Angeline Boulley did not win a Newbery or a Caldecott medal this year from the American Library Association.
Those are the two oldest and arguably most prestigious awards in children's literature. But they're among 22 awards the ALA handed out this week to books for kids, and a few names kept coming up during the ceremony, Boulley's among them.
An enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Boulley was honored with the American Indian Youth Literature Awards for her YA novel Firekeeper's Daughter. It also won the William C. Morris Award for a debut book by a first-time author writing for teens, and the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. That's three significant awards.
Author Malinda Lo was only a runner up for the Printz award but please don't feel too sorry for her. Her YA novel Last Night At the Telegraph Club had already won a National Book Award; the ALA awarded it the youth literature prize for Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature as well as the Stonewall Book Award - Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children's & Young Adult Literature award given to young adult books related to the LGBT experience.
"I belong to both of those communities so I'm tremendously honored," Lo told NPR, beaming in a call over Zoom.
But the book for young people that received the most recognition from the American Library Association this year is called Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre. Author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Floyd Cooper each won a Coretta Scott King award this year. Unspeakable was also a Caldecott honor book and a runner up for the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal.
"For me, the biggest reward comes in the form of a question," Weatherford told NPR. She says when children engage with her book, they always ask her the same things. "Did that really happen. or, why did that happen? Why did White people treat Black people so unfairly? Why were they being so hateful?"
A children's book about the Tulsa race massacre could be banned in a number of states these days, Weatherford warns, because some legislators might view it as "critical race theory." She says would have loved to celebrate with her collaborator Floyd Cooper, but the acclaimed illustrator did not live to see his most recent set of honors. Cooper died in July of cancer at the age of 65.