Each year, a jury of library workers selects outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults to receive the Coretta Scott King Book Award. Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King, the award highlights literature that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.
In honor of Black History Month, we asked current members of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury to share some of their favorite winners from years past. Here are their picks:
“Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. This title was one of the CSK author honor winners back in 1977 and it was the first CSK book I ever read. I remember reading about Cassie, Little Man, and the rest of the Logan family like it was yesterday. Reading about her and her ability to maintain her spunky personality and witty nature all while dealing with racism and social ills made me feel like we were best friends. I also remember the shiny CSK seal. From that moment on, I knew if I saw books with the ‘triangle’ [that’s what I called it back then] that it would have characters who looked, talked, and lived like me.”—LaKeshia Darden (2019-21 Jury Chair)
“A past favorite of mine is the 2005 illustrator honor The People Could Fly: The Picture Book, written by Virginia Hamilton and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. The Dillons bring one of our finest folktales to life through their rich and expressive illustrations. The People Could Fly: The Picture Book pairs well with the 2020 author honor, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, written by Kwame Mbalia. Mbalia weaves our past oral traditions into an exciting and thought provoking fantasy adventure. Both books provide uplifting stories that highlight the power and beauty of Black culture.”—Jewel Davis
“Thank You, Omu by Oge Mora highlights the joy of food and sharing. It illustrates how the generosity of black women provides for communities in ways big and small. For many of us, this is the story of our grandmothers, mothers, and aunts.”—Maegen Rose
“The 2011 CSK Author and Illustrator winners are particular favorites. I loved One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, and eagerly awaited the next two books in the Gaither sisters trilogy, both of which also won the CSK Author award. Bryan Collier’s Dave the Potter, published that same year, is another book I love. I have a print from the book hanging in my workspace, and I was thrilled to see one of Dave’s pots when I visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.”—Susan Polos
Check out the full list of Coretta Scott King Book Awards winners.