The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
The Newbery Medal has been given out annually since 1922, and many of the recipients have been favorites ever since!
Here are the winners from 2020, recognizing books published in 2019. We're including the honor books in this post! Have you read any of them?
2020 Medal Winner — "New Kid" written and illustrated by Jerry Craft.
Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds — and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?
Newbery Committee: Jordan Banks can’t help seeing privilege when he transfers to Riverdale Academy Day School for seventh grade. As one of the few African American students in the school, he regularly deals with racism and microaggressions. Craft creates an intimate, relatable world inviting readers in, and holds them there. “This distinct, timely, and honest story respects children and gives its readers a glimpse into what it means to be other,” said Newbery Medal Committee Chair Krishna Grady. This book also won the Coretta Scott King Author Award.
2020 Honor — "The Undefeated" by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.
Newbery Committee: The Undefeated “is for us.” Written in sparse poetic verse, the contributions of African Americans are celebrated and explored. The reader is invited on a journey of dreaming, of persevering, and of bravery. The past intersects with the present, leaving readers forging their own paths of discovery. America, this is for you. The Undefeated also won the Caldecott Medal for 2020 and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.
2020 Honor — "Scary Stories for Young Foxes" by Christian McKay Heidicker, illustrated by Junyi Wu
The haunted season has arrived in the Antler Wood. No fox kit is safe. When Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they discover a dangerous world full of monsters. In order to find a den to call home, they must venture through field and forest, facing unspeakable things that dwell in the darkness: a zombie who hungers for their flesh, a witch who tries to steal their skins, a ghost who hunts them through the snow... and other things too scary to mention. Featuring eight interconnected stories and sixteen hauntingly beautiful illustrations, Scary Stories for Young Foxes contains the kinds of adventures and thrills you love to listen to beside a campfire in the dark of night.
Newbery Committee: Seven foxes, in the dark and twisted Antler Wood, want to hear scary stories. And, they will. Imagine a character with gooey eyes. Imagine trying to slink away from the Golgathursh’s grin. And imagine Beatrix Potter as a villain. Adventure, survival, and humor all celebrate the importance of story… even scary ones.
2020 Honor — "Other Words for Home" by Jasmine Warga
Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives. At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US — and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises — there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.
Newbery Committee: This book follows Jude and her mother, both Muslim, who flee war-torn Syria for a new life in America. This novel in verse is an inspiring story of resilience. It explores themes of family, prejudice, and what home truly means in a timely and honest manner.
2020 Honor — "Genesis Begins Again" by Alicia D. Williams
There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant — even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?
Newbery Committee: This book tells the story of 13-year-old Genesis, struggling with colorism and self-loathing. Her dark skin is just one of the 96 things she does not like about herself. This powerful novel deals with family struggles and internalized racism. A hopeful ending will leave both Genesis and readers seeing the possibility of self-worth. This book also won the 2020 John Steptoe Award for New Talent and was a William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist.
Next up: the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal winners!
Descriptions adapted from Goodreads and ALA.org.