Erin Entrada Kelly’s middle grade novel “Hello, Universe,” about the bond that forms between a Filipino-American boy, a Japanese-American girl and a deaf girl after a shocking act by a neighborhood bully, won the John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature, one of the top literary prizes given out at the American Library Association’s awards for young adult and children’s literature.
The awards, which were announced Monday at the association’s midwinter conference in Denver, are among the most prestigious prizes within children’s literature, and can drive sales and steer librarian and teacher recommendations.
The Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book went to “Wolf in the Snow” by Matthew Cordell, a wordless picture book about a girl and a wolf cub who both become lost in a snowstorm.
Last year, “March,” a graphic memoir about the civil rights movement that was co-written by Representative John Lewis, swept the awards, winning four prizes from the American Library Association.
At a moment when the children’s book industry seems focused on issue-driven books that grapple with race, politics and gender, this year’s batch of winners also included some unexpected, quieter books and sleeper hits. “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut,” a picture book that celebrates the experiences of African-American boys at the barbershop, which was illustrated by Gordon C. James and written by Derrick Barnes, drew citations in several categories, and received Caldecott and Newbery honors.
Jason Reynolds’s young adult novel “ Long Way Down,” about a 15-year-old boy who is deciding whether or not to avenge his brother’s murder, received multiple citations from the association, including a Printz Honor, a Newbery Honor, an Odyssey honor for outstanding audiobook and a King Author honor.
Angie Thomas’s “The Hate U Give,” a best-selling young adult novel that addresses police violence against young African-Americans, received the William C. Morris Award for a debut book for teenagers, as well as the Odyssey Award for best audiobook, a King Author honor and a Printz honor.
Reacting to the news on Twitter, Ms. Thomas seemed to be at a loss for words: She posted a series of crying emojis.