As the Coretta Scott King Book Awards enter the second half of their first century, the John Steptoe Award for New Talent is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, and the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement is celebrating ten years. This seems like a natural time to review the history of the awards.
Even though the Steptoe award is twenty-five years old, it has only been awarded to seventeen authors and twelve illustrators. There were six years (2013, 2012, 2001, 2000, 1998, and 1996) that no one received the award – neither author or illustrator – and another seven years that no one received the illustrator award.
Of the twenty-nine Steptoe winners, seven have gone on to win additional CSK awards. That’s twenty-four percent. Five for writing (Hope Anita Smith, Jason Reynolds, Kekla Magoon, Sharon Draper, and Sharon Flake) and two for illustration (Ekua Holmes and Frank Morrison).
Walter Dean Meyers has won the most CSK Author Awards with five. Three people are tied with the most CSK Author Honors: Walter Dean Myers, Virginia Hamilton, and James Haskins. All of these writers have won six CSK Honors.
Bryan Collier has won the most CSK Illustrator Awards with six. Ashley Bryan has the most CSK Illustrator Honors with seven.
Nineteen people have won at least five times. Ashley Bryan has been recognized the most with a total of thirteen times, while Walter Dean Meyers comes in a close second with twelve wins. In fact, fifty authors or illustrators (or thirty-one percent) of the total number of CSK winners have multiple awards/honors. Patricia McKissack has actually garnered ten CSK Awards or Honors. Eight of them were co-awarded with her husband Fredrick and displayed on the chart below. The other two were awarded to her as an individual writer and not reflected below. This makes her the most recognized female in CSK history with a total of ten CSK Awards or Honors.
The CSK Awards jury handbook specifies that zero to three CSK Honors may be given for author and illustrator. However, this rule must have started after 1984, since prior to this year as many as eight author honors had been awarded in a single year. When considering the most common number of honors given out, it turns out that three recognitions is the most common for CSK Author Honors. On nineteen occasions, three CSK Author Honors were given out. On the other hand, two is the most common for CSK Illustrator Honors. On seventeen occasions, two illustrator honors were given out compared to only eleven occasions when three honors were. Of course, each committee is its own entity and can recognize however many titles up to three titles during one award year.
Other interesting facts include the following:
- Every time Rita Williams-Garcia won the author award Bryan Collier won the illustrator award (2011, 2014, and 2016).
- R. Gregory Christie has received six CSK Illustrator Honors, but has not yet won the CSK Illustrator Award.
- Kadir Nelson and Ashley Bryan are the only people who have received recognition as both author and illustrator. In 2009, Kadir Nelson won the CSK Author Award and a CSK Illustrator Honor for We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. In 1987, Ashley Bryan won a CSK Illustrator Honor and a CSK Author Honor for Lion and the Ostrich Chicks and Other African Folk Tales.
- The most CSK Honors given out in one year is eight. That was in 1971, the second year of the award and before the CSK Illustrator Award was even started.
- Four times (1970, 1972, 1973, and 1975) no CSK Author Honors were awarded.
- Ten times no CSK Illustrator Honors were named, the most recent being in 1991.
- In 1975, no CSK Author or CSK Illustrator Honors were awarded.
- 1974 was the first year for the CSK Illustrator award to be given out.
- Three people have won two awards in the same year for different books. In 2016, Jason Reynolds won honors for different books (All American Boys and The Boy in the Black Suit) In 1980, James Haskins won honors for Andrew Young: Young Man with a Mission and James Van Der Zee: The Picture Takin’ Man. In 1995, Patricia C. & Fredrick L. McKissack won the award for Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters and an honor for Black Diamond: Story of the Negro Baseball League.
- A total of 338 awards have been given out to 163 individuals.
Keary Bramwell is a member of the CSK Technology Committee and children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs.