On Thursday I looked at the illustrator portion of the CSK award, today I will be focusing on the author award.
Past winners One difference between the CSK award , Printz, Newbery and the Caldecott is it's not age specific. As long as a book fits the criteria be it a picture book, poetry, middle grade fiction or young adult fiction its eligible.
Section 1: The main purpose of the Task Force is to annually grant the Coretta Scott King Award to African American authors and illustrators for outstanding contributions to literature for children and young adults. The Coretta Scott King Award is given to encourage the artistic expression of the black experience via literature and the graphic arts including: biographical, social, historical, and social history treatments. The books are selected because they promote an understanding and appreciation of the black culture and experience. The Award is further designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue his work for peace and world brotherhood.
You can read the rest of the purpose of the CSK task force here
Below I've included the three picture books plus the 12 middle grade and YA novels that might be CSK eligible
1 We Are America by Walter Dean Myers
2 Never Forgotten by Patricia C. McKissack
3 Heart and Soul by Walter Dean Myers
4 Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon
5 Joseph’s Grace by Shelia Moses
6 Eliza’s Freedom Road by Jerdine Nolen
7Kick by Walter Dean Myers & Ross Workman
8 How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen
9 Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
10 Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney
11 Silhouetted By the Blue by Traci L. Jones
12 Checkmate (Cruisers 2) by Walter Dean Myers
13 Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri
14 Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes
15 Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods
To shorten this I will begin by marking off the ineligible and ones I don't think are true contenders.
How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba- Sized Trophy, this was Allen's middle grade fiction debut so that would put her in the running for the John Steptoe Award.
Akata Witch by Okorafor, I would love to see a fantasy novel win the CSK award one day. Since I've embraced fantasy I've learned that it much it is filled with a lot history and a look at what's possible. In 2011 Jewell Parker Rhodes won a CSK honor for Ninth Ward. (loved it) While main character can see ghosts overall think the novel straddles the fantasy fiction line, leaning more towards fiction
Kick by Walter Dean Myers & Ross Workman - At first I was wondering if this one would be eligible with a co worker that wasn't African American but then I remember Leo and Diane Dillon and knew it would be. Then I wondered if the storyline fit the criteria, I read some it early on in 2011 but can't remember but I am leaning heavily towards no. Though if it does fit the criteria there are stronger contenders this year so I would still be placing this one in the non contention pile.
Checkmate is the only one listed here that I didn't read. I could only make it part way through book one. I think Myers best chance to get a CSK honor this year is with We Are America
I thought Planet Middle School by Grimes was okay. I need the flow of verse novels to be tight and smooth. I didn't get that from this one.
Joseph Grace's this was a sequel to Joseph, In the first book I felt the protagonist voice sounded too young for his intended age. The problem continued into the second book, Joseph's 16 but sounds a few years younger. I loved the Legend of Buddy Bush by Moses which was a National Book Award Finalist and CSK honor in 2005. Much of its appeal for me was how well Buddy Bush was developing, unfortunately Joseph is not as well defined.
Saint Louis Armstrong Beach - This was a solid read and very enjoyable if it was published in another year I think it would get a longer look, however there are simply too many stronger contenders this year
So excluding the above 6 titles, that leaves 8 contenders for the CSK
We Are America - textually this book works very well. However as I write this I am wondering if it fits the CSK criteria, since its not just about the Black experience. Since it does promote cultural acceptance I think it will be considered. If it is there will probably be a lot of back and forth.
Never Forgotten has received 5 starred reviews - I believe it will get a CSK illustrator honor and its stands a very good chance of winning the author award. I know I am suppose to love this one but I simply don't connect with it. I looked at it several times and even tried reading it aloud, still nothing. One thing I have a difficult time believing is that all four elements, earth, wind, fire and water are no where to be found when Musafa is taken aboard the slave ship. How in the heck did neither Mother Water or Mother Wind know the ship was in the area. How did both miss the presence of a big ol slave ship. I know am probably thinking too hard and should stop so I can enjoy the story but I can't
Heart and Soul, In 2009 Nelson's first solo project We are the Ship - Was the author award winner and an illustrator honor. Its not often that a book gets recognized in both categories for the CSK award. Heart and Soul is visually amazing, and textually its very good. However I felt We are the Ship was better story wise. One thing that could keep Heart and Soul from getting an author award is a lack of sufficient back matter. I've always assumed id its one committee for the author and illustrator award, that if a book is going recognized in both categories then everything must be extra tight. Truthfully I am winging this whole thing, I only hope some of these educated guesses at least sound good.
Camo Girl is actually one of my favorite books on this list. In 2010 Magoon won the John Steptoe Award for new author for the Rock and the River. I've always assumed that all committee will consider the work of past winners or honors until they feel the authors work no longer deserves consideration. So going on that along I figure Camo Girl was discussed but I think the committee probably had a difficult time with this one. The writing is excellent, and the question could come down to does it fit the criteria enough. There are only two African American students at the school and the main character is teased for being different. However there are many layers to this story and that simply a small part. This is going to be a close call.
Eliza's Freedom Road - The first time I picked this one up, it didn't click but second time in loved it. This is an excellent middle grade debut by Nolen ( she's written several picture books) The story is weaved together very well, I especially enjoyed how Nolen allows Eliza to seamlessly share the stories her mother told her. I will be pulling for this one as well.
Bird in a Box - I loved the premise of this story, set around great the great depression and Joe Louis. I've loved a lot of Andrea Pinkney's work in the past unfortunately this one didn't work for me. I am very conflicted with how the committee with respond to this one. If it was written by another author I think it would be considered briefly, and a few flaws noticed before moving on. However since its by Pinkney I believe it will get more attention.
Silhouetted By the Blue - Traci L. Jones won the John Steptoe award for new talent in 2007 for Standing Against the Wind, an excellent debut. Her sophomore novel was good but this one reminded me of why I feel for Jones writing in the first place. This is one of the best middle grade or young adult novels that deals with depression of a parent. Like Camo Girl this is a well layered story and another one I am pulling for. I am hoping one or two of the committee members have a soft spot for the Wiz. The main character, Serena has the lead in the school musical and they're putting on the Wiz.
Ghetto Cowboy - Neri Knows how to tell a good story and has yet to write anything I haven't liked. While I enjoyed this one I don't think its Neri's best work. There are not a lot of contemporary middle grade novels featuring African American boys - will the committee take that into consideration when judging this one? If they do I'd be okay that because Neri did an excellent job with Cole, the main character's voice.
The only thing I know for sure about the CSK award is that there's one winner. The number of honors varies yearly, usually its two or three. One thing I believe about the CSK award is that its easier for an author to win if they've won in past years
Who I think will win - Patricia C. McKissack for Never Forgotten
Who I want to win - Traci L. Jones for Silhouetted By the Blue
Who I think will honor - Andrea Pinkney for Bird in a Box, Jerdine Nolen for Eliza's Freedom Road, Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri
Who I want to honor - Kekla Magoon for Camo Girl, Jerdine Nolen for Eliza's Freedom Road
Finally, very quickly the John Steptoe Award
The award is established to affirm new talent and to offer visibility to excellence in writing and/or illustration which otherwise might be formally unacknowledged within a given year within the structure of the two awards given annually by the Coretta Scott King Task Force
Who I think will win - Elizabeth Zunon for My Hands Sing the Blues
Who I want to win - Elizabeth Zunon for My Hands Sing the Blues