2024 ALA Youth Media Awards Winner Round-Up!
I’ll be honest. I can’t remember an ALA YMA announcement day that pleased me half as much as the one we had on Monday, January 22, 2024. With very few exceptions I pretty much adored every single book listed (that I knew about). It was humbling to see a couple titles that I didn’t even read in 2024 (my apologies to The Truth About Dragons which currently has LOADS of holds in my library). There were books that won that I didn’t even think had a chance but was delighted to see, and books that didn’t get bupkiss (more on those at the end of this post).
Today, I’m just going to run through the winners that I featured on this blog in some fashion this year. In case you’d like some more info on them, here’s what I covered (and you’ll notice what I failed to as well). This isn’t a list of everything that won. Just the ones that have been seen here previously.
The Eyes and the Impossible by Dave Eggers
You can read my review of the book here. People appear to be amused by my line, “It’s not exactly Ulysses for kids, but it’s not exactly NOT Ulysses either.” It was gratifying to see this win. I was afraid that the whole talking animals thing would squash its chances. So happy to be wrong!
And you should watch its very cool book trailer. I thought it might get an Odyssey for its audiobook, but that’s okay.
Eagle Drums, written and illustrated by Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson
I feel I owe Eagle Drums an apology. I absolutely adored it when I read it, but I never considered the possibility that it was a strong Newbery contender. That’s my mistake. Naturally, it also received an American Indian Youth Literature Awards Honor.
You can read my interview with Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson here. I like the part where she says, “The best part of Humanity is the fluidity of it all, so celebrate and rejoice with one another frequently so you don’t miss anything good!” Also, if you read the interview then you’ll see what she’s working on next!
Elf Dog and Owl Head written by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Junyi Wu
So gratifying to see. You may recall that earlier this year Mr. Anderson wrote a guest piece on this blog about the creation of this book called Elf Dog LaRue. Read it, but not at work. You will cry. No, I’m not kidding about that.
Mexikid: A Graphic Memoir written and illustrated by Pedro Martín
I think it’s fair to say that this was the winningest book of the year. Not only did it win this Honor but also two different Pura Belpre wins (one an Award for the art and one an Award for the writing) as well as an Odyssey Honor for the audiobook (which, I’m afraid, I must now listen to). I will remind you, yet again, that the man’s Tiktok and Instagram accounts will make you so happy. Imagine a place where you can find LOADS more Mexikid content. Now you have it. You’re welcome.
You can find my review of the book here. I think I said of it, “It has laughs, music, snot, baby coffins, live amputations, feats of strength, bad haircuts, and (of course) family, family, family. It may also well be the most ambitious comic I’ve ever read, and that’s saying something.”
I also included it in NPR’s Books We Love here.
Simon Sort of Says written by Erin Bow
What can I say that hasn’t already been said many times over by people smarter than myself? A most deserving Honor for a most deserving book. Have you noticed how many Newbery books this year involved humor in some way? I’m just floored by it.
You can read my review of the book here. Way back last April I said of it, “Combining a legitimately horrifying situation with humor, heart, and the occasional Jesus squirrel, this is both the funniest book you’ll read this year, and the best-written. Would that I were joking about that. In three words: I am not.”
The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams written by Daniel Nayeri, illustrated by Daniel Miyares
My respect for the Newbery committee was already high with each mention of each book listed here, but when I saw that they’d included this marvelous little chestnut of oddities, my heart grew three sizes all at once. I cannot BELIEVE the committee chose this too! But I guess after choosing other books where a squirrel is called part-Jesus cause it ate the holy host, pop rocks mix with snot to devastating effect, and goats have goals, a book where a severed ear is a huge part of the plot probably wasn’t all that much weirder.
You can read my review of the book here. And remember, this is the book with the #1 best first line of 2023: “The first time I was stoned to death by an angry mob, I was not even a criminal.”
I also included it in NPR’s Books We Love here.
Big, illustrated and written by Vashti Harrison
Now that was a very nice winner. Vashti Harrison has made history this year by becoming the first African-American woman to win the Caldecott Award. I credit the National Book Awards for having longlisted this title and directed my attention to it. I hadn’t really properly considered it until that moment, and when I did I realized how amazing it was.
You can read my review of the book here. As I said of it, “There’s an honesty here that I really admired. Now add in the fact that the art isn’t just lovely, but also evocative and creative (that gatefold is really a delight) and that the writing itself is great and you have yourself one of the best books of the year. Most excellent! One little book isn’t going to change everyone’s mind about something, but one little book is where you have to start. A superb idea, wrought large.”
And, of course, I suggest you watch this video of Ms. Harrison herself giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the book.
There Was a Party for Langston, illustrated by Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey, written by Jason Reynolds
Now admittedly I thought that this would get the gold itself, but I am more than happy to at least see the Pumphreys attaining some much deserved shiny stickers for one of their books. I do believe that this also marks the second time Jason Reynolds has written a book that won a Caldecott Honor (though last time it wasn’t for a picture book).
You can read my review of the book here. I said of it, “A great book for children is one where you read it and find yourself wondering, ‘How is it possible that this book wasn’t made before now?!?’ It’s the feeling you get when you turn that last page and find yourself saying aloud, ‘There you are. What took you so long to get here?’ Even better if precisely the right author is paired with precisely the right illustrator along the way. In There Was a Party for Langston you aren’t merely bathed in that feeling. You are suffused.”
If you’re feeling ambitious you can also listen to my podcast with my sister where we discussed this book’s Caldecott chances (it’s also the only book on that episode that I was close to being right about).
I also included it in NPR’s Books We Love here.
Apologies to In Every Life, illustrated and written by Marla Frazee, Jovita Wore Pants: The Story of a Mexican Freedom Fighter, illustrated by Molly Mendoza, written by Aida Salazar, and The Truth About Dragons, illustrated by Hanna Cha, written by Julie Leung. I completely missed you all this year.
Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award
An American Story, illustrated by Dare Coulter, written by Kwame Alexander
While I believe that some of us hoped that Dare Coulter would premiere this year and end up with a Caldecott to her name, it was gratifying to see her walk away with the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration. This was a book that I talked about constantly in 2023. I went on Chicago Today and talked about it. I discussed it on my podcast. I also included it on NPR’s Books We Love here. I did everything in my power to bring attention to it, though it didn’t need me at all. That book was beautiful from the get-go and needed only the smallest push to get it rolling.
You can read my review of it here.
You can also hear Kwame and Dare talking together, as they are interviewed at News 4 Jax (of Jacksonville, Florida) on their Morning Show here. Dare even shows one of the sculptures from the book. I wish I could embed it. It’s amazing.
Holding Her Own: The Exceptional Life of Jackie Ormes, illustrated by Shannon Wright, written by Traci N. Todd
Oh, this was gratifying. To see Holding Her Own not only win this Honor but also a Sibert Honor as well. This wasn’t even the only picture book biography of Jackie Ormes to come out this year, but it certain used an inventiveness in the art and storytelling that made it a cut above.
I was convinced that I reviewed this book. I certainly included it in as many end of year lists as I could. But looking now, I can’t find anything I wrote about it. So consider this my official apology to its creators. I adored this. So glad that it won.
Schneider Family Book Award (Young Children)
Henry, Like Always, written by Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song
Oh, what a delight. Henry would win not only this Schneider Family award but also a Geisel Honor. Both of which were completely deserved.
I didn’t actually review the book here, but I did for NPR’s Books We Love. I figure that counts for something.
Pura Belpré Youth Illustration Honor Books
Papá’s Magical Water-Jug Clock, illustrated by Eliza Kinkz, written by Jesús Trejo
Hey, if this book had to lose to anything, I’m glad it was Mexikid, but this was definitely my first choice for a picture book, hands down. Funny book of the year or the FUNNIEST book of the year? Hard call. All I know is that I could read this to kids every day for the rest of my life and be content. I should note that this also got a Belpré Author Honor as well.
You can read my review of the book here. In it I said, “I’d say it’s just about as perfect a summertime book as you’re likely to find for a while. Clocks and cats, water and magic, and at its heart a father-son storyline. Nab it for your next storytime, whenever you get the chance.”
The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity, written by Nicholas Day and illustrated by Brett Helquist
And there was great rejoicing in the Bird household when this win was announced. Would I have liked it to get a Newbery? Sure. Do I wish that either the Newbery or the Caldecott committees had honored a single work of nonfiction? Of course. But if something had to win the Sibert for writing, I am so happy that it was this book. Whatever it is that we can do to get more people reading it, it is all to the good. Also, I’m hoping this convinces Mr. Day to write more books.
You can read my review of the book here. In it I say, “The Mona Lisa Vanishes both entertains and instructs. You get you heist fix, but you’re also going to get a 101 on being more like, well, Leonardo da Vinci. Be relentlessly curious. Observe first. Make your deductions based on facts, not assumptions. Because it seems to me that in this current day and age, we are more in need of books that instruct our kids to be critical thinkers than ever before. Even if it takes a missing Mona to do it.”
You can also read my interview with Nicholas Day about the book here. If you read it then you can find out what his next book is. All I can tell you is, I’m very excited for it!
Jumper: A Day in the Life of the Backyard Jumping Spider, written and illustrated by Jessica Lanan
I just wanted to apologize one more time to this book for not reviewing it in 2023. I just ran out of time at the end of the year. This is the one that got away. I’m pleased as punch that it got a Sibert Honor, though. Run on, little spider. Run on.
Theodor Seuss Geisel Award
Worm and Caterpillar Are Friends, written and illustrated by Kaz Windness
Oh, wonderful! I only reviewed a single easy book in 2023 and it was this one. Kaz is a big deal on the picture book Tiktok circuit, and that’s where I initially found her. When I read this book of hers I was an instant fan. It’s been immensely gratifying to watch it catch on like wildfire on all kinds of Best Of lists.
You can read my review of the book here. I said of it, “Our books for kids should have only the best words and the finest art. And if that’s the level we’re trying to attain, then I have good news because Worm and Caterpillar Are Friends completely clears that bar. It’s fantastic writing, simple words, and jaw-dropping art all presented in the smallest, most inauspicious of packages. Consider carefully the books you give to the earliest of readers. Consider your responsibility. Show them only the best. Show them this book.”
Sydney Taylor Book Award
Don’t Want to Be Your Monster, by Deke Moulton
While I didn’t get a chance to review this book during the year, I am pleased to announce that on February 7th I will be interviewing Deke Moulton about the book here on this site as part of the Sydney Taylor Book Blog Tour. Come and learn more about the connection between vampires and anti-semitism.
And that’s all I got to this year!
Now I know we all had titles we were sad not to see get bupkiss at these awards. There’s no blame here. Not everything can win, and even though the awards look like they’re including a ton of books, it’s just the smallest sliver of what came out in 2023. Not everyone can win.
For my part, I would like to honor the books that I loved and wished would get something, but didn’t. Imagine me playing taps as I read off their names. They were good books. They were great books. They will be remembered in other ways. don’t you even worry about that.
- The Skull by Jon Klassen
- First Time for Everything by Dan Santat
- The Lost Year by Katherine Marsh
- Dim Sum Palace by X. Fang
- You Are Here: Connecting Flights, edited by Ellen Oh
- My Head Has a Bellyache by Chris Harris
- Evergreen by Matthew Cordell
- Tomfoolery by Michelle Markel and Barbara McClintock
- The Tree and the River by Aaron Becker
- Eb & Flow by Kelly J. Baptist
- The Song of Us by Kate Fussner
I love the winners! I love the books that didn’t make it! I love you all!
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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