A Love Story, Fallen Angels, Monster, and Sunrise Over Fallujah.