Help Us Celebrate CSK Award Winners!

Elementary students award Kwame Alexander their own medal for distinguished writing. Photo credit: Susan Polos

Call for Submissions for the CSK Blog

The CSK Technology Committee would like to hear from you. As we count down to our 50th anniversary celebration in Washington D.C., we would like to feature the many ways our community uses and engages with CSK award-winning books in their libraries. Our goal is to feature as many CSK Award-winning books on the blog from now until our big celebration.

Are you a school librarian who uses CSK winning titles in innovative lessons? Are you a public librarian using CSK winning titles for programs or storytimes? Do you have a connection to, a cool story about, or a unique artifact of, a CSK award winner? Whether you would like to write your submission or be interviewed about your work by a member of the technology committee, please contact us at today! Be sure to include the CSK award-winner that will be highlighted in the post. Additionally, if you have ideas on how we can feature older award-winnrs, we would love to hear about that, too.


Maegen Rose works as a middle school librarian at Rye Country Day School in Rye, NY. She is a member of the CSK Book Award Technology Committee.

Coretta Scott King Book Awards to Mark 50 years of Honoring the Best in Children and Youth Literature Celebrating the Black experience

It’s a celebration! The entire year of 2019 marks the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Coretta Scott King (CSK) Book Awards. What a milestone! The CSK Book Awards have enlarged the prominence of literature for children and youth about the Black experience and heightened the work of our author and illustrator winners and honorees. Your support has been unwavering, and you have empowered the CSK Book Awards to endure for 50 years.

We are excited to announce the CSK Books Awards: 50 Years Strong Anniversary website. Please visit often. You will find updates and announcements from the planning team. Feel free to access the Fact Sheet, Press Release template, Public Service Announcement (PSA) template, and Talking Points to use for your CSK 50 programs and presentations. If you will be presenting a CSK 50 program, let us know via email at

The CSK Book Awards: 50 Years Strong Anniversary website can be accessed in two ways: 1) Visit our CSK Book Awards Home page,, and click on the blue link 50th anniversary -or- 2) Visit directly at

Using the hashtag, #CSK50 on social media, share with us your favorite moments from past Coretta Scott King Book Awards breakfasts, Coretta Scott King Book Award titles that you and your library cherish, or what this award means to you as a library worker, educator, student, reader, or writer. Plan on attending ALA Annual 2019 in Washington, D.C., to celebrate with us in person!

We will have a Commemorative CSK 50th Anniversary T-Shirt on sale at the ALA store. The Commemorative CSK 50th Anniversary Lapel Pin (item #5302-1911) is presently on sale at the ALA store. The sixth edition of the CSK Book Awards publication will also be available at the ALA store soon. Purchase these beautiful keepsake items for you, colleagues, family, and friends. The ALA store website is

Let’s celebrate CSK 50 Years Strong!


Dr. Claudette S. McLinn, Chair

Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee



Dr. Claudette McLinn is Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee. She is the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature.

Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards Opens at the Eric Carle Museum


Our Voice Exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.   Photo credit: Dr. McLinn

Saturday, October 20, 2018, was the special opening reception of Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. This traveling art exhibition was assembled through the collaboration of the American Library Association and the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL). This exhibition features 100 works of art from 38 CSK winner and honor illustrators and remain on view through January 27, 2019. Our Voice is the largest and most comprehensive presentation of CSK illustrator winners and honors ever assembled since the illustrator award was established in 1974.

From left to right, Ellen Keiter, Reynolds Ruffin, Ekua Holmes, Gordon C. James, Jerry Pinkney, and George C. Ford.   Photo credit: Dr. McLinn

Several of the CSK illustrator winner and honor award recipients were present at the opening reception. The illustrators include George C. Ford, the first recipient and winner of the CSK Illustrator Award in 1974; Reynolds Ruffin, 1997 honor awardee; JoeSam, 1988 honor awardee; Charles R. Smith, Jr., 2010 award winner; Gordon C. James, 2018 honor awardee; and Ekua Holmes, 2018 award winner. A special one-hour program in the auditorium featured Ekua Holmes and Gordon C. James in conversation with Jerry Pinkney.

Ekua Holmes and Gordon C. James, in conversation with Jerry Pinkney.   Photo credit: Dr. McLinn

This exhibition was curated by Ellen Keiter, chief curator at The Eric Carle Museum and her super creative staff. iPad stations were provided where visitors had the opportunity to listen to audio clips of many of the artists speaking about their work in their own voice. In addition, small cards with quotations by Coretta Scott King were provided free for guests to take home.

This is a remarkable exhibition. If you are in the greater Boston area, please visit and make the trip with family or colleagues.

Dr. Claudette McLinn is Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee. She is the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature.

Mock CSK Book Award Groups

With school back in session and the ALA Youth Media Awards announcements less than five months away, mock award groups are forming or, if formed already, they are beginning to hone in on nominations, just like the actual committees.

I spoke with Sierra McKenzie, Library Services Floater at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCH), a member of the newly formed PLCH Mock Coretta Scott King Book Awards group and keeper of that group’s suggestion spreadsheet.

This is the first year of the PLCH Mock CSK Book Awards group. It’s Sierra’s first experience with a mock group, and she reports that some members have commented on the increase in the amount of reading for this mock group versus others because they are selecting books for two categories, author and illustrator. Right now, members are reading everything that qualifies, focusing on titles with high reviews from other group members and adding comments to a closed Goodreads list.

The group has completed two rounds of author and illustrator suggestions. A selection meeting will occur in September when they will start to narrow down the list of suggestions for a shorter list for “author” and “illustrator” category discussions.

Mock CSK Book Awards groups add awareness and enthusiasm for titles that are current and eligible for the CSK Book Awards. If your public, academic or school library has a Mock CSK Book Awards group  in place, please share this in the comments section. And if not, please consider starting one!

Thanks to Dr. Claudette McLinn, Alan Bailey, and Amber Hayes, the CSK Book Awards Jury Handbook has been updated (format and pagination) and is available for Mock CSK Book Awards groups and Mock CSK Book Awards elections through a link on the CSK Book Awards Committee website.


Susan Polos works as a school librarian at Fox Lane High School in Bedford, NY.  She is chair of the CSK Book Awards Technology Committee.





Painter and Poet: The Art of Ashley Bryan

Ashley Bryan

Painter and Poet: The Art of Ashley Bryan is an extraordinary exhibit* at the Portland Museum of Art (PMA) in Portland, Maine, that honors the work of 2012 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton
Lifetime Achievement winner  Ashley Bryan. The exhibit consists of original artwork from 14 of Bryan’s books, including two that won the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration: Let It Shine (2008) and Beautiful Blackbird (2004), as well as several CSK Honor award-winning books, including Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life (2017) and Ashley Bryan’s ABC of African American Poetry (1998).

For Bryan, a renowned artist, writer and storyteller, rhythm is essential to life, and this idea carries into the art he creates for every book.

Let It Shine Book cover and art work (2008)

His use of vibrant colors along with rich language gives each book a sense of movement. His illustrations offer a visual lyricism.

A perfect complement to this exhibition is the addition of a film in Bryan’s own expressive voice describing his childhood and the influences that led him to a life of sharing African American spirituals, poetry, and stories.

Beautiful Blackbird Book cover and art work (2004)

To make the experience even better is the addition of colorful, moveable seating at the perfect height for children, set among wooden bins filled with his books at their fingertips.

One could spend quite a bit of time just sitting, slowly turning the pages of his books while listening to his familiar cadence and resonant voice.

Freedom Over Me Book cover and art work (2017)

Ashley Bryan creates beautiful books that beg to be read aloud and shared over and over and over again.

*This exhibition is on view through November 25, 2018

*This exhibition was organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, Massachusetts.

Photos of Ashley Bryan’s art were taken at the exhibit with permission from the museum.

Louise Capizzo is Teen and Youth Services Librarian for a public library in Scarborough, ME. A member of the CSK Technology Committee, Louise is also a blogger for The Nonfiction Detectives.

Freedom on the High Seas: Teaching Maritime History with CSK Books and Authors

“Very often, the way to freedom was not by land, but by sea. Countless slaves made it to freedom with the help of a ‘black Jack,’ a black seaman or a Nantucket whaleman.” ~Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African American Whalers

Did you know that from the early to mid-1800’s, a significant number of free men of color worked as waterfront workers and seafaring men and that Frederick Douglass escaped bondage by disguising himself as a sailor? Or that the early American whaling industry was roughly equivalent to the oil industry of today and was strongly connected to abolition? While it’s well known that black people were transported to the Americas aboard slave vessels, many also used ships and various types of maritime work to secure their freedom.   Several CSK Award winning authors and illustrators have written or illustrated books about real and imagined heroes from this fascinating part of American history.


CSK Author Award winner Andrea Davis Pinkney’s Peggony Po: A Whale of a Tale is a Pinocchio-meets-Moby Dick tall tale.  This story pairs beautifully with Lesa Cline-Ransome’s Whale Trails, Before and Now. In addition, Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass, written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by CSK Illustrator Honor winner James Ransome, shows the important role that the shipyards of Baltimore and the Eastern Shore played in opening the path to Douglass’ bright future.


I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer by Coretta Scott King Award winner Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by CSK/Steptoe Award winner Eric Velasquez introduces young readers to Matthew Henson, the groundbreaking explorer who began his career as a cabin boy at the age of twelve. Weatherford’s book pairs well with Deborah Hopkinson’s Keep On!: The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-discoverer of the North Pole. This teacher’s guide supports    the content of both titles.


Two rich and informative chapter books about blacks in maritime history are Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African American Whalers by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack and How They Got Over: African Americans and the Call of the Sea written by 2018 Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement author, Eloise Greenfield and illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. Both of these CSK related titles can be nicely supplemented with graphic novels The Amazing Adventures of Equiano and The Prison-Ship Adventure of James Forten, Revolutionary War Captive .  

Public and school librarians can incorporate these titles in ocean- and pirate- themed displays or create book bundles that include the above-named titles alongside an assortment of water-themed folktales, nonfiction titles related geography, oceanography, navigation and astronomy.

Classroom and homeschooling teachers can use these books to expand their teaching of topics related to African Americans in the antebellum South and Reconstruction years. Teachers may also choose to incorporate Black Sailors and Sea Shanties, an electronic resource, into their presentation of this material.

Whether offered in the library or classroom, these resources will  shine light upon an often overlooked yet significant aspect of global history.


Jené Watson is a writer, mother and public librarian who lives in suburban Atlanta.  She loves arts and history and is the author of The Spirit That Dreams: Conversations with Women Artists of Color (


CSK at ALA 2018

There were five Coretta Scott King Book Award events during the 2018 ALA Annual Conference, and all were wonderful.

The first events were the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Executive Board Meeting, followed by the Community-General Meeting, both the morning of Saturday, June 23, at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Secretary Jené Brown, Chair Dr. Claudette McLinn, and Chair-Elect Professor Alan Bailey listen as action items are debated.

Jené Brown, Dr. Claudette McLinn, Prof. Alan Bailey. Photo: Susan Polos
CSK Executive Board Meeting. Dr. Bracy, Erika Marks, Sam Bloom, Elisa Gall, Amber Hayes, Deborah Taylor. Photo: Susan Polos

Members of the CSK Executive Board considered proposals. We had an opportunity to meet Amber Hayes, the new ODLOS Outreach and Communications Program Officer, whose responsibilities include work with the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee.

CSK Membership Meeting. Photo: Susan Polos

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards General Meeting was well attended. Two CSK Book Awards Jury members were elected: Jewel Davis and Maegen Rose.

Members of the CSK Book Awards Committee Executive Board, Back row: Dr. Safi S. M. Safiullah, Elisa Gall, Susan Polos, Crystal Carr Jeter, Sam Bloom, Jené Brown, Deimosa Webber-Bey, Bettye Smith, Nick Glass, Erika Marks, Carmen Boston. Front Row: Deborah Taylor, Dr. Pauletta Bracy, Dr. Claudette McLinn, Professor Alan Bailey. Photo: Susan Polos

We were able to take an official photo of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Executive Board.

Later on June 23, at 6 p.m., members and friends gathered for the Coretta Scott King Book Awards – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement Reception to celebrate 2018 Virginia Hamilton honoree Eloise Greenfield.

Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Dr. Claudette McLinn, Eloise Greenfield, Deborah Taylor at Virginia Hamilton Award Reception 2018. Photo: Michael McLinn

The sold-out Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast was held on Sunday, June 24, from 7:00 9:30 a.m. at the Hilton Riverside.

Jené Watson presenting. Photo: Susan Polos

On Monday, the CSK program, “Using Coretta Scott King Award-Winning Books to Enrich Programs and Instruction in Public, School, and Academic Libraries” was offered at 10:30 a.m. in the Morial Convention Center to a standing-room only crowd.

Dr. Jonda McNair, Andrea Jamison, Jené Watson, Alan Bailey. Photo: Susan Polos

Professor Alan Bailey moderated the panel while Dr. Jonda McNair, Andrea Jamison and Jené Watson presented.

Many other informal gatherings and opportunities to connect were also part of the ALA experience. Our CSK Technology Committee, usually virtual, met in person!

The CSK Technology Committee Meeting at ALA 2018. Photo: Susan Kusel

If you have any photos from ALA in New Orleans that are specific to the Coretta Scott Book Awards Committee, please share in the comments.

We’ll see you next at Midwinter in Seattle – and here on the blog, as well.

Post by Susan Polos and Maegen Rose

Susan Polos works as a school librarian at Fox Lane High School in Bedford, NY.  She is chair of the CSK Book Awards Technology Committee.

Maegen Rose works as a school librarian at Rye Country Day School in Rye, NY. She is a member of the CSK Book Awards Technology Committee. 

An interview with author David Barclay Moore, winner of the 2018 Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Author Award for New Talent

Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Jina DuVernay: You tweeted that you were excited to see a “shiny, metal sticker” on your own book.  What does having the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award sticker on your debut novel, The Stars Beneath Our Feet, mean to you?

David Barclay Moore: Having the Coretta Scott King / John Steptoe Award on the cover of my book is the visual realization of a lifetime of hard work and dreams. Ever since I was a child being dropped off at our local library to find books to read, I’ve recognized the “shiny, metal sticker” of the CSK Awards as a symbol of special books, noteworthy books. Now that my name and the title of my book, The Stars Beneath Our Feet, will be forever associated with that emblem of excellence, I am extremely moved and honored. In some ways, it represents a full circle, from a child who read those books to an author who has written one.

Jina DuVernay: According to a article, you will not only be writing the script for the film version of your award-winning novel, but you will also be executive producer.   Did you encounter any difficulty in establishing your participation in the making of the film?

David Barclay Moore: I’m very excited to be working with actor/director Michael B. Jordan and his excellent team at Outlier Society Productions on the screen adaptation of my novel, The Stars Beneath Our Feet.  From the very beginning of this process, in fact our very first conversation, Michael expressed an interest to have me directly involved in the film production. He had done his research and had not only read some of my other creative writing, but also watched my film work as well. Throughout this whole process, he’s shown a great deal of passion for the story of The Stars Beneath Our Feet, him having grown up similarly to that of my central character, Lolly Rachpaul.

Jina DuVernay: Beyond the movie version of your novel, will we see anymore of Lolly in the future?

David Barclay Moore: Lately, I’ve been very busy working on several writing projects as well as the screenplay to The Stars Beneath Our Feet’s film version. While there is no direct sequel planned for my first novel, a few of the characters will pop up elsewhere. I’m a big fan of intertexuality. For instance, I’ve already written a manuscript, which deals with how the character “Rockit’s” story arc resolves itself. Additionally, I have plans for a YA novel that explores the story behind Lolly’s graffiti artist friend, Daryl R. But will my protagonist Lolly return? Who knows?

This interview was conducted on May 16, 2018.

Jina DuVernay is the Special Collections Librarian at Alabama State University. She  is a member of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee.

Meet the 2018 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Donation Grant Recipients

Pop-Up Learning Center
Uni Project, NYC

Founded to honor Coretta Scott King’s humanitarian work, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards has for nearly 50 years drawn attention to “outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience.” Each year the awards jury receives hundreds of books and over 100 unique titles for consideration for this prestigious prize. The Coretta Scott King Book Awards Donation Grant Committee reviews grant applications and ensures that these application submissions will directly benefit young people by selecting organizations to receive the books, including a complete set of the winning titles, once the CSK Book Awards Jury deliberations have concluded.

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards Donation Grant Committee is delighted to showcase three grant recipients for 2018:

Art Aids Art (Khayelitsha, South Africa)

Art Aids Art is a US nonprofit which established the eKhaya eKasi Art and Education Center in Khayelitsha, South Africa 10 years ago. They opened a Multicultural Children’s Library in the township with help from a previous Coretta Scott King Awards Donation Grant. Materials in the library are translated by staff into the local language, isiXhosa, and are used to support community engagement and literacy and cultural instruction for children and adults. The Center offers after-school care, life skills instruction, reproductive health programs, homework support, and visual and performing arts classes. The books received from the 2018 grant will support continued instruction, independent reading, and the organization’s community-wide celebration of its 10th anniversary.

Athens Housing Authority, University of Georgia College of Education & Parkview Community (Athens, GA)

The Athens Housing Authority, University of Georgia College of Education, and Parkview Community in Athens, GA are collaborating to add the books they receive from the grant to a community library they are developing for Parkview residents. The new books will support workshops and tutoring related to the arts, storytelling, dramatic play, and community activism. The library will focus on individual, family, and community literacy development, while also bringing together local residents and leveraging historic memory and knowledge from community members.

Uni Project (New York, NY)

Traveling Learning Center
Uni Project, NYC

For the past seven years, the Uni Project in New York, NY has built pop-up learning centers in “book deserts” in New York. Loaded with books, materials on STEAM subjects, and more, these custom outdoor learning centers are very attractive to children. Joined by a cart featuring new titles received from this year’s grant, offerings such as author readings, reviews written by members of the public, book discussions, and other participatory schemes will enable the books to reach a broad audience as they (and the ideas they inspire) will travel throughout New York City neighborhoods.

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are presented by the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Community of the American Library Association’s Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT). In 2019, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. Applications for the 2019 Coretta Scott King Book Award Donation Grant will be available in the fall of 2018. Please review the criteria and consider applying in the fall of 2018, and or encourage other eligible organizations to apply!

Elisa Gall is the Youth Collection Development Librarian at Deerfield (Illinois) Public Library and Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Donation Grant Committee.

A former school librarian, Laura Simeon is the Young Adult Editor at Kirkus Reviews. She is a member of the CSK Book Awards Donation Grant Committee.

CSK Titles: Combating the Single Narrative of the Black Experience

I am currently pursuing my doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and I had been going back in forth in my mind on what my dissertation focus would be.  But, finally, I just gave in to what is most dear to my heart—books that mirror the lives of black and brown children; and CSK plays a significant role in pushing such titles to the forefront.  So now, the working title of my dissertation is:  Avoiding the Single Story: University Professionals Explore Narratives of the Black Experience through Coretta Scott King Book Award Titles.”  I have selected four CSK titles for university faculty and/or leaders to read over the course of the fall semester via a virtual book club: Piecing Me Together, We Are the Ship, Crown, and The Crossover.  I wanted to choose titles that told varied narratives of the black experience.

I will never forget my experience as a little black girl perusing through books in the public library in search of titles that mirrored people, places, and experiences familiar to me.  Allow me to briefly take a stroll down memory lane to recall some of the friends I have met through CSK titles like Cassie, from Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. Her ability to maintain her spunky personality and witty nature all while dealing with racism and social ills made me feel like we were best friends.  My heart ached for Gayle from Rita Williams-Garcia’s Like Sisters on the Homefront as she went through the trials and tribulations of being a teen mom. And I was terrified for Steve as he stood trial in a world that only saw him as a villain and not as the young, black teen or human he was, but instead, as a monster (Could art be imitating life today?)—an unforgettable character from the late, great Walter Dean Myers’ novel, Monster.  I could go on, and on.

I am honored, and I view it as a service to my community, to serve on the Coretta Scott King Book Awards jury. I know how important it is for little black and brown children to see themselves, their culture, their neighborhoods, and their language in literature.  But it is equally important for little white boys and girls to see that there are many stories that contribute to the black experience and that having only one narrative of the black experience is what contributes to unfair and inaccurate narratives that lead to stereotyping of black people, prejudice, and racial profiling—all of which we are witnessing in today’s political climate.   Through my research, I will challenge university faculty and leaders to open up their hearts and their bookshelves to not only this year’s winners but to go back and read previous CSK award-winning titles, in order to expose themselves to the plethora of narratives that contribute to the black experience. Libraries may transform lives, but the Coretta Scott King Book Award titles have the power to modify your spirit and to change your heart.  I’ll be sure to report my findings to the blog next year.  See you all in NOLA and happy reading!

LaKeshia Darden is a 2017-2019 member of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury.  She is the Curriculum Materials/Media Librarian at  Campbell University.