The Texas Library Association and the Black Caucus Round Table Celebrate Diversity and the Message of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop at the Texas Library Conference, April 2017, San Antonio, TX

The Texas Library Association and the Black Caucus Round Table celebrated the message of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, winner of the 2017 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. Multiple conference programs reflected Dr. Bishop’s famous words that books can at times be windows or other times mirrors in which children might see themselves. Books can also be sliding glass doors, an entrance to a different world. African American authors and illustrators conveyed this message to hundreds of librarians. The CSK blog is proud to highlight four of those programs: The Brown Book Shelf with Kelly Starling Lyons and Gwendolyn Hooks; Speed Dating the Bluebonnet Books with Don Tate and Crystal Allen; Illustrator Sketch-off with Christian Robinson and Shadra Strickland; and My Life Beyond ‘Good Times’ with actress and author Bern Nadette Stanis.

Part One of Four

The Brown Book Shelf at the Texas Library Association Conference in San Antonio, TX

Presenters: Kelly Starling Lyons (CSK 2013) and Gwendolyn Hooks (NAACP Image 2017)

What a treat for a room of more than 200 librarians to learn about The Brown Book Shelf from Kelly Starling Lyons and Gwendolyn Hooks. In February 2017, the Brown Book Shelf celebrated its 10th anniversary by recognizing authors and illustrators of color who have paved the way to heighten the awareness of the many Black voices in the world of books. Each day in February, an author/illustrator was featured with an in-depth profile and list of their body of work. There is currently a collection of 280 featured authors and illustrators from the past decade.

Kelly Starling Lyons from Raleigh, North Carolina, shared that the first time she saw an African-American child on the cover of a book was in third grade. The book was Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Seeing a girl that looked like her let her know that her experiences and history mattered. It ignited her dream of writing too. Lyons didn’t see another book featuring a black child until in her 20s when she read Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth. That book made her want to write for kids. Lyons shared that family relationships are the heart of what she writes about, but her latest book, One More Dino on the Floor, showcases her love of fantasy and dance. The counting story features colorful dinosaurs dancing at the disco, limbo, hip hop, Cupid Shuffle, and more.

Gwendolyn Hooks from Oklahoma City shared her career path from a military brat to a middle school math teacher and on to her full-time writing job. Her 2016 title Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas was inspired by the 2004 HBO show Something the Lord Made. In the 1940s, Vivien Thomas was instrumental in the successful surgery and development of procedures to treat young children with “blue baby syndrome.”

Hooks shared about her own family of readers. She explained that as a military family, the only constant in their lives was the library. No matter where they lived, they could always go to the library. After the debut of Tiny Stitches, her son, who is now in the military, phoned from Kuwait to ask her why he had to learn about this book from his commanding officer? A friend of the officer’s wife discovered the book and told her that this pediatric heart surgery had saved her own baby from “blue baby syndrome.”

Lyons and Hooks had several takeaways for their attentive audience:

  1. Librarians should feel comfortable and confident choosing diverse books for diverse children.
  2. Children’s books by Black authors and illustrators are books for all children.
  3. Librarians must be intentional about their purchases and the power of their dollars, demanding that publishers produce more diverse books and bring back ‘into print’ popular diverse series from the past.
  4. They stressed the message of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, winner of the 2017 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the value of “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.” Librarians need to make sure that there are books on the shelves with pictures and images of children and people who look like they do.
  5. Books should have ‘cultural authenticity’ with people of color telling their own stories.

Lyons and Hooks shared a history of images in children’s books going back to painful pejorative titles from 1875 to a celebration of Ezra Jack Keats’ Caldecott Award for The Snowy Day in 1969. They referenced the Cooperative Children’s Book Center published statistics, demonstrating the great need for more books by and about people of color.

Finally, they ensured that this audience had tools ready to use back in their libraries by sharing favorite strategies for promoting diverse books. These included choosing fun stories like Nikki Grimes’ Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel; focusing on “who was that person” such as Schomburg, The Man Who Built a Library; using Riding Chance to demonstrate decision-making and consequences; and drawing kids in with the unexplainable such as The Jumbies, a Caribbean fantasy.

Afterward, Lyons and Hooks reported that they were pleased with this first presentation at the Texas Library Association and with the size of the audience and the attentiveness and the follow-up questions at the end. Lyons was very happy to get the opportunity to eat and perhaps have a margarita at one of Maya Angelou’s favorite San Antonio restaurants, La Margarita. Texas librarians were very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear from these national speakers and to learn more about celebrating diversity in their own libraries.

Post by Mary Jo Humphreys

YMA Awards, CSK, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, and Congressman John Lewis: What a day!

Anticipation ran high as the crowd began to gather at 6:00 a.m. for the 8:00 a.m. American Library Association Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 23, 2017, held in the Georgia World Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Many distinguished books were published in 2016; the buzz and enthusiasm were practically palatable as one entered the rapidly filling room.   As the committees entered to sit in the reserved spaces, we got a shot of the Coretta Scott King committee settling in.  The Coretta Scott King Award jury was chaired by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, who had a great day herself.  

Before the book awards were announced, we learned that Dr. Sims Bishop was honored as the recipient of the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. After the standing ovation, CSK Awards Committee Chair Pauletta Brown Bracy had to ask Dr. Sims Bishop to stand so that the crowd could see her!

The CSK (Author) Medal was awarded to Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, who won an unprecedented number of awards for March: Book Three, including Printz, Sibert, and YALSA Nonfiction), while the CSK Andrew Aydin (Illustrator) Medal was awarded to Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Steptoe also won the Caldecott Medal.

CSK  (Author) Honors were awarded to Jason Reynolds for As Brave As Me and Ashley Bryan for Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life. Bryan also won a CSK (Illustrator) Honor for Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life. CSK (Illustrator) Honors were also awarded to R. Gregory Christie for Freedom in Congo Square and Jerry Pinkney for In Plain Sight.

The John Steptoe New Talent Award was given to Nicole Yoon for The Sun is Also a Star.

Post by Liz Deskins

Clap Clap


The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.  The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.  In a continuing effort to promote these authors, illustrators and their works the CSK Committee is engaging in various aspects of social media to continue delivering quality content about everything CSK. Over the next few days, you’ll see the list of contributors to this blog grow because everything related to the Coretta Scott King Award is a family effort.


What better way to begin this blog than with the call to action poem delivered as the acceptance speech at this year’s Coretta Scott King Award’s Breakfast by Jason Reynolds, author and co-author of the 2016 Author Honor books. All American Boys was co-authored with Brendan Kiely, and The Boy in the Black Suit. Both books were published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division and both books were this year’s honor books. The speeches of the winning author and illustrator presented that morning are available on the Horn Book blog and also printed in it’s journal.

Jason’s acceptance speech was the second he delivered on the morning of 26 June. While he read, his mom shed tears of pride and joy and, when he finished, everyone was on their feet. I do wonder if anyone recorded his reading? There is a video of Jason reading the poem here. Jason said he did read the poem as written, but did adlib a few lines at the end. And, there is nothing to compare to an author reading their own work, their emotions laid bare in the words they’ve chosen with care and vision.

Read closely and then, get to work!

MACHETES (written for and read during Coretta Scott King Honor acceptance speech, 2016)

if you listen closely
you can hear the machetes
cutting the air
in half
connecting for half a second with something
breathing and growing
breathing and growing
before being chopped
down like sugar cane in a Louisiana field
yes there are machetes everywhere
the sound of them cutting the air

chop CHOP
chop CHOP

we try not
to bend in the wind
try not to bow or bow
try to wrap fingers around our own
saccharine souls
and brace ourselves
for the

chop CHOP
chop CHOP

the machetes
cutting the air in half
coming for us

seems like folks like us be best
when we broken open
when we melted down
when we easier to digest

if you listen closely
you can hear the machetes
cutting the ears off

chop CHOP
chop CHOP

cold steel against our cheeks
be black sheep siblings
be black boy pillows

chop CHOP
chop CHOP

ears lopped off
leaving our drums in the dirt
like we ever needed ears
to hear God
like we ever needed ears to hear
the machetes
cutting the air
in half
the machetes
cutting the eyes out
retinas ripped
light left as a stain on the angry end of a blade
life in black and white blur
like we ever needed eyes to see red
to see gold
to see sunshine laughing yellow
to see those machetes
cutting the air
in half

chop CHOP
chop CHOP

those machetes
cutting us
in half

chop CHOP

dropping us down
to a manageable size
like gigantism be the only reason we giants
what you gon do with this ten foot fire in my belly?
what you gon do with tidal wave under my tongue?
aint nobody ever told you we always find our legs?

if you listen closely
you can hear the machetes
cutting the air
in half

chop CHOP

and if you listen even closer
you can hear
in the sliver of silence
between those chops
the clapping

clap CLAP
clap CLAP

the clapping of yester-generation’s
freedom songs
protest warriors
unpopular opinions
uncomfortable confrontation
unhinging truth

clap CLAP

and this generation’s
freedom songs
protest warriors
unpopular opinions
uncomfortable confrontation
unhinging truth

clap CLAP
clap CLAP

the clapping of kids in the street
and grandmas at church
the clapping of aunties watching
their nieces lead the march now
the clapping of new connections
new routes
new alleyways
new allies
new chances
new dances
at house parties
because we’ve never needed
eyes ears or legs
to boogie because boogie
be our heartbeat
and if you listen closely
you can hear our heartbeat
in syncopation with that

clap CLAP
clap CLAP

our laughter
clap CLAP
our singing
clap CLAP
our dancing
clap CLAP
our fighting
clap CLAP
our praying
clap CLAP
our crying
clap CLAP
or trying to breathe and grow
in the midst of all this

yes there are machetes everywhere
and if you look closely
really closely
closer than closely
you can see the machine
turning its wheels
churning out those machetes

this machine
distant yet all around
like sky
and cold
and perfect for sharpening steel
because it has no finger to prick
it has never felt the sting of skin rolling back
because it doesn’t have skin
and the excuses of history keep its conveyor belt
rolling out
machete after machete after machete to
to cut the air
of so many of us
in half

no this machine
it does not feel
but it does speak

it says
get to work

chop chop

Text copyright @2016 Jason Reynolds, used with permission of Pippin Properties, Inc.

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The mission of the Coretta Scott King Book Award Committee Blog is to highlight Coretta Scott King award winning books and authors. We seek to connect CSK winners to young people in the classroom and beyond through the work of librarians.

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For a printable list of all the CSK winners to date, with a thumbnail image of each book cover, please visit