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Who will win our CSK (Coretta Scott King Award)? Swansfield students have a say!

January 13, 2019

For the second year in a row our students at Swansfield Elementary are participating a mock Coretta Scott King award process. Last year we recognized one winner (Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison.) and three honor books (Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James, Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! by Andrea Loney and Keith Mallett, and The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford and Elizabeth Zunon). You can see our process and results on the "Tracking Our Coretta Scott King Award" (Dec 6, 2017) and "Results of Our Coretta Scott King Award" (Dec 17, 2017) posts.

 

The Coretta Scott King Award is given annually "to encourage the artistic expression of the African American experience via literature and the graphic arts, including biographical, historical and social history treatments by African American authors and illustrators." (Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table - EMIERT

I have really enjoyed involving students in mock awards in the past for the opportunity to follow a process similar to an awards committee, maintaining knowledge of awards criteria and incorporating books eligible to receive the award at the ALA Youth Media Awards. I've worked with students on both mock Caldecott and mock Theodor Seuss Geisel units in the past, and each time it's been exciting to hold up our results against that of the committees to see how they compare.

 

Last year I made the decision to bring awareness of the Coretta Scott King Award to our students at Swansfield Elementary. We have a diverse population (as evidenced in our school profile) and it's important to me that my students are introduced to books that reflect their experiences and cultures, and are written by individuals from said experiences and cultures. 

 

MORE ABOUT THE CSK

 

We've referenced the selection criteria numerous times since beginning this project. I'll leave the award description and link to the criteria here in case you find it helpful to have on hand as reference as well.

 

"The Award is given to an African American author and illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions. The Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society."

 

Award criteria (link)

 

OUR PROCESS

 

As we did last year, we are devoted the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter break to reading and considering books for the award. I have selected 16 eligible picture books ahead of time (see below) and I've paired books loosely by theme, format, or content in order to balance out the competition as best I can. The CSK awards both African American authors and African American illustrators for work appealing to students up to the age of high school, but being in an elementary school I've opted for a sort of blended approach. I read two books to each library class (I read selected excerpts of the longer books) and then ask students to vote for which of the two books they feel had the most compelling story and illustrations. The books face off in a book bracket akin to March Madness until we narrow the selections down to four semifinalists.

Since we're involving the entire school, comprised of about 600 students in Kindergarten through Grade 5, each book pair is read by a few classes before final votes are counted. The winning book moves ahead in our book bracket until we narrow down our list to two titles (a winner and an honor book).

 

We'll keep the bulletin board up through February and I'll add the official recipients of the CSK award following the ALA Youth Media Awards so that our students can compare our selections to that of the committee. No doubt our selection will meet the same expectation of the CSK committee "The Award is given to an African American author and illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions. The Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society."

 

OUR NOMINEES

 

 

We're considering 16 picture book titles this year.

 

Our nominees are:

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora 

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

 
 

In this remarkable author-illustrator debut that's perfect for fans of Last Stop on Market Street and Extra Yarn as well as for the Thanksgiving season, a generous woman is rewarded by her community.

Everyone in the neighborhood dreams of a taste of Omu's delicious stew! One by one, they follow their noses toward the scrumptious scent. And one by one, Omu offers a portion of her meal. Soon the pot is empty. Has she been so generous that she has nothing left for herself?

Debut author-illustrator Oge Mora brings to life a heartwarming story of sharing and community in colorful cut-paper designs as luscious as Omu's stew, with an extra serving of love. An author's note explains that "Omu" (pronounced AH-moo) means "queen" in the Igbo language of her parents, but growing up, she used it to mean "Grandma." This book was inspired by the strong female role models in Oge Mora's life.

 

 

Don't Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller 

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

 

An entertaining picture book that teaches the importance of asking for permission first as a young girl attempts to escape the curious hands that want to touch her hair.

 

It seems that wherever Aria goes, someone wants to touch her hair. In the street, strangers reach for her fluffy curls; and even under the sea, in the jungle, and in space, she's chased by a mermaid, monkeys, and poked by aliens...until, finally, Aria has had enough!

 

Author-illustrator Sharee Miller takes the tradition of appreciation of black hair to a new, fresh, level as she doesn't seek to convince or remind young readers that their curls are beautiful--she simply acknowledges black beauty while telling a fun, imaginative story.

 

 

Sisters and Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Howard Bryant, Floyd Cooper (Illustrator) 

Philomel Books

 

An inspiring picture book sports biography about two of the greatest female tennis players of all-time! Venus and Serena Williams: Best friends. Sisters. Champions.

Everyone knows the names Venus & Serena Williams. They've become synonymous with championships, hard work, and with shaking up the tennis world. This inspirational true story, written by award-winning sports journalist, Howard Bryant, and brought to beautiful life by Coretta Scott Kind Award and Honor winner, Floyd Cooper, details the sisters' journey from a barely-there tennis court in Compton, CA, to Olympic gold medals and becoming the #1 ranked women in the sport of tennis. Here is a worthy ode to Venus and Serena Williams, the incredible sister duo who will go down in history as two of the greatest athletes of all time.

 

 

Mommy's Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Ebony Glenn (Illustrator) 

Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for You

 

A young Muslim girl spends a busy day wrapped up in her mother’s colorful headscarf in this sweet and fanciful picture book from debut author and illustrator Jamilah Tompkins-Bigelow and Ebony Glenn.

A khimar is a flowing scarf that my mommy wears.
Before she walks out the door each day, she wraps one around her head.

A young girl plays dress up with her mother’s headscarves, feeling her mother’s love with every one she tries on. Charming and vibrant illustrations showcase the beauty of the diverse and welcoming community in this portrait of a young Muslim American girl’s life.

 

 

Someday Is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-ins by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Jade Johnson

Seagrass Press


Someday Is Now tells the inspirational story of the celebrated civil rights leader, Clara Luper, who led one of the first lunch-counter sit-ins in America. 

How will you stand against something you know is wrong? One way is to follow the lessons of bravery taught by civil rights pioneerslike Clara Luper.

As a child, Clara saw how segregation affected her life. Her journey famously led her to Oklahoma, where she and her students desegregated stores and restaurants that were closed to African-Americans. With courage and conviction, Clara Luper led young people to “do what had to be done.”

This moving title includes additional information on Clara Luper's extraordinary life, her lessons of nonviolent resistance, and a glossary of key civil rights people and terms.

 

 

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices by Wade Hudson (Editor) andCheryl Willis Hudson (Editor) 

Crown Books for Young Readers

 

 

Fifty of the foremost diverse children's authors and illustrators--including Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, and Kwame Alexander--share answers to the question, "In this divisive world, what shall we tell our children?" in this beautiful, full-color keepsake collection, published in partnership with Just Us Books.

What do we tell our children when the world seems bleak, and prejudice and racism run rampant? With 96 lavishly designed pages of original art and prose, fifty diverse creators lend voice to young activists.

Featuring poems, letters, personal essays, art, and other works from such industry leaders as Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming), Jason Reynolds (All American Boys), Kwame Alexander (The Crossover), Andrea Pippins (I Love My Hair), Sharon Draper (Out of My Mind), Rita Williams-Garcia (One Crazy Summer), Ellen Oh (cofounder of We Need Diverse Books), and artists Ekua Holmes, Rafael Lopez, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, and more, this anthology empowers the nation's youth to listen, learn, and build a better tomorrow.

 

 

The Field by Baptiste Paul and Jacqueline Alcántara

NorthSouth Books

A soccer story—for boy and girls alike—just in time for the World Cup!

“Vini! Come! The field calls!” cries a girl as she and her younger brother rouse their community—family, friends, and the local fruit vendor—for a pickup soccer (futbol) game. Boys and girls, young and old, players and spectators come running—bearing balls, shoes, goals, and a love of the sport.
 
“Friends versus friends” teams are formed, the field is cleared of cows, and the game begins! But will a tropical rainstorm threaten their plans?
 
The world’s most popular and inclusive sport has found its spirited, poetic, and authentic voice in Baptiste Paul’s debut picture book—highlighting the joys of the game along with its universal themes: teamwork, leadership, diversity, and acceptance. Creole words (as spoken in St. Lucia, the author’s birthplace island in the Caribbean) add spice to the story and are a strong reminder of the sport’s world fame. Bright and brilliant illustrations by debut children’s book illustrator Jacqueline Alcántara—winner of the We Need Diverse Books Illustration Mentorship Award—capture the grit and glory of the game and the beauty of the island setting where this particular field was inspired.
 
Soccer fan or not, the call of The Field is irresistible.

 

 

The 5 O'Clock Band by Troy Andrews and Bryan Collier

Harry N. Abrams

 

In this beautiful companion to the award-winning Trombone Shorty, the author shares his love and appreciation for his hometown of New Orleans and the musical heritage that exists there... Collier’s exquisite artwork rendered in pen and ink, watercolor, and collage brings readers into the heart of the city that Andrews so dearly loves. These complex and layered illustrations complement the story perfectly, honoring the vibrancy of New Orleans.

 

Collier's characteristic collage illustrations effectively represent Troy's emotional struggle for self-improvement, and the level of detail in the images portrays the liveliness of New Orleans well . . . An excellent story about a man who remembers the community he came from and actively works to ensure its future success.

 

The author’s affection for New Orleans flows through his writing, and Collier’s collage-filled, textural paintings capture the rhythm and spirit of the city.

 

The impulse is to linger on the page to soak in the warmth of the illustrations as much as it is to exclaim “Where y’at!” every time that phrase appears in the dialogue.

 

 

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham, Charles Waters, Sean Qualls, and Selina Alko

Carolrhoda Books

 

 

 

How can Irene and Charles work together on their fifth grade poetry project? They don't know each other . . . and they're not sure they want to. Irene Latham, who is white, and Charles Waters, who is black, use this fictional setup to delve into different experiences of race in a relatable way, exploring such topics as hair, hobbies, and family dinners. Accompanied by artwork from acclaimed illustrators Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (of The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage), this remarkable collaboration invites readers of all ages to join the dialogue by putting their own words to their experiences.

 

 

No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas by Tonya Bolden and Don Tate

Knopf Books for Young Readers

 

 

Discover the incredible true story of how one of history's most successful potato farmers began life as a slave and worked until he was named the "Potato King of the World"!

Junius G. Groves came from humble beginnings in the Bluegrass State. Born in Kentucky into slavery, freedom came when he was still a young man and he intended to make a name for himself. Along with thousands of other African Americans who migrated from the South, Junius walked west and stopped in Kansas. Working for a pittance on a small potato farm was no reason to feel sorry for himself, especially when he's made foreman. But Junius did dream of owning his own farm, so he did the next best thing. He rented the land and worked hard! As he built his empire, he also built a family, and he built them both on tons and tons and tons of potatoes. He never quit working hard, even as the naysayers doubted him, and soon he was declared Potato King of the World and had five hundred acres and a castle to call his own.

From award winning author Tonya Bolden and talented illustrator Don Tate comes a tale of perseverance that reminds us no matter where you begin, as long as you work hard, your creation can never be called small potatoes.

 

 

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan, R. Gregory Christie

Calkins Creek

 

This historical fiction picture book presents the story of nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s final stand for justice before his assassination--when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.

In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city's refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike. The strike lasted two months, during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called to help with the protests. While his presence was greatly inspiring to the community, this unfortunately would be his last stand for justice. He was assassinated in his Memphis hotel the day after delivering his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" sermon in Mason Temple Church. Inspired by the memories of a teacher who participated in the strike as a child, author Alice Faye Duncan reveals the story of the Memphis sanitation strike from the perspective of a young girl with a riveting combination of poetry and prose.

 

 

Auntie Luce's Talking Paintings by Francie LaTour and Ken Daley 

Groundwood Books

 

 

Every winter, a young girl flies to Haiti to visit her Auntie Luce, a painter.

 

 

The moment she steps off the plane, she feels a wall of heat, and familiar sights soon follow -- the boys selling water ice by the pink cathedral, the tap tap buses in the busy streets, the fog and steep winding road to her aunt's home in the mountains.

 

The girl has always loved Auntie Luce's paintings -- the houses tucked into the hillside, colorful fishing boats by the water, heroes who fought for and won the country's independence. Through Haiti's colors, the girl comes to understand this place her family calls home. And when the moment finally comes to have her own portrait painted for the first time, she begins to see herself in a new way, tracing her own history and identity through her aunt's brush.

 

 

Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Lesa Cline-Ransome, James E. Ransome 

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

 

Venus and Serena Williams are two of the greatest tennis players of all time. Some say they’re two of the greatest athletes of all time. Before they were world famous, they were little girls with big dreams.

Venus and Serena Williams. Two peas in a pod. Best friends. Sisters. 

Six days a week they awoke before the sun came up to practice their serves and returns, to learn to run faster and hit harder. They were unstoppable. At age fourteen, Venus played her first professional match. Three years later, it was Serena’s turn. It wasn’t easy. Some tennis fans cheered for these two fresh faces, while those who were unhappy to see two black girls competing in a nearly all-white sport booed and taunted them. But they didn’t let it stop them.

With vibrant mixed media art, nonfiction superstars Lesa Cline-Ransome and Coretta Scott King Honor winner James E. Ransome share the inspirational story of two tennis legends who were fierce competitors on the courts, but close sisters above all.

 

 

Hammering for Freedom: The William Lewis Story by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, John Holyfield 

Lee & Low Books

 

 

Born into slavery in Chattanooga, Tennessee, William "Bill" Lewis learned the blacksmith trade as soon as he was old enough to grip a hammer. He proved to be an exceptional blacksmith and earned so much money fixing old tools and creating new ones that he was allowed to keep a little money for himself. With just a few coins in his pocket, Bill set a daring plan in motion: he was determined to free his family.

 

Winner of Lee & Low's New Voices Award, Hammering for Freedom tells the true story of one man's skill, hard work, and resolve to keep his family together.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina, Javaka Steptoe, R. Gregory Christie, and others 

Penny Candy Books

 

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina offers a fresh perspective of young men of color by depicting thirteen views of everyday life: young boys dressed in their Sunday best, running to catch a bus, and growing up to be teachers, and much more. Each of Tony Medina's tanka is matched with a different artist--including recent Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Award recipients.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López

Nancy Paulsen Books

 

National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López have teamed up to create a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.

There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.

There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. 

Jacqueline Woodson's lyrical text and Rafael López's dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.

 

*This post contains affiliate links. Any purchases made through these links will support the costs of maintaining the podcast, webcomic, and other materials associated with this site. 

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