'Freewater' Wins Newbery Medal; 'Hot Dog' Awarded Caldecott; 'All My Rage' Earns Printz at the 2023 Youth Media Awards

The Youth Media Awards ceremony returned in person as children's literature celebrated its biggest day, honoring the best titles of the year.


Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson won the coveted Newbery Medal and Hot Dog by Doug Salati earned the Caldecott Medal, while All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir took the Printz Award during Monday’s Youth Media Awards (YMA) ceremony at ALA's LibLearnX in New Orleans. It was the first in-person YMA announcements since 2020.

"Are we ready everyone?" ALA president Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada asked to begin the ceremony to cheers and pom pom-waving from the gathered crowd, which excitedly greeted the announcement of each new winner.

Fellow authors and past Newbery winners were thrilled for Luqman-Dawson, who won with her debut novel.

"!!! Hooray !!! Excellent choice." tweeted 2018 Newbery winner Erin Entrada Kelly when Freewater.

"*JOYSCREAM*" author and 2002 Newbery winner Linda Sue Park tweeted of Freewater, a book that she blurbed.

A copy of Freewater, signed by the 2023 Newbery selection committee.
Photo: Andrew Eliopulis

There were three Newbery honor titles: Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango; The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat; and Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee.

Four books were named Caldecott honor titles: Ain’t Burned All the Bright, illustrated by Jason Griffin, written by Jason Reynolds; Berry Song, illustrated and written by 2021 Caldecott winner Michaela Goade; Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement, illustrated by Janelle Washington, written by Angela Joy; and Knight Owl, illustrated and written by Christopher Denise.

But Salati's Hot Dog rose above the rest, according to selection committee chair Rob Bittner.

"Hot Dog stood out simply because of its just sort of strong execution of exactly what it was trying to do," Bittner said shortly after the announcement. "Junko Yokota once chaired a bunch of these committees and she said to us at one point, 'If you read a book, can you feel the breeze?' Does it feel real to you? For us, with Hot Dog, we felt the breeze. We felt the heat in the city. We felt the warmth. We felt the coolness on the beach. That's what made it stand out to us so much, because it was just such excellence of execution, even though it's such a simple-seeming book on the surface."

Ain't Burned All the Bright may have caught some by surprise in the Caldecott category, but Bittner says it hit all the criteria in the award that is for ages 0-14.

"That book very much stood out and was well within our criteria, so we wanted to award the excellence of that book," he said. "We were so impressed with the overall execution of it, the poetry, the way that the text was merged right in with the illustrations with the words actually being taped onto the pages before they were photographed. As an overall package, it was just so fantastic, we couldn't say no."

Newbery winner Luqman-Dawson also won the Coretta Scott King Author Award for Freewater. It was one of many titles that received multiple mentions during the ceremony.

When the Angels Left the Old Country by Sacha Lamb won the young adult category for both the Sydney Taylor Book Award and Stonewall Award and was a Printz Award honor title.

"To have received both a Sydney Taylor and a Stonewall is obviously an incredibly emotional experience just for each on its own merits, but it’s also been very very touching to see this extremely Jewish book recognized for its queerness, and extremely queer book for its Jewishness. It means a lot to me," Lamb tweeted.

Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile won the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults and was a Coretta Scott King honor title in both the author and illustrator categories.

Maizy Chen's Last Chance was not only a Newbery honor book, but also the Asian/Pacific American Award winner in the children's literature category.

And Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement was a Caldecott and Sibert honor title; Washington also won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award for her work on the book.

Not all the reaction to the ceremony was celebratory, however. Park wasn't screaming with joy the entire time. Early in the ceremony she tweeted, "Dear @ALALibrary: Your presenters on this day of days should take the time to learn *the correct pronunciation of every creator's name*. It's a question of RESPECT, and to be honest, I'm embarrassed and amazed that it has to be said." 

Later she followed up with a second tweet: "I want to add that it happens every year, and every year it bothers me. I know all these division heads are really busy, and there may be nerves or other issues, but it should be a no-brainer. Everywhere, for everyone, but especially on such occasions."



ALA - YMA2023- Press release

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is senior news editor at School Library Journal.

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