Tag Archives: Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds Inducted as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

CSK Award-winning author Jason Reynolds was recently named the Library of Congress’ 2020-2021 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Not only will Mr. Reynolds be showcasing his works but also inspiring a love of reading. As ambassador, he will travel the United States, with help of StoryCorps, to meet and interview young people. These recordings will be added to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

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. 

See the interview with Carla Hayden and Jason Reynolds with Gayle King on CBS This Morning.

Mr. Reynolds’ inauguration ceremony at the Library of Congress can be found here.

The ambassador program was established in 2008 through the LoC’s Every Child a Reader program to highlight lifelong literacy and education in the lives of young people.

The CSK Book Awards committee would like to take this opportunity to officially offer our congratulations. This accolade is huge! 


Claudette Mayne is a librarian with the Toronto Public Library. Her experience includes working in Outreach, Children, Digital Innovation and Accessibility Services. 

Love for Honey, I Love

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.

Eloise Greenfield and Alia Jones

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 Loveout 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.

Alia Lecturing at Cornell University

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.

“Honey, I Love” by Eloise Greenfield

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.

CSK Through the Decades: The 2010s

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! 

Very 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 Greatest the previous year, 2015! In a short period he has received four Coretta Scott King Author Honor Awards: All American Boys and 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.

CSK Well Represented at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

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.

Dr. Claudette S. McLinn in Conversation with 2017 CSK Honor Winner Jason Reynolds at Bovard Auditorium, USC.

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.

Secrets and Discovery Panel members (from left): Brandy Colbert, Robin Benway, Dr. McLinn, Renée Watson, and Abdi Nazemian.

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.

A Great Day for CSK!

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

credit: Cathy Potter

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)

credit: Sam Bloom

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.

The Mighty Eight Wow Audience at the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Pre-Conference During NCAAL 10

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.

Left to right Dorothy Guthrie (NCAAL co-chair and CSK member), James Ransome, Jerry Pinkney, Carole Boston Weatherford, Sharon Draper, Sharon Flake, Nikki Grimes, R. Gregory Christie, Joyce Mills, Lev Mills, and Carolyn Garmes (NCAAL co-chair and CSK member)

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.

Jason Reynolds (not shown in the group photo)

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.


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.