John Newbery Medal Winning and Honored Books

The Newbery Medal or Honor Seal

First awarded in 1922, The John Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children’s book published the previous year. Virginia Hamilton, in 1975, was the first African American writer to win the medal. As of 2020, five African American writers have won the medal and 26 have been honored. Approximately a third of these honors were bestowed in the last 5 years. Learn more about this award at the ALA Website.

Below are the Newbery Winning and Honored books which were written by, or about, people of African descent.


2 Books Honored with The Newbery Medal or Honor in 2015

2015 – Newbery Honor

Book Description: 

“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks…The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander (He Said, She Said 2013).

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.




2015 – Newbery Honor

Book Description: 

“Ms. Woodson writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story… but a mature exploration of grown-up issues and self-discovery.”—The New York Times Book Review

Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.