Coretta Scott King Awards Celebrate Forty Years: Where the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Meet YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award

By Taylor, Deborah | Young Adult Library Services, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Coretta Scott King Awards Celebrate Forty Years: Where the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Meet YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award


Taylor, Deborah, Young Adult Library Services


This year, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards will celebrate forty years of recognizing outstanding books by African American writers and illustrators. Many of those honored especially for text were also important contributions to young adult literature. As we mark this milestone year, it is interesting to take a look at some of the unique and trailblazing titles that resonated with the Coretta Scott King Committee and YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA) and Michael L. Printz Award Committees. While this selection does not include all of the titles recognized by multiple committees, it does seek to highlight some of the works that represent the scope and variety of the choices over the years.

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee also seek to encourage new African American writers and illustrators in the world of publishing for young readers. The establishment of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent gives the awards a way to spotlight promising writers and artists.

The 1970s and 1980s

The Young Landlords by Walter Dean Myers (Viking 1979)

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This early novel by Myers was the first of many from this trailblazing author to receive recognition by both committees. This humorous novel celebrates the ability of inner city teens to face and triumph over community challenges. (1980 Coretta Scott King Author Award, 1979 BBYA)

Rainbow Jordan by Alice Childress (Coward-McCann 1981)

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Childress effectively uses multiple points of view in this affecting novel of a teen struggling with the difficulties brought on by a parent unable or unwilling to provide the guidance young Rainbow needs. (1982 Coretta Scott King Author Honor, 1981 BBYA) Black Child by Peter Magubane (Knopf 1982)

This collection of thoughtful photographs of life in South Africa before the end of apartheid was a rare illustrator award winner to find a place on the BBYA list. Magubane's arresting shots illuminate the hope and despair of young people during this difficult period in history. (1983 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, 1982 BBYA)

Anthony Burns: The Defeat and Triumph of a Fugitive Slave by Virginia Hamilton (Knopf 1988)

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This decade in publishing for teen readers included a number of powerful novels by Virginia Hamilton that received recognition from both the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and BBYA. However, Hamilton delivers equally powerful storytelling skills in this nonfiction title that relates the dramatic tale of the 1854 resistance of Boston's antislavery community to returning runaway Anthony Burns to slavery. Her use of primary source documentation and source notes provide immediacy to the work. (1989 Coretta Scott King Author Honor, 1988 BBYA)

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic 1988)

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Myers continues to demonstrate his mastery of the young adult novel in this work many still consider to be among his best. Seventeen-year-old Richie Perry has to grow up quickly as he confronts the brutality of the war in Vietnam. (1989 Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner, 1988 BBYA)

The 1990s

The Road to Memphis by Mildred D. Taylor (Dial 1991)

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Cassie Logan's story, begun in the Newbery award-winning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, concludes with this dramatic depiction of the South during World War II. Here readers watch Cassie on the verge of adulthood and see glimpses of the struggles that will develop into the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement a decade and a half later. (1991 Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner, 1991 BBYA)

The Middle Passage: White Ships Black Cargo by Tom Feelings (Dial Books for Young Readers 1995)

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Feelings' stunning black and white illustrations provide one of the most dramatic depictions of the horrors of the Middle Passage. …

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