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.


3 Books Honored with The Newbery Medal or Honor in 2020

2020 – Newbery Medal Winner

Book Description: 

Class Act, the follow up to New Kid will be published in October. AALBC will be the first to reveal Class Act’s, cover on February 7, 2020 at noon.

Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Gene Luen Yang, New Kid is a timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real, from award-winning author-illustrator 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?

New Kid is the Most Critically Acclaimed Graphic Novel of 2019

  • Winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal
  • Winner of the 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Author Award
  • New York Times Bestseller
  • Winner of the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature
  • Finalist for Audie Award — Middle Grade Book of the Year
  • San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller
  • Indie Bestseller for Early & Middle Grade Readers
  • One of Publishers Weekly’s Best Middle Grade Books of 2019
  • New England Independent Booksellers Association Best Children’s Book of 2019
  • New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association 2019 Book of the Year for Middle Readers
  • Top 10 Spring 2019 Indie Next List Pick
  • Amazon Best Book of the Month, Ages 9–12
  • 2019 Harvey Award for Best Children’s Book Nominee
  • One of Booklist’s 2019 Top 10 Diverse Fiction for Youth
  • One of Publishers Weekly’s Most Anticipated Children’s Books, Spring 2019
  • #1 Indie Comics & Graphic Works Bestseller
  • One of the Best Graphic Novels of 2019 — School Library Journal
  • One of the 5 Best Fiction Books of 2019 — Washington Post
  • One of the Best Graphic Novels of 2019 — Washington Post
  • 2020 Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children — Honor Book
  • One of the Best Books of the Year — Time.com
  • Best Books of 2019 — New York Public Library
  • Best Fiction for Older Readers of 2019 — Chicago Public Library
  • 25 Best Children’s Books of 2019 — New York Times
  • Best Multicultural Children’s Books of 2019 — Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature
  • The Best New Gift Books for Kids — People



2020 – Newbery Honor

Book Description: 

“Reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
New York Times

  • 2020 Winner of The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent
  • John Newbery Honor for Outstanding Contribution to Children’s Literature
  • 2020 William C. Morris Award Finalist
  • A Kirkus Prize Finalist 2019
  • William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist 2019
  • An NPR Favorite Book of 2019
  • A School Library Journal Best Middle Grade Book of 2019
  • A Kirkus Reviews Best Middle Grade Book of 2019
  • Top AALBC Book on the subject of “Colorism

This deeply sensitive and powerful debut novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who is filled with self-loathing and must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself.

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 your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight—Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.

But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And 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?




2020 – Newbery Honor

The Undefeated
by Kwame Alexander, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Publication Date:
List Price: $17.99
Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
Classification: Nonfiction
Target Age Group: Picture Book
ISBN13: 9781328780966
Imprint: Versify
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Parent Company: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Read Our Review of The Undefeated


Read a Description of The Undefeated


Book Description: 
The Newbery Award-winning author of THE CROSSOVER pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree.
Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, 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 stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.