Claire Hartfield and Ekua Holmes Win Coretta Scott King Book Awards

Claire Hartfield and Ekua Holmes are author and illustrator winners, respectively, in this 50th anniversary year for the Coretta Scott King Book Awards.

Claire Hartfield won the 2019 Coretta Scott King Author Award for A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, and Ekua Holmes earned the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for The Stuff of Stars. The awards were announced this morning during the Youth Media Awards ceremony at ALA Midwinter conference in Seattle.

The Coretta Scott King (CSK) Book Awards celebrate their 50th anniversary this year. The 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 complete list of the 2019 winners are:

Author Award winner—Claire Hartfield, A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919

Author Award honors—Lesa Cline-Ransome, Finding Langston; Varian Johnson, The Parker Inheritance; Kekla Magoon,The Season of Styx Malone

Illustrator Award winner—Ekua Holmes, The Stuff of Stars

Illustrator Award honors—Laura Freeman, Hidden Figures; Frank Morrison, Let The Children March; R. Gregory Christie, Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop

John Steptoe Award for New Talent (Author)—Tiffany D. Jackson, Monday's Not Coming

John Steptoe Award for New Talent (Illustrator)—Oge Mora, Thank You, Omu! 

The Coretta Scott King Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement went to Dr. Pauletta Brown Bracy of North Carolina Central University. is named in memory of beloved children’s author Virginia Hamilton. Bracy was the co-organizer for Celebrating Our Voices: Black Children's Literature Symposium and Book Festival. The annual lifetime achievement award is presented in even years to an African American author, illustrator or author/illustrator for a body of his or her published books for children and/or young adults, and who has made a significant and lasting literary contribution.

The CSK awards commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honor his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.

Torrey Maldonado, teacher and author of middle grade novel Tight, spoke about diversity in kid lit with SLJ  while reflecting on the recent Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

"We are not there and just like Dr. King hoped to see in his lifetime that people would reach the promiseland, I don't know if in our lifetime, true diversity of kid lit will move into the promiseland," he says. "However, I do have the faith that there's so much out there that is fresh, that gives me hope."

He is hopeful when he hears kids tell him what books they are reading or what they look forward to reading next. But while many authors might be excited when told someone has read their books over and over, when a young reader tells Maldonado she has read Tight five times, he believes that means there aren't enough options for that child to find the next book.

"The answer isn't 'OK, Torrey Maldonado, you need to write faster, you need to be more prolific.' That's not the answer," he says. "The answer isn't for my peers to become more prolific either. I think a piece to this is we need to encourage young readers to step into the game of writing. We need to cultivate young readers into writers. Because a lot of kids invalidate their own experience."

It's not just to bring in the diversity of authors and characters but to convince them to write these stories that the Coretta Scott King Book Awards celebrate, he says.

"We've got to get more kids writing those authentic stories about their lives," Maldonado says. 

When he asks kids what they want to write about, they frequently rattle off ideas of fantasy and great fictional tales. He can't blame them. But, what do they know best, he asks them. What stories can they tell from a real place?

"What issues are you going through that you can write about that?" he says. "You write about that and we have people helping you cultivate your writing. Your story gets published and that's another piece of the diversity puzzle that gets published. That's another color in the diversity rainbow of kid lit that gets painted into the tapestry."

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