A Top Ten Featuring the Coretta Scott King Book Awards by Monica Edinger

On a Sunday morning this past June I was sitting in a Las Vegas ballroom with tears in my eyes. Not because I had just trudged through multiple casinos full of fake Roman decor to get there, but because I was listening and watching as one recipient after another gave a heartfelt speech in response to having been honored with an ALA Coretta Scott King Book Award. As stated on their website,


The Coretta Scott King Book 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 award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.


With the current focus on the critical need for more diverse books, ones that reflect the true range of life in the United States today, I wanted to give a top ten shout-out to this year’s honorees. Consider one of them or any of the previous winners for your summer #bookaday reading or for your classroom this coming fall — you can’t go wrong with any of them!

ps be eleven

1. This year’s author winner was Rita Williams-Garcia for P.S. Be Eleven, the superb sequel to her celebrated One Crazy Summer. You can read her fabulous speech here.


march book one

2. Representative John Lewis and Andrew Aydin’s March: Book One, a terrific graphic novel memoir illustrated by Nate Powell, was an author honor book. Like many in attendance I was pretty star-struck by Representative Lewis’ own speech and attentiveness during the rest of the ceremony. Afterwards he was photographed with the children who came (there are always local children there as well as those related to the honorees) and shook many hands (mine included).


darius & twig

3. The late great Walter Dean Myers (more on him below) also received an author honor for Darius & Twig.


words with wings

4. The one and only Nikki Grimes received an honor for her moving Words with Wings, giving a beautifully poetic speech.


knock knock

5. The winner of this year’s illustrator award was Bryan Collier for Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me, a book beautiful in words, tone, and art, written by Daniel Beaty. You can read his speech here.


nelson mandela

6. Kadir Nelson received an illustrator honor for his gorgeous picture-book biography of the great South African leader: Nelson Mandela.


when the beat was born

7. This year’s John Steptoe New Talent Award went to Theodore Taylor III for his energetic illustrations for Laban Carrick Hill’s When the Beat Was Born: DJ Cool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop.


clone code

8. While the acceptance speeches provoked many tears among those in the audience, I suspect none caused more than those given for the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. This award, given every two years, went to Patricia and Frederick McKissack. Mr. McKissack passed away this past year and so three of his sons joined their mother to accept the award. Their most recent collaboration was The Clone Code series.



Coretta Scott King Award

9. Among the many resources related to the awards are the book and video, The Coretta Scott King Awards, 1970-2004. and this terrific page full of more material for educators.


on a clear day


10. Last, but never least is the first recipient of the Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award, the great Walter Dean Myers who passed away shortly after this year’s CSK celebration at the too-soon age of 76. In addition to seeing him receive this award in 2010 I was privileged to hear and see him speak many other times as well as break bread with him, talk with him, and read his wonderful words. His On a Clear Day will be out this fall with more books to come.


Monica Edinger, a fourth grade teacher in New York City, is the author of books and articlesabout teaching, children’s literature, and other related topics as well as a professional book reviewer.  She created and help runs SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books and blogs at educating alice and the Huffington Post. Her first book for children is Africa is My Home: A Child of the Amistad, from Candlewick Press.