Children’s Publishing World Reacts to Michaela Goade's History-Making Caldecott Medal, Rest of the YMA Winners

Illustrator Michaela Goade became the first BIPOC woman and first Indigenous illustrator to win the Caldecott medal when the 2021 Youth Media Awards were announced. Goade was one of many women creators recognized as women swept the Caldecott and Newbery medals.

It was another history-making year for the Youth Media Awards, which were announced in a virtual ceremony on Monday morning. The Caldecott Medal win for We Are Water Protectors made illustrator Michaela Goade the first BIPOC woman and the first Indigenous illustrator to win the prestigious award.

It was a day without a cheering, in-person crowd as the pandemic continues to upend the publishing industry, and it is difficult to see a return to "normal" any time soon. But this year, the YMAs gave readers an Indigenous woman from Alaska, a biracial Korean-American woman who never felt she belonged, and an Iranian refugee with stories of food and family as the winners of the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz, respectively. Their work was deeply personal. Their stories resonated. And each was celebrated, along with all of those recognized on Monday during the virtual awards ceremony.

"The list of this year's #alayma awards is incredible, and the joy spilling across social media is so welcome, and so affirming," author Mike Jung tweeted. "An absolutely phenomenal slate of creators has been rightfully feted for their contributions - congratulations to all!!!"

It was a huge day for women creators, who swept the Newbery and Caldecott medals.

Goade tweeted a picture of her learning the news from the Caldecott committee.



A little later in the day, Goade added this to her Twitter thread, "And to water protectors everywhere, at Standing Rock and beyond, aatlein gunalchéesh. Water is life!"

While she tried to process the news, others celebrated her achievement.

"Native people everywhere are delighted!" Native American scholar Debbie Reese tweeted.

"This is such great news and we are so thrilled," said author Ellen Oh, CEO and president of We Need Diverse Books.

The Caldecott committee chair Anisha Jeffries called the picture book

"Goade's illustrations illuminated each page; giving structure to the story, providing lush colors, and making it a visually compelling, stunning masterpiece," Jeffries wrote.

Caldecott committee member librarian Alec Chunn tweeted video of him putting the Caldecott Medal sticker on his copy of We Are Water Protectors after the committee called Goade to tell her.

"Congratulations & THANK YOU (& @CaroleLindstrom) for this beautiful, beautiful book," he wrote. 

Of course We Are the Water Protectors author Carole Lindstrom was overjoyed for her collaborator, tweeting, "Oh, @MichaelaGoade I have no words to describe how proud of you I am. I love you so so much. You are so extremely talented and just an amazing person inside and out. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! So very well deserved. I wish I could hug you in person!!"

The rest of the children's literature world took to Twitter to express their excitement as well.

"I was not one bit surprised, but I cried anyway," wrote author Christina Soontornvat. "WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS is the kind of book that changes the world. Congratulations @MichaelaGoade !!!"

[READ: SLJ Reviews of the 2021 Youth Media Awards]

Tae Keller's When You Trap a Tiger won the Newbery Medal.

"I can't believe this is real," Keller tweeted soon after the announcement.

Keller's book also won the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) Children's Literature award.

Soontornvat had two titles named Newbery honor books.

"Stunned and so very grateful," Soontornvat tweeted. "Thank you so much to the committees who recognized my books. I still have no words. My very first thoughts during the calls were of my grandparents. I just wish they could know - I guess they already do. Thank you, thank you."

Rounding out the Big Three, Everything Sad is Untrue (a true story) by Daniel Nayeri won the Printz Award.

"We felt it was an excellent meeting of middle school with Scheherazade tales where one only wants to get out alive!" Printz committee chair Ellen Spring said in an email. "The personality of Daniel Nayieri shone through with readers learning of his family, early life in Iran and the food, which sounded fantastic! It was an autobiographical novel filled with memory and anecdote. It was a unique refugee story, and there was poop!"

In recent years, the award has skewed toward titles for older readers. SLJ reviewed Nayeri's book as a middle grade title, putting the age range at grades 4-8, but the Printz committee liked that Nayeri's book is accessible to a broader group of readers.

"We saw it as readable from middle school to adults, which was part of the appeal," Spring said. 

Author Image
Kara Yorio

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

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing