The American Library Association’s (ALA) Youth Media Awards ceremony took place on Monday, January 30th, 2023, in New Orleans, marking the first in-person event since 2020. The ceremony was hosted by ALA President Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada and welcomed a crowd of excited authors and past winners who cheered and waved pom poms for each new award recipient.
The ceremony saw the coveted Newbery Medal being awarded to Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson, which also won the Coretta Scott King Author Award. Fellow authors and past Newbery winners expressed their excitement through social media, with 2018 Newbery winner Erin Entrada Kelly tweeting “!!! Hooray !!! Excellent choice” and 2002 Newbery winner Linda Sue Park tweeting “JOYSCREAM“. The Newbery Medal had three 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.
The Caldecott Medal was awarded to Hot Dog by Doug Salati, which stood out among its competitors according to selection committee chair Rob Bittner. Bittner stated that “Hot Dog stood out simply because of its strong execution of exactly what it was trying to do,” and that the book’s “excellence of execution” made it stand out. The Caldecott Medal had four honor books: 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. Bittner also praised Ain’t Burned All the Bright, stating that “it hit all the criteria in the award that is for ages 0-14,” and the “overall execution of it was just so fantastic, we couldn’t say no.”
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The Printz Award was awarded to All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir, while When the Angels Left the Old Country by Sacha Lamb won the Sydney Taylor Book Award and Stonewall Award in the young adult category and was also a Printz Award honor title. 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.
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While the ceremony was filled with celebratory moments, author Linda Sue Park took to social media to express her disappointment with the pronunciation of creators’ names by the presenters. Park 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.” This highlights the importance of considering cultural sensitivity and proper representation in such ceremonies.
In conclusion, the 2023 Youth Media Awards ceremony marked a triumphant return to in-person events and was filled with excitement and celebration for the winners and their achievements. The Newbery Medal was awarded to Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson, the Caldecott Medal was awarded to Hot Dog by Doug Salati, and
YMA ceremony was full of surprises, as well as recognition for the authors and illustrators behind these excellent works. Ain’t Burned All the Bright, written by Jason Reynolds and illustrated by Jason Griffin, earned an honor in the Caldecott category. The selection committee was impressed with the way the poetry and text was merged with the illustrations, and how the words were actually taped onto the pages before being photographed. The final result was a fantastic package that impressed the committee and earned the award for excellence.
Another Caldecott honor book was Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement. The book, illustrated by Janelle Washington and written by Angela Joy, was a standout and well within the criteria for the award, which is for ages 0-14. The overall execution of the book, including the illustrations, impressed the committee and earned it recognition.
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Not all reactions to the ceremony were celebratory. Linda Sue Park, a past Newbery winner, took to Twitter to express her disappointment. “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.” Despite this, Park was still thrilled for Freewater and Luqman-Dawson, tweeting “JOYSCREAM“.
Overall, the 2023 Youth Media Awards ceremony was a success, recognizing the excellence in works for young adults. Freewater, Hot Dog, and All My Rage took home the top awards, but the ceremony also acknowledged many other deserving titles, including Iveliz Explains It All, The Last Mapmaker, Maizy Chen’s Last Chance, and more. The in-person ceremony was a welcome change from the past few years, and allowed for a more enthusiastic celebration of the winners and their works.