Every year, our Read-Aloud Revival Team watches the American Library Association Youth Media Awards together.

These are the official awards of ALA. Some you’ll recognize, like the Caldecott, the Newbery and the Coretta Scott King Awards. But others are not quite as well known …

The ALA Youth Media Awards honor books that have been published in the previous year, so this year’s awards ceremony in January 2022 was honoring books that had been published in the year 2021 only.

For this episode the RAR team gathered together to talk about the announcements that made us cheer, the familiar faces that we loved seeing win, and …

…just a few books that we think should have gotten some ALA love. 😉

Tune in to hear:
  • about our favorite book winners and people who took home honors
  • other books published in 2021 that the RAR team loves
  • tons of book recommendations! (Don’t worry – they’re all linked below!)
Click the play button below or scroll down to keep reading.

Grace Lin wins the Children’s Literature Legacy Award

The Children’s Literature Legacy Award honors an author or illustrator whose books have made a substantial, lasting contribution to literature for children. 

Previous winners include Tomie dePaola, Eric Carle, Jerry Pinkney, Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Beverly Cleary and Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Fun fact – Laura Ingalls Wilder won the very first medal and it used to be called the Wilder Medal because of it! )

This year, the award was given to Grace Lin! That was a fun moment when the team all cheered because Grace Lin is a favorite here at RAR.

She came to RAR Premium to talk about her middle grade novel called Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

Although lately, RAR Community Director Kortney Garrison has been loving her new board book series called Storytelling Math, especially The Last Marshmallow, which she says almost requires a mug of cocoa!

Jane Yolen, Miriam and Owl Moon …

Another author we love at RAR who was honored at the awards this year is Jane Yolen.

She was the Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work Winner, an award which recognizes an author who has made a substantial contribution over time to the genre of Jewish children’s literature. 

A winner last year and a book the the team has enjoyed is Miriam at the River, a picture book telling the story of baby Moses being put in his basket, told by his older sister. The illustrations by Khoa Le are just gorgeous. 

Jane has also been to RAR Premium — she came to talk about Owl Moon and brought along her adult daughter, Heidi Stemple, who is actually the girl who goes owling in Owl Moon!

Lifetime Achievement Winner Nikki Grimes

Like Jane Yolen, Nikki Grimes is incredibly prolific.

She is an accomplished poet and a wonderful part of the children’s book community and this year won the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

This award is presented for substantial contributions through active engagement with youth using award winning African American literature.

You can find one of our favorite Nikki Grimes books Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman, on the RAR Picture Book Biographies list.

Individual Award Winners

We added it up, and about 18 different awards are given out during the Youth Media Awards — and most of them have multiple winners.

But here are a few books that stood out to us:

Mel Fell

Mel Fell, a picture book by Corey Tabor, won a Caldecott Honor.

Officially, the Randolph Caldecott is given to a book whose artist created that years’ most distinguished American picture book for children. There is a gold medalist and then there are several honors — sometimes they choose two honor books, sometimes they choose 10.

Sarah is perhaps still holding a teeny tiny grudge against the 2019 committee for not showering Eliza Wheeler’s Home in the Woods with at least an honor. Harrumph.

Mel Fell was sort of an underdog here, because the Caldecott committee tends to really love sad or weighty books, and Mel Fell is … hilarious. It’s light-hearted, it’s spare, and it was a delight to see it honored.

It feels like the kind of picture book a KID would pick to win a medal.

(Snail Crossing, by Corey Tabor didn’t win any awards – but pro tip: it’s another one to grab if you’re looking for a FUN read-aloud!)


Then of course there’s Jason Chin, who took home THE Caldecott Medal, the gold one. The big one.

And we are huge Jason Chin fans at RAR (he’s joined us a few times and Sarah has some of his original art work!)

His book that won is Watercress, written by Andrea Wang.

The illustrations will take your breath away.

Based on Andrea’s childhood, Watercress is an absolutely lovely story. But as Sarah says in this podcast episode, “there is an illustration that just gutted me.”

While so well done, Watercress is a tremendously sad book and involves the death of a child, so preview it before sharing with your kids so you’re ready for those conversations.

Emmanuel’s Dream

Emmanuel’s Dream: the True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, was originally published in 2015, but won an Odyssey Award Honor for being one of the best audiobooks produced for children and young adults.

Both the music and the narrator add to the story, but if you can’t get your hands on the audio, it also makes a terrific read-aloud.


Managing Editor Kara Anderson has a kiddo who has always loved non-fiction best, so her family has been devouring Ambushed!: The Assassination Plot Against President Garfield.

(Important note: Kara’s kids are 15 and 18, and this book is about the assassination of James Garfield – so this is absolutely one to preview carefully.)

But if your children love presidential history and are not squeamish about medical stuff, this might be one to add to your library list.

Wonder Walkers

Wonder Walkers by Micha Archer is a quiet, lyrical picture book about two children going for a walk and wondering about what they see.

This one is perfect for fans of Cathryn Falwell who wrote Feast for Ten and We Have a Baby – what Kortney calls “whimsical work that shows a deep respect for children.”

Books We Wish Had Won

It’s safe to say that we read A LOT of books here at RAR, so there are some that were published in 2021 that we wish had received a little love.

Here are some favorites from the team:

Bartali’s Bicycle

Bartali’s Bicycle: The True Story of Gino Bartali, Italy’s Secret Hero by Megan Hoyt illustrated by Iacopo Bruno is a picture book biography about the Italian cyclist Gino Bartali.

He won the Tour de France twice. But he also used his cycling skills as a part of the resistance during World War II. 

Kortney says: “I love how God used his in-born genius as a cyclist to change the world!”

Nicky and Vera

Nicky and Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued by Peter Sis uses a beautiful illustration technique to help tell two stories in this picture book.

Nicholas Winton saved almost 700 children from the Nazis, including Vera Gissing. Incredibly, he never told anyone until his wife uncovered his work and helped to organize a reunion.

(Note: Vera loses her parents. This is another one to preview closely and to be prepared to discuss.)

A Place to Hang the Moon

Sarah firmly believes that if kids were picking the awards, A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus would have brought home a Newbery Honor.

Easily one of the best middle grade novels of the last decade, the team talks about its cross-generational appeal and why the RAR access event with Kate Albus was one of our most anticipated ever!

Just Like That

Just Like That by Gary Schmidt (a middle grade novel that we think may be better classified as a Young Adult novel) is a companion to The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now.

It’s a companion – not a sequel – and you don’t have to have read those books to read and enjoy this one.

Sarah says the problem with unmatchable authors like Gary Schmidt is that “if you were going to be honest, you’d just have to give him a medal almost every time he releases a book.”

Be sure to tune in to hear more about why Sarah threw this book across the room after pg. 1. She says, “Gary Schmidt does that thing where he weaves in hope and light and makes you more grateful to be alive, and more grateful to be human. But he takes you down first. You’ve been warned.

The Tree In Me

Finally, The Tree In Me by Corinna Luyken is a lovely picture book released last year. The illustrations are unique and luscious and Corinna is another RAR favorite. She joined us last year to talk about The Book of Mistakes.

We just had to share this illustration, submitted by podcast listener Maria Montreuil. She made this amazing illustration to go with the story Kortney shared about the basketball-playing otter at her local zoo. You can see more of Maria’s wonderful illustrations here.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Owl Moon
We Have a Baby
The Wednesday Wars
Okay for Now
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
Adventures with Waffles
Astrid the Unstoppable
Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman
Home in the Woods
The Tree in Me
Miriam at the River
A Place to Hang the Moon
The Last Marshmallow
Sister Fox’s Field Guide to the Writing Life
Mel Fell
Snail Crossing
Emmanuel’s Dream
Ambushed!: The Assassination Plot Against President Garfield
Wonder Walkers
Feast for 10
Bartali’s Bicycle: The True Story of Gino Bartali, Italy’s Secret Hero
Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued
Just Like That

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