BLOGS  >  JANUARY 3, 2023

Top 2023 ALA YMA Contender Titles


Each year, experts at Follett compile a list of contenders for the winners of the American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards (YMA) before the January announcement to give educators the inside scoop and purchase the top picks beforehand on Titlewave

Below, the Follett Library Curation Team highlights a few of the titles that are strong contenders in the following awards: Randolph Caldecott, John Newbery, and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator and Coretta Scott King Author. To learn more, watch the full webinar of the team announcing the contenders, and view the complete lists, click here

Top 3 Randolph Caldecott Medal Contenders

Out of the eight titles chosen for the Randolph Caldecott Medal, here are what the team believes are the top three contenders.

Blue
By Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Discover a world of creativity and tradition in this fascinating picture book that explores the history and cultural significance of the color blue. From a critically acclaimed author and an award-winning illustrator comes a vivid, gorgeous book for readers of all ages.

For centuries, blue powders and dyes were some of the most sought-after materials in the world. Ancient Afghan painters ground mass quantities of sapphire rocks to use for their paints, while snails were harvested in Eurasia for the tiny amounts of blue that their bodies would release.
 
And then there was indigo, which was so valuable that American plantations grew it as a cash crop on the backs of African slaves. It wasn’t until 1905, when Adolf von Baeyer created a chemical blue dye, that blue could be used for anything and everything  most notably that uniform of workers everywhere, blue jeans.

With stunning illustrations by Caldecott Honor Artist Daniel Minter, this vibrant and fascinating picture book follows one color’s journey through time and across the world, as it becomes the blue we know today.
 

Knight Owl
By Christopher Denise

A determined Owl builds strength and confidence in this medieval picture book about the real mettle of a hero: wits, humor, and heart. 

Since the day he hatched, Owl dreamed of becoming a real knight. He may not be the biggest or the strongest, but his sharp nocturnal instincts can help protect the castle, especially since many knights have recently gone missing. While holding guard during Knight Night Watch, Owl is faced with the ultimate trial – a frightening intruder. Its a daunting duel by any measure. But what Owl lacks in size, he makes up for in good ideas.
 
Full of wordplay and optimism, this surprising display of bravery proves that cleverness (and friendship) can rule over brawn.

Where Butterflies Fill the Sky
By Zahra Marwan

An evocative picture book debut that tells the true story of the author’s immigration from Kuwait to the United States.

Zahra lives in a beautiful place where the desert reaches all the way to the sea and one hundred butterflies always fill the sky. When Baba and Mama tell her that their family is no longer welcome here and they must leave, Zahra wonders if she will ever feel at home againand what about the people she will leave behind? But when she and her family arrive in a new desert, she’s surprised to find magic all around her. Home might not be as far away as she thought it would be.

With spare, moving text and vivid artwork, Zahra Marwan tells the true story of her and her family’s immigration from Kuwait, where they were considered stateless, to New Mexico, where together they made a new home.

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Top 3 John Newbery Medal Contenders

Next, the team selected what they believe to be the top three John Newbery Medal contenders, several of which are by authors who have won awards in the recent past. 

The Ogress and the Orphans
By Kelly Barnhill

A new instant-classic fantasy about the power of generosity and love, and how a community suffers when they disappear, by Kelly Barnhill, winner of the Newbery Medal for The Girl Who Drank the Moon, a New York Times best-seller.
 
Stone-in-the-Glen, once a lovely town, has fallen on hard times. Fires, floods, and other calamities have caused the people to lose their library, their school, their park, and even their neighborliness. The people put their faith in the mayor, a dazzling fellow who promises he alone can help. After all, he is a famous dragon slayer. (At least, no one has seen a dragon in his presence.) Only the clever children of the Orphan House and the kindly Ogress at the edge of town can see how dire the town’s problems are.

Then one day a child goes missing from the Orphan House. At the Mayor’s suggestion, all eyes turn to the Ogress. The Orphans know this can’t be: the Ogress, along with a flock of excellent crows, secretly delivers gifts to the people of Stone-in-the-Glen.

But how can the Orphans tell the story of the Ogress’s goodness to people who refuse to listen? And how can they make their deluded neighbors see the real villain in their midst?

The Last Mapmaker
By Christina Soontornvat

From Christina Soontornvat, the visionary and versatile author of two 2021 Newbery Honor Books, comes a high-seas adventure set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world.

In a fantasy adventure every bit as compelling and confident in its world building as her Newbery Honor Book A Wish in the Dark, Christina Soontornvat explores a young woman’s struggle to unburden herself of the past and chart her own destiny in a world of secrets. As assistant to Mangkon’s most celebrated mapmaker, twelve-year-old Sai plays the part of a well-bred young lady with a glittering future. In reality, her father is a conman  and in a kingdom where the status of one’s ancestors dictates their social position, the truth could ruin her.

Sai seizes the chance to join an expedition to chart the southern seas, but she isn’t the only one aboard with secrets. When Sai learns that the ship might be heading for the fabled Sunderlands  a land of dragons, dangers, and riches beyond imagining  she must weigh the cost of her dreams. Vivid, suspenseful, and thought-provoking, this tale of identity and integrity is as beautiful and intricate as the maps of old.

Those Kids from Fawn Creek
By Erin Entrada Kelly

Every day in Fawn Creek, Louisiana, is exactly the same  until Orchid Mason arrives. From Erin Entrada Kelly, the winner of the Newbery Medal for Hello, Universe and a Newbery Honor for We Dream of Space, this contemporary school story set in small-town Louisiana is about friendship, family, deception, and being true to yourself and your dreams.

There are twelve kids in the seventh grade at Fawn Creek Middle School. They’ve been together all their lives. And in this small factory town where everyone knows everything about everyone, that’s not necessarily a great thing. There are 13 desks in the seventh-grade classroom. That’s because Renni Dean’s father got a promotion, and the family moved to Grand Saintlodge, the nearest big town. Renni’s desk is empty, but Renni still knows their secrets; is still pulling their strings.

When Orchid Mason arrives and slips gracefully into Renni’s chair, the other seventh graders don’t know what to think. Orchid  who was born in New York City but just moved to Fawn Creek from Paris  seems to float. Her dress skims the floor. She’s wearing a flower behind her ear. 

Fawn Creek Middle might be small, but it has its tightly knit groups  the self-proclaimed “God Squad,” the jocks, the outsiders just like anyplace else. Who will claim Orchid Mason? Who will save Orchid Mason? Or will Orchid Mason save them?

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Top 3 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Contenders

Here are the top three contenders for the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

Because Claudette
By Tracey Baptiste

From New York Times best-selling author Tracey Baptiste comes a singular picture book that is both a biography about Claudette Colvin, the teen whose activism launched the Montgomery bus boycott, and a celebration of collective action.

When fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin boarded a segregated bus on March 2, 1955, she had no idea she was about to make history. At school she was learning about abolitionists like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, which helped inspire her decision to refuse to give up her seat to a white woman, which led to her arrest, which began a crucial chain of events: Rosa Park’s sit-in nine months later, the organization of the Montgomery bus boycott by activists like Professor Jo Ann Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Supreme Court decision that Alabama’s bus segregation was unconstitutional  a major triumph for the civil rights movement.

Because of Claudette’s brave stand against injustice, history was transformed. Now it’s time for young readers to learn about this living legend, her pivotal role in the civil rights movement, and the power of one person reaching out to another in the fight for change.

Going Places
By Tonya Bolden

In the vein of Hidden Figures comes a nonfiction picture book about the Green Book, a travel guide by Victor Hugo Green, a Black postal worker from Harlem, made to help African Americans stay safe while traveling during segregation.

As a mail carrier, Victor Hugo Green traveled across New Jersey every day. But with Jim Crow laws enforcing segregation since the late 1800s, traveling as a Black person in the US could be stressful, even dangerous.

So in the 1930s, Victor created a guide  The Negro Motorist Green Book  compiling information on where to go and what places to avoid so that Black travelers could have a safe and pleasant time. While the Green Book started out small, over the years it became an expansive, invaluable resource for Black people throughout the country  all in the hopes that one day such a guide would no longer be needed.

Award-winning author Tonya Bolden and acclaimed illustrator Eric Velasquez shine a light on this little-known history of Victor Hugo Green and the deep impact of his incredible book on generations of Black families in America.

Swim Team
By Johnnie Christmas

A splashy, contemporary middle grade graphic novel from best-selling comics creator Johnnie Christmas!

Bree cant wait for her first day at her new middle school, Enith Brigitha, home to the Mighty Manatees –until shes stuck with the only elective that fits her schedule, the dreaded Swim 101. The thought of swimming makes Bree more than a little queasy, yet shes forced to dive headfirst into one of her greatest fears. Lucky for her, Etta, an elderly occupant of her apartment building and former swim team captain, is willing to help.

With Ettas training and a lot of hard work, Bree suddenly finds her swim-crazed community counting on her to turn the schools failing team around. But that’s easier said than done, especially when their rival, the prestigious Holyoke Prep, has everything they need to leave the Mighty Manatees in their wake.

Can Bree defy the odds and guide her team to a state championship, or have the Manatees swum their last lap  for good?

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Top 3 Coretta Scott King Author Award Contenders

Lastly, here is what the team believes to be the top contenders for the Coretta Scott King Author Award. 

Aint Burned All the Bright
By Jason Reynolds

Prepare yourself for something unlike anything: A smashup of art and text for teens that viscerally captures what it is to be Black. In America. Right now. Written by #1 New York Times best-selling and award-winning author Jason Reynolds.

Jason Reynolds and his best bud, Jason Griffin, had a mindmeld and they decided to tackle it, in one fell swoop, in about 10 sentences, and 300 pages of art, this piece, this contemplation-manifesto-fierce-vulnerable-gorgeous-terrifying-WhatIsWrongWithHumans-hope-filled-hopeful-searing-Eye-Poppingly-Illustrated-tender-heartbreaking-how-The-HECK-did-They-Come-UP-with-This project about oxygen. And all of the symbolism attached to that word, especially NOW.

And so for anyone who didn’t really know what it means to not be able to breathe, REALLY breathe, for generations, now you know. And those who already do, you’ll be nodding yep yep, that is exactly how it is.

 

The Door of No Return
By Kwame Alexander (of Kwame Alexander Bookfest)

Dreams are todays answers for tomorrow’s questions.

Eleven-year-old Kofi Offin dreams of water. Its mysterious, immersive quality. The rich, earthy scent of the current. The clearness, and its urgent whisper that beckons with promises and secrets.

Kofi has heard the call on the banks of Upper Kwanta, in the village where he lives. He loves these things above all else: his family, the fireside tales of his fathers father, a girl named Ama, and, of course, swimming. Some say he moves like a minnow, not just an ordinary boy so hes hoping to finally prove himself in front of Ama and his friends in a swimming contest against his older, stronger cousin.

But before this can take place, a festival comes to the villages of Upper and Lower Kwanta and Kofis brother is chosen to represent Upper Kwanta in the wrestling contest. Encircled by cheering spectators and sounding drums, the two wrestlers from different villages kneel, ready to fight.

You are only fine, until you are not.

The match is over before it has barely begun, when the unthinkable – a sudden death – occurs.

The river does not care how grown you are.

As his world turns upside down, Kofi soon ends up in a fight for his life. What happens next will send him on a harrowing journey across land and sea, and away from everything he loves.

 

The Marvellers
By Dhonielle Clayton

Dhonielle Clayton makes her middle grade debut with a fantasy adventure set in a global magic school in the sky an instant 

New York Times and #1 indie best-seller!

Eleven-year-old Ella Durand is the first Conjuror to attend the Arcanum Training Institute, a magic school in the clouds where Marvellers from around the world practice their cultural arts, like brewing Indian spice elixirs and bartering with pesky Irish pixies.

Despite her excitement, Ella discovers that being the first isn’t easy some Marvellers mistrust her magic, which they deem “bad and unnatural.” But eventually, she finds friends in elixirs teacher, Masterji Thakur, and fellow misfits Brigit, a girl who hates magic, and Jason, a boy with a fondness for magical creatures.

When a dangerous criminal known as the Ace of Anarchy escapes prison, supposedly with a Conjuror’s aid, tensions grow in the Marvellian world and Ella becomes the target of suspicion. Worse, Masterji Thakur mysteriously disappears while away on a research trip. With the help of her friends and her own growing powers, Ella must find a way to clear her family’s name and track down her mentor before it’s too late.

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About the Follett Library Curation Team

The Follett Library Curation team is made up of licensed educators and certified librarians who can align materials to standards, build resource lists, and offer book and resource suggestions based on your topic or fit your curriculum initiatives.

Each year, this team makes their list of ALA YMA contenders. The presenters of this list of contenders include the following librarians from our Library Curation Team.

Tune in to the announcements on January 30 at 8am CT, during LibLearnX: The Library Learning Experience, to find out if their predictions were correct!


Wendy Miller, MS
Curriculum Biographer, Elementary School

Wendy Miller has been with Follett School Solutions for 20 years, specializing in Grades PreK-6 materials. She oversees TitleEZ™, supports elementary titles for Titlewave, and elementary and PreK opening day collection core lists. Wendy also creates lists for our newsletter, catalogs, and by customer request.

Roberta Starck, MEd, MLIS
Curriculum Biographer, Middle School

Roberta Starck has been with Follett Content Solutions for 15 years, and her career spans 24 years as an elementary and middle school teacher and librarian. At Follett, she helps compile Titlewave lists that cover hot topics, as well as supports middle school curriculum core lists.

Janet Murray, MEd, MLIS
Curriculum Biographer, High School

Janet Murray joined Follett six years ago after spending 11 years as the Library Director at Northside College Preparatory High School in Chicago. At Follett, she supports high school lists on Titlewave as well as titles for subscription programs, marketing catalogs, and opening day core collections.

 

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