When interviewed by CBS’ Gayle King, Mr. Reynolds said, “With reading, it’s about giving [youth] things they want and need and showing up for them to make it real.” Further, he spoke of elements of a book and hooks used to entice readers. Mr. Reynolds discussed reading his first book cover to cover at age seventeen and a half because Richard Wright’s Black Boy reeled him in on the second page.
On Sunday, June 24, 2018, in New Orleans, I attended my very first Coretta Scott King Awards Breakfast where Jason Reynolds warmed up the room by saying, “My cousin comes to visit and you know he’s from the South, ‘Cause every word he says just kind of slides out of his mouth,” and BOOM, just like that the room remembered and followed along, chuckling softly. I hadn’t heard or thought about those words since I was a little girl, but in an instant I smiled and went back to being little-me, peering inside the little pocket-sized gem that is Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems.
I had the pleasure of meeting Eloise Greenfield the day before the Coretta Scott King Awards Breakfast at her Virginia Hamilton Award celebration. I stood outside of her circle of admirers, friends, and greeters waiting for my turn to say hello. I told her how much I love and appreciate her work and then asked if I could take a quick picture with her. She has a quiet, kind manner about her.
A few months later, I remembered Jason Reynolds telling us at the breakfast that he kept a copy of Honey, I Love in his back pocket when he was young because it was an important text for him. So, I went to the bookstore and bought myself a little paperback copy, too. Though I consider it part of my “canon” of black children’s books, I’m pretty certain I never owned a copy as a child. But, because the book has been on my mind lately, I included it in a guest lecture I gave this past March at Cornell University. The title of my lecture was: Challenging the White Default: Diversity and Representation in Children’s Literature.
I enjoyed rediscovering the book in preparation for the lecture; it’s such a gorgeous celebration of black childhood. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my copy with me to Ithaca, so I visited the Tompkins County Public Library to copy down the first poem, “Honey, I Love.” I opened my lecture by showcasing books I loved in addition to Honey, I Love like I Need a Lunch Box, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, and Jambo Means Hello. And then I spoke “Honey, I Love” out loud and into existence in that space. I wanted to show the power, endurance, and beauty of diverse children’s literature, of black children’s literature. It was such a privilege to share it.
I lectured at Cornell University only a few weeks after my mother passed away from a long battle with colon cancer. This stanza of the poem really resonated with me: “My mama’s on the sofa sewing buttons on my coat / I go and sit beside her, I’m through playing with my boat / I hold her arm and kiss it ‘cause it feels so soft and warm / Honey, let me tell you that I LOVE my mama’s arm / I love to kiss my mama’s arm.” My mama had a soft, brown arm, too, and I’m grateful for such a vivid, positive image of black motherhood and love.
It’s important that black children grow up seeing themselves in all shades & variations of blackness in books. The Coretta Scott King Book Awards do such important work in highlighting and celebrating these stories, authors, and illustrators. As a kid growing up in the 90s, it wasn’t easy to find many beautiful images of blackness in books, but when I found texts like Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield, they reassured me that my black existence mattered. I’m so thrilled to celebrate fifty years of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and can’t wait to see what the next fifty years of black books bring for our children.
Alia Jones is a member of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee/Community. She is a Sr. Library Services Assistant at The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and blogs at readitrealgood.com.
The photos attached are all mine & are: (1) Eloise Greenfield and Alia Jones, (2) Alia Lecturing at Cornell University, & (3) “Honey, I Love” by Eloise Greenfield.
As Coretta Scott King Book Awards
celebrate 50 years strong, one can only imagine how proud the founders and
contributors are. 50 years strong! What a platform!
We cannot forget how the past
winners expanded and transformed recognition of African American Literature.
Over the decades, award winners continued to build and raise the foundation of
excellence. They challenged 2010-2019
winners to step their talents to the next level by sharing their stories and
experiences through art and words. And,
that they did. These winners did not disappoint. Like our past award winners, many moved on to
become the best of the best and a permanent fixture in youth literature; many
received multiple nationally distinguished awards.
We have seen consistent author and illustrator name recognitions during this decade. With over 60 titles under his belt (seven Coretta Scott King honors and counting), R. Gregory Christie has captured three Coretta Scott King honors this decade: The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore (2016), Freedom in Congo Square (2017) and Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop (2019). Christie is the proud owner of a bookstore GAS ART GIFTS (Gregarious Art Statements); this store also houses an art studio. Aside from his book illustrations, Christie’s work has been featured at festivals, subways, music covers, and television. In 2013, he created the United States Post Office “Kwanzaa Forever” stamp. What a well-deserved honor!
Likewise, Ekua Holmes received a Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration in 2018 for Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets and in 2019 for The Stuff of Stars. Like many, she was influenced by the absence of positive Black images and decided to make an impact by becoming the founder of The Great Black Art Collection – a platform for new artists and introduction to Black art for all. Museums and galleries drew Holmes into the art world. In turn, this drew her into stories. Before long her artwork made its way to books. Holmes’ collages are full of life, color and texture as though they are ready to jump out. This year, debuted nationally on January 19th, Holmes created a Google Doodle in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday – what a tribute!
few have had books competing for the same awards during the same year yet Jason Reynolds managed that! And, he had snagged the John Steptoe New
Talent Award for When I Was the
previous year, 2015! In a short period he has received four Coretta Scott King
Author Honor Awards: All American
The Boy in
the Black Suit (2016); As Brave as You (2017) and Long Way Down (2017). What makes his novels and poetry for middle schoolers
and teens so special? From his personal
website, his goal is to “not write boring books”; he states, “Here’s what I know: I know there
are a lot — A LOT — of young people who hate reading… I know that many of
these book-hating boys, don’t actually hate books, they hate boredom. If you
are reading this, and you happen to be one of these boys, first of all, you’re
reading this so my master plan is already working (muahahahahahaha) and second
of all, know that I feel you. I REALLY do. Because even though I’m a writer, I
hate reading boring books too.”
Winning three Coretta Scott King Author Awards this decade for One Crazy Summer (2011), P.S. Be Eleven (2014), and Gone Crazy in Alabama (2016),Rita Williams-Garcia shares her characters in the moment of history or place. Recognized for her great character development and humor, Williams-Garcia focuses on the day-to-day lives of middle-class African American youth. She is subtle with her messages. Readers engage with the characters Williams-Garcia brings alive. Her excitement for writing comes across in her 12 titles. Her readers truly feel a sense of place and imagination.
Receiving a Coretta Scott King Author Award in 2015 for Brown Girl Dreaming and a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award in 2013 for Each Kindness during this decade, Jacqueline Woodson has taken her writing style through many levels and has something to offer readers of all ages. With over 30 titles under her belt, topics covered in her writing range widely in content to the point that some feel subject matters are uncomfortable. Through her poetic writing, Woodson dares readers to look at the big picture – how do societal influences we have today compared to subject matters she writes about? Readers are challenged to address difficult topics.
Although they were mentioned in the CSK Blog post titled, CSK Through the Decades: The 2000s, Bryan Collier and Kadir Nelson continued to break through as high-caliber artists during the 2010 period. Collier captured four CSK wins: 2011 Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave (2011), I, Too, Am America (2013), Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me (2014), and Trombone Shorty (2016). Nelson, won Illustrator Honors in 2013 for I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr, and in 2014 for Nelson Mandela. He also received both a CSK Author win in 2012 for text and an Honor for illustrations for Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.
Through their eyes and talent, the 2010-2019 winners bring unity and diversity. These authors and illustrators have expanded our platform. Their work is appreciated by all ages; there is something for everyone. They have expanded our imagination. They have educated us. Through their love and drive, 2010-2019 winners continue to challenge themselves with their talent. Yet there is much more space for the future to wow us, and we cannot wait to see what is to come. Together, we are 50+ years strong.
Sandy Wee is Library Services Manager, Access Services, at San Mateo County (CA) Libraries. She is a member of the CSK Marketing Committee.
The University of Southern California (USC) was the site of the 23rd Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Well over 150,000 people attended the two-day event, April 21 – 22, which consisted of conversations with award-winning authors, journalists, celebrities, chefs, artists, and musicians. Coretta Scott King (CSK) Book Awards was well represented with CSK Winner and Honor awardees Renée Watson and Jason Reynolds, respectively, as featured speakers at the event.
Jason Reynolds, 2018 CSK Honor Author Award winner for Long Way Down, was a featured speaker interviewed on Saturday by CSK Chair Dr. Claudette S. McLinn, who is also Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature. Reynolds revealed the various aspects of his writing, including why he writes, the reasons for the various themes of his books, the purpose of his open-ended endings, and more. It was an informative as well as lively conversation. Long Way Down was also the 2018 winner of the L.A. Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature, awarded the previous evening.
Dr. McLinn was also the moderator of the Sunday panel discussion. Renée Watson, the author of the 2018 CSK Author Award-winning book Piecing Me Together, was a member of the panel discussion titled “Secrets and Self Discovery” with members: Brandy Colbert, author of Little & Lion; Robin Benway, author of Far From the Tree; and Abdi Nazemian, author of The Authentics. The authors were allowed to summarize their books and explain how each related to the session theme. Many thought-provoking questions were raised from the audience, which made it a very energized discussion.
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books was a high-energy literary experience filled with many author presentations, vendor booths, stage performances, and storytelling. Looking forward to next year!
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.
On Monday, February 12, in Denver, Dr. Claudette McLinn, Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee, rose from her seat at the dais to announce the 2018 Coretta Scott King Book Awards. The crowd erupted as the following awards were announced:
The Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement: Eloise Greenfield
The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Author Award for New Talent: David Barclay Moore for The Stars Beneath Our Feet (Alfred A. Knopf)
The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Illustrator Award for New Talent: Charly Palmer for Mama Africa!: How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Coretta Scott King Book Awards Illustrator Honor Book: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, illustrated by Gordon C. James and written by Derrick Barnes (Bolden, an Agate Imprint, a Denene Millner Book)
Coretta Scott King Book Awards Illustrator Honor Book: Before She Was Harriet: The Story of Harriet Tubman, illustrated by James E. Ransome and written by Lesa Cline-Ransome (Holiday House)
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award: Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, illustrated by Euka Holmes, written by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth (Candlewick)
Coretta Scott King Book Awards Author Honor Book: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James (Bolden, an Agate Imprint, a Denene Millner Book)
Coretta Scott King Book Awards Author Honor Book: Long Way Down, written by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, a Caitlyn Dlouhy Book)
Coretta Scott King Book Awards Author Honor Book: The Hate U Give, written by Angela Thomas (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)
Coretta Scott King Author Award: Piecing Me Together, written by Renée Watson (Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books)
In addition, CSK Award-winning author Angela Johnson was the recipient of the YALSA 2018 Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens
CSK Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson received the ALSC 2018 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award which 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
Many thanks to the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury: Kacie Armstrong, Jessica Anne Bratt, LaKeshia Darden, Dr. Sujin Bernadette Huggins, Erica Marks, Martha Parravano, and Sam Bloom (Chair)
Many thanks to the CSK-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement Award Jury: Therese G. Bigelow, Patricia Ann Carleton, Dr. Rosalie B. Kiah (not pictured), Ida W. Thompson, and Deborah Denise Taylor (Chair)
Post by Susan Polos
Susan Polos works as a school librarian in Bedford, NY. She is Chair of the CSK Book Awards Technology Committee.
Eight Coretta Scott King (CSK) Book award-winning authors and illustrators made an unprecedented appearance at a pre-conference during the 10th National Conference of African American Librarians (NCAAL) held in Atlanta, GA, August 9-13, 2017, at the Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violet Social Change’s Freedom Hall. The CSK Book Awards Committee provided funding for this event. Never before in recent years have this many CSK Award-winning authors and illustrators appeared together. The prestigious panel included illustrators Jerry Pinkney, R. Gregory Christie, and James Ransome; authors Sharon Draper, Sharon Flake, Nikki Grimes, Carole Boston Weatherford, and Jason Reynolds.
The audience was treated to statements by all about what happened when they got the call letting them know they had won the CSK Award. The Award winners are announced during the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting, usually held in January each year. The responses were both humorous and serious. Some did not realize they won the award until it was announced in the press. Each shared an award-winning book and gave tips on using the book with children. The presenters wowed the audience, which consisted of conference attendees, local librarians, teachers, and children’s book lovers. CSK Jury member LaKeshia Darden brought her children. They were attentive and engaged throughout the session.
A video was presented revealing the legacy of Lev Mills, the designer of the CSK seal. Mills talked about his career, his relationship with Glyndon Greer, and he explained the unique features of the seal. In a casual atmosphere, attendees were able to dine with the authors and illustrators as well as take away great ideas and leave enlightened about the history of the design of the CSK seal.
Post by Carolyn Garnes
Carolyn Garnes was Co-Chair of the 10th National Conference of African American Librarians. She is a longtime member and past chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee.
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 us
chop CHOP chop CHOP
cold steel against our cheeks be black sheep siblings be black boy pillows be
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 us 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
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
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
and this generation’s freedom songs protest warriors unpopular opinions uncomfortable confrontation unhinging truth hashtag
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 chopping
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 faceless 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 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
Text copyright @2016 Jason Reynolds, used with permission of Pippin Properties, Inc.