Our Outreach Coordinator Leena Desai reflects on some of the biggest youth titles of 2020, sharing a few of this year’s most prestigious award-winners.
Winner of the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature, I Am Every Good Thing starts with these lines: “I am a nonstop ball of energy. Powerful and full of light. I am a go-getter. A difference maker. A leader.” The book is narrated by a Black child and lists everything that makes him proud. He is creative, adventurous, smart, funny and a good friend and even when things don’t go his way, he gets back up and carries on. Each double-spread of this picture book is filled with vibrant illustrations that accentuate the positivity of the words, which have the power of affirmations. Grades Preschool-2
Jerry Craft’s graphic novel New Kid, which won the 2020 Newbery Medal, is about Jordan Banks, a Black middle-grader who learns to navigate racism and microaggressions in a largely white school. Jordan would rather study art, but is instead in a private school that is a world apart—both in distance and character—from the humble neighourhood he lives in. New Kid is an intimate and relatable portrait of what it is like to feel invisible and targeted at the same time in a school system that is not equipped for diversity or inclusion. Grades 3-7
My Body, My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights by Robin Stevenson won the 2020 Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize. Abortion is one of the most contentious subjects the world over. Even in countries as developed as the US, abortion is not easily accessible in some states. This book is extremely timely because it takes a holistic view of the issue, talking about the past, the future and the fight for abortion rights and makes the case for the destigmatization of abortion because, as the book maintains, making abortion illegal or hard to access doesn’t make it any less common; it just makes it dangerous. Grades 8+
Winner of the 2020 Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize, It Began With a Page tells the story of Gyo Fujikawa, one of 20th century’s most unsung artists, quite literally so, because art is what she dedicated all her life to. Growing up in Japan in early 20th century, Fujikawa lacked opportunities, but she didn’t lack support and in spite of living through World War II and her family’s internment, Fujikawa persevered. She used her experience of working for Walt Disney Studios to write and illustrate the first children’s book that featured children of different races interacting together. Full of innocence, light and freedom, Fujikawa’s work was influential and with this book, Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad pay the kind of fitting tribute to her that she never received in life. Grades 1-4