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.
Kasi Lemmons’s biographical movie Harriet was a box office sensation in 2019. There has been both outcry and support for the film with some viewers homing in on points of historical accuracy as well as the choice of lead.
Debates aside, the fact of Harriet being the first big screen depiction of Tubman makes it likely that itwill be used to teach history in homes and classrooms for years to come. This being so, context is key.
Below is a collection of books that parents and teachers can use to help youth round out their understanding of the complex world that existed in Harriet Tubman’s time. Published over the last twenty-five years, all have either won a Coretta Scott King Book Award or Honor or are ones that were written or illustrated by CSK laureates.
The content of these selections range from the songs and spiritual beliefs of the enslaved, to Black Jacks and free African American communities (whose historical presence and stories remain important yet are often grayed out in collective memory) as well as the sad reality of black slave catchers who abetted the “peculiar institution” and many topics in between.
Jené Watson is Chair of the CSK Technology Committee as well as a mother, writer, educator and librarian who lives and works in suburban Atlanta. She is the author of The Spirit That Dreams: Conversations with Women Artists of Color.
I had been excited about the Coretta Scott King Book Awards 50th Anniversary Gala since the day it was announced, but my stomach was filled with so many butterflies on Friday, June 21st, I thought they would lift me off the ground and out of Washington, DC. Waiting for the doors of the celebration to officially open at 6:30 p.m. was truly getting the best of me. These were not butterflies associated with anxiety, fear, doubt, or uncertainty, however, but butterflies of joy and anticipation. It reminded me of how I felt around Christmas Eve as a young child.
As I walked towards the carriage house entrance, I noticed a luxurious black car parked near the entrance. When I heard the car door close and people began to chatter, I looked over my shoulder out of curiosity and saw Dr. Carla Hayden, looking radiant in a black and fuchsia dress, standing next to the car. She smiled warmly as our eyes met, and I must admit I blushed. A minute later, while I was still in awe from seeing Dr. Hayden, Ashley Bryan was escorted by me and into the building. At that very moment, I knew June 21, 2019, would be an enchanting night.
When I entered the great hall, I was temporarily immobilized by the majestic staircases, floors, arches, lighting, dome, and more. Everything in sight, including the beautiful people surrounding me, was magnificent. Although I have been a librarian for more than 35 years and visited DC more times than I can count, I am a bit embarrassed to say I had not visited the Library of Congress. Of course, I expected it to be majestic, but what I saw and felt surpassed everything I had imagined – I felt as if I had taken a step back in time.
Seven o’clock was rapidly approaching, so everyone was ushered quickly to Coolidge Auditorium, where the gala took place. As I entered the auditorium, I immediately knew I was amongst my true tribe. Authors, illustrators, librarians, and many others sharing a common thread – an admiration for books for and about African American children, especially those with seals representing the Coretta Scott King Book Award on their covers. Saying the auditorium was filled with the crème de la crème is an understatement. As I walked down the aisle, James and Lesa Cline Ransome were in front of me, Christopher Myers was standing on my left, and George Ford was engaged in a lively conversation on my right. Adrenalin pumped vigorously as I finally took my seat. I glanced around before opening my program and saw amazing individuals like Kadir Nelson, Kekla Magoon, Jerry Pinkney, R. Gregory Christie, Sharon Flake, and Jason Reynolds. And, remember, this was before the event officially began.
As the lights dimmed and the eloquent voice of Andrea Davis Pinkney came over the microphone, the night of nights began, and, oh, what a night it was. The program included a heartfelt welcome from Dr. Carla Hayden, the spectacular voice of Jewell Booker, the presentation of the astonishing commemorative painting of Mrs. Coretta Scott King by Kadir Nelson, poetry written especially for this 50th Celebration delivered by Kwame Alexander and accompanied by guitarist Randy Preston, and inspirational remarks by Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. What a powerful lineup. And to close the program, “Dream for Tomorrow,” a piece choreographed by Dobbin Pinkney, and performed by Dobbin and a troupe of gifted dancers. And yes, Dobbin is a member of the amazing Pinkney family – a family that will never stop astonishing us with their talents!
The gala concluded
with a reception filled with food, champagne, and lively conversation. Unity
and love radiated throughout the great hall. Love for both children’s
literature and for humanity – how could you not feel its presence? I proudly
rode that wave of unity and love as I greeted and chatted with Rita Williams
Garcia, Angie Thomas, Sharon Draper, Ekua Holmes, and the legendary Eloise
Greenfield. In addition to some of the world’s greatest children’s authors and
illustrators, I had the pleasure of seeing Fran Ware (Chair of the CSK Book
Awards Committee when I joined the committee in 2005), Dr. Carole McCollough
(Chair of my first CSK jury), and Satia Orange (former Director of OLOS). My
heart swelled with joy as I conversed with these three amazing women who influenced
me over the past 15 years more than they can ever imagine.
When the gala
ended, I exchanged warm goodbyes, descended one of the majestic stairwells, called
for a car, and returned to my hotel room with intentions to shower and go
directly to bed. Showering was easy but going to bed was more difficult than I
imagined. Although I was exhausted, memories of the spectacular evening flooded
my mind in waves too strong to allow me to retire for the evening. For me, the Coretta
Scott King Book Awards 50th Anniversary Gala was a moving, almost
spiritual, event of a lifetime. Undoubtedly, a night of enchantment.
Alan R. Bailey is the 2019-2021 Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee, He is a Professor at East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.
The 2000s were a decade of change: a new decade, a new century, and a new millennium. A time when our nation experienced the consequences of a horrifying tragedy: the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, but also a time that fortunately ended on a joyful note when many children across the country saw themselves represented in our nation’s highest political office for the first time with the election of the first African American President, Barack Obama. This decade also witnessed the Coretta Scott King Books Awards continuing to shine its light on numerous prominent authors and illustrators. In the 2000s, the CSK Book Award was given to its first Nobel Prize winner, Toni Morrison, 2005 CSK Author Winner for Remember: The Journey to School Integration. Jerry Pinkney won an additional CSK Illustrator Winner Award in 2002 for Goin’ Someplace Special and was awarded a CSK Illustrator Honor two more times, in 2005 for God Bless the Child and in 2009 for The Moon Over Star. Ashley Bryan added two more CSK Illustrator Winner Awards to his mantle, in 2004 for Beautiful Blackbird and 2008 for Let It Shine. Mildred D. Taylor won her final CSK Author Award in 2002 for The Land.
Perhaps most significantly, this was the decade where two prominent illustrators made a splash in the children’s publishing world and made a huge impact on the Coretta Scott King Book Award community. Kadir Nelson and Bryan Collier received numerous honors and awards for their work through art and the written word for celebrating many prominent African Americans in history while also illuminating lesser-known yet equally important stories.
Born in Maryland in 1967 as the youngest of six children, Bryan was always an artistic child. With a mother who worked as a teacher, Bryan was always surrounded by books and was primarily drawn to the art in picture books. He remembers reading The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Harold and the Purple Crayon and becoming fascinated by the illustrations and the joy they conveyed. This led him to attend art school at Pratt Institute in New York, where his signature watercolor and collage pieces attracted the attention of children’s book publishers. Of his nine CSK winner and honor awards, five of them were awarded in the 2000s. He has won more CSK awards than any other illustrator.
In 2001, Bryan was awarded his first CSK Illustrator Winner
Award for Uptown, which he also
wrote. Uptown celebrates Harlem, the
historic African American New York City neighborhood that has been the home of
Black intellectuals, poets, and activists. This thriving community, seen
through the eyes of a young boy, allows the reader to feel the vibrant nature
of the neighborhood and its people through everyday life experiences. From
basketball courts and brownstones to the Apollo Theater and the jazz stylings
of Duke Ellington, Bryan’s artwork effectively conveys the joy and sometimes
struggles of this community.
That same year, Collier was awarded a CSK Illustrator Honor for Freedom River, written by Doreen Rappaport. A story that highlights the little-known tale of John Parker, an African-American man who bought his freedom from slavery and devoted his life afterward to helping hundreds of people escape slavery through the dangerous Underground Railroad. Unlike Uptown, where Bryan’s art conveys joy and effusion, the art in Freedom River conveys the fear and terror experienced by those trying to escape to a better life. In his collage work, Bryan’s use of deep blues and blacks accentuates the emotions and the treacherous path that many had to experience to achieve their basic human right of freedom.
In 2002, Bryan won his second CSK Illustrator Honor and his
third CSK Book Award overall for his work in Martin’s Big Words, a picture book biography about minister and
civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Working again with Doreen
Rappaport, Collier achieved an accessible look at the complicated life of one of
modern history’s most famous people. Dr. King was a Baptist minister; many of
Bryan’s illustrations effectively juxtapose light against the stained glass
windows endpapers, revealing King’s majestic serenity. A young boy features prominently throughout these
illustrations, providing young readers with a gateway into the life of this
distinguished man and his activism, making this book stand above other MLK, Jr.,
biographies for children. For his artistic achievement in this work, Bryan was
awarded the first of his four Caldecott Honors.
The following year (2003), Bryan won his third Illustrator
Honor and fourth CSK award overall for Visiting
Langston. Collaborating with acclaimed poet Willie Perdomo, Bryan showcases
the joy of Langston Hughes and his work by telling the story of a young girl
who is excited about the thought of going to Langston Hughes’s house in NYC
(which is still open and operational today) with her father. The appreciation
for Hughes’s work resonates through his complex art that, at times,
incorporates Perdomo’s words in the illustrations. In one particularly
breathtaking spread, the young girl sees the highest peak of Hughes’s home
drenched in light reminiscent of light shining through the window of a church.
In 2006, Collier received his second CSK Illustrator Award and fifth CSK award overall for his larger-than-life work in Rosa. Joining forces with legendary poet Nikki Giovanni, Collier illustrates the story of Rosa Parks, an ordinary woman who did something extraordinary by taking a stand. What makes this story tower over the mountain of titles about Ms. Parks is the breathtaking artwork from Bryan. Not only do the illustrations complement the text, but they also extend the text with his glorious signature use of color and light. Murky greens and grays convey the hot, hazy Alabama heat while bright beacons of light shine on Rosa throughout her journey. The illustration on the front cover is the pièce de résistance of this fine work. The tall white police officer stands menacingly over Rosa while her bright eyes convey her courage, her fear, and her determination to stand up (or, in her case, sit down) for what is right. In the background, Rosa is surrounded by what looks like a halo. This stunning work gave Bryan his second of four Caldecott Honors.
“I feel that art’s highest function
is that of a mirror, reflecting the innermost beauty and divinity of the human
spirit, and is most effective when it calls the viewer to remember one’s
highest self. I choose subject matter that has emotional and spiritual
resonance and focuses on the journey of the hero as it relates to the personal
and collective stories of people.” – Kadir Nelson, author website.
Kadir Nelson was born in Maryland in 1974. He has always been drawn to art and the techniques behind the art. His uncle was a well-known artist who took Kadir under his wing and nurtured his artistic gifts. His work earned him a spot at Pratt Institute in New York (which Bryan Collier also attended.) Since his graduation in 1996, his work has been in constant demand and has attracted the attention of several children’s book publishers. Kadir Nelson has spent his career showcasing and highlighting African-American culture and history. Kadir Nelson has nine CSK awards, including two Author Awards, two Illustrator Awards, and five Illustrator Honors for his work. Five of these awards were given during the 2000s.
In 2004, Kadir won his first CSK Book Illustrator Honor for Thunder Rose, a tall tale featuring a young African American girl with a can-do attitude and the ability to help out those around her. Rose is born during a thunderstorm and controls the lightning as it zig-zags across the deep dark night sky, portrayed to chilling effect in a double-page spread. Kadir illustrates Rose almost always from below to convey her height but also to show how her mighty presence can fill a room. The cover image portrays Rose decked out in country-western gear as she oozes confidence and relatability, looking upon the young reader with a smirk.
A year later, Kadir won his first CSK Illustrator Award for Ellington Is Not A Street, an adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s poem “Mood Indigo.” This poem is a snapshot of young Shange’s experiences with many prominent African-American writers, thinkers, and activists as they made appearances in her father’s home. In this work, Nelson perfects his oil painting portraits of legendary African-Americans, including W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, and Duke Ellington, to name a few. These portraits would become a signature part of his work. The respect Kadir has for these people shines through as each person’s personality leaps off the page, giving the young reader a strong sense of who these people are and how important they are.
Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, Nelson’s collaboration with Carole Boston Weatherford in 2007 earned Kadir his second Illustrator Award. This tribute to the prominent abolitionist and Underground Railroad leader is overflowing with esteem for its subject. Nelson’s dramatic signature portrait is on full display on the cover that not only displays his regard for his subject but also conveys the deep connection that Tubman had to God and her religious beliefs. Nelson showcases the admiration that the people who relied on Tubman’s help had for her, as shown in dramatic double-page spreads throughout. This exquisite work earned Kadir his first Caldecott Honor.
In 2009, Kadir Nelson made history with We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. The first book he wrote and illustrated earned him his first CSK Author Award, third Illustrator Honor Award, and fourth and fifth wins overall. These wins made Kadir the first person to win both a CSK Author Award and a CSK Illustrator Award. In this retelling of the history of Negro League Baseball, Kadir’s deep regard for his subjects bursts from the page through both words and pictures. Told through his signature oil paint portraits, Kadir makes an everyman baseball player look like a head of state. The perspectives of many of these portraits are shown from below or straight on, making this an awe-inspiring experience for young readers. Readers will smell the dusty fields where the teams played and feel the hard wooden benches they sat on while experiencing all nine innings of Kadir’s delicate yet powerful prose.
These two artists, Bryan Collier and Kadir Nelson, represent some of the greatest talents to earn CSK Awards. Since the 2000s, they have continued to work steadily and have collected more awards for their mantle in the process.
Christopher Lassen is a Youth Materials Selector for The New York Public Library & Brooklyn Public Library. Chris is a member of the CSK Marketing Committee.
In the 1980s, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards became an official ALA award as African American literature evolved and transformed the landscape of children’s literature. The work of authors Walter Dean Myers and Virginia Hamilton, as well as that of illustrators Jerry Pinkney, John Steptoe, and Ashley Bryan, forever changed the face of children’s literature. These literary giants claimed their rightful place by producing some of the best in children’s literature. All have received multiple CSK Book Awards during this period that played a significant role in propelling their careers.
Walter Dean Myers
Walter Dean Myers, a pioneer of young adult fiction, won his first CSK Book Award for the groundbreaking Young Landlords in 1980. Myers captured two more CSK Author Award wins in 1985 for Motown and Didi: A Love Story and in 1989 for Fallen Angels, a Vietnam conflict saga. Some 80-plus titles later, Myers’ books have stood the test of time as moving, tough stories for and about black male teens. Myers has won more CSK Book Awards than any other author, garnering five wins and six honors. He is the recipient of numerous other book awards. He also served as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a post appointed by the Library of Congress. Most recently, he posthumously became the winner of ALSC’s Children Literature Legacy Award.
Virginia Hamilton had already ignited the children’s book world by becoming the first African American author to win a Newbery Medal in 1975 for M. C. Higgins, the Great, for which she also won the National Book Award. In the eighties, her talent continued to soar, and she captured two CSK Book Awards, in 1983 for Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush, and in 1986 for The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales. The 1980s also brought Hamilton four CSK Honor book awards: The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl (1984), A Little Love (1985), Junius Over Far (1986), and Anthony Burns: The Defeat and Triumph of a Fugitive Slave (1989). Hamilton was one of the most distinguished authors of twentieth-century children’s literature. She received nearly every award in the field during her 35-year career, including the Hans Christian Andersen Award and the MacArthur Fellowship, becoming the first author of books for youth to do so. In 2010 the Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award was named in her honor.
John Steptoe was only 18-years-old when his first book, Stevie, received national attention in 1969. The eighties witnessed Steptoe winning two CSK Illustrator Awards: Mother Crocodile: An Amadou Tale from Senegal written by Rosa Guy in 1983, and Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: an African Tale in 1988. He also won a CSK Illustrator Honor award in 1983 for All the Colors of the Race. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters became his breakthrough book; the African tale is still widely used today, appearing on school reading lists and a favorite among storytellers. In his 20-year career, Steptoe illustrated 16 picture books, 12 of which he also wrote. With the permission of his family, the John Steptoe New Talent Award was established by the CSK Book Awards committee to affirm new talent and offer visibility to excellence in writing and/or illustration. The award has existed since 1995 but began bearing the Steptoe name in 1999.
Jerry Pinkney’s career as a book illustrator was launched at a critical time in African American children’s literature evolution. When the Council on Interracial Books for Children (CIBC) was established, dedicated to integrating the content of children’s books and also securing more African American writers and illustrators to create these books, Pinkney was there as a greeting card designer and creator of the first black stamps. His initial work with CIBC included book cover art and illustrations in fiction titles. Pinkney reviewed his first CSK nod in 1981 with an Illustrator Honor for Count on Your Fingers African Style. That was followed by three CSK Book Awards wins Mirandy and Brother Wind (1989), Half a Moon and One Whole Star (1987), and The Patchwork Quilt (1986). There is no doubt that the CSK Book Awards was instrumental in bringing visibility and recognition to his work. Pinkney’s career now spans some fifty-plus years, and he has received numerous awards and honors. In 2010, he captured the Caldecott Medal for his adaption of the classic tale The Lion and the Mouse. He had previously won five Caldecott honors. With more than a hundred books to his credit, Pinkney has made an incredible contribution to the world of children’s books and has helped advance multiculturalism and African American themes.
Author and artist Ashley Bryan could be called the “grandfather’’ of African American children’s book illustrators because he has inspired many up-and-coming illustrators. In the 1980s, Bryan met his stride, his talent was revealed, and the CSK Book Awards acknowledged and rewarded his work. He received four CSK Illustrator Honors during the 1980s: Beat the Story Drum, Pum-Pum (1981), I’m Going to Sing: Black American Spirituals (1983), Lion and the Ostrich Chicks and Other African Folk Tales (1987), and What a Morning! The Christmas Story in Black Spirituals (1988). Bryan’s remarkable career has spanned half a century, and he has published over 50 titles. Motivated by the black oral tradition, many of Bryan’s books were influenced by African American spirituals and African folktales. He has been the recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award and the Laura Ingalls Wilder/Legacy Award; he has been a May Hill Arbuthnot lecturer and the recipient of countless other awards and recognitions. It is gratifying to know that Bryan’s legacy and his lifelong collection of letters, books, and artwork will be preserved at the University of Pennsylvania for generations to come.
As you can see, this vanguard of black children’s book creators achieved literary success, bringing African American children’s literature to the forefront and providing much needed diversity to children’s literature.
Carolyn Garnes is Chair of the CSK Marketing Committee, past CSK Committee Chair 1990-1994, & CSK Book Awards Jury, 1987-1994.
Painter and Poet: The Art of Ashley Bryan is an extraordinary exhibit* at the Portland Museum of Art (PMA) in Portland, Maine, honoring 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.
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.
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.
Ashley Bryan creates beautiful books that beg to be read aloud and shared over and over and over again.
*This exhibition, organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, is on view through November 25, 2018.
Photos of Ashley Bryan’s art were taken at the exhibit with permission from the museum.
Louise Capizzo is a 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.
“The Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee of the American Library Association (ALA)’s Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) is excited to partner with the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) in presenting the art exhibition Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards.” – – Dr. Claudette S. McLinn, Chair, Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee, 2017-2019.
This art exhibition, curated by the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) in Abilene, Texas, opens on February 8, 2018. NCCIL will be the first to host this extraordinary CSK art exhibition, the largest collection of Coretta Scott King (CSK) Illustrator Medal and Honor-winning art ever assembled.
The exhibition will be on display in the NCCIL Gallery in Abilene, TX, from February 8, 2018, through May 19, 2018. The exhibition will then tour nationally. As of this date, museums scheduled to display this exhibit include the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA (October 2018 – January 2019); the Joslyn Museum of Art, Omaha, NE (April 2020 – July 20200 and the Upcountry History Museum, Greenville, SC (January 2021 – April 2021).
The Coretta Scott King Award and its association with the American Library Association originated in 1969. It came as the result of a discussion between two librarians, Glyndon Flynt Greet and Mabel McKissick, and the publisher, John Carroll, at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey. 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 awards commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and work and honor his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood. The Coretta Scott King Book Awards will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019.
With this 50-year celebration retrospective, the NCCIL hopes not only to highlight these CSK Award-winning artists and the great art & literature in these award-winning books but also, as this show tours, to empower and inspire through these stories and their rich cultural legacy and heritage.
Participating artists in chronological order (at the time of this press release) include George Ford (recipient of the first CSK Illustrator Award conferred in 1974), Tom Feelings, Ashley Bryan, Jerry Pinkney, John Steptoe, Leo & Diane Dillon, Peter Magubane, Pat Cummings, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Brian Pinkney, Kathleen Atkins Wilson, Faith Ringgold, Floyd Cooper, R. Gregory Christie, Christopher Myers, Bryan Collier, E. B. Lewis, Javaka Steptoe, Shane Evans, Colin Bootman, Benny Andrews, James E. Ransome, Joe Sam, Synthia St. James, Michelle Wood, Charles R. Smith, Daniel Minter, Frank Morrison, Nancy Devard, Sean Qualls, Baba Diakité, and Reynold Ruffins.
About NCCIL: Located in Abilene, Texas, the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature collaborates with award-winning artists to produce high-quality exhibitions of their artwork that are distinctive and appealing to museum visitors of all ages. In addition to this unique artistic partnership, following its debut at the NCCIL gallery, each exhibition travels to museums, public libraries, and galleries nationwide. Please visit www.nccil.org for more information.
Post by Susan Polos
Susan Polos works as a school librarian in Bedford, NY. She is Chair of the CSK Book Awards Technology Committee.
The Gregory-Lincoln Education Center, a magnet School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, has chosen their author of the month: Ashley Bryan. The school community celebrated Bryan, a brilliant artist, filmmaker, and storyteller, focusing on Bryan’s Coretta Scott King Award-winning book, Beautiful Blackbird.
Beautiful Blackbird encompasses timeless themes for both young and old! Without giving away much of the plot, this wonderful picture book includes themes of being true to oneself, loving one’s own unique features, and handling the inevitable jealousy/envy that pops up in life. Though it’s an adaptation of a Zimbabwe folk-tale, this book has a universal theme of “wonderfully me.” Additionally, this book works well for those kiddos who don’t feel like they fit in with the popular crowd: “Color on the outside is not what’s on the inside.”
As School Librarian, I worked with my “lunch-bunch” Blerd Book Club to create a little podcast of our debriefing discussion. Please enjoy our very first PODCAST!
For our younger students (grades 2nd-4th), we kept the lesson simple with four easy steps and, of course, fun. The four steps are “Do Now,” “Do Together,” Do Next,” and “Do Reflect.”
DO NOW: Choose your favorite color and defend it with this sentence stem: My favorite color is ______ because of _______.
“I love purple and gold because my mother wears a lot of gold ring and I love to wear my favorite purple dress. In India, gold is a treasure. My mommy says I’m her treasure.” Khanak T.
DO TOGETHER: Read the story Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan.
DO NEXT: Create your own community bird pond, decorating your birds like those in the story. (Link to Beautiful Blackbird slides from our 2nd-grade class.)
DO REFLECT: Turn to your shoulder partner and discuss what each of you loves about yourselves for 2 minutes. Be prepared to stand up and share what your partners love about themselves and vice-versa.
We had a whole nestful of fun celebrating all the beautiful colors in the world! We hope you enjoyed our cut-paper artwork and our thoughtful discussion!
Post by Jean Darnell
Jean Darnell is a magnet arts school librarian from Houston, Texas. She’s an avid social media user, active with her state library association and future-ready librarian. Discover more on Twitter (@AwakenLibrarian).
Anything you can do that can stimulate the imagination of another…is the most exciting thing you can do as an artist. ~Ashley Bryan
With 50 books to his credit, Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award winner Ashley Bryan creates beautiful mindscapes for children. Full of love of life and humanity, his body of work shares the stories of people of the African Diaspora as preserved in songs, poems, and folktales.
In tribute to his longevity, Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre has staged two plays based on the works of the beloved artist, teacher, and scholar. Dancing Granny and Beautiful Blackbird, winner of the 2004 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, are the books selected for production by the Alliance’s Theatre for the Very Young. The plays complement the exhibit Painter and Poet: The Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan on view at the city’s High Museum of Art until January 21, 2018.
The opening voice of The Dancing Granny is a character patterned after Ashley Bryan himself. He is the tale weaver and griot whose narration and fancy footwork bookend this tale inspired by Mr. Bryan’s memories of his grandmother.
Elaborate lighting and vibrant costumes along with Afro-Caribbean choreography and a range of percussion instruments– some made by the children in the audience as a pre-show activity– all come together to set the joyful tone of this show which encourages children’s expressive engagement.
Beautiful Blackbirdis more understated than The Dancing Granny. Arranged like an interactive playground for babies and toddlers, children sit on felt sun patches that encircle a chuppah-style canopy. Bold quilts depicting night and day serve as backdrops for live electric guitarists who strum jazzy lines while the young ones roam and play.
The audience hears Blackbird before they see him. When he emerges, with rhinestones glimmering like dewdrops from his dark wings, he glides about the set, coaxing rhythm from his djembe. The little ones play along on miniature African drums as Blackbird shares his musical gifts with the multi-colored members of his flock. The message: know your beauty, find your unique groove.
Eugene Russell IV, who played the griot-tale weaver Ashley Bryan in The Dancing Granny and composed the music for Beautiful Blackbird, says: “The story is an unapologetic celebration of blackness which at the same time encourages all kids to be who they are, that who they are is beautiful, and enough. I think that’s a beautiful combination.” He goes on to say that stepping into the world of Ashley Bryan “really did change me life in a wonderful and beautiful way. I’m a forever fan. It will always be a part of my family’s life.”
Jené Watson works as a public librarian at a system in suburban Atlanta, where she coordinates Books in the Barbershop community outreach and Mindful Monday, a family meditation program. She is also the author of The Spirit That Dreams: Conversations with Women Artists of Color (indigopen.com).
This year’s Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast, held early Sunday morning, June 25th, in Chicago at the Hilton, sold out twice! Everyone was excited to celebrate the 2017 CSK winning authors and illustrators, the winner of the John Steptoe Award for New Talent, and the recipient of the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Dr. Pauletta Bracy, Chair of the Coretta Scott Book Awards Committee, provided a welcome, Pastor Kimberly Ray of Angie Ray Ministries delivered the invocation, and ALA president Dr. Julie Todaro spoke. Breakfast was served.
Then the awards were presented. Nicola Yoon was awarded the John Steptoe Award for New Talent for The Sun Is Also a Star (Delacorte Press).
Coretta Scott Illustration Honors were awarded to R. Gregory Christie for Freedom in Congo Square (author Carole Boston Weatherford, Little Bee Books); Jerry Pinkney for In Plain Sight (author Richard Jackson, Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press); and Ashley Bryan for Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life (author Ashley Bryan, Atheneum).
Ashley Bryan was also awarded a Coretta Scott King Author Honor for Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life (illustrator Ashley Bryan, Atheneum). Jason Reynolds was awarded a Coretta Scott King Author Honor for As Brave as You (Atheneum).
The Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award was presented to Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (author Javaka Steptoe, Little Brown). Read Javaka Steptoe’s acceptance speech here as printed in The Horn Book.
The Coretta Scott King Author winners were Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin for the third volume of the March Trilogy (illustrator Nate Powell, Top Shelf). Nate Powell spoke for Andrew Aydin, who could not be present, and Congressman Lewis spoke, receiving his award. The acceptance speeches were not received in time to be published in the current edition of The Horn Book but can be viewed here.
The Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement was awarded to Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop. Read Dr. Bishop’s acceptance speech here as printed in The Horn Book.
Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop chaired the 2017 Coretta Scott Book Awards Committee Jury. Other jury members included Kacie V. Armstrong, Sam Bloom, Erica T. Marks, April Roy, Martha V. Parravano, and Ida W. Thompson.