Episode 42: Two Book Nerds Discuss the 2021 ALAYMA Winners (Part 1)

On this week’s dose of book recommendations, library love and literary enthusiasm, we have a returning guest: my bookstagram friend and fellow book nerd Kris Dersch (@noextrawords)! Kris originally joined us on episode 22, where we talked about how she became a librarian and discussed our mutual appreciation for middle grade books. We’ll spend the next two episodes discussing the American Library Association’s 2021 Youth Media Awards. That includes ones you’ve most likely heard of, such as the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, and the Coretta Scott King Award. There are also some awards that you likely haven’t heard of, but should, including the Pura Belpré award for best representation of the Latino experience, and the Schneider Family award for books that express the disability experience. 

Be sure to come back next week for the second part of the conversation with Kris and me. There’s still quite a few awards and books to discuss!

In the meantime, go follow Kris on Instagram @noextrawords for more book talk.

You can find all the books we talked about on today's episode below or on my Bookshop.  Follow me @library.laura or on Facebook

ALAYMA Awards 

(John) Newbery Medal

The Newbery Medal honors the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Medal Winner: When You Trap A Tiger by Tae Keller 

Honor Books: All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat; BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Michele Wood; Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley; We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly; A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

What wasn't on the list that we hoped would be honored: From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks won nothing! It's such a good story and a great balance between the heavy topic of a black father jailed for a crime he didn't commit and the levity of a little girl who is trying to perfect her fruit loops cupcake recipe. Fortunately this book has been nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery, which I was glad to hear. 

(Randolph) Caldecott Medal

The Caldecott Medal honors the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Medal Winner: We Are Water Protectors illustrated by Michaela Goade, written by Carole Lindstrom. 

Honor Books: A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart illustrated by Noa Denmon, written by Zetta Elliott; The Cat Man of Aleppo illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, written by Irene Latham & Karim Shamsi-Basha; Me & Mama illustrated and written by Cozbi A. Cabrera; Outside In illustrated by Cindy Derby, written by Deborah Underwood.

Kris's kids really enjoyed We are Water Protectors and Outside In. She looks forward to exploring the other books as well. Kris mentioned Me & Mama being really beautiful (it also won an award for new illustrator talent in the Coretta Scott King awards) but that it's an art style that you'll probably either love or hate! 

(Theodor Seuss) Geisel Medal

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal honors the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year.

The Award went to “See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog,” written by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka.

Kris's son is an early reader and he really loves See the Cat. It's great because the stories are of a cat but the pictures are of the dog, and it breaks the 4th wall and talks directly to the reader. It's humorous and fun. 

I thought that was neat, because a lot of young readers depend on the pictures to give them clues about what is going on in the story, and this book plays with that. 

Children's Literature Legacy Award

The Legacy Award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

The Award went to Mildred Taylor, author of Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry (1977 Newbery Medal) and many other books. She's one of the first black women to have received the Newbery.

“Taylor’s storytelling shows how courage, dignity, and family love endure amidst racial injustice and continues to enlighten hearts and minds of readers through the decades.” said Children’s Literature Legacy Award Committee Chair Dr. Junko Yokota in the ALA press release.

(Robert F.) Sibert Informational Book Medal

The Sibert Medal honors the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published during the preceding year.

“Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera,” written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann, is the Sibert Award winner. 
This book is gorgeous and so informative. It's funny because no one would have said we needed another kids nonfiction book about bees, but then this one comes onto the scene and blows everyone away. I sent the link for this book to my friend Jewel the other day because she has a budding interest in beekeeping. It looked like just the thing she might enjoy! 

The honor books were: 

“Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks,” written by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera 

Kris said that Exquisite was one of those wonderful picture book biographies that she personally really enjoyed but her son had absolutely no interest in. Also interesting to see that it's illustrated by the same woman who wrote and illustrated Mama & Me (Caldecott honor & Coretta Scott King Honor). 

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team,” written by Christina Soontornvat. All Thirteen showed up with several other awards, including a Newbery Honor.  

(Mildred L.) Batchelder Award

The Batchelder Award is given to an American publisher for a children's book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English and published in the United States.

Telephone Tales  written by Gianni Rodari, illustrated by Valerio Vidali, translated (from Italian to English) by Antony Shugaar 

Catherine's War written by Julia Billet, illustrated by Claire Fauvel and translated from French by Ivanka Hahnenberger

(Pura) Belpré Medal

The Belpré Medal honors a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose works best portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros, is the Pura Belpré Children’s Author Award winner. Efren's mother is undocumented and his worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn't return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, México. 

Kris says Efrén's story is very realistic and well told, with a note of hope. She said it made her want to start handing this book to kids. 

If, like me, you're not familiar with who Pura Belpré is, Kris recommends this picture book biography: Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar. 

Lupe Wong Won't Dance by Donna Barba Higuera was one of the honor recipients for this award, and Kris was "pleasantly surprised" by this book being honored. Lupe Wong is half Chinese, half Mexican. She's supposed to be participating in a square-dancing unit in her PE class (inspired by a real experience) but she's not having any of it. Kris says this would be a great classroom read aloud because of its humor and multiculturalism, plus it's set in school and very relatable. 

There are also several other recipients of Pura Belpré awards in picture book and YA categories that we didn't end up talking about. But they're worth looking up and reading as well! 

Other books we mentioned on Episode 42: 

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - mentioned as a book that won an award in multiple categories in 2014/2015. 

Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (who also wrote We Dream of Space) which won the Newbery Medal in 2018. 

The War that Saved My Life (Newbery Honor 2016), The War I Finally Won, and Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley - the author of Fighting Words. 

I Can Make This Promise and The Sea In Winter by Christine Day, and both of these books have covers designed by Caldecott-winning artist Michaela Goade. Christine Day is a local author for Kris.  I really enjoyed her first book and I need to read the second one now!

Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time (Newbery Medal 1963) - Which she tried to sell to adult publishers for a long time before she sold it to a children's book publisher. 

Kris recently read an 1950's edition of A History of The Newbery and Caldecott Medals by Irene Smith, which she found really interesting and informative regarding the beginning of these awards. 

A Game of Fox and Squirrels by Jenn Reese was on the Heavy Metal blog, which does a Mock Newbery poll.  I read it. It's a well-done book that uses the allegory of a game with ever changing rules to talk about what it's like to live in an abusive relationship, and how to break out of that cycle and find health. It's beautifully done, but I know it wouldn't be the right book for some kids. For others, it might be a hugely impactful one.  (Also, I think Kris thought I was talking about The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse at the beginning...so mentioning that here in case you were curious.) 

New Kid by Jerry Craft won the Newbery in 2020, and we were really excited that it actually had "kid appeal" and it was the first graphic novel to win this honor. We are both of the opinion that graphic novels are books too!! 


My photo
Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


The Library Laura Podcast


Affiliate links disclosure

As an Amazon Associate and Bookshop.org Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this blog. Thanks for your support!

Popular Posts

Laura 's Goodreads bookshelf: read

The Slug Queen Chronicles: Season One
Christmas Night 1776
A Perilous Undertaking
The Mostly Invisible Boy
Please Close It!
On the Bright Side: Stories about Friendship, Love, and Being True to Yourself
The Giving Tree
At Home in Mitford
The Last Year of the War
The Goblin Emperor
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
Goodnight, Anne
Such a Fun Age
Every Heart a Doorway
The Underground Railroad
The Hate U Give
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
A Kind of Paradise

Laura Miller 's favorite books »

@library.laura on Instagram

The Library Laura Podcast on Facebook

Laura's Profile

Contact Form


Email *

Message *